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GREAT NECK AN ANTON MEDIA GROUP PUBLICATION • FALL 2015

M A G A Z I N E

Illuminating the Past Restoring Stepping Stones Lighthouse

EMBRACING DIVERSITY

Our community has become wonderfully multicultural

ALWAYS LEARNING

Programs that enrich


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Contents

45 8

Something for Everyone

Community Ed programs provide richness and diversity By Louis Iannaco

Letter from the Publisher

Welcome to Great Neck Magazine By Angela Susan Anton

25 12

Saving Stepping Stones Lighthouse

Sold

51

Lin Pan has been helping Asian residents find their place in the community By Sheri ArbitalJacoby

From ice skating to hockey, the Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink offers lots of options By Michele Siegel

One day, this historic building will illuminate visitors By Alice Kasten

31 18

The New Face of Great Neck

Making the Grade

Our new school superintendent promises to keep standards high By Dave Gil de Rubio

55

Comforting Programs in Farsi

The Sid Jacobson JCC is providing programs and services we can understand By Connie Wasserman

The Voice from Our Village Viktor Kirรกly is singing his way to the top By Danielle Bitts

Our growing Chinese population By Amy He

38

The Coolest Place in Town

60

46 Our Our Great Neck Playhouse How will this drama end? By Leila Mattson

Cover photo of Stepping Stones Lighthouse by Sheri ArbitalJacoby

GREAT NECK MAGAZINE

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6

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Welcome to Great Neck Magazine Anton Media Group has taken great pride in covering this unique community through our weekly newspaper, the Great Neck Record, since 1908—and now also through our website, www.greatneckrecord.com. The town’s heritage has always been something residents have taken pride in. Since we’re on a peninsula, some of these chapters have taken place on the water, as evidenced by Alice Kasten’s story on the Stepping Stones Lighthouse and a campaign to raise funds for its restoration. When you look at our community today, diversity has become a driving force. Amy He tells us about the Great Neck Chinese Association, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Sheri ArbitalJacoby shares a profile on Lin Pan, who is the epitome of a success story. Since emigrating from China in 2000, she’s gone from getting her real estate license to supplement her income to opening up her own agency. Our rich cultural diversity also invites Connie Wasserman’s story of the Sid Jacobson JCC reaching out to our Persian community by providing local programs in Farsi for elderly memory-impaired residents. Dave Gil de Rubio sat down with educator Dr. Teresa Prendergast, who’s not only the first woman school superintendent in nearly a century, but is unwavering in her determination to ensure a top-notch education for all students. This dedication to learning continues into the adult arena according to Louis Iannaco, who profiles the Community Ed Program, which offers classes in everything from card playing to silversmithing. Michele Siegel writes about the Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink, where residents can enjoy open skating, a teen night, competitive and non-competitive hockey leagues—and just might see local Olympians Sarah and Emily Hughes. Danielle Bitts tells us the next famous person to come out of Great Neck just might be Hungarian-American Viktor Király, who’s currently a contestant on The Voice. Finally, Leila Mattson shares the sad history of the Great Neck Playhouse, which got its start in 1922, hosting live productions that featured stars like Ethel Barrymore, Eddie Cantor and the Marx Brothers before shutting its doors in 1983. As you can see, there’s plenty to dive into as we scratch the surface of what makes our community so wonderful. Angela Susan Anton Publisher

Photo by Tab Hauser

By Warren Services

Letter from the

Publisher


Great Neck MAGAZI NE An Anton Media Group Publication KARL V. ANTON, JR. Publisher, 1984-2000

ANGELA SUSAN ANTON Editor and Publisher

CLASP * Great Neck Senior Center *

FRANK A. VIRGA President

IRIS PICONE

CAPS * Great Neck Student Aid Fund *

Operations Manager

COPAY * Manhasset-Great Neck EOC *

SHARI EGNASKO

NCCADV * NS Family & Guidance Association *

Executive Assistant

Girl Scouts * NSLIJ Health System Foundation

SHERI ARBITALJACOBY

505 Northern Boulevard Suite 306 Great Neck, NY 11021

ALEX NUÑEZ

P: 516-539-3131 501 (c) 3 registered charity

Managing Editor Art Director

KAREN MENGEL

Director of Production

JOY DIDONATO Circulation Director

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Danielle Bitts, Dave Gil de Rubio, Amy He, Louis Iannaco, Alice Kasten, Leila Mattson, Michele Siegel, Connie Wasserman

DESIGNERS

Barbara Barnett, Donna Duffy, Sheila Ferrari, Kevin Schmidt

ART STAFF

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ANNIVERSARY

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ADVERTISING SALES Julia Abreu, Scott Evans, Mari Gaudet, Wendy Kates, Jason Lefkowitz, Valerie Link, Sal Massa, Pat Salmon, Jeryl Sletteland Publishers of

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Saving Stepping S

“

Stepping Stones was occupied by a succession of lighthouse keepers and their families. The keeper job was a family affair. Rowing to the mainland for supplies might occupy some family members, while others performed chores to keep the light strong.


g Stones Lighthouse One day, this historic building will illuminate visitors By Alice Kasten

Photo by Sheri ArbitalJacoby; illustration from the collection of Alice Kasten

S

The lighthouse is featured on a cigarette card issued in 1911 by the American Tobacco Company advertising Hassan cigarettes.

