Two races for Great Neck Library trustee contested

Two races for Great Neck Library trustee contested
There are contested elections for seats on the Great Neck Library's board of trustees. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Two Great Neck Library trustee races in the October elections are contested, according to the library, with incumbents filing independent challenges against Nominating Committee-endorsed candidates.

Robert Schaufeld, an attorney and currently the board president, is running as an independent candidate for the remainder of Francine Ferrante Krupski’s term, which is January 2019 to 2020. This puts him against Scott Sontag, whom the Nominating Committee endorsed for the position.

The library’s Nominating Committee vets and recommends candidates for leadership positions.

Trustee Chelsea Sassouni has meanwhile filed a petition as an independent candidate for the seat currently held by Joel Marcus that would last from January 2019 to 2023. This places Sassouni against Nominating Committee-endorsed candidate David Zielenziger.

Krupski was nominated for Howard Esterces’ seat on the Nominating Committee, while Marcus said he is not planning to run for trustee again.

In a previous interview, Sassouni said she spent many days in the Great Neck Library growing up and wanted to give back. She attended Duke University from 2008 to 2012, majoring in public policy and minoring in economics, before attending Cornell Tech from 2016 to 2017 and getting an MBA.

“I think the end goal is really the same: nurture individual capacity for learning,” Sassouni said. “I think the library is making a lot of efforts to digitize, to offer services both in home and at the library that brings us all a little bit closer to the 21st century, and so I think that’s a wonderful thing.”

Sassouni was appointed to fill Krupski’s seat in June.

Zielenziger, a journalist by profession who first ran as an independent candidate for the library board 26 years ago, previously said the library has several strengths but the board does not have anyone who has extensively “worked with words and writing.”

He also said he hopes to give back to the library and be part of a “board of volunteers who are committed solely to the benefit of the library and its welfare.”

“It’s a real asset and I’d be happy to be part of that,” Zielenziger said of the library.

Schaufeld said in a previous interview that he’s seeking re-election to see through several ongoing projects like the renovation of two branch libraries, a landscaping project for the Main Library, and increasing the book collection.

“I have a number of things that I wanted to see completed and I wanted to make sure there was some continuity on the board so that these initiatives would not lose steam in the transition,” Schaufeld said.

When asked about his own vision for the Great Neck Library, Schaufeld said the library must “change with the times.”

“We both believe that as the community’s needs change, the library has to be receptive to what that community wants and needs and change to offer that,” Schaufeld said.

Investing in a STEM lab, reconfiguring the children’s area, investing in more diverse books and adding more shelving are some examples of this, he said.

Schaufeld also said he’d like to see an initiative to get more residents to have library cards so they can take advantage of the services.

Sontag said his main motivations for running were his four children and improving the Great Neck area they live in. Sontag said that while the board is doing well, he hopes to build more partnerships and try increasing how many people use the library.

“I always go and say that the best two questions are ‘what are you doing well?’ and ‘what can you do better?'” Sontag, a Cub Scout leader and PTO member, said in an interview.

Sontag said that as a project manager in software development for Morgan Stanley, he has experience managing budgets, resources and projects.

“But I think the most important skill that I’m bringing is passion,” Sontag said.

The panel also selected William Gens for the Nominating Committee seat of Donald Panetta and Alex Au for Samuel Gottlieb’s seat, which was vacated not long after his election last year due to work commitments.

Trustee Josie Pizer was endorsed to run for the seat vacated by Douglas Hwee after the board voted to terminate him for alleged misconduct.

Meanwhile, Mimi Hu is running for Schaufeld’s expiring seat, but not against him.

More election information, candidate statements and biographies will appear in the library newsletters and on the library’s website at

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