Destination: Great Neck taking revitalization efforts to the street with beautification plans

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Destination: Great Neck taking revitalization efforts to the street with beautification plans
Destination: Great Neck held a community forum to discuss beautification efforts on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Janet Nina Esagoff)

Destination: Great Neck, a grassroots organization that highlights local businesses and celebrates the area’s storied past, will conduct a beautification process of the Middle Neck Road corridor in continued efforts to revitalize the peninsula.

Janet Nina Esagoff, co-founder of Destination: Great Neck, said making the exterior improvements to the “sleepy” business district that runs through the heart of the peninsula will encourage residents and outsiders to come and shop local. Transforming Middle Neck Road into something reflective of the entire area of Great Neck rather than the villages it runs through is something the organization feels imperative to accomplish.

“Throughout the entire corridor, from southern Middle Neck Road all the way up to Kings Point, there is a certain theme where you can identify as being the town of Great Neck and not just whatever village you’re in,” Esagoff told Blank Slate Media. “It has to be something that’s done systematically and deliberately.”

Esagoff said the organization recruited Mark Wolf, the former owner of local clothing store Camp & Campus, to be its’ retailer emeritus and aid local businesses in attracting and retaining clientele. Steven Dann, the co-founder and creative director of the fashion company Monfrere as its’ creative director for the beautification undertaking.

The reception that the organization has received from the community has led to others volunteering their time to make Great Neck a true destination once again.

“We have a board of dedicated residents and committed people who are also residents helping us,” Esagoff said. “So we’re starting to get our ranks stronger.”

The organization held its’ first-annual community forum on Tuesday evening with more than 170 people in attendance, including representatives from some of the area’s village governments. Esagoff said she appreciates the support some elected officials on the state and local level have shown, but would like to have more Great Neck leaders to be a part of the revitalization.

“All of the outer layers of government have been very responsive to Destination: Great Neck from day one, but we don’t have the same response from some of the village mayors,” Esagoff said.

The need for elected officials throughout Great Neck to pitch in, she said, is also because some of the work needed for beautification may center around the villages’ code enforcement for the exterior of buildings. Ensuring appropriate window signage and facade appearance is maintained by the businesses and village, she said, will require help from all of the peninsula’s governance.

“We want to have Great Neck be a bit more classy, unique and exclusive the way it used to be,” Esagoff said. “We’ve kind of lost some ground there and that’s what Great Neckers identify with.”

The recent uptick in residential developments throughout Great Neck, she said, should really be more focused, now, on commercial development, with village governments doing whatever they can to fast-track anything retail-oriented. 

“Whether it’s upgrading a facade or whether it’s raising a building to add residential, whatever it takes to beautify and bring the tax base down if a developer can do that because we need landlords to relax a bit about what the rents are, what type of tenants come in and we need the mayors’ help with that,” she said.

Esagoff also mentioned having several “anchors” throughout the peninsula as part of their revitalization efforts, including the Squire Cinemas, which permanently closed in September 2020. While the property, itself, is privately owned she said, the goal is to potentially utilize the space to provide live entertainment to Great Neck residents and outsiders.

“This is a town with a history of entertainment,” Esagoff said. “Very notable people used to live here and that’s another area we’d like to explore. We want to make Great Neck known for that, it’s a historical town.”

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

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