tepping Stones Lighthouse has guarded the Long Island Sound entrance to New York Harbor since 1876. Constructed to warn mariners of a shoal of rocks that extends out into the Sound, the lighthouse is located between Kings Point and City C ity Island on top of 900 tons of boulders that were moved to that location to provide a foundation. The waters surrounding Stepping Stones are very tricky. While the deepest waters in the area are just north of the lighthouse, the depths to the south are as shallow as three feet. Without the assistance of the lighthouse, many more boats would suffer damage from the rocks than do today. The lighthouse actually looks like a house—and functioned as one, too. The basically square structure, measuring about 26 feet on each side, was built in a style called Second Empire and is made of brick with a mansard roof. The original plans called for a kitchen, sitting room, dining room and oil room on the first floor, and four bedrooms on the second floor. As in many buildings of the day, there was no bathroom. Stepping Stones was occupied by a succession of lighthouse keepers and their families. The keeper job was a family affair; the lamp had to be kept full of oil and the glass continually cleaned. Rowing to the mainland for supplies might occupy some family members, while others performed chores to keep the light strong. Although technically closer to Great Neck, the families of the lighthouse always had a strong tie to City Island in the Bronx. The children of the lighthouse attended school on City Island and supplies came from there as well. Renovations were made in the 1940s. But in 1964 when the light was automated by the Coast Guard, there was no longer a need for a keeper to be on location full time. The original light is currently on display at the Merchant Marine Academy Museum, but the fog bell, which sounded when the light could not be seen, has gone missing. Although the Coast Guard is responsible for the operation of the light, it can no longer afford to maintain the structure of the lighthouse. In 2006, the Town of North Hempstead applied for and was granted stewardship

GREAT NECK MAGAZINE

13


Hopefully, groups will be able to visit the lighthouse one day to learn about its integral role in the life of the harbor. It will become a museum of a life gone by, and a wonderful educational resource for little ones.

14

GREAT NECK MAGAZINE

Alice Kasten is president of the Great Neck Historical Society.

Center photo courtesy of Great Neck Park District

From top: This real photo postcard of the lighthouse shows people in rowboats around 1910. Great Neck Park District employees are putting a temporary patch on the lighthouse roof. A promotional banner urging people to save the Stepping Stones Lighthouse has been placed on the fence surrounding the lighthouse.

of the building, with a charge to maintain and improve the decaying condition of the lighthouse. In an effort to make the rehabilitation a reality, in 2014, the town partnered with the Great Neck Historical Society and the Great Neck Park District in a unique public/private association. Their goal is to not only repair the crumbling foundation, masonry, roof and interior damage, but to restore the inside features, and create an understanding of the lighthouse’s role as well as the role of its hardworking keepers in the rugged, often unfriendly, environment. Hopefully, groups will be able to visit the lighthouse one day to learn about its integral role in the life of the harbor. It will become a museum of a life gone by, and a wonderful educational resource for little ones. In fact, a group of children are taking the lead in learning about and donating to the restoration effort. The students of John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Kings Point have adopted the lighthouse, pooled their money, made models and publicized the plight of the structure. But so much more help is needed. The engineer’s report indicates that restoring the lighthouse could cost approximately $4 million. The town has applied for grants and the park district and historical society are attempting to raise awareness—and funds. To view a video that the town produced to capture the feel and highlight the needs of the lighthouse, go to YouTube and type in Stepping Stones Lighthouse. For more information or to support the lighthouse, visit the Great Neck Historical Society at www.greatneckhistorical.org.


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Call the Admissions Office for more information: 516-466-3001 extension 215 15 St. Paul’s Place, Great Neck, NY 11021


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The New

Face

of Great Neck GNCA members celebrated the end of the school year at their 2015 year-end barbecue party.

Our growing Chinese population By Amy He

I 18

GREAT NECK MAGAZINE

n the past decade, wealthy Chinese have flocked to Great Neck—a neighborhood that attracts immigrants because of its excellent schools and convenient access to Manhattan and Queens—and groups like the Great Neck Chinese Association (GNCA) are helping Chinese residents, old and new, integrate into the neighborhood and advocate for the group’s interests within the community. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, GNCA is a nonprofit organization that has played an important role in helping the Chinese community assimilate in the Long Island region, both by helping immigrants better understand American culture and its school system, as well as keeping alive familiar Chinese customs and celebrations that immigrants practiced before coming to America.


One of the children’s percussion teams, which won gold medals locally and internationally, performed during the GNCA 2015 Chinese New Year celebration.

The Great Neck Chinese Association’s mission is HAPPY:

H

elp new Chinese residents integrate into the Great Neck

A

“When I first moved in, our neighborhood—including me—had only two or three Chinese families,” says Else Yung, a longtime Great Neck resident and former president of the GNCA. “But now, everywhere you see Chinese moving in,” she says, “especially Chinese parents.” Yung, who is now treasurer of the GNCA, says the main priority of the group is to keep Chinese residents abreast of what’s happening within the region, disseminating information in Chinese because most of them don’t understand English or American culture. While many of the Chinese living in the area are working

professionals and have been in New York for a while, the neighborhood also attracts far wealthier Chinese immigrants who have business ties to mainland China and are new to the U.S. and the language. “The main issue is to let the people be aware of what’s going on. Because most of them are immigrants, they’re new here and they don’t speak English,” Yung says. “We need to let the Chinese people know [in a way they understand].” The GNCA uses WeChat—a smartphone messaging application used by many Chinese—to inform the community, and members within the GNCA, who form

dvocate for the common good of its members;

P As the school year began, the GNCA board welcomed the district’s new superintendent, Dr. Teresa Prendergast, during its monthly meeting. From left, front row: Wen Wu, Mo Chen, Shuna Luk, Dr. Prendergast, Ke Wei, Else Lau; back row: Ding Li, Chris Huang, Nathan Fong, Mimi Hu, Alice Ngai-Tsang, Yanlin Yue and Betty Leong.

community;

romote understanding of its culture and its people;

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involvement;

ield a harmonious and happy living environment for all in Great Neck.


