March vote set on Lawrence school sale

A rendering for the proposal to convert School

A rendering for the proposal to convert School Number Six in Lawrence. (Feb. 8, 2013) (Credit: Newman Design)

Voters in the Lawrence school district will decide in a March 20 public referendum whether the vacant Number Six School in Woodmere can be sold for $12.5 million to a health care group that plans to convert it into outpatient medical offices.

The sale would pump much-needed money into the district's budget, supporters said. The property's addition to the tax rolls would mean an estimated $1 million payment a year -- 60 percent of which would go to the schools, they said.

The board of education voted in January to accept Simone Healthcare Development Group's bid for the property. District voters must approve the sale in the referendum.


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"The sale of this building and the ability to return it to the tax rolls can't do anything but positively impact the bottom line," Asher Mansdorf, president of the board of education, said Friday. He said the law requires the building to be sold to the highest bidder.

Opponents of the plan said the site is better suited to an educational purpose. They support selling the building to a yeshiva for girls that had bid $10.5 million.

The board of education voted in March 2009 to close the Number Six School, the newest and largest of its elementary schools, because of declining district enrollment.

Uri Kaufman, a board member who opposes the building's conversion to medical offices, said the district will lose 5 acres of ballfields and the tax savings will not be so great. Daily operation of medical offices will "kill the quality of life in that area," he said.

He supported the bid by the Shulamith school for girls. Under that ownership, he said, the structure would be used as a school, and the yeshiva would agree for the community to use the ballfields.

If the referendum is approved, the developer must apply to the Town of Hempstead to change the zoning from residential to support a medical office, said Benjamin Weinstock, the attorney for Simone Healthcare.

The existing building would house the medical offices of about 60 doctors, he said, and be leased by The Mount Sinai Medical Center's Icahn School of Medicine. The property would be renovated, and a landscaped buffer bordering residential streets would be installed.

But Kaufman said even though the Simone group was the high bidder, the board reserves the right to reject the bid because a variance for the property's new use would be required.

The district has been marketing the property for the past couple of years. The district earlier sold its Number One School.

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