By A. Citizen
I don’t know how or why I began following communications regarding the Vote No campaign at the start of the year. First, they were devoted to setting out their point of view on why I (and the rest of the community) should vote on March 20 against the Simone Development’s proposed medical center.
At first, the points were fair. They were concerned about the overflow of traffic that a medical center would bring to the community. This seemed a reasonable point. They were concerned that the people visiting the medical center would loiter outside, before and after their doctor visits, and they were worried about their children’s safety. I think this is largely a non-issue, since I think patients will most likely see their doctors and then leave, but I can’t deny the fears of parents who are worried about the safety of their children.
Another complaint was that the ball park was going to be destroyed. This seemed more trivial—while it’s always nice to have more space for kids to play, we already have Cedarhurst Park—but, again, it was a reasonable argument concerning a real issue.
Then the tone shifted. Some people warned, in dire terms, that we needed to save our community. The Vote No group provided talking points to use in shul to persuade other people to vote no. They suggested, in an e-mail sent before Purim, how I should point out how bad the traffic was when giving out my mishloach manos and how much worse it would get if the medical center were built.
Then, some even began to describe the Simone Development group as “crooks” and “unscrupulous.” I don’t understand how they have decided that the Simone Development company is unscrupulous and made up of crooks. I have seen no evidence of illegal behavior from them. Unless it is considered illegal to offer more money for a property? The language used against the developers makes them seem like they are intent on destroying our neighborhood, as if they are terrorists or something. They aren’t.
A disturbing undercurrent in some conversations suggested that the real reason for opposing the medical center was the hope that, if the vote fails, a Jewish organization (Shulamith or the JCC) might win a second bid. They gave the impression that the stated reasons—the slander against Simone Development, the ills a medical center might bring to the community—were really just ways of doing whatever it took to stack the deck against a non-Jewish facility. I hope I’m wrong. The school board needs to serve the best interests of the whole community, not just our corner of it.
Then, from out of nowhere, I received an unofficial e-mail imploring its readers to call the school board officials who “betrayed our trust.” They provided the cell phone numbers of Dr. Shloime Blisko, Murray Forman, Dr. Asher Mansdorf, and Gary Schall so that they could be contacted “day and night.” This is taking things way too far! How could they publicize private numbers and ask people to harass school board officials who were simply doing their job? Even if they disagree with the votes those school board members ultimately cast in this decision, it must be clear to them that the officials were acting for the community.
I personally am voting for the medical center on March 20. I think that the center will be an asset to the community. People will be able to go to a nearby facility in times of emergencies instead of having to go further away. I think that’s great. It would be nice to have all the doctors that one needs to visit all together in one place. Instead of having to find a lab who will do the tests your doctor prescribes, you can simply go down the hall.
A member of my family had to go in for some tests not long ago. The only place nearby that she could go to was South Nassau Hospital. She had to go to that hospital three times: the first time to let them know who she was and why she was there, the second time to get blood work done in preparation for the main test, and the third time to actually have the test done. If the medical center was in the neighborhood, she could have avoided a lot of trouble. Because the medical center plans on having their patients’ files available to all the doctors in the facility, the first trip could definitely have been avoided. And even if she did need more than one visit for that test, at least the facility would have been a lot closer to home.
I think what troubles me most is the vitriol that has sprung up around the campaign. Although it is normal—even healthy—for politics to be filled with passion and debate, things have gone way too far in this case. It is not okay to give out private numbers to the public. It is not okay to demonize a group of people simply for disagreeing. People can disagree with the developers’ aims without calling them crooks. People can disagree with the school board without calling them terrible names. People can disagree with their neighbors, friends, and family, and still remain cordial. I believe in owning my words, but I am regretfully using a pseudonym for this article, because I have seen the backlash and hate that has come from disagreeing with some of those aligned with the opposition to the facility. I think it’s important for people to vote with their convictions. I think it’s wrong to be bullied into a vote. v