WeChat groups dedicated to various topics, ranging from commuter chat groups to those for parents with children in different Great Neck Schools to groups for residents interested in hunting. “The new immigrants, of course, find language a challenge, but their children are getting integrated quite well. But that’s why the Great Neck Chinese Association is so popular in that it provides the venue for the non-English-speaking community to stay in contact with each other,” says Doug Lee, a longtime Long Island resident who previously ran for New York State Assembly to represent District 16 in Nassau County. Lee, who works for a financial services firm on Wall Street, is not a member of the GNCA but has worked with the group and attended its events through campaigning. The GNCA strongly encourages Chinese parents to get involved in the school system, which has had a significant increase in Asian student enrollment. Yung says that it’s important for parents to be aware of parent-teacher meetings, to stay on top of the decisions being made by the school board, and how they affect the students and their education. It’s also important for the school to know that Chinese parents are there, so that they can be involved in decision making, she says. “These parents don’t know exactly what the American education system [entails]. We need to educate them and we need to let them know that their involvement

The Great Neck Chinese Association enjoyed themselves at their 2015 year-end barbecue.

GNCA has helped the Chinese community assimilate on Long Island. in their schools is most important. So we encourage them to participate in school—for example, to volunteer at school, to get involved in PTA meetings. They need to go to all the important educational meetings, so that we let [educators] know that Chinese parents are here,” she says. For the 2013-14 school year, more than 6,300 students were enrolled in Great Neck public schools. Thirtythree percent of those pupils were Asian, an increase from 25 percent during the 2008-09 school year, according to the New York State Education Department’s Information Repository System. “Clearly, the children and families we work with represent an amazing

The NY Wall Street Dragon team, with GNCA’s Betty Leong, competed at the Toronto Dragon Boat Festival.

20

GREAT NECK MAGAZINE

array of diversity and cultural richness, and each of our schools is a place where families feel valued and respected. School is where our children learn to appreciate, respect and collaborate with people different than themselves, and the members of our board of education are proud to represent every child in the district,” remarked Dr. Teresa Prendergast, superintendent of the Great Neck Public Schools, in response to questions about the lack of Chinese representation on the school board. Lee says that currently there is a “lack of complete understanding” between the Chinese community and the predominantly Jewish community that represents the school board. The Chinese association is interested in making sure this relationship continues to improve, he says, and to show that the Chinese residents are ready to integrate into the community at large. “In terms of values, these are old values that we all share. Their core values are no different. The next step, however, is sharing power. Sharing responsibility in how to run the school system, how to run the village,” he says. “It’s not real contention other than breaking down barriers so that they work together.”


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Lin Pan has been helping Asian residents find their place in the community By Sheri ArbitalJacoby

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Photo courtesy of LICAA

Lin Pan and husband and business partner, Derek Zheng, celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival at Old Westbury Gardens.

hat started as a way for Lin Pan to earn a few extra bucks as her family expanded has turned into perhaps the largest real estate agency catering to Asians throughout Long Island. The successful real estate agent is living the American dream and helping others find theirs. It all began when Pan moved to the U.S. with her husband and business partner, Derek Zheng, in 2000. The young couple lived in Maryland while they were attending school. Pan was obtaining her master’s degree in accounting at a small college in DC, while her husband attended the University of Maryland, where he earned his PhD in physics. By 2006, Zheng landed a job on Wall Street working for Bernard Madoff. With three little boys, Pan was concerned that her husband wouldn’t be able to earn enough money to support them, so she obtained her real estate license. In October, she rented a desk in a Re/Max office and began selling real estate in Bayside, where the family was renting an apartment. “I also couldn’t imagine myself working with numbers as an accountant every day,” says Pan. “My personality is more suited to real estate. I like communicating with people and meeting different clients and seeing different properties every day. And there was more potential in real estate, even as the market was going down and big firms like Lehman closed.” By the end of the following year, Pan had been working hard—and still does, as her phone buzzes constantly during this interview—invested a lot of money in advertising and did so well that she was able to purchase a home for her family in Great Neck. At the time, the oldest of her three boys was starting school and the youngest was 1. She settled in the area because “I had a friend who lived in Great Neck, heard how

GREAT NECK MAGAZINE

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From left: Sons Daniel, Jackey, Robert and Enoch are eating Moon Cakes at the Mid-Autumn Festival at Old Westbury Gardens.

Lin Pan is living the American dream and helping others find theirs.

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GREAT NECK MAGAZINE

Lin Pan began selling real estate to earn some extra money for her family and, through hard work, now has her own agency.

along the water in Suffolk in Huntington and Northport. Through her husband’s marketing efforts using social media, their website and blog, as well as through referrals from friends, clients and a friend who’s an immigration attorney, the firm has also attracted about half of her buyers, some of whom are real estate developers from China, who want to invest in our

Center: Photo by Sheri ArbitalJacoby

good the schools were and how convenient it was to the city, Bayside and Flushing.” In addition to the great schools and location, Pan says, “Great Neck offers a beautiful environment with water on three sides and the convenience of the city with a countrystyle life.” During the Christmas party in 2008, Pan knew her husband’s job with Madoff was in jeopardy and didn’t feel his future jobs in the financial industry were particularly stable either. In 2012, now the parents of four young boys, the couple decided that Zheng would give up his job to open Lin Pan Realty Group on Middle Neck Road in Great Neck. The company has done so well that this year they opened a second office in Manhattan, where they cater to the luxury buyer and have branched out into commercial real estate. When asked how many houses she’s sold, the only answer Pan gave was “a lot.” As for her agents and the clients selling homes, Pan says they’re from diverse backgrounds—Asian, Persian, American, Jewish and Italian—but that 80 percent of her buyers are Asian. Some already live in the area and are looking for houses along the North Shore in towns such as Great Neck, Manhasset, Port Washington, Sands Point, Roslyn, Brookville and Jericho, as well as


