subscribe to the Great Neck Record

Speed Cameras On A Service Road?

When New York State adopted legislation calling for a speed camera in each school district in Nassau County, the goal was touted as strictly safety for children. Now there seems to be an over-riding financial goal. At first, local municipalities and school districts such as Great Neck were contacted by Nassau County for their input. After discussing the issue, Great Neck officials strongly recommended Polo Road, in front of the North Middle School. Then, after some consideration, the county suggested Arrandale Avenue (next to the North Middle School) or roads surrounding the South Campus.

“Polo Road is the most appropriate place for those cameras,” Old Village Mayor Ralph Kreitzman said. His village houses four public schools.
Concerns immediately arose, concerns regarding the validity of proposed camera locations and the question of whether or not these speed cameras are truly focusing on the safety of students or on the financial benefits. The top local choice, in front of North Middle (where there is much pedestrian traffic on school days) is on Village of Great Neck property and revenue from these tickets would go to the village. The possible top choices for the county are Arrandale Avenue (no foot traffic because there are no sidewalks), or roads surrounding the South Campus (no foot traffic, as all South High and South Middle students are bused to school) would bring revenue to the state and the county.

To date, no decision has been announced. Signs announcing speed cameras were placed at two spots on Arrandale, and last Friday, Sept. 12, a speed camera, on a temporary pole, was placed in front of North Middle. But, according to Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum, no final decision has been made.
According to New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, this four-year pilot program, when finally adopted, gave the county the option of choosing locations. And, according to local officials at the village and at the school district, that was when the county began naming sites of their choice.

When the Great Neck Record contacted the county, no answer was forthcoming. After contacting Katie Grilli-Robes, press secretary for the county and for County Executive Ed Mangano, the Record received an email from Brian Nevin, also from the county public relations department. Nevin simply forwarded an email from Judge John Marks, executive director of the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, stating: “State law provides for speed cameras in a single location in each of the school districts located in Nassau and Suffolk counties. No location in the Great Neck School District has yet been selected by the Nassau County Traffic Safety Coordinator. In fact, Polo Road is still under consideration.”

When the Record again questioned the county, Grilli-Robles said that the judge had further informed her that “tests and studies are still being conducted by the Office of Traffic and Safety.”

While other sources have quoted Mangano and NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman as having said that revenue from new school zone speed camera tickets are to help cover the related costs, the county did not respond directly to that questions. Kaiman assured that NIFA is only involved in the county’s finances and that it is his only official concern; his only job regarding these cameras is being sure that the county can cover its costs (via raising fees and revenue from tickets).

Great Neck School District Superintendent Thomas Dolan told the Record that he questions the issue about just whose interests are being served as far as safety. He also said that he wonders why the importance of safety for the children would come before a need for county revenue. Dolan’s main interest, the safety of the school children, is the priority. “I hope that they serve the same purpose,” he added.

What Do You Think?

Great Neck residents, we want to hear from you.
Word on the street says that Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and county officials are planning on putting the one speed camera designated for the Great Neck School District on the service road of the Long Expressway, at the South Campus, where no one walks. Why this spot? Not only are all Great Neck South High School and Middle School students sent to and from school by bus (no walkers), the LIE Service Road is hardly a road heavily populated by pedestrians. Who would walk there? Local determination, by school district personnel and village officials called for a speed camera on Polo Road, in front of the North Middle School, where pedestrians abound.
Come on! Wake up!
Could the determination been based on revenue that would come from tickets (Polo Road ticket revenue would to to the local village)? Could the original premise, protecting children, have just been thrown to the wind?
Does money really come before our children?

Tamarin Resigns From Park Board

Tamarin_092614ALong-time Great Neck Park District Commissioner Ruth Tamarin resigned on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at a park board meeting. Tamarin, who has served in this post for the past 15 years, did not attend the meeting, but sent a letter that stated that she was resigning for personal reasons.

Park district elections are Dec. 9. Two seats are up for election: Commissioner Dan Nachmanoff is up for re-election and Tamarin’s now vacant seat will also be open. A candidate could choose to run for Nachmanoff’s three-year term or for the two-year term vacated by Tamarin.

Updates to follow, check back with the Great Neck Record for more details.

Congressman Calls For Less Tests

CommonCore_091214A

School superintendents gather at South High School to hear Congressman Steve Israel explain his proposed legislation. Rep. Israel (center) joins Great Neck School District Superintendent Tom Dolan (third to the left).

