Wednesday’s referendum will ask Five Towns voters if Lawrence School District 15 should sell the Number Six School in Woodmere to Simone Healthcare Development. This sale would damage our communities forever!

Simone Healthcare wants to overdevelop the Number Six School and its 6.7-acre property into a “Mega-Medical Center” for nearly 200 physicians and staff. And it is conceivable that the actual numbers could end up much greater due to the size and capacity of the property.

The Community Coalition of the Five Towns (CC5T), a non-partisan group of parents and homeowners who hope to preserve neighborhoods throughout the Five Towns, is firmly opposed to the Number Six School sale.

People throughout Woodmere, Lawrence, Atlantic Beach, and Inwood must understand the key issues and the devastating impact this sale and the proposed Mega-Medical Center would have on our community.

First, this Mega-Medical Center and urgent care clinic could attract nearly 7,000 outpatients, salespeople, service crews, lab technicians, and deliveries into our area seven days a week, 14 hours a day.

Simone Healthcare’s own traffic consultant, Rebecca Goldberg of Cameron Engineering & Associates, estimated this Mega-Medical Center would generate up to 2,800 more vehicles on weekdays and more than 1,000 more vehicles Saturday and Sunday.

Ms. Goldberg actually claimed that high number of vehicles would not cause a perceptible change on our roads and streets. That is just ridiculous! Worse–the actual number of vehicles may be much higher.

Thousands more vehicles will cause maddening gridlock on Rockaway Turnpike and on Peninsula and Branch Boulevards. Countless motorists–looking for shortcuts–will end up on our residential streets, endangering our children’s safety.

With so many strangers coming and going from early in the morning until late at night, our families will feel unsafe. A quiet residential neighborhood is the wrong location for this type of busy facility.

Simone Healthcare hired a team of architects to produce lavish, full-color renderings of this “Mega-Medical Center.” The flowery descriptions of this facility keep changing–and Simone is not bound by any legal contract to deliver what their pretty pictures promise.

The area around the Number Six School is zoned for residential use. A medical facility would require special permission from the Town of Hempstead. This zoning change could touch off a “domino effect” with neighborhood homes being sold and converted into more physicians’ offices and for other medical uses. This, in turn, would generate even more traffic.

With so much real estate available elsewhere–and already zoned for commercial and professional office uses–I wonder why Simone is determined to destroy our neighborhood with its Mega-Medical Center. It is the height of insensitivity to this community–in an area recently devastated by Superstorm Sandy–to drop a busy medical center in the middle of it.

As a parent and someone who enjoys open space, it pains me that Simone Healthcare wants to black-top ball fields at this school to create parking lots.

When so many of our children attend schools with no recreational fields, and with open spaces at such a premium, should we really turn another school building and these ball fields over to a developer?

Simone Healthcare’s offer isn’t the only one that the Lawrence School District has on the table. The Number Six School could easily become a community center, a library, or a private school. In any of those scenarios, our children would not be robbed of their ball fields, and our community would benefit.

Simone Healthcare’s offer is a bad joke. Our coalition has done the math. Their $12 million purchase price would offset property taxes by a measly $35 per family per year.

This sale would virtually give away the Number Six School to a commercial developer who–without a doubt–would appeal the property assessment to reduce its tax bill and maximize its profits at every turn. All at our expense!

Whatever Simone Healthcare ends up paying in taxes would not offset the extra burden this Mega-Medical Center would put on our police and fire departments, or our sanitation and road maintenance crews.

Such a large medical facility would strain our water supply and swamp our sewerage system. This would be a serious concern for Atlantic Beach residents who have had enough problems with the Bay Park Sewage Treatment plant.

What would happen if Simone Healthcare sells this facility to Mount Sinai Hospital or some other not for profit entity? The new owners would pay no taxes at all and area homeowners would get stuck with higher tax bills!

These issues all strike at our quality of life: Traffic, crime, property values, taxes, and the safety of our families and children. For these reasons, the Community Coalition of the Five Towns and I encourage you to VOTE NO on the March 20 referendum.

But, there is another more historic point: The name “Five Towns” dates back to the Great Depression when our communities banded together to support one another.

We have come together many times over the years, most recently to help one another after Superstorm Sandy. On March 20, let’s do it again–for our family, our friends, our children, and our communities. v


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