On Wednesday, voters in Lawrence School District 15 will decide the fate of a controversial referendum to sell the Number Six School to Westchester-based Simone Healthcare Development for a large-scale healthcare facility.
Debate over the $12.5 million sale has raged for weeks in the Five Towns, where the proposed sale has become a hot topic of conversation and a breeding ground for speculation.
“We have done extensive research and tried to disseminate the real facts about this sale,” said Joshua Schein, organizer of the Community Coalition of The Five Towns, a grassroots group of parents and homeowners who oppose the sale. “The real facts are very persuasive–this sale is a bad deal for our communities.”
Simone Healthcare would convert the Number Six School and its 6.7-acre tract on Church Avenue into a regional healthcare complex and urgent care clinic. It claims it would lease the facility to Mount Sinai Hospital, which would operate it 14 hours a day and seven days a week to serve thousands of outpatients.
Simone Healthcare said the deal would pump an infusion of money into the school district from the sale and from the annual taxes it would pay. Last week, however, opponents obtained a copy of the purchase contract which shows Simone’s deal is contingent on a 10-year tax break to significantly reduce the taxes Simone would pay.
“This sale is not a financial windfall. It may, in fact, end up raising our residential property,” Schein said. “The contract also does not mention any agreement with Mt. Sinai Hospital.”
The Number Six School has been closed for four years, but its ball fields remain a popular outdoor recreational area for neighborhood children and their families. The ball fields would be blacktopped to create a parking lot for 456 cars.
“This project would rob our children of their ball fields and our community of precious open-space,” said Schein.
CC5T members also oppose the Mega-Medical Center because it would turn already-bad traffic on Rockaway Turnpike, and on Peninsula and Branch boulevards into maddening gridlock, and motorists looking for shortcuts would find their way onto residential streets throughout the area.
“Thousands of outpatients and staff, service crews, delivery trucks, and lab pick-ups would be coming and going, day and night from this facility,” Schein said. “We value our quality of life in the Five Towns. This facility is wrong for a quiet, residential neighborhood.”
The Community Coalition says the proposed Mega-Medical Center would attract strangers into neighborhoods, put families and children at risk, drive down property values, overburden municipal services, and threaten local physicians’ practices.
Voting “NO” on Wednesday would not negate the sale of the Number Six School. Schein explained that the Lawrence School District received other qualified purchase offers from buyers who have proposed more suitable uses for the property.
The Community Coalition recommends the former school property be used for public good, not for commercial development.
Voting hours for Wednesday’s referendum are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Polling places will be at Lawrence Middle School, 195 Broadway in Lawrence; the Number Two School, 1 Donahue Ave., Inwood; Lawrence High School, 2 Reilly Road in Cedarhurst and Atlantic Beach Village Hall, 65 The Plaza in Atlantic Beach. v