U.S. Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY) joined a dozen Long Island superintendents to announce legislation to reduce the number of tests students take. The Tackling Excessive Standardized Testing (TEST) Act would allow states to choose an alternative testing regime for students in grades 3 through 8. Israel said that the legislation was drafted based on feedback from local superintendents as to how testing can be effective and reflect students’ abilities without subjecting them to over-testing. Israel and the superintendents of 12 school districts, (Roslyn, Hicksville, Manhasset, Half Hollow Hills, Commack, Westbury, Port Washington, Huntington, Glen Cove, Oyster Bay and Hauppague) including Great Neck School District Superintendent Thomas Dolan, made the announcement on the steps of Great Neck South High School on Monday morning, Sept. 8.
Israel stated: “While some testing is essential to ensure that our students are actually learning what is being taught, I share the same concerns as many of our local superintendents and parents.” He said that “we are over-testing our students and stifling their creativity.” The congressman believes that children need classroom time to learn knowledge, “not just how to take a test.” And so Israel has now worked with many Long Island superintendents to draft legislation that would allow states to choose an alternative testing schedule for students that curbs the amount of tests they have to take while still reflecting their abilities and the effectiveness of school districts.
Dolan responded, saying: “Congressman Israel has taken a stand on this issue that will address the over-testing of students across the United States. These measures, once enacted, would address this practice and serve as an incentive for schools to improve their performance.”
Dan Brenner, neighboring superintendent from the Roslyn School District, told the Record that he and his fellow superintendents generally “agree” that young students are tested too much and Brenner added that they sometimes question the “validity” of these tests. He also said that he believed that Israel’s legislation “goes a long way to address the concerns.”
Other superintendents attending also thanked the congressman, touting his perception of the problem and his willingness to act on the issues.
The TEST Act consists of three sections. The first section sets the standard that students in grades 3 through 8 would only be required to take one test per year: English Language Arts (ELA) in grades 3, 5, and 7, and math in grades 4, 6, and 8. Currently, students have to take both ELA and math tests each year.
The second section calls for schools that rank in the top 15 percent in the state on all of the ELA or math tests to be allowed to move to a four-year testing cycle on the respective tests. In addition, the tests must have a 75 percent passing rate based on the raw scores. For these schools, ELA would be tested in grades 3 and 7, and math in grades 4 and 8.
This part also directs the U.S. Department of Education to develop an alternative measure, within one of enactment of the legislation, by which schools can also move to this testing regime if they show a certain level of progress.
Finally, current law states that for the first three years students with limited English proficiency are in U.S. schools, they may take these mandated tests in their own language. After that they must take them in English. No matter when they entered the U.S. school system, the score is counted in measures of school accountability. Under this legislation, for one calendar year after a student enters the U.S. school system, test results on these mandated tests would not be included in such accountability measures.
A study published in 2002 by Education Week found that between 50 percent and 80 percent of the improvement in a school’s average test scores from one year to the next was temporary and was caused by fluctuations that had nothing to do with long-term changes in learning or productivity. Additionally, a 2007 study by the Center for Education Policy found that 44 percent of districts cut time on science, social studies, art and music, physical education, lunch or recess in order to increase the amount of time spent in elementary schools on English language arts and or math.

Thomaston Mayor Resigns

Thomaston Mayor Robert Stern has resigned.

Thomaston Mayor Robert Stern has resigned.

Longtime Thomaston Mayor Robert Stern resigned on Monday, Sept. 8. Stern, who has led his village for 18 years, offered no official reason.

Stern, who is 89, had met with the Great Neck Record earlier this summer, sitting down for a lively discussion on current events in his village, The Thomaston board of trustees will meet on Oct. 20, for a regularly scheduled board meeting and will then appoint a mayor, presumably Deputy Mayor Steven Weinberg. In the interim, village sources tell the Great Neck Record that the deputy mayor immediately assumed the duties of mayor.

Stay tuned to the Great Neck Record for more details.

