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Long IslandNassau

Great Neck Plaza candidates have revitalization plans

Great Neck Plaza is only one-third of a square mile and has 6,400 residents, but the village attracts many commuters because of its Long Island Rail Road station and busy downtown.

A slate challenging the incumbent mayor and trustees in Tuesday's election wants to improve parking and commerce there.

Mayor Jean Celender is running for re-election on a team with trustees Ted Rosen and Pamela Marksheid. Challenging them is a team made up of Stuart Hochran, for mayor, with trustee candidates Michael Glickman and Scott Schwartz.

Rosen, 63, an incumbent who teaches business law and finance at Queensboro Community College with a part-time commercial litigation law practice, said he welcomes his challengers.

"There are few contested races at the local level, and I think that's unfortunate," he said. "There is no more local level of government than a village."

The mayor's salary is $40,000, while trustees earn $10,000. Positions are two-year terms.

"Great Neck Plaza is the hub of the peninsula," said Hochran, 66, a semiretired pharmaceutical marketing and medical education executive.

There needs to be a greater variety of shops, he said. "I think more attention needs to be paid by our mayor to the needs of businesses," he said. "We need to talk to other communities about what they do to attract diverse businesses."

Rosen said the village's businesses reflect the current economy.

"We live in a free economy, and people come to us to open up businesses," he said.

Village downtowns have lost some vibrancy, he noted, because of competition with Long Island's mega-stores and malls.

"We would rather have our stores occupied as opposed to not be occupied," said Marksheid, 61, a retired New York City schoolteacher who now teaches part-time at the Silverstein Hebrew Academy in Great Neck. "It's difficult to balance who comes in."

The challengers say revitalizing the village's downtown depends on making parking more accessible. They noted the village's ongoing struggle with complaints from motorists about notices for outdated tickets and fines as a sign of the current administration's lack of accountability.

"There's really a sense of frustration about how ticket agents operate," said Glickman, 32, chief operating officer of the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan. He said the muni-meters are difficult to operate, especially on rainy or snowy days when parking spot numbers aren't visible.

Glickman and his running mates propose covering meters during the holidays to attract shoppers.

Rosen said the train station makes meters necessary. "Nobody wants to receive a parking ticket," he said. "Our code officers put up with all sorts of stressful situations."

The current administration recently implemented a five-minute grace period for meters, as well as allowing the first five minutes to be free, Marksheid said.

Pedestrian safety has been a priority for her administration, said Celender, 54, who owns an urban and transportation planning consulting firm.

As examples of efforts to curb high-speed traffic, she cited a roundabout installed on Barstow Road in 2003 and reducing Great Neck Road from two lanes to one in each direction in 2008.

Schwartz, 36, an attorney, said Celender's team isn't accessible. "I couldn't point them out if I walked into them," he said. "They don't seem to be inspiring people and galvanizing people."

Voting is Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Village Hall, 2 Gussack Plaza.