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more stable real estate market. “Some of them buy several units for investment,” says Pan. “They may purchase a luxury condo in Manhattan, a house in Great Neck and another in the Hamptons.” Pan feels that there are a lot of opportunities for new immigrants in New York, particularly for women, especially compared to China, where there’s discrimination against women and those of a certain age. As far as the field of real estate, Pan says, “The real estate business is a people business. Women are often good communicators and everyone around you is a potential client.” What can we learn from the experienced broker? Pan’s advice for buying or selling a home is to enlist a good, strong broker—and to listen to her professional advice. “Even if my clients are successful and smart, they are not an expert in this field. When they go to an Italian restaurant, they don’t try to cook. Let the professionals do their job. It didn’t happen in one day. Experience and connections make you successful, not only knowledge.” In her spare time, Pan spends time with her boys, Robert, 14, Jackey, 11, Enoch, 10, and Daniel, 4. She’s vice president of the Long Island Chinese Association, a senior member of the New York Chinese Business Association and a member of the American Chinese Hunting and Shooting Association. When she’s not working, volunteering or hunting and fishing with

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her family, she spends a significant amount of time having dinner and going to karaoke with clients from China. “Some of my clients are really good,” says Pan. “They sound like stars.” Pan is proud of her accomplishments. She came to the U.S. with an accounting degree after college and has worked hard. She goes above and beyond and picks up buyers at the airport, helps them get their driver’s license and registers their kids for school. She says, ”I love to help people.”

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Our new school superintendent promises to keep standards high By Dave Gil de Rubio Dr. Teresa Prendergast is the first woman superintendent for the Great Neck Public Schools in nearly a century. Top: On the first day of school, the superintendent visited the John F. Kennedy Elementary School.

E

ducation isn’t something Dr. Teresa Prendergast takes lightly. As the new superintendent of the Great Neck Public Schools and the only woman to hold this position in almost a century (Elise M. Gignoux served from 1922 to 1924), this is the latest stop in a journey for the first-generation offspring of immigrants that began with the Bronx native’s childhood dream of always wanting to become an educator. “Both [my parents] came from Ireland. So, education was a priority in our family and an opportunity to learn and to take advantage of the opportunities that existed in this country and the foundations of public education. The one thing I’ve always said as a teacher and educator is that I find it so very important for adults as well as kids to find what it is that you’re

passionate about. Because if you find your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life,” she explains. “I’m very lucky because I’ve always wanted to be in education and always wanted to teach. I was very humbled that a district like Great Neck would see in me the potential to lead this district and I’m absolutely thrilled to be here.“ An educator since 1987, Prendergast ascended to her current position as Great Neck Public Schools superintendent after serving as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the Garden City Public Schools, a position she held since 2006. Her education résumé begins almost three decades earlier, when she earned her bones as a math teacher, dean of students, assistant principal and teaching dean while earning her master of science degree in mathematics education, grades 7 to 12 at

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“I’ve been in such a very good position all my life that I don’t really call what I do work.”

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CUNY Lehman College and doctor of education in educational administration and bachelor of science in elementary education from St. John’s University. The Bronx High School of Science alum spent the first seven years of her career learning the ropes while working for the New York City Board of Education, initially as a mathematics teacher and then as the sixthgrade dean of students in District 29Q Susan B. Anthony Intermediate School 238. From here, there were stops in the Hewlett-Woodmere and Lynbrook Public School Districts. All along the way, Prendergast’s passion for education found her seeking out knowledge from an array of mentors who have helped her become a more well-rounded educator. She cherishes those experiences and credits them with helping her end up as Great Neck’s captain of education. “I’ve been very fortunate because I’ve been lucky enough to meet some really phenomenal people in my life professionally who have given me the time and opportunity to learn from them and allow me to branch out of my comfort zone and learn more things,” she recalls. “I’ve been in such a very good position all my life that I don’t really call what I do work. It’s a passion and something that I really feel that if I have an opportunity to work with that principal and teachers and giving them the tools that they need to be successful, then walking through the schools and seeing what our kids

can do and teachers are able to do is priceless.” Even though Prendergast’s appointment as Great Neck Superintendent was officially in July, she’d spent the months before and after that coming around and familiarizing herself with the lay of the land and getting to know district staff and parent groups so they could get a better sense of who she is. And while she has an enormous task ahead of her in terms of maintaining Great Neck Public Schools’ reputation for educational excellence, Prendergast is very humble in her approach to her appointment. “What I’ve said to folks every time I’ve spoken to them is that I know the reputation of this district. The history and traditions occurred because great people were leading this


“The beauty of being here is that education is valued and it’s a priority.”

community and great people were leading the buildings. And this district has done a phenomenal job of putting the right people in the classrooms. So it’s not about me coming in with my goals. It’s never been about me. It’s about what can I bring to the folks and the various constituency groups in this community to continue to build on the successes that are already in place,” she says. “You have to honor the past and respect those traditions but still move forward and look toward the future. I’ve started attending as many PTA meetings as I can, open house events and I’m spending a lot of time in the buildings, just walking around. Introducing myself and having people become more familiar with who I am as a person and to give them a sense that my role is to be their superintendent. I am your superintendent. What is it that I need to be able to do to support you and this community? I think the goals we’ll identify will be determined

collectively because it’ll never be about my goals moving forward.” Prendergast minces no words in relaying the pride she has in being allowed the privilege to steer the educational ship that is the Great Neck Public School District. “The beauty of being here is that education is valued and it’s a priority. I’ve met with a few different PTAs already, but I hear that reoccurring message. Parents are here and want to support schools, they want their children to receive that top-notch education and they’re proud to say that they live in Great Neck and I want to ensure that they can continue to feel that way,” she says. “And that they can feel comfortable knowing that their children are going to receive a phenomenal experience and that as a child progresses, K through 12, regardless of whatever issues may arise, that the supports are here and that our priorities here are about enhancing opportunities for the kids, whether it’s in or outside of the classroom.”

