Development in VGN a hot-button issue ahead of contested June 21 election

Development in VGN a hot-button issue ahead of contested June 21 election
The Village of Great Neck election will take place on June 21. (Photo from the Island 360 archives)

Village of Great Neck Deputy Mayor Bart Sobel and Trustee Eli Kashi are running to retain their seats on the board against village resident Sam Yellis in next week’s election, with the topic of development being a hot-button issue.

Great Neck’s June 21 election is one of three occurring throughout the peninsula next week.

Kings Point Mayor Michael Kalnick, Deputy Mayor David Harounian and Trustee Ira S. Nesenoff are not running for re-election in the village election. 

Trustee Kouros “Kris” Torkan, the founder of the real estate company Villadom Corp., will be running unopposed for Kalnick’s seat. Torkan was first appointed to the board to fill the seat left vacant by former Trustee Ron Horowitz in 2019. Torkan is unopposed in the mayoral election.

Kings Point residents Tedi Kashinejad and Shahriar Victory are running unopposed for the trustee seats.

In Lake Success, the mayor and three trustees are all running unopposed for re-election.

Yellis, a social studies teacher for the Village School, said he is fighting against overdevelopment and for the other residents in the Village of Great Neck.

A proposed four-story 60-unit apartment complex at 733-41 Middle Neck Road has drawn the ire of many residents throughout the village, including Yellis, who told Blank Slate Media it does not fit Great Neck’s suburban character.

Village officials said that the original proposal was withdrawn by the developer, and plans for the 60-unit complex were taken directly to the village’s Board of Zoning Appeals in 2020. With the expansion of the proposal, the project overlapped with the village’s Residence C and Residence E, or apartment, zones.

Yellis, who says he is not an obstructionist and not against all development, criticized the village for permitting variances that allowed them to “encroach into single-family home zoning.”

Whether it is proposed developments or addressing a bidding process for landscaping, Yellis said, a board must always do what is best for the entire village.

“Sometimes, even when you have the right to do something, if you know it’s hurting someone, maybe you don’t do it,” Yellis said.

Sobel, a local lawyer who was first elected to the board in 2010, said over the past seven years, only one project, next to Everfresh market, has begun construction in that time, with other plans being approved “as of right” under established zoning laws.

“Sam apparently knows little to nothing about how zoning and development work,” Sobel told Blank Slate Media. “He had opposed just about every proposal that has come before us. He decries “urbanization,” while in reality, Great Neck had always been an area with a healthy mix of single and multi-family.”

Kashi, a local business owner who has served on the board since 2020, said there is no legal way for the board to overturn legislation established by a previous administration and that the village would get sued by property owners at the expense of taxpayers’ wallets.

“What we can do is to consider the needs of every resident and make sure the developments are done in moderation, in conjunction with the community needs and taking account of traffic and school crowding,” Kashi told Blank Slate Media. “As a board, we strive to keep up our town so property values stay high. We encourage and support the improvement of our local retail/commercial stores, to generate revenue and provide the community with attractive stores to shop at.”

Yellis said he has, at times, been displeased with how the board addresses members of the community, saying there can be a lack of respect towards residents from village officials during public meetings.

If elected, he said, he will be sure to address everyone with the same level of respect and make sure residents’ voices are heard.

In terms of working with other board members who may not see eye to eye with him, he said, he has no issue collaboratively finding solutions with whoever is serving on the board with him and that he has cordial relationships with several trustees, including Sobel.

“I have no problem working with them, but I will be the one to raise a voice of opposition when I think it’s necessary,” Yellis said. “I have no problem agreeing with them on many things. On the overdevelopment, if I’m a lone voice to start, sometimes dams break, but they always start with a little crack.”

Sobel said he is running for re-election to continue what has been done throughout the village since he took office more than a decade ago, including property taxes being kept to a minimum, coordinating the annual street fair and various safety enhancements such as installing flashing traffic signs and changing the Beach Road intersection to include a turning lane.

Redesigning the new village hall, he said, has also been one of the board’s accomplishes he wishes to continue if re-elected.

