Simone Healthcare’s deal to buy the Number Six School from Lawrence School District 15 is contingent upon the developer getting a 10-year property tax abatement for its “Mega-Medical Center.”
That stipulation is included in a 27-page sale contract school board president Asher Mansdorf signed with Simone. The Five Towns Jewish Times obtained a copy of the contract, which also makes no mention of Simone’s supposed arrangement for Mount Sinai Hospital to run the “Mega-Medical Center ” once it is built.
“This contract raises frightening prospects for homeowners in the Five Towns,” said opponent Joshua Schein, organizer of the Community Coalition of The Five Towns (CC5T), a grassroots group working to thwart the March 20 referendum and block the sale of the Number Six School to Simone.
“Our property taxes could skyrocket if Simone actually gets this 10-year tax break. The school board never mentioned any of the tax breaks when they were promoting this deal,” Schein said.
“Plus, this Mega-Medical Center would put an enormous strain on municipal services that we already pay for—police traffic enforcement, sanitation, water and sewer service, and much more,” Schein said.
“This deal may end up costing homeowners even more money and raise property taxes,” he said.
Simone’s contract to buy the Number Six School from the school district also does not mention Mount Sinai Hospital nor stipulate that Mount Sinai has ever officially agreed to operate the Mega-Medical Center once it is built.
“People were mistakenly led to believe they are voting for a Mount Sinai facility, but there is no written proof that Mount Sinai Hospital will actually run this facility,” Schein said. “Simone could easily pull a classic bait-and-switch.
“We just don’t know for sure. Once the Number Six School is sold and this Mega-Medical Center gets dropped into our community, Simone could hire a far less-reputable medical group to run it,” Schein said.
Schein and other members of the Community Coalition also say the school district’s contract lacks critical restrictions. For example, there is:
• No restriction to prevent Simone from reselling the Number Six School to a not-for-profit entity that would pay no property taxes whatsoever.
• No restriction on the number of physicians and staff, or hours of operation.
• No restriction on the Mega-Medical Center’s size and height.
“It’s hard to believe our school board—which is supposed to protect the public’s interest—signed a contract giving carte blanche to Simone and not protecting the community,” Schein said.
“We learned the hard way that Simone’s promises are meaningless,” Schein said. “And now it appears our school board shamefully put this community and our children at tremendous risk by signing a one-sided deal that favors Simone.”
The tax abatement for Simone would be provided through the Town of Hempstead Industrial Development Agency (IDA), which promotes new and growing commercial development. According to the contract, Simone can walk away from the purchase deal if it does not receive the tax abatement.
School board attorney Albert D’Agostino has said he resigned in October 2012 from the Industrial Development Agency’s executive board.
However, D’Agostino is still listed on the agency’s website as board secretary and a member of its Rules and Counsel Retention committee, and its Finance-Investment committee and its Governance and Uniform Policies and Guidelines committee.
“This certainly raises the concern that Mr. D’Agostino could exert undue influence over a tax abatement decision for Simone,” Schein said. “It raises a red flag that a conflict of interest may exist.”
Simone Healthcare plans to convert the Number Six School and its 6.7-acre tract on Church Avenue into an enormous regional healthcare complex and urgent care clinic, open 14 hours-a-day and seven-days-a week to serve thousands of outpatients daily.
CC5T members oppose the Mega-Medical Center because it would turn already-bad traffic on Rockaway Turnpike, and on Peninsula and Branch Boulevards into maddening gridlock, and bring motorists looking for shortcuts onto residential streets throughout the area.
The Community Coalition says the proposed Mega-Medical Center would attract strangers into residential neighborhoods, put families and children at risk, drive down property values, overburden municipal services, and threaten local physicians’ practices. v