‘Mom’ is an Ironman

With a true passion for racing, Great Neck mom Sharon Levy beat some pretty tough odds and emerged as an Ironman this past summer. On July 27, Levy completed the 2014 Lake Placid Ironman competition in 13 hours, 32 minutes and 13 seconds. Strong and determined, the just-49-year-old physical therapist and mom of two teen-age children, took on the strenuous training schedule and fought her way through physical injury just three months prior to the race to achieve her goal.
The new Ironman told the Great Neck Record how proud she is to have “met this huge milestone and conquered the hardest Ironman race in North America.” Along the way there were many “struggles, disappointments… and an extreme drive to cross the finish line and be declared an Ironman.”
For seven years Levy has been doing triathlons competitively. When she would tell people about her love of racing, they often ask why she has not done a “real one.” A “real one” meant an Ironman, “the mother of all triathlons.” She had not. So last summer, right before her 48th birthday, she decided it was now time to do an Ironman. Although she admittedly was a bit nervous, her husband and children were excited and supportive.
With “only” 364 days until race day, Levy knew she had to begin training. Her coach gave her a schedule, a “brutal” regiment that included hours upon hours of exercise. As the race day drew closer the hours and the intensity of training increased. By mid-April, she was feeling great. However, on April 21, Levy dropped a large box on her foot. Trying to ignore the injury, after a few days she realized she needed to see a doctor. “Sadly, the doctor told me I had broken my toe and asked me if I could drop out of the race,” Levy said. “I was heartbroken, but decided to make the best of it.” Still determined, Levy took time off from running and instead, focused on improving her swim times and core strength.
Six weeks after the accident, she was allowed to run a quarter of a mile at the track. “I felt like I had never trained before, that quarter mile felt like 10 miles,” she told the Record. Disappointed and feeling as if she had lost all of her training fitness, she switched to the aquabike race and eight weeks prior to the race she set her continuous training and then her two-week taper period. It was really hard running on her toe, but by race day she had logged her longest run at 15.5 miles, not as long as she had hoped for, but she did it. And she “prayed and prayed” for no rain on race day.
Her prayers were answered; when Levy awoke at 3:30 a.m. on race day, the weather was fine. During the entire 2.4 mile swim, she felt like a sardine, “constantly being bumped, kicked, and shoved by other racers.” And then it began to rain. Next was the bike race. “The down-hills were scary, as they were steep, curvy, and slick,” she reported. And the visibility was “ terrible” and it was cold.
At about mile 32, on her bike, she found a rear tire puncture. Shivering and crying, Levy managed to stay calm and 65 minutes later she was back racing, finishing the next 80 miles without incident.
Then came her first-ever marathon. But by mile 0.5, the jacket was tied around her waist and the run got tougher, “so happy to see each mile marker,” and at mile 23 her “gymnastics power” kicked in and her last three miles “flew by.”
As Levy entered the finishers chute she heard familiar voices cheering her on and then herd the announcer shouting: “Sharon Levy, come on home! Sharon Levy you are an Ironman.!”
Levy ran as fast as she could through the finish line with her arms up and an enormous smile on her face.
Sharon Levy is a physical therapist and a USA Triathlon coach. She and her husband Peter have lived in Great Neck for 22 years.. They have two children, one at Great Neck North High School and one at Great Neck North Middle School. The Levys own and operate Excel Workout, a physical therapy gym in Manhasset.

Dan Klein: Homegrown Star

With a true passion for beautiful music, Great Neck’s native son Daniel Klein brings music to the world and is now focusing on bringing the classics back home. “We need more classical music,” he told the Great Neck Record when he brought his troupe, North Shore Music Festival, to Steppingstone Park as the summer wound down.
On a beautiful late-summer evening, Klein and his company presented the Great Neck Park District’s performing arts concert production of Rigoletto. Klein, co-founder and current executive director, performed before his hometown audience as Monterone in the opera.

Daniel Klein in The Marriage of Figaro.

Daniel Klein in The Marriage of Figaro.