​​”I love coordinating the annual street fair and music festival which I first introduced back in 2018,” Sobel said. “It has turned into a great success and is highly anticipated by many. This year working with Destination: Great Neck was a huge step up in visibility and they were so amazing to work with! They are doing amazing work promoting Great Neck and I think every village, the schools and parks should all work with them to better our beautiful neighborhood.”

Kashi said giving back to the community is what led him to run for his seat two years ago and remains true ahead of the village’s election next week.

“What inspired me to run then, and again now, is the drive to give back to a diverse community I love, to help my fellow residents be heard and involved in local projects while securing a peaceful and beautifully clean Great Neck,” Kashi said.

 Some of the accomplishments he reflected on included urging Nassau County to fix and renew Middle Neck Road, hiring the “correct employees” in the building department to improve code enforcement throughout the village, and working with police to ensure Great Neck remains a safe environment for all of its’ residents.

“I would like to continue fixing the roads, correct more traffic issues and crosswalks, install more garbage collection cans, plant new trees to beautify the village, and continue to make the village hall more efficient and easy to access for all the residents,” Kashi said. “I would also help finish the design and build of the Village Hall we have been working on, do everything I can to limit crime, theft and burglaries as well as keep pushing for our area to be a drug-free zone.”

Yellis said having more street fairs, food trucks, cultural celebrations and a mix of student performances throughout the Great Neck Park District would bring the entire community together. Having the village work with the Great Neck Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement District is also key to attracting new businesses to the area and address the issue of empty storefronts throughout Middle Neck Road.

Making the permit and application process for businesses that are here, he said, should be streamlined to make the village a more attractive place to set up shop.

I was in retail for years, so I know how tough it is, especially to be in business for yourself,” Yellis said. “I don’t even know how these guys pay the rent month after month while they’re waiting for approvals on signage or counterspace. A lot of people are scared away from even showing up knowing it’s going to take six months to open a store.”

Sobel touted the work of Kashi, describing him as “a dynamic public servant” and lauded his own work ethic as to why people should re-elect him next week. Sobel said he has also attended state seminars tailored to elected officials and has received training in municipal finance.

“I think I work as hard, or harder, than any other officials,” Sobel said. “I literally give my cell number, and my time, to residents to discuss any matters. My opponent and his wife (my neighbors) both know this as I’ve always been available to them.”

Sobel also praised his wife, Judy, “a powerhouse” that has dedicated herself to volunteer work and been a support system for him helping run the village since being elected.

Kashi said he would “love” to continue giving back to the community and that his work as a Nassau County Police Department community liaison would prioritize the safety and well-being throughout the village.

“I have taken, and will continue to take anti-terrorism courses to keep up to speed with the latest developments in the world, which I will strive to pass on to other community members to keep a safe Great Neck for everyone,” Kashi said. “I have been a trustee for the past 2 years and would love to continue to give back, protect and live safely and freely in the village of Great Neck.”

Every candidate has children who have attended or currently attending the Great Neck School District and Yellis noted that the village needs someone who is pro-public education and said he is a proud member of the state’s #1 public school district.

Yellis also said if residents believe that the village is in a better place now than it was four to six years ago, to vote for the incumbents. A vote for him, he said, would be a vote for change.

The election will take place at the Village Hall, 61 Baker Hill Road, from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Both seats are two-year terms.

Kalnick, who has served as Kings Point’s mayor for the last 40 years, will not be running for re-election.

Kalnick has spent more than four decades living in Kings Point and has served in a variety of roles, including as member and chairman of the Board of Appeals as well as deputy mayor and trustee.

The election will take place at Village Hall, 32 Steppingstone Lane, from 12 p.m.-9 p.m. All seats are two-year terms.

Village of Lake Success Mayor Adam Hoffman and Trustees Fred Handsman, Robert Gal and Spyro Dimitratos are running unopposed for re-election to the board.

The election will take place at Village Hall, 318 Lakeville Road, from 12 p.m.-9 p.m. All of the seats are for two-year terms.

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here