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OpinionColumnistsRandi F. Marshall

Glen Cove residents so quick to oppose center for eating disorders

House at 1 St. Andrews Lane in Glen

House at 1 St. Andrews Lane in Glen Cove, site of a proposed home for women with eating disorders. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

One by one, residents approached the microphone in the large, crowded chamber Wednesday evening at Glen Cove City Hall.

“I truly have sympathy.”

“We are a welcoming community.”

“We are a wonderful city.”

You’d think Glen Cove was embracing plans to establish a residence for women with eating disorders in a large Colonial home on St. Andrews Lane.

But during the four-hour meeting, in comment after comment, other, very different sentiments emerged after the sympathetic introductions.

“This is shameful.”

“It isn’t fair.”

“We are being hijacked.”

The group home would “substantially and negatively affect the area.”

Put it “somewhere that will not impact the community.”

And, my favorite: The area is “filled with many children who love playing outdoors.”

Left unanswered: How would such a home create what that speaker called an “unhealthy environment for both children and patients”?

Meanwhile, when some experts stood to speak in favor of the home, or discuss the harm of eating disorders, possible future neighbors heckled from their seats. They’d do anything, it seems, to avoid having up to 14 women with eating disorders doing yoga, sharing meals, receiving therapy and getting well in their neighborhood.

That wasn’t true for everyone. One Glen Cove man who lives nearly two miles from St. Andrews Lane said he’d swap with one of those objecting so he could be a neighbor of the home. “I’m willing to help these people,” he said.

For a moment, there was hope.

It’s important to note that Glen Cove has more than 25,000 residents. Only 100 or so came on Wednesday. But their voices were loud.

What do they object to? They worry about the plans to pave part of the side and rear of the 1.26 acres for up to 12 parking spots. They said they’d be able to see the cars from their homes, even with trees and shrubbery. There would be car lights at night, and daytime traffic from the 15 staff members, some said. Others complained that Monte Nido, the center operator that would pay more than $20,000 a year in taxes on the property, was simply trying to make a profit. But why would that be a bad thing?

Glen Cove Mayor Tim Tenke and the city council have until Feb. 26 to respond to Monte Nido’s application, which state law might make hard to stop.

In the meantime, perhaps the residents who were so quick to say no should imagine alternatives. They likely wouldn’t want new neighbors who hold parties all night, have dogs that bark all day, or who would raze the beautiful brick home and replace it with who knows what. Or, how about a nonprofit organization that would take the home off the tax rolls, or another doctor or dentist with signs on the lawn and plenty of parking and traffic?

And they certainly wouldn’t prefer a 33-foot-tall bronze sculpture of a nude pregnant woman and her fetus, like the one real estate giant Aby Rosen placed on his Old Westbury property several years ago. It faced outcry before Rosen added plantings to screen it.

Perhaps it’d be better if the house just languished on the market. There’s one just a few blocks away that’s been for sale for more than 300 days.

Where should Monte Nido and the women who need help go, if not 1 St. Andrews Lane?

Anywhere else.

Just not in my backyard.

No one actually said those words, of course. But even when they tried to say it nicely, that’s what they meant.

And that is what is truly shameful.

Randi F. Marshall is a member of the Newsday editorial board.