By Anessa V. Cohen
It has been only a couple of weeks since we found out about the proposed sale of the Number Six School to the Simone Group. I guess that is what happens when you are faced with the threat of the destruction of your neighborhood as we presently know it.
Number Six School has always represented a place where we could come down to watch our children play in the playground or using the ball fields, whether for baseball or soccer.
When the Lawrence school board decided to put the property up for sale, we all sighed but also felt that whatever happened, the integrity of the neighborhood—a residential area where families live, where children play—would be considered above all, no matter what kind of purchase bids were considered.
Many offers to purchase the school have come and gone, some better than others, but most of them have come from local entities that would have preserved the quality of our neighborhood. To give just a few examples, the Peninsula Public Library, the JCC, and various private schools made offers to purchase the Number Six School property while at the same time offering the community the four acres of ball fields and playground for public use for all time. They are offering this in writing, not verbally!
To end up with a medical facility that will destroy the neighborhood as we know it in the name of their offer of $2 million more than everyone else leaves open to question how much the destruction of our neighborhood is worth in actual dollars. Is the $2 million worth the noise and traffic that will shut down Peninsula Boulevard, Branch Boulevard, and even Rockaway Turnpike, and all the streets in between at all kinds of hours, night and day? Since this is a given if this medical center opens, anyone planning to vote to allow the sale to go through had better think carefully if this is how they want to live from now on. It represents a permanent change to our neighborhood.
Although the medical center facilitators, the Simone Group, have been telling one and all what an asset they will be to the neighborhood, when you actually look at what they say will be placed there, it seems as if the asset will be theirs. They will make gobs of money on this nightmare that they plan to keep open round-the-clock. When you actually factor the $2 million extra they are paying above the other offers into how much each family will benefit, we are talking about a one-time $150 credit per family on one year’s school taxes—and then what?
For that $150 per family, we will have to live with constantly trying to beat the traffic. We would need to find substitute routes to get where we need to go. All the alternative main arteries—West Broadway, Central Avenue, Broadway, Woodmere Boulevard, Cedarhurst Avenue, and Mill Road, to mention but a few—are also going to be loaded with much heavier traffic than they ever experienced in the past.
The most concerning item which should make everyone quake in their boots is that after Simone Group closes the deal and builds the medical center, we will no longer have any control or say in what they do over there. What happens if they decide to expand the medical facility even further? They could decide to add on a drug rehabilitation center or possibly clinics to service the homeless or a variety of advocacy groups.
This type of facility does not belong in a small town and certainly does not belong in a quiet residential area. We have always prided ourselves on the quality of life in our community, and if we do not run to vote “No” to this medical facility, the community we love will be there no more. The fact that they are willing to pay more than everyone else to get this property should be a wake-up call to everyone all over the Five Towns.
Entities willing to pay way above the market price for properties are doing so for a reason. They want people to be blinded by what they plan to do with that property. The irony of the entire situation is that although $2 million more sounds great in theory, in reality we will see just $150 per family. As a property that will go back on the tax rolls to benefit us all, it’s all smoke and mirrors, folks. After they finish reassessing the property, this will translate into $0 added to our school tax rolls and a medical facility on the Number Six School property that will destroy our neighborhood. The other offers allowed us to retain our playing fields and retain control over the how the property would be used in the future—definitely worth more than the $2 million higher price tag offered by Simone!
We need everyone to get out there and vote “No” to the sale of the property to Simone Group. If you cannot be there, please print out the request for an absentee ballot immediately by visiting www.lawrence.org, fill it out, send it in to the district clerk, then send in the completed request once it comes. Anyone having difficulty and needing the request can e-mail me and I will send them the PDF attachment. We need to stand as one to get this done, and we need everyone to make this work by getting out the vote. Please make sure to talk to your neighbors and friends—and remember to vote “No” on March 20. v
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker and a licensed N.Y.S. mortgage broker with over 20 years of experience, offering full-service residential and commercial real-estate services (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and mortgaging services (First Meridian Mortgage) in the Five Towns and throughout the tri-state area. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa.cohen@AVCrealty.com.