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Comforting Programs in Farsi The Sid Jacobson JCC is providing programs and services we can understand

The community center learned that there was a need for culturally comfortable services.

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F

or more than 35 years, the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center (JCC) has been providing services to the entire North Shore community— from infants to the elderly—from a variety of backgrounds. These programs are often tailored to the specific needs of our residents. Whether to help maintain health and wellness or provide support services, the Sid Jacobson JCC brings a breadth of specialized programs and services to the Great Neck community through synagogue partnerships with Temple Israel, Temple Beth El, Lake Success Jewish Center, Temple Isaiah and the Mashadi Synagogue. Always an innovator of programs and services that meet the critical needs of the North Shore community, when studies showed that the elderly on Long Island were the fastest growing segment of the population, the JCC developed an adult day program that, on a weekly basis, serves 150 seniors who are frail and/or memory impaired with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases. Anticipating the needs of the community, experts from the Sid Jacobson JCC learned that according to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated five million people in the United States currently have Alzheimer’s disease and that number is expected to more than triple to 16 million by 2050. Based on these statistics, most

Photos by Steve Toscano

Top, from left: Rafi Ebrani, Youssef Ohebsion, a personal home health aide and Taylor Herbert, LCSW, director of specialized senior services. Above: Leslie Grama Shapiro, LCSW, program coordinator, and Debra Kalatziadeh

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of us will, at the very least, know someone who is caring for someone with memory loss—and the Persian community is no exception. When the Sid Jacobson JCC was approached by leaders in the Persian community, it began identifying the need, presenting to the community, securing space and obtaining funding. The community center quickly learned that there was a need to offer special services and support that is culturally comfortable. Although many elders with dementia may speak English, they often revert to their primary language, which in this case is Farsi, making it important to create a program that is culturally sensitive and has Farsi-speaking staff. The team approached SHAI (Sephardic Heritage Alliance, Inc.), which provided funding to help launch the project. The team also approached Temple Israel of Great Neck, which is providing space to house the program every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. One evening, the JCC Personalized care overseen by also provided professionals not only in a comfortable an educationsetting, but also in a familiar language, al program at is enhancing the lives of Great Neck’s the Mashadi Temple, Persian community. providing information and opportunity for questions led by licensed social workers. On September 10, the JCC launched a new program for elders in the Persian community with memory loss. Currently housed at Temple Israel, the program is culturally sensitive, providing music and discussions in both English and Farsi, kosher food from a local Persian restaurant and professionally trained staff. The program provides a wonderful social opportunity that is safe, so family caregivers can tend to their normal daily activities for several hours each week. Another staggering health concern stems from the statistic that an estimated

Top, from left: Connie Wasserman, LCSW, associate executive director, and Taylor Herbert, LCSW, director of specialized senior services. Above: Participants are enjoying lunch from Shop Delight.

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The program has successfully provided support to hundreds of people on the North Shore at its East Hills and Brookville campuses.

Top: Everyone’s having fun. Above: Sabiheh Sameyah with Shelley, a volunteer

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one in three Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. With the many types of cancer that can strike anyone at any age, it’s likely that each of us will know someone with the illness. Maintaining optimum health and receiving emotional support as well as knowledge about the resources available to patients and their families is crucial. To help make the journey a little easier, the Sid Jacobson JCC began the Nancy Marx Strength to Strength Cancer Wellness Program more than 10 years ago. The program has successfully provided support to hundreds of people on the North Shore at its East Hills and Brookville campuses. Last year, the JCC was approached by Farangiss Sedaghatpour, a well-known health care practitioner and cancer survivor who wanted to bring the program into Great Neck for the Persian community. Sedaghatpour was concerned that the stigma associated with a cancer diagnosis often prevents members of the community from getting the help and support they need during a very difficult and challenging time. At a presentation at Temple Hadassah in Great Neck, the Sid Jacobson JCC as well as members of the Persian community spoke about their journeys with cancer. With funding from SHAI, Sid Jacobson JCC cancer specialists are able to provide weekly exercise and discussion groups to survivors and their families at the Great Neck House. Personalized care overseen by professionals not only in a comfortable setting, but also in a familiar language, is enhancing the lives of Great Neck’s Persian community. Connie Wasserman, LCSW, is associate executive director of the Sid Jacobson JCC. For additional information about the program for elders in the Persian community with memory loss, contact Taylor Herbert, LCSW, director of Specialized Senior Services at 516-484-1545, extension 114. For more information about the cancer support program, contact Randy Hight, LCSW, certified oncology social worker at 516-484-1545, extension 213.



