By Anessa V. Cohen
This has certainly been an eventful week involving mix-up and mayhem regarding the proposed sale of the Number Six School to the Simone Group. While we know that the Simone Group made their $12.5 million offer to develop a medical megacenter on the Number Six School property in partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital, whether or not Mount Sinai is still in the game has become the real question. As of last week, the word was that Mount Sinai had regrets about the entire Simone venture and had withdrawn their support for the project.
Although verbally we have been told by a variety of sources different notions regarding where Mount Sinai really stands in this venture of Simone’s, there has been nothing in writing clarifying that Mount Sinai has actually left the room. So it behooves me to wonder if this might be a media tactic by the Simone Group to make people think that it is over and therefore unnecessary for people to go to the polls and vote “no.”
To the contrary! We need every single no voter to come out on Election Day, March 20. Voting “no” will be the only way to get rid of this albatross!
Simone’s public-relations approach has noticeably changed. Instead of promising Gan Eden, they are now behaving with the subtlety of a jackhammer. Articles written under pseudonyms such as A. Citizen bemoan how everyone is making a mountain out of a molehill over a “little more traffic.” They predict outsiders (a.k.a. visitors) would probably leave as soon as they saw their doctors, so how could they be considered a problem! Of course the cutest part of “no name’s” article was how she or he could see no evidence of unscrupulous behavior and thought we were all imagining the negative consequences of the sale. Those in opposition to the medical center were portrayed as troublemakers who fail to recognize the good intentions of those promoting the medical center. She or he thought the rest of us must be crazy for not rolling out the red carpet for Simone. But they would not sign their real name. How convenient!
Today, my indignation reached an all-time high. I had an opportunity to glimpse the contract signed between Simone and our school board. What a quagmire of undeclared misrepresentations from Simone! There are many conditions attached to the proposed purchase of the Number Six School by Simone—hosts of provisions allowing them to pull out under a variety of conditions over the course of the next two years or so. Do you remember the warnings that none of the $12 million over the first $500,000 will even be seen by our school district until they achieve a catalogue of hurdles, some of which could take years, and during that time they have no obligation to pay any taxes? Hmm, so much for the millions of new taxes that our district will get.
Below is a new piece of information that nobody bothered to share with us regarding the proposed medical center. It seems as if the entire project will be funded by the Town of Hempstead Industrial Development Agency (IDA) with a no-interest loan to Simone. In addition, as you can see from the text of the contract (paragraph 8 in the rider), their purchase is also conditioned on approval of acceptance of a pilot offered by the IDA in which they receive a tax abatement for 10 years:
“The obligations of Purchaser hereunder are conditioned upon issuance on or before sixty (60) days following the Referendum Notice of an inducement resolution from the Town of Hempstead Industrial Development Agency (“IDA”). Purchaser shall make prompt application at Purchaser’s sole cost and expense for such inducement resolution and shall seek a PILOT for a term of up to ten (10) years which will provide payments based on the land only assessed value in the first year, and the abatement granted by the PILOT shall expire proportionately over the ten (10) year term.”
Since they need at least two years for the variance before this kicks in, and possibly several years more if there are any objections or appeals needed for them to receive the zoning exactly the way they want it, my math tells me there might possibly be no taxes paid on this property for at least 12 years and possibly several years more if they run into any problems.
The contract also contains many stipulations which in effect also put the timeframe for which the district would actually close the deal with Simone off by several years. Depending on a long list of conditions, the purchase money of $12,500,000 would also not touch our treasuries until many of us retire.
How does the situation with Simone purchasing this property through the IDA affect us beyond the details of the contract? The specifics are lengthy and technical, but can be learned at the IDA website. Essentially IDA has a laundry list of rules governing what they can build and who can and cannot occupy the medical center and under what conditions.
This means that Simone will be under a government checklist of guidelines that may be more conducive to government building and staffing that would make the medical center more cumbersome and bureaucratic than they have represented. They may also have to create staffing and employment conditions similar to what is required for government employment standards. This changes the operation they might be presenting from a medical center to a pseudo-government clinic type arrangement for at least the timeframe during which the tax abatement is in effect.
This just adds to the mountain of reasons why we must never let this project go forward. However you look at it, even in its best form, the Number Six School property will be tied up in red tape for 12–15 years without seeing a dime in purchase money or tax money—all on a project that will be destructive to the neighborhood when it finally surfaces.
It is more important than ever that everyone go out to the polls and vote “no.” Being against Simone’s planned medical center is not enough if you do not go down and vote! Please do not get lazy and say somebody else will take care of it. Every single vote counts in this election.
We need everyone to get out there and vote “no” to the sale of the property to Simone Group. 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 come down and 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.