By Anessa V. Cohen
When the United States Constitution was framed, our forefathers created a system of checks and balances as a failsafe for human error. This was a brilliant plan on their part since this system allowed for changes and corrections in case one body of Congress (either the Senate or the House of Representatives) approved a resolution that, upon further reflection, would turn out to be a disaster for the country. Instead of having to live with this calamity because one House had already voted for it, the Constitution allows the alternate congressional body an opportunity to correct the error made by the first party and vote it down, saving the country from a bad decision.
Our school-board representatives are an example of how our system was made to work. I believe when they voted to approve the proposed sale of the Number Six School to the Simone Group for the purpose of a medical facility, they saw a concept and really did not look any deeper than that; there was a great monetary offer, and they figured how bad could a medical facility be for the community? Perhaps they had been dealing with the burden of this school property so long they just wanted to finish with it.
Checks and balances are in place not only for the entire country, but for local government as well. In order to give us more input and allow for human error even when done in good faith, the local checks and balances dictate that even when the school board approves an offer to purchase a school property, it must then go to a referendum for the community to decide. The public can thoroughly consider all aspects of the proposal and whether this type of facility, in this particular location, is one that we want to be stuck with forever.
Once approved and sold, it is over. You can no longer change your mind once things go bad! This is what we are now faced with and will have to decide on March 20, when a special referendum is being held to vote on the proposal to sell the Number Six School to Simone.
How in reality will a facility like this affect the community? That it will affect the entire neighborhood of residential homes surrounding the medical facility goes without saying. Overnight, the entire areas of Cedarhurst and Woodmere on both sides of Peninsula Boulevard surrounding the medical facility will change from being residentially zoned into being commercially zoned, since this is the first step the medical center must take—getting a variance in order to utilize that area as commercial space.
The traffic situation and the gridlock going up and down Peninsula Boulevard from Rockaway Turnpike to Mill Road is another given. How many remember the traffic jams and extensive gridlock when Branch Boulevard was closed after Superstorm Sandy? And let us take this a little further. With the traffic jams and gridlock, drivers will automatically be looking for alternate routes to get around the heavy traffic. Where will that extra traffic head to? Broadway, West Broadway, and other local streets throughout the Five Towns.
The medical facility will be open seven days a week, at all hours, with patients and employees coming from different areas. How will this affect our local quality of life? More time will be needed to get across town? Oh, yeah! Summer is here and you want to go to North Woodmere Park? Good luck! Your kids are finding that the school buses are stuck in more traffic so they complain that they are riding the buses longer than they were before the medical facility opened? Oh boy!
Traffic aside, has anyone considered how many houses will be purchased by related medical services wanting to be near the medical facility after it opens? By the way, this will also change the zoning of those homes to commercial. If you did not consider this or cannot envision this scene, all you need to do is drive down to the streets surrounding St. John’s Hospital. Block after block is dominated by doctors, labs, medical billing offices, and uniform laundry services, all sitting in what were previously private homes.
This is not an isolated incident. You can drive to any area hosting a hospital or medical facility, such as the one being offered in our residential midst, and see how those facilities not only doubled or tripled in size as time went on, but methodically encroached on the surrounding residential streets. Is this what we want? I know I would be happy for them to take space on Rockaway Turnpike or Burnside Avenue, or possibly Sunrise Highway or Merrick Road—all existing commercial areas where their presence would enhance the area, not detract from it. But to even consider plunking down a medical facility in the middle of a residential area is a prescription for destroying the quality of life in the Five Towns as we know it.
One of the highlights of our community has always been that we stand together as a group to support each other and to protect the quality of life here. This proposed resolution to sell to Simone the property of the former Number Six School is a major mistake that needs to be corrected—and we have only one chance to correct it, by coming out to vote “No” on March 20. For those of you who will be unable to vote that day, please get your absentee ballots now and get them submitted. 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.