BY 5TJT STAFF
A coalition of Five Towns homeowners and parents say Simone Healthcare Development has waged a “propaganda war” to make voters mistakenly believe that building a “Mega-Medical Center” in the heart of a residential community off Peninsula and Branch Boulevards is a good idea.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Josh Justic, an organizer of the Community Coalition of The Five Towns. “For weeks, Simone Healthcare has inundated us with deceptive information and rumors in an all-out propaganda war.”
The Community Coalition of The Five Towns is asking voters in Lawrence School District 15 to defeat Wednesday’s referendum to sell the Number Six School to Simone Healthcare Development of Westchester.
Simone would convert the Number Six School and its 6.7-acre tract on Church Avenue into a regional healthcare complex and urgent care clinic that would be open 14 hours-a-day and seven-days-a week, serving thousands of outpatients daily.
Justic explained that Simone Healthcare has claimed:
• The Mega-Medical Center would offset residential property taxes; but Simone’s 27-page contract with the Lawrence School District calls for a 10-year tax abatement.
• It was planning to withdraw from its purchase deal for the Number Six School, but that was not true: the sale and Wednesday’s public referendum are still on.
• The Mega-Medical Center would not cause a “perceptible change” in traffic volume on area roads and streets, but Simone’s traffic engineer says it will generate 2,800 more vehicles on weekdays and over 1,000 more cars and trucks on weekends.
• Mount Sinai Hospital would operate this enormous healthcare facility, but Simone’s contract with the school district makes no mention of any formal agreement with Mount Sinai.
• The Mega-Medical Center would have 60 physicians and 100 support staff, but its architectural drawings and site plans grow larger and more elaborate with each new version they release.
“Simone Healthcare has made so many misleading and contradictory statements that voters really must remain skeptical about this entire deal,” Justic said. “Nothing is what it appears to be.”
Justic notes that the sale to Simone would be free and clear, with no restrictions, so it is not required to adhere to any of its claims or proposals if the referendum passes. “Isn’t it dangerous to approve a no-strings-attached deal with a developer that can’t keep its story straight?” Justic asks.
CC5T members opposes 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.
Ball fields at the Number Six School would become a sprawling parking lot for the huge facility. “This project would also rob our children of their ball fields and our community of precious open space,” Justic said. “This Mega-Medical Center is simply wrong for a quiet, residential neighborhood.”
Voting “No” on the March 20 referendum would not negate the sale of the Number Six School because the school board has other qualified purchase offers from buyers who have proposed more suitable uses for this property, Justic explained. v