About 150 people gathered in a Lawrence home on Wednesday to declare their opposition to a medical developer’s proposal to transform Number Six School into a “medical park,” which they believe threatens the landscape of the Five Towns.
“A terrible mistake has been made — it will take all of us to undo it,” Anessa Cohen, of Cedarhurst, told the crowd. “We have a responsibility to preserve our beautiful community in its entirety. You must bring everyone you can to vote no on this project.”
The residents are organizing a get out the vote campaign to shoot down the proposal of Simone Development Companies, whose bid of $12.5 million was accepted by the Lawrence Board of Education. A public referendum on the company’s effort to build a 60-doctor medical facility at the former school site will be held on March 20.
The group’s members are mostly concerned about the loss of the some five acres of green space at Peninsula Boulevard and Branch Boulevard to create a 450-car parking lot, as well as the potential traffic created by the project during its construction and after its opening.
“This community thankfully has a lot of kids. We don’t have enough space as it is,” said Uri Kaufman, one of three members of the school board to oppose Simone’s bid. “Public space once lost is never recovered.”
He claimed that the purported financial benefit of adding the facility back to the tax rolls would only result in $35 a year for School District 15 families.
“Do you want to see kids play ball or a big facility for $35 in your pocket?” he asked. “Future generations will thank us.”
Kaufman also said that the two lower bids received by the board, by Shulamith and the JCC of the Greater Five Towns, would have guaranteed the fields stay as is forever.
Ariel Lowe, of Woodmere, said he wasn’t opposed to Simone opening a medical facility in the area, just not at the former site of Number Six School. He suggested the developer instead look to build a facility either on the former site of a car lot on Rockaway Turnpike or the vacant Peninsula Hospital.
“This is totally a residential area. They’ll take it and destroy it,” he said. “I enjoy my neighborhood so much, and to see it spoiled for one group boggles my mind.”
The project is at odds with the things Long Islanders cherish the most, according to Neil Krakauer of Woodmere.
“If we wanted $35 a year, we’d combine school districts and sanitary districts. Money is not the issue here,” he said. “Long Islanders prize open spaces. We would sell out local space and local control.”
Dov Herman, who is helping organize the opposition to the project, had a simple message for Simone: “Leave our neighborhood alone.”