Great Neck Park Commissioner Frank Cilluffo is running for re-election to continue giving back to a community that he knows is passionate about its park district.
“Even though I wasn’t born and raised here, it has been an honor to serve the people of the park district as commissioner,” Cilluffo said.
He is running against Erica Beggs, a guidance counselor at North Shore Hebrew Academy.
Cilluffo is a retired NYPD community affairs public safety director and a longtime resident of Great Neck. Cilluffo, who is married to Lisa Reisfield and has a 16-year-old daughter, Francesca, spoke on how important it is to have a thriving park district for families.
“People can come here for a variety of reasons,” he said. “But families end up staying here because of the opportunities that our park district provides them with. It goes beyond outdoor recreation and keeping the parks clean.”
An active member of the community beyond being park district commissioner, Cilluffo is involved with the Rotary Club and the Lighthouse Society, and is a youth hockey coach and a member of the Memorial Day parade committee. Despite all of those obligations, the seat he holds in the park disrict is one he prioritizes for the community.
“The priority of my job is to protect and serve the people in our community,” Cilluffo said. “My experience has allowed me to gain a better understanding of the needs of the community in order to make decisions that best serve our residents.”
Cilluffo was first elected to the position of commissioner in 2014 in a special election to fill the vacant seat that had been held by Ruth Tamarin. He immediately stepped in and worked with the other commissioners to see what improvements to the park could be made that would not be at the taxpayers’ expense.
“These past five years have been amazing,” Cilluffo said. “During my tenure, we have not raised taxes once while adding programs and improving all areas of our park system. I will ensure the district is recognized by the local community as a vital and necessary asset.”
Programs and events that have been implemented over the past five years include a holiday tree lighting, enhanced commuter parking, pickleball for children, community gardens maintained by volunteer students and more.
“I am passionate about our community and all areas of the park district,” Cilluffo said. “From recreation programs to conservation of our environment. Our new vision of connecting, creating and celebrating is about bringing out community together in everything that we do.”
The park district has become more environmentally friendly in recent years with the inclusion of an organic turf program throughout the park system, a leaf mulching recycling program, and the adoption of a tree sponsorship program. In 2016, the park district planted 100 new trees in honor of its 100th anniversary.
“It’s important that we keep up with the times in every possible way,” Cilluffo said. “Implementing programs that allow us to reflect on where we have come from, to where we can go from here is vital for the community.”
The future of the park district, he said, is in the hands of the public. He spoke about the master plan, which incorporates next steps that the district can take with its base of ideas stemming from public comments and suggestions from residents.
“We have gone through a year-long master plan process which will be ready to implement in 2020,” Cilluffo said. “I will provide the resources and support necessary to see the vision of our residents through.”
This plan, according to Cilluffo, will identify current and future programming and facility operations at each park and will consider the acquisition of park land. One of the long-term ideas that has been brought to his attention is a new recreation center and a pool.
“Once the new year hits, the district will take a look at potential costs that can be cut or funded outside of our taxpayers, and seek an ideal real estate location for the residents within the district,” he said.
In regard to reports of campaign signs of his opponent being taken down across the area, Cilluffo responded, “I think that is ridiculous. I am a former police officer and I do not stand for that type of behavior, especially when it comes to an election.”
When asked why he believes he is the ideal candidate, Cilluffo cited his experience serving the public and dedication to the betterment of the parks.
“I believe no one will work harder or smarter for the park district residents than I will,” he said. “I want to dedicate all my time to make our parks even greater.”
The election for park commissioner will take place with other special district elections on Dec. 10 from 1 to 9 p.m.
The district is divided into four sectors for polling purposes.
The 1st District encompasses the Village of Kings Point, Saddle Rock Estates and areas of the Village of Great Neck that are east of Middle Neck Road and north of Hicks Lane and west of Middle Neck Road. The polling place for District 1 is the Great Neck House at 14 Arrendale Ave.
The 2nd District encompasses the area of the Village of Great Neck that is east of Middle Neck Road and unincorporated areas of the Town of North Hempstead that are south of the Village of Great Neck and north of the Village of Kensington. The polling place for District 2 is also the Great Neck House.
The 3rd District encompasses the villages of Great Neck Plaza, Thomaston and Kensington. The polling place is the Great Neck Senior Citizens Center at 80 Grace Ave.
The 4th District encompasses the Village of Russell Gardens and other unincorporated areas within the town. These areas are the Great Neck Terrace Apartments, Lakeville, Upland, Lake Success Hills and Manor sections of Great Neck, and all other areas bounded by Great Neck Road on the north and west, Northern Boulevard on the south, and Middle Neck Road on the east. The polling place for District 4 is the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire District’s Company No. 4 Firehouse on 97 Jayson Ave.
Residents who are 18 years of age or older and have resided in the Great Neck Park District for at least 30 days prior to the election and are registered with the Nassau County Board of Elections are eligible to vote.