Bhatki Gadkar’s favorite stories of spending 30 years as a Great Neck Plaza village court clerk involve a gunman, angry parking offenders, and a sturdy glass door.
Gadkar, 62, retires from the position Wednesday with a personal almanac of quirky stories about Village Hall and the people who she said made the job fun.
Gadkar recalled a day in 1989 when she was sitting at her desk chatting with a police officer who was taking a break from duty. A man ran into the lobby, past the front desk, and down the flight of stairs to the Public Works Department.
“After that, another guy came and he had a gun in his hand,” Gadkar said. “A police officer was standing right at the front desk. He sees that guy come in here with a gun running after him. . . . And he was just standing there and he said ‘I’m on a coffee break’.”
Gadkar also remembers the time she smashed her face into thick glass while trying to chase after someone’s dog that darted out of the lobby.
“As I’m going out, I forget that that’s a glass door there,” she said. “Nothing happened to the glass. It all happened to my nose.”
As a court clerk, Gadkar collected money from people paying their traffic violation fines. People get upset over tickets, but the secret, she said, is using humor or compliments to calm them down.
“One guy came in and he had a twenty-dollar parking ticket. So he comes in and throws the money at me and yells ‘Here, this is for your lunch.’ And I said ‘Oh no, if this is for my lunch, you have to give me more because I eat lunch at Peter Luger’s,’ ” she said, referring to the high-end Brooklyn steakhouse.
The man laughed, Gadkar said.
“Even though they’re mad, I smile and I talk to them nicely,” she said. “I make it funny so they’ll forget their anger.”
Her work spanned six village judges and three mayors.
“People can come to her upset and yelling, and she has the ability to remain calm and say ‘I understand’ and ‘Let’s figure out how this happened’,” Mayor Jean Celender said. “They don’t make them like Bhakti anymore.”
Village employees said Gadkar grew from a capable co-worker to more like a trusted mother or aunt. She made sure everyone had a good breakfast before the day started, baby-sat for co-workers in need and even stopped at a supermarket in the morning so the office would have cream for their coffee.
“She’s like the face of the court,” said Gadkar’s boss, Clerk to the Village Justice Pattianne Guccione. “She’s been here longer than anyone else in the court and everyone knows who she is. . . . I’m going to miss her.”
Gadkar said she is not sure what retirement will bring.
“I’m going to miss this place and all the people in it,” she said. “I looked forward to coming to work.”
30 years at the job
Bhatki Gadkar’s career in Great Neck Plaza village court spanned three mayoral administrations, six judges and two court clerks. And she remembers every single one.
Allan J. Gussack