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Something for Everyone Community Ed programs provide richness and diversity By Louis Iannaco

B

ack to school in the fall typically calls to mind children and backpacks and an end to the fun of summer vacation. But, at the Great Neck Public Schools Community Education Program, when the students go back to school, summer may be over, but the fun is just beginning. Community Education, formerly known as the Adult Program, offers a rich array of classes for adults of all ages. Courses in literature, the arts, foreign languages, games and hobbies, humanities, music, fitness and technology fill the days—and evenings—of thousands of annual registrants at Community Ed. Comprised of more than 150 fall/winter classes, including more than 40 trips and special events throughout the fall, winter and spring, this comprehensive program offers so much for the community, notes Program Director Samantha Tarantola. “Whether it’s creating your own website, learning a new language or practicing Qi Gong, we truly believe the program is enriching the lives of our registrants.” The program’s open house, which took place during the week of September 28, was a rousing success. Introducing participants to everything from jewelry making to tai chi to playing the piano, the first-ever weeklong event served as an opportunity to welcome Great Neck residents, as well as those from neighboring communities, to the program’s upcoming fall/winter sessions. “We opened our doors to any guest who wanted to visit,” explains Tarantola. “We typically charge a $10 visitor fee, which is applied if and when you enroll in class, but this week we invited people at no cost.” The event attracted more

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Dedicated facilities on site allow for courses in hand weaving, printmaking, sculpture, pottery, silversmithing and jewelry making.

than 100 visitors, with more than 30 percent signing up for fall classes as a direct result of their visit. According to Tarantola, those taking part in the open house were very thankful for both the open house and the Community Education Program, especially those who were unaware of the variety of courses and number of classes offered. “We’ve had many visitors who never knew this building was even here. One called it a hidden gem.” Rich Offerings If you’re looking for the place to bring out your inner artist, there’s sure to be a class there for you. Master teachers are on-site and offer courses in painting, pastels, drawing and collage. Dedicated on-site facilities enable offerings in hand weaving, printmaking, sculpture, pottery, silversmithing and jewelry making. Classes in foreign languages, history and literature are held in classrooms equipped with Smart Boards, allowing instructors and students access to instructive technology. Additionally, Cumberland houses a lab where technology courses are offered on iPads, Macs and PCs. Two mirrored exercise rooms, one with a ballet barre, are host to dozens of fitness classes weekly. Zumba, line dance, tai chi, yoga, aerobics and various other classes cater to all ability levels. Specialized classes, such as water exercise, movement for those with Parkinson’s, standing Vinyasa yoga for seniors and ballet have become quite popular as well, and continue to address the needs of a diverse community looking to stay active.

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The growing music offerings at Community Ed—including opera appreciation, singing and piano—all continue to thrive. The special event, Broadway in Your Own Backyard, has been brought back to educate and entertain with the music and back stories of Broadway’s most popular composers. Community Ed offers an extensive array of day trips in and around the metropolitan area. A sampling of all-inclusive spring destinations will take participants to the Philadelphia Flower Show, Chelsea Market and the High Line, as well as on a New York City Cheese Tour.

Teacher approved Judy Umansky, mah-jongg and canasta instructor, says she believes the impact of the Community Education Program is that it keeps the community active, engaged and involved. “Learning new skills is not only important for mental acuity, but for socialization as well. As we get older, our circle of friends gets smaller, and this program allows participants to meet new people, learn new skills and have the time of their life.” Instructor and web developer Tim Savage, who has had everyone in his class from young professionals to 80-year-olds starting new businesses, says of the program, “It’s exciting for me because I get to help them start on the road to wherever they want to go.” For more information about the Community Education Program and for a complete listing of the upcoming fall/winter schedule, call 516-441-4949 or visit the Great Neck Public Schools website at www.greatneckcommunityeducation.weebly.com.

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The

Coolest Place in Town From ice skating to hockey, the Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink offers lots of options By Michele Siegel

Rink photo by Sheri ArbitalJacoby

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ooking for the most pristine ice on Long Island? The Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink at the Great Neck Park District’s Parkwood Sports Complex hires Jet Ice, the company that National Hockey League (NHL) teams and rinks use to paint their ice. The end result is a brighter, professional, world-class ice surface for skaters.

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Open skating sessions are a great way to hone skills.

hockey in a stress-free, fun environment. Special trips are taken to New York Islanders games, which include once-ina-lifetime experiences such as on-ice Bears shootouts during intermission at the Barclays Center.

Counterclockwise from top: Photos by Michele Siegel; Sheri ArbitalJacoby (2); Michele Siegel

Skating is a fun activity when there’s no school.

The ice rink boasts one of the largest municipal skate programs in the country and offers a variety of recreational activities for skaters of all ages and levels. Fun programs for every member of the family are taught by professional staff using the Ice Skating Institute (ISI) curriculum, which has been developed for recreational skaters. There’s something for everyone at the rink. Private and group lessons are available for both children and adults, from beginners through advanced, as well as for little ones who want to skate with their parents. For more advanced skaters looking for extra practice time, Freestyle sessions are available. Super Skaters and Synchronized Skate Teams are offered as well. A travel hockey program caters to the more competitive players, while the inhouse Bears Hockey program is the perfect option for both boys and girls between ages 5 and 12 who are interested in learning ice


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Synchronized teams are popular for more advanced figure skaters.

Counterclockwise from top: Photos by Michele Siegel; Sheri ArbitalJacoby (2); Michele Siegel

