Destination: Great Neck’s public forum flooded with ideas on improving business district

Destination: Great Neck’s public forum flooded with ideas on improving business district
Destination: Great Neck held a public forum on Tuesday. (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

Ideas on how to improve Great Neck’s business district were discussed at Tuesday night’s Destination: Great Neck public forum.

The grassroots organization whose mission is to aid the peninsula’s business district held its second public forum over the past six months with nearly 100 people in attendance.

Among them were elected officials such as Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, Village of Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral, Village of Kensington Mayor Susan Lopatkin, Great Neck Library President Rory Lancman and Great Neck Chamber of Commerce President Pat Schneider.

Janet Nina Esagoff, the co-founder of Destination: Great Neck, made a presentation to peninsula leaders in November on how to transform Middle Neck Road and the entire business district. Esagoff, on Tuesday, said the organization’s focus is on beautifying the Villages of Great Neck Plaza, Great Neck Estates and Great Neck, the ones that downtown businesses are intertwined within.

“We hope that we will make all of these villages along the corridor a bit more appealing and inviting so outsiders can come back and feel like it’s the Great Neck they remember and residents can be proud of where they live,” Esagoff said.

Esagoff also pitched ideas to visually enhance the peninsula by featuring more lights, constructing a mural and even having a tasteful version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame but with Great Neck’s notable residents.

Bral, during the November meeting, discussed some of the difficulties villages tend to have in terms of bringing in development. Residential opposition to certain incentives, tax breaks, or Queens-like development in general, he said, are some of the issues the Village of Great Neck has seen in recent years.

Bral said during the forum that local business owners’ issues with not being able to beautify or maintain their stores are because of high taxes.

Providing businesses with tax breaks, he said, would leave residents footing the bill and he presented a different perspective on how to revitalize the business district.

“We can either depend on the government or we can actually bring in top-notch developers and tell them exactly what we want,” Bral said. “We want to have a bustling downtown, we want amazing residential buildings with young and old people and we don’t want to lose people to Manhasset, or Queens or Suffolk.”

Bral and other officials lauded the amenities Great Neck has to offer, headlined by a top-rated school district, park district, proximity to the city and an LIRR station in the downtown’s hub. Loptakin said she and other village officials, whether or not they are intertwined in the Middle Neck Road corridor, are more than willing to help beautify the peninsula and encourage fellow residents to shop and dine local rather than venturing outside of Great Neck.

Elissa Kyle, the placemaking director for Vision Long Island, said the peninsula has “strong bones” to return to the thriving downtown area it once was.

The competition of shopping malls, big box centers and the internet has made it more difficult for downtown business districts to thrive, Kyle said, but local stores can make some cosmetic adjustments to help attract and retain a younger consumer base.

Victor Dadras, the principal of Dadras Architecture, said he helped work on a Main Street strategy for the “Old” Village of Great Neck under former Mayor Ralph Kreitzman.

Dadras said some of the issues that were present back then and still present now, are even perceptive issues rather than real issues.

“What I have learned from working with consultants is that, usually, you don’t have a parking problem, you have a parking management problem,” Dadras said in response to claims of parking spot issues.

Marnie Ives of Kron Chocolatier said encouraging young individuals to try and start their businesses would help the entire downtown district. Frank Camarano, president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, said having the nine villages make up a peninsula can make it difficult for all of Great Neck’s residents to have a true sense of community.

The lack of a supermarket, one resident mentioned, has been lacking in the peninsula. Bradley Diamond of Parallel Realty, said Kimco Realty, which purchased the Gardens at Great Neck shopping center, intends to have a supermarket after the closing of Best Market in 2021.

Diamond did not provide any detail on what supermarkets Kimco had been in touch with. Esagoff, following the sale to Kimco, launched a petition to bring a Trader Joe’s to Great Neck, though there has been no word from the company on if they plan to set up shop in the Plaza.

Online rumblings about Lidl, the Germany-based supermarket chain that has purchased more than 20 Best Markets on Long Island, filling the vacant space were prominent in the early months of 2021.

Lidl’s U.S. Twitter account said their team was “looking at other sites in the Great Neck region” but had not “identified a suitable location.”

Lidl purchased 27 New Jersey and New York Best Market stores, 24 of which are located on Long Island, in January 2019 for an undisclosed price.

Other ideas of trying to utilize the Squire Cinemas building, which shuttered in September 2020, bring in a Poll Brothers restaurant and creating an entertainment hub were met with excitement from the crowd, though some acknowledged those will be long-term plans and that the peninsula’s existing businesses need more immediate support.

Those interested in being a part of the organization’s revitalization efforts or learning more can contact [email protected] and visit

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  1. Help the business owners in Great Neck… How about thinking about doing something to encourage shoppers by ELIMINATING parking meters! Or at the very least, allow the first
    30 minutes or more before the meter kicks in.

  2. So dissatisfied with the town that was a vibrant destination once.
    Every area had wonderful restaurants and retailers. In many different categories.
    Now only mostly 2 types open or opening.
    Adjust lower the meter rates.
    Have a shuttle to & from station.
    A full line supermarket, with improved safe parking.
    I could go on and on.
    Hopefully something can be accomplished.
    Lived here most of our lives.

  3. At present, the most important item on the agenda has to be to re-open the supermarket. It is imperative that we understand this breaks trust in our community leadership.

    A supermarket with diversified products is in immediate need. This is no longer a friendly town. It is hostile to remove a gym, supermarket, and theatre with no plan to reinstate these great losses and in the same breath ask us to support young new entrepreneurs. We need to recover the staples that made Great Neck, Great – then we can discuss accommodating other businesses. Let’s get what made us a great community back!!!

  4. Sadly, Great Neck is not great anymore. It seems to be a dying town; it’s a somewhat affluent area with no major supermarket with new business opening and closing all the time It’s a Town in decline, sadly.


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