The members of the Lawrence School Board who voted for the sale of the Number Six School to Simone to create a Mega-Medical Center did a major disservice to all the residents of our community.

As an exercise physiologist, with over 40 years history advocating for increased exercise and fitness for our children, I add my voice at all those who are outraged at the prospect of losing a vital community asset–the Number Six School playground and ball field.

For over 15 years I have been coming to the Number Six School field to play ball with my children and grandchildren, and to see baseball games and soccer practice by numerous neighborhood afterschool groups using the field. Where will all these children go to now? The middle school field is overcrowded, Grant Park is saturated, and everyone can’t go to Cedarhurst Park.

We need the Number Six School field to remain open for use by the children of our community. With more and more children becoming overweight and less fit, it defies logic to want to reduce their exercise opportunity even further by removing this necessary neighborhood ball field. With so many of our residents being yeshiva students, where exercise and gym have culturally not been a priority, losing this park will be additionally devastating.

But this issue truly cuts across any religious or cultural divide and unites us all! Our children, regardless of their background, need the park for their health. It is undeniable that the demographics in our community have changed in the past 15 years or so. Not everyone likes the changes. But this proposed medical mega center is going to harm everyone’s interest, regardless of whether you send your children to public school or yeshiva.

We need to vote this ill-conceived plan down on March 20 and demand from our representatives on the school board to put our community’s interest first.

I live down the block from the Number Six School on Barnard and see daily the traffic backups and bottlenecks created by the slightest increased traffic created by trucks and any construction. I can’t imagine the daily nightmare that awaits us with hundreds of patients, doctors, nurses, technicians, and medical and pharmaceutical salesmen/women that will be coming and going and swarming all over our streets looking for parking places. The 450 space parking lot that is proposed where the baseball field is presently will be filled by the employees of the Mega Center. Where do you think the 300 or so patients coming to see all those doctors every hour will park? Not in the parking lot, but on your street.

When I moved into Woodmere 15 years ago, I was attracted to the beauty and quiet of the neighborhood. It seemed like a nice, safe place to raise a family. Now, with this proposed sale, the quality of life that I moved here for is in danger of being destroyed by this Mega Medical Center.

Regardless of previous differences, our neighborhood must come together on this issue. Make no mistake about it–our lifestyle as we know it, as we want it, will be over.

A few weeks ago I attended a community meeting sponsored by the Simone Group. I understand that Mr. Simone attended as well. We were treated to a dog and pony show. Smoke and mirrors. One by one, Simone presented “experts” that explained how all those nasty rumors spread by community members were simply not true. But during the Q&A session, they could not logically convince me that those of us who oppose this horrible project are wrong. In fact, after listening to them I am more convinced that everything we fear about this project will come true!

There are better options for the school district and our community that will not impact so detrimentally on our quality of life.

In the interim we must vote this ill-conceived project down! I will vote a resounding NO on March 20. I urge all of you to join me. v

Dr. Alex Sternberg MPH, Sc.D, M.Sc. is the technical director of pediatric pulmonary function and exercise testing laboratory as well as an associate professor at the division of athletic training, health, and exercise science at Long Island University. He is a clinical instructor at the department of orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation medicine at Downstate Medical Center.


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