The rink is home to Great Neck’s own 2002 Olympic Gold Medalist, Sarah Hughes, and her sister, Emily Hughes, an Olympic, World and National skater. Throughout their childhoods, the sisters trained and performed at the rink. They even made a special appearance to help celebrate the park district’s 50th anniversary last November. Sarah has taken an active role in supporting the Great Neck Park District’s Therapeutic Skating program, which is one of 24 or so programs that have launched nationally over the past few years. Specialty events draw skaters to the rink. Every Friday night from 8 to 10 p.m. during Teen Night, high schoolers can skate with adult supervision and enjoy special lighting, music and fun. To warm up and take a break, skaters can relax in the heated lounge, connect to WiFi, watch their favorite game or show on TV, or sip hot chocolate as they enjoy the toasty fireplace. Plus, they can grab a bite from the wide selection of food at the snack bar. Next to the lounge, the S & A Pro Shop offers just about everything a skater or

nown to friends and colleagues as Sterg, Andrew Stergiopoulos was born on March 7, 1978, and tragically perished on 9/11 while working in product development on the 105th floor of One World Trade Center at eSpeed, Inc., the technology unit of Cantor Fitzgerald. A graduate of Great Neck North and George Washington University, his life embodied the values of leadership, academic and athletic achievement, sportsmanship, diligence and empathy. In his 23½ years, he made a profound and lasting impact on everyone with whom he came in contact. —Sheri ArbitalJacoby

tennis player needs. Open year-round, the shop provides professional skate sharpening, rivet repair, boot stretching and punching, skate baking and custom radius profiling, as well as tennis racket stringing, grip repair and more. The shop also carries hockey and figure skating apparel and equipment. Whether you’re looking for an invigorating workout or chilling with the family, the Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink offers something for everyone.

The Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink is located at 65 Arrandale Avenue. Season passes are available for families, adults, children and seniors. For more information, visit www.great neckparks.org or call 516-487-2976. The Pro Shop can be reached at 516-304-5543. To arrange your skate enthusiast’s birthday party, call 516-829-4323.

The rink is home to skating stars Emily and Sarah Hughes.


Winter at the Sands Point Preserve “Not Quite Christmas” Cabaret An evening of music by Steven Lutvak Cocktails & Dinner Saturday, December 12, 7 PM ❅ Holiday Tales at the Hearth A family celebration with stories, crafts and treats Sunday, December 13, 1 – 4 PM ❅ Winter Choral Concert Five choruses bring in the New Year Sunday, January 10, 2 PM

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e g a l l i V r u O from

Viktor Kirรกly is singing his way to the top By Danielle Bitts

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I fell in love with music while I was growing up in New York.

Király turned all four judges’ chairs while performing Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” This season’s judges (from left) are Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams. Carson Daly (second from left) is the host.

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heart-wrenching news. His mother was reat Neck’s Viktor Király diagnosed with cancer. The family has done some growing decided to pack up and head back to up. From drumming in his Hungary as his mother longed for her childhood garage bands to family and friends in her home country. singing in a duo group with Fortunately, she survived and is still with his twin brother, Király has been climbing her family today. the ladder for years. Today, you can see Since his high school bash debut, him every week on the nearest television, Király has completely immersed himself performing on NBC’s hit show, The Voice. in singing. First was a duo group with his Király is a New York native whose twin brother, Ben, cleverly named Twinz. parents are originally from Hungary. He However, the two eventually went down was born in the Bronx, moving to Staten different paths and Király took his career solo. Island and eventually ending up in Great In 2008, Király decided to audition Neck. “I fell in love with music while I was for an annual Hungarian talent show, growing up in New York,” he says. Megasztar. Megasztar is a televised Starting out, Király imagined he would singing competition, similar to that of grow up and become a drummer like his American Idol or ironically, The Voice. father, who was in a Hungarian band. So He wound up winning the entire show. he did what any kid in his situation would do—he started a garage band. “We didn’t sound the greatest, even though we thought we did,” says Király. “After playing the drums for several years, I got into a situation that changed my musical life.” The band was invited to play at his high school, Great Neck North. The Voice contestant’s singing debut was They rehearsed continuously at Great Neck North. to be as prepared as they possibly could, but they ran into a problem—their lead singer wouldn’t be able to make it to the show. When things looked uncertain for the band’s debut, a band mate turned to Király and said, “Vik, I hear you sing all the time by yourself, try a song!” As the saying goes, the rest is history. Around the time Király turned 15, his family received


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Király’s favorite career memory to date came in 2009. Király and his current band were given the opportunity to perform at an Open Air Festival that brought an audience of more than 50,000 people. “I had been working for years before actually making my mark in the industry. Eventually, all the hard work paid off! I now have several songs that are rotated on national radio. I am very proud of what I have achieved in Hungary,” says Király. As happy as Király was about his career in Hungary, it was time to make a splash in the States. “I always had this longing to go back to my home country...the place where I grew up,” says Király. His sister, Linda, who is also a Hungarian pop singer/songwriter, helped kickstart his dream in the U.S. Without her

brother knowing, Linda signed him up to audition for Season 9 of The Voice. Király is thankful that his sister gave him the push he needed. “She would always say to me, ‘You will never make it in America if you don’t try and, more importantly, believe in yourself.’” Season 9 began on September 21 and the blind auditions did not disappoint, especially for Király. He performed Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” turning all four judges’ chairs, which viewers know is no easy feat. Of the four celebrity judges, Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams and Adam Levine, Király decided to join Team Adam. “I know I could learn from any of the coaches, but my choice landed on Adam. Once Adam expressed his determination to get me on his team, I felt like he was the right choice. I believe he is the perfect person to help build my confidence.” Although the season is just getting started, Király has not only gained useful career connections for his future, but has created lifetime friendships. When asked what the best part of the experience

on the show has been thus far, Király replied, “I honestly have to say it’s just being there among all of those talented artists, and, more importantly, the fact that I really feel I have made a few lifelong friends.” The goal of every artist on The Voice may be the one thing they all have in common—and that’s winning. We sometimes forget that there’s much more than meets the eye when we turn on shows similar to The Voice. We don’t see the hours of work and sacrifice that each performer is putting in off camera. They all know that the ultimate goal won’t come easy. So what’s it going to take? “A lot of discipline, sleepless nights and endurance,” says Király. “The fact that I have so much love radiating toward me from my family and friends helps me want to fight for more. So if their love and the fan support doesn’t stop, I won’t stop either. I hope The Voice will give me the opportunity to follow my dreams wherever it takes me.” Help support this fellow Long Islander’s dream and watch him on The Voice, which airs on NBC Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and Wednesdays at 9 p.m.

