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Lawrence district voters reject school sale plan

Joshua Schein is part of a group fighting

Joshua Schein is part of a group fighting the sale of the vacant Number Six School in Woodmere. (March 19, 2013) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Voters in the Lawrence school district Wednesday night rejected a plan to sell the vacant No. Six School to a private buyer who would have turned the closed campus into medical offices.

District officials had planned to sell the 6.67-acre school property in Woodmere for $12.5 million to Simone Healthcare Development Group.

Wednesday night's results, 3,924 to 1,992 were not official because absentee ballots must still be counted.

The medical facility, which officials said would have been open seven days a week, had divided many in the Lawrence community. Supporters saw the sale as pumping money into the school district while adding a health care facility, but opponents predicted increased traffic and overcrowding.

"I think they should look at other uses -- school or day care -- something that benefits the community," said Ghislaine Jean-Pierre, who voted down the project because of concerns over congestion and more outsiders coming into the area. "They should look for some other use that would have less impact on the community."

The development would "be on the tax rolls and we'll get some money on the sale," said David Sharin of Atlantic Beach, who voted in favor of the sale. "I also like the idea of having a medical center."

Supporters of the project argued that the property would have generated an estimated $1 million a year -- of which $600,000 would go to the school district.

Opponents, however, said the financial gain is minuscule considering the district's annual budget is $93 million. And, the project, detractors said, is not worth turning a residential neighborhood into a commercial area.

Others, such as Sue Cohen, 79, said it was a tough choice. "I am really torn. I think the school area could use the money," said Cohen, who didn't divulge how she voted. "But on the other hand, I really don't want all the traffic that the medical center would bring."

In March 2009, the board of education, citing a decline in enrollment, voted to close the No. Six School, the district's newest and largest elementary school. In January, the board voted to accept the $12.5 million bid from Simone Healthcare.

The 80,170-square-foot building would house medical offices for about 60 doctors and would be leased by the Mount Sinai Medical Center's Icahn School of Medicine. A landscaped buffer bordering residential streets would be installed.

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