Great Neck Park District residents are voting on who they want as one of their park commissioners on Dec. 12, with both incumbent Park Commissioner Tina Stellato and longtime resident Gordon Charlop vying for the seat on the park district’s board.
Stellato, a former employee of the district and nearly 20-year resident of Great Neck, was elected to the park district’s board of commissioners in 2017 and is seeking her third term this December election.
She said she has a “dual perspective” she brings to the board from being both a resident and a former employee of the district.
Stellato said she initially ran in 2017 to bring a unique perspective to the board being a woman and a mother of two kids, saying the board had not included a commissioner with either of those characteristics when she ran.
Some highlights Stellato shared from her time as commissioner included keeping parks open and services available during the pandemic – and doing it safely she said. She said she also helped establish pickleball at Allenwood Park and helped acquire additional parkland for the first time in years
“Nobody will ever be able to take it away from the park district,” Stellato said. “Our community is growing and the numbers are growing, and we’re really grateful to have had the opportunity and been able to secure more parkland.”
She said she is seeking re-election to continue her efforts in progressing the district, bringing further engagement between the residents and the district and its parks.
“I think I’ve been a great catalyst for change,” Stellato said.
Charlop, a lifelong resident of the Great Neck Park District, is a Wall Street Broker Dealer, serving as the Managing Director of Rosenblatt Securities. He has a PhD in business, specializing in organization and management, that he received from Capella University.
He said he would bring his financial experience to the district if elected.
He said he was raised playing at Cutter Mill Park and is looking to bring his passion for neighborhood parks to the board to serve his community.
“Just like the volunteer fireman does what he can hauling ladders and hoses, and the ambulance drivers do what they can as volunteers… I figured it was time for me to re-engage with the community,” Charlop said.
He said that he was inspired to run for the position of park commissioner after witnessing what he said were questionable ethics within the park district.
Charlop said that the neighborhood parks had attendants, especially during the spring and summer months, but that this year was the first time he observed no local attendants. He said this made him furious as more and more kids came to enjoy the parks without any supervising attendant.
Stellato said the district has never had attendants at all of the district parks, mainly focusing that service at the major parks.
Charlop said the lack of attendants has also led to the parks getting dirtier, spending his personal time helping to pick up trash in the parks.
“I take these parks personally,” Charlop said. “My children were raised there and the neighborhood kids today deserve everything that my children enjoyed – and I’m happy to take that responsibility.
Stellato said that the district has a hard-working staff maintaining the parks and that if there are issues then the district is willing to listen to resident suggestions. She said that while not every park has attendants, the district does have maintenance crews that clean the parks regularly.
But that’s just the beginning of what he is witnessing unfolding at the parks, Charlop said.
He said that park sidewalks have deteriorated, becoming cracked and posing safety concerns, as well as park facilities and amenities.
“Our senior citizens can’t walk safely around these parks,” Charlop said. “And the mothers can’t wheel their strollers around these parks, and I want that fixed and I want it fixed now.”
Stellato said the district has plans to resurface all of the basketball courts at the district’s parks in the southern region in the spring.
Charlop also said he has noticed a discrepancy in how parks in the southern parts of the Great Neck Park District, the area where he lives, are treated compared to parks in the northern region.
“There are six neighborhood parks that are located south of the train tracks, the Long Island Rail Road train tracks,” Charlop said. “And one is more neglected than the next… and yet in the north end of the town, it’s Shangri-la, and they spend money like it’s going out of style.”
He said if elected, his efforts would be in servicing the entirety of the park district.
“We are one park district,” Charlop said. “We’re not two.”
Stellato, also a resident of the southern region of the district, said the park district naturally has its major “destination” parks in the northern parts of the district, but upgrades and beautification continue at the southern parks – notably Upland Park.
“We’ll continue to pay attention to southside parks,” Stellato said. “… I would hope that residents see that we’re spreading the love and we certainly are paying attention to the southside.”
Charlop also criticized the park district’s spending decisions, pointing out its high-profile concerts with Flo Rida and Ne-Yo this year.
“But one has to question the fiscal responsibility of a board of commissioners that would support lavishing those kinds of dollars while a number of parks are in disrepair,” Charlop said.
As a financial professional, Charlop also criticized the recent lease approved by the Great Neck Park District with Kings Point Park, with a yearly lease increase jumping from $35,000 to about $350,000 with additional funding for renovations.
Stellato said there are a lot of rumors about Kings Point, with many false statements being shared. She denied sharing specifics on the lease of Kings Point Park.
She said the park district was not in a lease agreement with Kings Point Park prior to the recent lease, and issue that pre-dated her time on the board.
Stellato said that despite the park lease increasing, the district is paying below the appraised value for the lease.
She said that while some residents are worried about the lease, a majority of feedback has been positive regarding the district being in a lease with the park and being able to make improvements.
“People from all over the park district enjoy Kings Point Park,” Stellato said. “We’re happy to be back in a lease with Kings Point. We’re happy to be able to make improvements that we couldn’t make for years because we hadn’t been in a lease. And we look forward to our residents’ continued enjoyment of the park.”
Eligible voters in the park district can vote from 1-9 p.m. on Dec. 12 at one of the three available polling locations based on their residence.
Residents in the park district’s first and second districts can vote at the Great Neck House at 14 Arrandale Ave.
District 3 residents can vote at the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Dept. Co. #3 located at 25 Prospect St.
District 4 residents can vote at Manhasset-Lakeville Firehouse #4 on Jayson Ave. and Northern Boulevard.