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The Playhouse main stage was spectacular during its heyday in the ’20s.

How will this drama end?

Center: Photo by David Levin

Our Great Neck Playhouse

By Leila Mattson

F

In 1925, The Great Gatsby was performed at the Playhouse.

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or almost 30 years, the building at the corner of Maple Drive and Middle Neck Road has been awaiting completion of the final act of a drama tentatively entitled Our Great Neck Playhouse. Act I began in 1922 when David Baron of Great Neck built the Playhouse Theatre. It had a seating capacity of 1,500, an orchestra pit, meeting space and an organ like the one at the Rialto Theatre in Manhattan. Residents fortunate enough to have seen the interior describe its beauty. George Duck, former manager of the Airdome, an outdoor theater in Great Neck, and the Mayfair Theater on Station Plaza North, was in charge. The theater was intended to be a space for previewing plays bound for New York. Broadway shows found their way to the Playhouse as well. On nights when shows weren’t scheduled, motion pictures and high-class vaudeville acts were to be presented, according to an article in the Brooklyn Eagle. In 1925, Straight Shooter starring George Abbott was the first play to premiere. During the 1925 season, 29 shows opened at the Playhouse. One of those plays was a stage adaptation of The Great Gatsby, the novel written by former Great Neck resident F. Scott Fitzgerald. Reviews were not favorable.

Inset, above: The vacant Playhouse Theatre is an eyesore in 2014, as seen from Middle Neck Road. Below: An ad for the Playhouse appeared in the North Hempstead Record in 1927.


62

The Playhouse Theatre movie marquee, around 1976, advertises that Rocky was playing.

The Playhouse took out a full page ad in the Great Neck Record for the September 20, 1935, movie premiere of Accent on Youth.

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Bottom right: Photo courtesy of the Great Neck Library

On September 21, 1927, the Playhouse arrival of Ralph Morgan, a prominent Hollywood stage and film character actor, is discussed in the North Hempstead Record.

The Playhouse promised a show a week in 1927. That year, the Great Neck Record listed at least 20 productions, including Ethel Barrymore in Constant Wife, and Oscar Shaw and Gertrude Lawrence in Oh-Kay. Prior to its Broadway opening, Talk About the Girls opened for one night with “the most critical audiences ever gathered in Great Neck,” including Arthur Hammerstein, Oscar Hammerstein II, Sam Harris, Gene Buck, Florence Moore, Olga Petrova, Jesse Livermore, and Walter Chrysler, all Great Neck residents. Also present were Arthur Lesser, owner of the Playhouse, Joseph Grace and Captain Russell. During that year, a program for the benefit of St. Aloysius Church featured every renowned star, including Great Neck residents Gene Buck, Eddie Cantor, George M. Cohan and the Marx Brothers, according to the Great Neck Record. The plot thickens in Act II with the approach of the Great Depression. In 1929, the Playhouse was purchased by William Fox, who turned over booking for the Fox Playhouse to Louis Werba. Werba quickly filed for bankruptcy. All Fox theaters closed except for the Great Neck Playhouse and a theater in Long Beach. In the tight economy of the 1930s, organizations such as Vassar Alumnae, the Woman’s Club and St. Aloysius Auxiliary were selling benefit tickets to Playhouse productions. It was also reported that the Playhouse had succumbed to the movies. However, in 1932, Great Neck resident Ernest Truex starred in a performance of Whistling in the Dark before it opened in Manhattan. The Playhouse, then part of the Skouras chain, closed in 1940 to redecorate and add new seats, sound equipment and a new screen. In January 1941, competition arrived. The Squire movie theater opened on Middle Neck Road, across from the remodeled Playhouse. Various activities were held in both theaters. The two joined the war effort by selling war bonds and added a special matinée to collect scrap metal. Possibly signifying the need to improve ticket sales in 1949, the Miss Great Neck Beauty Contest was announced, with the winner to be selected by audience applause. In later years, talent shows were added. In November 1956, the International Rescue Committee raised The Squire $7,000 for Hungarian refugees with a five-hour presentation led by Theater opened Magda Gabor. A telephone connection with Las Vegas hotels brought in January 1941. in the voices of Liberace and Lena Horne. Movies continued to be


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Left center: Photo by David Levin

The Playhouse Theatre is seen from Maple Street in 2014.

shown into the early 1980s. One resident vividly remembers Flash Gordon and Superman II.. “Every kid in my junior high school must have been there.” Skip to Act III. In an attempt to revive the 60-year-old Playhouse as a legitimate theater, Santangelo Productions took over the lease in early 1983. The first production was Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest, followed by Tintypes and Talley’s Folly. Then, on March 1, 1983, the Playhouse went out of business, citing poor box office sales. Hollywood Hotel, a burlesque revue, was playing at the time. After the theater closed, space that had been used as dressing rooms and offices was converted to apartments, but have been empty for some time. Act IV of this drama is being written by the Village of Great Neck Estates and the owners of the property. It may well end in tragedy for the theater, which has been a landmark in a community long involved in the entertainment industry. For several years, the Village has been reviewing plans to demolish the theater and replace it with an apartment building. Currently, they are awaiting stalled demolition permits from Nassau County inspectors. Stay tuned for the final act.

A movie ad from 1952

Leila Mattson is the historian for the Great Neck Historical Society. An all-star gala at the Playhouse is anticipated in this 1935 Great Neck Record article.

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The 2015 Great Neck magazine is here!

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