Village of Great Neck celebrates centennial, honors community members

Village of Great Neck celebrates centennial, honors community members
Local officials gathered to celebrate the Village of Great Neck's 100th anniversary over the weekend. (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

Great Neck residents flooded Middle Neck Road and the Village Green to celebrate the Village of Great Neck’s centennial anniversary and the peninsula’s storied history with the help of Destination: Great Neck over the weekend.

The two-day affair featured a number of live performances from local dance troupes, high school musicians, other cover bands and concluded on Sunday evening with live karaoke. Local vendors and food trucks lined down the street and the Village Green was packed with carnival rides, rock climbing, jugglers and a tented museum depicting Great Neck during the Roaring ’20s.

A smattering of local officials were also in attendance to celebrate the village’s centennial including Village of Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral, Deputy Mayor Bart Sobel, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey, Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip and state Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti.

“To take a lyric from Meat Loaf, ‘It was long ago, but not so far away’ that some trustees decided to form the Village of Great Neck,” Lurvey said. “It went from rich farmland to a beautiful suburban paradise.”

Bral praised Sobel for helping orchestrate the event and said an event like this should occur more frequently.

“It should be noted that Bart spent a ton of time making these events happen along with Destination: Great Neck,” Bral said. “Thank you everyone for coming, this is great and we should do this more often.”

Destination: Great Neck, a grassroots organization aimed at promoting and revitalizing the peninsula’s business district, also hosted its first ‘Faces of Great Neck’ award ceremony, honoring select individuals throughout the community who work hard to make Great Neck a destination for people to live.

The group honored Joseph Rutkowski, the retiring director of instrumental music at North High School, Benny Poole, a retiring security guard of the Great Neck School District, Robert Lincoln, a former commissioner of the Great Neck Park District, community activist Eileen Curley and Jodi and Jordan Harouche, a mother-son tandem that launched the 501c3 charity JZips- which aids children with cancer.

Curley, a Great Neck resident for more than 25 years, said her exposure to charitable gestures stemmed from her father, Thomas Curley.

Curley said her father, a prominent figure in the plumbing and heating sector throughout the community, would mentor young men to become familiar in the trade and even provide financial aid to some of their families.

“Everywhere we went we helped somebody whether it was convenient or not,” Curley said. “Due to this upbringing, it just became natural for me to help other people.”

Curley collects food, clothing and various other items for those less fortunate in the community. Janet Esagoff, co-founder of Destination: Great Neck, said the peninsula has the opportunity to be an even better place to live if more people stepped up to the plate like Curley and the other honorees.

“Just imagine if every person here did their share to make Great Neck a little better,” Esagoff, who is also a local attorney, said. “We would have a transformed town, but we’re taking it one step at a time.”

Esagoff also encouraged others to become part of Destination: Great Neck, and touted the work of her board which includes Denise Hill, Lisa Saltzman and Haleh Fouladi. Saltzman praised Esagoff for leading the charge to try and promote Great Neck as a destination for families, businesses and visitors.

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