Klein, a bass-baritone opera singer, is amazingly versatile and says that he “evolves as an artist” as have the roles that he “is called upon to interpret.”
Meeting with Klein just prior to the Great Neck performance, he was delighted to see old friends and he shared his love of opera. “Often I find opera more real than real life,” he told the Record. “The audience really feels the mood, as in Rigoletto.”
As for the role of Monterone, he explained that he had chosen this smaller role, as it allowed him the necessary time to head his company. Recently, he has also appeared as Mustafa in Vermont’s Opera Company of Middlebury’s performance L’italiana in Algeri, with the Brooklyn Philharmonic in the world premier of excerpts from Misha Dutka’s holocaust opera Liebovar, as John Proctor in IVAI Tel Aviv’s production of Robert Ward’s The Crucible, and as the Podesta in Bronx Opera’s La Gazza Ladra.
Klein has performed in operas world-wide and across America. As recent as last fall he performed in Argentina, and he has performed and/or studied in Italy, Austria and Germany.
In 2008 Klein was invited to join the Evelyn Lear and Tom Stewart Emerging Singers Program of the Wagner Society of Washington D.C. and appeared in their annual concert.
And there is more­—his voice can be heard in soundtracks by Emmy Award winning film composer James Michael Dooley.
Klein grew up in Great Neck, in a house once owned by his mother’s parents. He attended Saddle Rock Elementary School and Great Neck North Middle School, as well as St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows.
As a youngster he accompanied his dad to St. Aloysius Church choir rehearsals, where the choir director recognized his talent and provided his first professional voice lessons. Klein still performs with the St. Stephen’s Church Choir in Port Washington, with the same music director.
Klein holds a Bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance from Carnegie Mellon University. In 2002, he graduated from the University of Southern California’s Flora L. Thornton School of Music with a Master’s in Vocal Arts. He attended La Universita per Stranieri di Perugia, Italy and attended Die Neue Schule, Berlin, Germany.
In 2006, as part of Angels Vocal Arts Center he worked intensely in televised master classes with legendary tenor Carlo Bergonzi, who declared that Klein has a “truly a Verdian voice, absolutely.”
Throughout elementary, middle and high school the young Dan Klein participated in musical theater productions and chorus programs. He also participated in the Great Neck Library Levels theater programs in performing or directing capacities.
Not enough to do? Klein also provides voice lessons to both beginning and professional singers in the area, but in Manhattan and in Queens. Check out his teaching website: www.thinkbreathesing.com
For more information on Daniel Klein, head for his personal website: www.danielkleinonline.com
To keep up with Klein and the North Shore Music Festival and to see performances: www.northshoremusicfestival.org

Dog Day at the Pool

Local pups and their owners came from all over Great Neck to celebrate Dog Day at the community pool. Click here to see if we spotted you and your canine companion.

(Photos by Margaret Tumino Mills)

Preserving Allen Burial Ground

It looks like plans to preserve and restore the Allen Family Burial Ground located on Pearce Place behind two houses in Great Neck Plaza are finally moving forward with the unanimous approval through an intermunicipal agreement between the Plaza and the Town of North Hempstead by the town at its public meeting.
Over a year has passed since any real progress has been made. In July of 2013, ground-penetrating radar was used to confirm that six members of the Allen family were buried during the mid 19th century in the private cemetery that is approximately 20 feet by 10 feet. The lot is only visible from the back wall of the Gussack Plaza municipal garage by Village Hall. Access or viewing from Pearce is not possible. The gravestones are no longer in their original positions but currently propped up against a fence.

Allen family burial ground behind a home in Great Neck Plaza

Allen family burial ground behind a home in Great Neck Plaza

“I am proud to have reached an agreement in principle with the Village of Great Neck Plaza to restore and preserve the Allen Family Burial Ground, a process which has been spearheaded by Town Historian Howard Kroplick,” said Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth. “This is a perfect example of governments working together to achieve a common goal. We feel it is important to maintain historic sites in our Town, out of appreciation for the contributions of the people and families that have made North Hempstead so special, and in order to educate our future generations about our past.”
Added Bosworth’s Deputy Director of Communications, Ryan Mulholland: “This (the agreement) just underscores the Town’s commitment to the project. The terms are not finalized as yet but the town is committed and, obviously, the Village of Great Neck Plaza is committed.” Details have not been released, as attorneys for both parties have to work out specifics regarding responsibilities and time frames.
Plaza Mayor Jean Celender released this statement about the new partnership. “We are pleased to report that an agreement in principle has been reached between the Village and the Town that will provide for the future restoration and maintenance of the historic Allen Cemetery located within the Village,” she said. “Some minor details still remain to be worked out but, with the cooperation of the Town, we are confident that a final agreement will quickly be done. The Village thanks Supervisor Bosworth and her staff for their assistance on this issue.”
While both Bosworth and Celender were obviously pleased, Kroplick, who has worked tirelessly on the project for almost a year-and-a-half, expressed great satisfaction about the latest progress. “It’s a positive development because it pays honor and respect to the Allen Family who were part of the original settlers on Long Island,” said Kroplick whose knowledge of local history is voluminous. “It’s taken awhile to do it, but I’m very pleased. I think we’ve come to an agreement that is a good agreement for everybody who’s involved. I think the best thing is for the village and the town to work together and restore it.”
Skeptics who doubted that the graves were actually there presented a challenge to Kroplick. He found that there was technology available to prove that the caskets were still in place and arranged for radar to be used. At one time the Allen Family is thought to have owned one third of the Great Neck peninsula and the land around the parking lot was once part of the Allen farm. All six of those buried on the plot died between 1810 and 1861.
“And,” added a very delighted Kroplick, “I think Benjamin Franklin said it best: ‘Show me your burial grounds and I’ll show you a measure of the civility of a community.’”

