North Hempstead councilwoman Anna Kaplan touts record in re-election campaign

Bill San Antonio

North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) said Thursday she credits Republican Mary Kay Barket’s desire to serve her community by running for the council, even if it’s in a bid to unseat her.

But Kaplan said she thinks her record in prioritizing the issues of senior citizens and children by seeking affordable housing and enhancing parks will resonate with voters in November’s election for the town’s 4th council district.

“I am blessed in so many ways, and I want everybody to know it is an honor to represent these residents,” said Kaplan, of Great Neck. “I take pride in my work and I feel blessed every day.”

Kaplan was elected to the town council in 2011 and also served as a Great Neck Public Library trustee and member of the North Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals.

The town’s 4th council district includes the villages of Roslyn, Roslyn Estates, North Hills, Great Neck, Great Neck Gardens, Kensington, Kings Point and Thomaston, as well as the unincorporated areas of Manhasset and Great Neck.

Kaplan emigrated to the United States at age 12 from Iran following the Islamic Revolution there in 1979, receiving political asylum. 

Originally arriving in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, she lived with a foster family in Chicago while attending high school and was later reunited with her family.

“This country has given me so much,” she said. “I went from having political asylum to holding elected office. That’s the American Dream. That doesn’t happen elsewhere.”

In mid July, Kaplan was among a group of town and county Democrats who signed a letter to New York federal lawmakers opposing the Iran nuclear deal, “in the interests of our own national security, the survival of Israel, the security and stability of the Middle East region, and to ensure a world that is free of the threat of a nuclear-capable Iran.” 

Though many of the politicians who signed the letter are up for election this year, and the move likely satisfied the town’s Jewish population, Kaplan said the letter was not meant to pander to voters or be used as a campaign issue.

Rather, she said, she signed the letter based on communications with constituents who wanted to influence their representatives in Washington.

“If this is [Iran’s] goal, to get nuclear weapons, they will anyway,” Kaplan said.

Among her proudest accomplishments of her first term were the renovations to Manhasset Valley Park, which were completed in three stages dating back to 2013.

The park’s two athletic fields — one for baseball and another for multipurpose use — received a synthetic turf surface, culminated in its renaming after Manhasset athletics legend Jim Brown, followed by new lighting and bathrooms, which Kaplan said is expected to be unveiled in October. 

“It has really been a total turnaround with the park,” Kaplan said, thanking former Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman (D-Great Neck) for initiating the project, current Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth (D-Great Neck) for seeing it to completion and Nassau County Legislators Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) and Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck) for close to $900,000 in additional funding.

Kaplan said she was also proud of the town’s efforts to pave the portion of Plandome Road that it controls and the widening of Manhasset Avenue in 2014 to make way for a new right-hand turning lane.

In an interview with Blank Slate Media in early September, Barket accused Kaplan and the town board of neglecting Manhasset and Plandome Road in particular, which she said has resulted in a dangerous roadway, a lack of available parking and empty storefronts.

In response to Barket’s remarks, Kaplan said she has supported Manhasset’s Chamber of Commerce and local businesses by appearing at meetings and public events in an effort to convince consumers to shop locally, and that she communicates regularly with a parking committee comprised of civic leaders and residents that seeks additional spaces.

“I won’t work toward something they don’t want. I represent their needs,” Kaplan said. “But in terms of lots, in terms of land, there’s not much I can do. But I’m more than happy to do what I can.”

Barket suggested the town relinquish some of the spaces in its parking lot behind town hall, and shuttle employees from the Macy’s parking lot on Northern Boulevard, but Kaplan said that plan would be a waste of time and resources.

“I believe my opponent has her heart in the right place, but she’s not being advised correctly,” Kaplan said. “The property behind Town Hall is part of Town Hall, and asking us to work out a contract with Macy’s, using taxpayer dollars to do that and shuttle employees back and forth, and with all our union employees, it’s not really thinking the whole thing through.”

As for the empty storefronts, Kaplan said it is not a problem unique to Manhasset or Great Neck, but part of “Main Street America” in an age where online commerce has provided a more convenient alternative for shoppers than traditional retail shops.

But, she noted, a solution likely won’t come from one person. 

“Each community has unique needs and wants. Something right for Williston Park may not work for Great Neck or Manhasset,” Kaplan said. “We like to look at each case as it comes and do what’s best for each community. It takes everybody working together.”

Kaplan said she was also proud of the town’s Aa1 bond ratings from Moody’s Investor Service and ability to maintain services in the tax-cap era. 

Though she voted for a 2013 pay raise to council members — which Barket said was an example of financial mismanagement by the town in recent years — Kaplan said the move aligned North Hempstead’s salaries with those of neighboring townships, and that the legislation was appropriate.

“There were others on that town board who voted against it but accepted the raises anyway,” she said. 

“We want to make sure residents know their tax dollars go as far as they can go,” she added. “Taxes are high, but people move here for the quality of life, parks, schools and libraries in the town.”

The town has also made significant progress in reforming its building department, Kaplan said, by hiring a new commissioner and resident advocate for application assistance and holding evening and mobile hours. 

But, she said, she would also like for the town to hire a liaison to go to work sites and guide residents and builders on aspects of projects that would need further planning or permits.

“Are there some things we can do better?” she said. “Yes.”

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