By Anessa V. Cohen
We can certainly weave a basket with all the twists and turns that have surfaced in researching how the Simone Group’s medical center project actually came to be approved by our school board and unfortunately the more you dig the more nauseated you become.
I believe we all agree that the additional 4,200 cars a day projected based on the 60 doctors at the facility seven days a week, is enough by itself to make this project a danger to everyone in the Five Towns—even Atlantic Beach since it will gridlock not only Peninsula Boulevard and Branch Boulevard, but Rockaway Turnpike and the 878 Expressway.
One of the more disturbing elements still emerging is the 27 page contract signed by Simone Group and our School Board facilitating this venture.
As I mentioned last week, I had an opportunity to glimpse the contract signed between Simone Medical and our school board and what an evil web we weave as we scroll through this quagmire of omissions from Simone Medical. There are many conditions attached to the proposed purchase of the Number 6 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. Did I forget to tell you the first one—that none of the $12 million over the first $500,000 will even be seen by our school district since they will not close and take ownership of the property until they have passed a series of hurdles, some of which could take years, and during that time they have no responsibility to pay any taxes (since they are not the owners of the property yet)—hmm so much for the millions of new taxes that our district will get.
No one bothered to share with us the actual conditions agreed to by our school board in the contract to the Simone Medical Center. In addition, as you can see by the cut and paste from their executed contract with the school district of paragraph 8 in the rider, their purchase is also conditioned on approval and acceptance to a PILOT offered by the IDA (Town of Hempstead Industrial Development Association) for which they will hope to receive a tax abatement for 10 years. Since they need at least two years for the variance, 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, they then need to finish closing with the property and then take ownership before a 10 year tax abatement could kick in. My math tells me little or no taxes will be paid on this property for at least 12 years and possibly several years more if they run into any problems.
• 8. 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.
In addition to this situation of taxes, the contract has 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 how the process plays out achieving these conditions—meaning that the purchase money of $12,500,000 would also not touch our treasuries for years since the school district cannot close the deal until these conditions are met.
How our school board agreed to so many conditions obviously not in the best interest of our taxpayers in the school district is also an enigma. I had occasion to ask some members of the school board how they had not been disturbed by the obvious tilt of the executed contract in Simone’s favor as opposed to putting in more protections for our school district, and was very disturbed to hear them answer that they had never had an opportunity to even read the full 27 pages of the contract, but had depended on their attorney summarizing the contract for them and then signing it. Who signs a contract of this magnitude without taking the time to read what is in there? Did any of their laxity have to do with the fact that the attorney representing Simone Group was a longtime trusted member of the community and deputy mayor of Cedarhurst, leaving them of a mind that he would also protect the interests of the community as he represented his clients at Simone at the same time?
While we know that the Simone Group originally presented their $12.5 million bid allegedly to develop a medical mega center on the number 6 school property in partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital and has been advertising bells and whistles ever since, now that we have more information at hand, let’s look at some of their advertised statements.
Let’s take them individually…
“Millions and millions saved in taxes”—a truly amazing feat given that to begin with taxes are assessed on the #6 school based on a $20 million value (also contested) at approximately $850,000 and this is only if a $20 million assessment is retained and the new owner does not file for lower tax assessment or tax abatement. Since it has been found to be that Simone has an executed contract with the school board containing conditions specifically spelling out that they are not closing on the property until they get the variance and the IDA PILOT approval, they are not responsible for paying taxes nor will they be closing on this property in the 2-3 years or whatever time that it will take them to get a variance and during that time since they are applying for an IDA Town of Hempstead PILOT with a 10 year tax abatement (which by the way if they do not receive, they can walk away from this deal and get their money back), probably even realizing a fraction of that $850,000 is a fantasy that has no chance of taking place for a minimum of 12 years. After the abatement ends, the medical center can also at their own discretion either file for a new reduction of taxes or for nonprofit status possibly taking it off the tax rolls forever. Since this is a private sale, the community has no say in what they decide to do.
“Approximately $1 million to be paid annually on revenue, with 70% to the school district”—I have already addressed this one above, the bottom line is 70% of nothing is nothing. You do the math! The approximately $1 million to be paid annually on revenue has no chance of surfacing for years at the very least since they will not close and take ownership on the property until they get a variance and during that time no one is responsible for paying taxes on the #6 school property. Even when they get the variance and then approved for the IDA PILOT they will only be responsible for a token amount of that $850,000 which will be determined by the terms of the PILOT down the line!
“Convenient access to Mount Sinai healthcare”—another false statement, since it has now be confirmed and verified, that Simone Group has no signed contract with Mount Sinai to actually manage this facility. Mount Sinai’s name does not appear at all in the executed contract between Simone Group and the school board, making this statement a real joke!
In actuality they are not really closing on this deal until they get their variance and the IDA application approval and they can put in there any kind of project that pertains to healthcare they choose at that time be it a clinic, a methadone center, or any other health related service since they have no contracts for service now with anyone—including Mount Sinai!
“Revenue reinvested to improve schools and provide special services to local yeshivas”—They really insult our intelligence with this one! What revenue are they giving us to improve schools and provide special services to local yeshivas? Do they think we are so green and stupid that they can sell us the Brooklyn Bridge as well? This statement is offensive and divisive to the entire community and shows they are as they looking down at us as if we are from a Third World country!
“More jobs for your community”—This is a real cute one—except there are no new jobs. Again smoke and mirrors. The Simone representatives have already bragged at all the town meetings how their facility will not have many employees—just the 60 doctors and approximately 100 employees to assist them. As we all know, doctors typically bring their own staff with them when they move to new offices, so there will be no new jobs here. Simone has stated that all telephone operators and receptionists as well as lab results personnel will be operating from another location from remote, not onsite. Again, there will be no new jobs!
“More high-paying jobs for healthcare workers”—More empty promises as I have noted above, everyone other than the doctors and their nurses will be operating from another location. This is being promoted as an automated medical operation by Simone and as such they are speaking from two sides of their mouth!
“Local physicians recruited from current positions in the community”—Why would these doctors want to come work for Simone? Simone already had a meeting with 70 local doctors in the Five Towns community and doctors have already told us that all of them told Simone they were not interested in joining them and were also very much against the medical center opening on the number 6 school site.
“Healthcare internships and ‘chesed’ opportunities” Another claim insulting our intelligence and trying to pander to the Orthodox community. Since no health management company presently has any contracts with Simone, no one has any obligation to give any internships or “chesed” opportunities. There is nothing to be offered here, since if and whenever down the road Simone gets a variance, they first have to close on this deal and then find a medical group to manage the facility and so have no idea at this juncture what any medical group with whom they will contract in the future will want or even agree to. What kind of chesed opportunities could they possibly offer—directing traffic?
It is more important than ever that everyone go out to the polls and vote “NO.” Please remember that the fact that you are against having the Simone Medical Center is not enough if you do not go down and vote “NO.” This is an election that needs every single vote. There have been elections that have been lost by as little as six votes so every vote counts in this one, folks! Please do not get lazy and say somebody else will take care of it, because we need every one of you to make this bombshell go away.
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” 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.