Vacant Lots, Illegal Dumping

The lot in question, on South Middle Neck Road facing north.

The questions of who owns the large vacant lot on South Middle Neck Road, where it meets Susquehanna Avenue and why it, and the area bordering it where Gilchrest Road terminates, have become favorite places to dump garbage, have been answered.
The Long Island Power Authority is the actual owner of record of the lot, whose sidewalk extends halfway down the South Middle block, almost to Overlook Avenue, and is a popular route for walkers going to and from the LIRR and the Great Neck business district. The MTA also has a bus stop in front of the property. PSEG, which took over LIPA at the beginning of the year, is now responsible for the lot.
There is also a fence at the back of the property with an opening that allows pedestrians who would rather avoid the noise and speeding traffic on Middle Neck to walk through Thomaston and use Gilchrest as an alternative route to the center of town.
“People come in here with a small truck and find it an easy place to dump and get rid of their load,” said Village of Thomaston Mayor Robert Stern, referring to the dead end on Gilchrest and the area on the other side of the fence. “We’ve cleaned up this area a lot,” added Thomaston Superintendent William Mazurkiewicz, who was visiting the site in response to a complaint made to the Village.
Over the past several years, everything from office furniture to refrigerators to old gas cans have been dumped on either side of the fence, besides the usual litter from food and beverages. A nearby homeowner even instructed his gardener to empty his truck there after an afternoon of clearing his backyard of all his trees and bushes. The village was able to identify who the violator was and forced him to remove it all.
During the visit, Mazurkiewicz, and another staff member closely examined the fence opening to see what repairs might be needed, especially where one of the horizontal poles juts out into the passageway at eye level. A gravel path, running through the property, leads to the opening.
The Mayor, who has been in office 19 years and has lived in Thomaston over 60 years, said that LIPA had originally installed some very heavy power cables under the lot. “They were put in many, many years ago, so you wouldn’t want to start digging and planting,” he said when asked about any possible development of the site. “You might get electrocuted.”
Jeffrey Weir, director of communications for PSEG Long Island, addressed some of the lot’s history. “The path that cuts through the property was actually requested to be installed in the 1970’s by the Village of Thomaston,” he said.
Weir actually arranged for a new survey of the property to be taken earlier this month when the Great Neck Record inquired as to whether the fence was on LIPA’s (now PSEG’s) or Thomaston’s property. The fence is Thomaston’s and signs on the fence facing Gilchrest warn against dumping (a $250 fine) and that parking in the dead end is reserved for “official use only.”
“We’ll keep an eye on this a little closer,” Stern promised, in regard to the Gilchrest area, “but we’re limited to what we can do.”
Weir also acknowledged the litter. “The lot is maintained on a biweekly basis by PSEG,” he said. “I talked with the maintenance team and they said the litter on our side of the fence appeared to be very fresh, less than two weeks old.” But PSEG did immediately go in and clean the area.
Mayor Stern was frank when asked about the LIPA/PSEG’s performance in maintaining the lot. “They do shovel the walk, generally, during snow,” he answered. “Oh, from time to time we holler at them. But PSEG is new and I don’t know them. When LIPA was here we had somebody to talk to and they would clean it (the lot) up now and then. Maybe once a year they would rake it up.”
But the lot would have been handled differently were it not owned by a utility, according to Stern. “We would have cleaned it up and sold it already if it was ours, but it isn’t,” he said.