Jun 15, 2012
By Deanna Del Ciello
The Jewish Community Center of the Five Towns, a bidder for Lawrence’s Number Six School, announced this week in an advertisement that is running in six local papers that they have signed and submitted a contract to buy the property.
The advertisement reads “the JCC is excited to announce that we have signed and submitted a contract to the Lawrence School Board to purchase the #6 Public School on Church Avenue in Woodmere.”
This advertisement follows a two-month old debate on the bidding process, where it is unclear if the process was supposed to be open or sealed, meaning whomever bid for the property is kept confidential.
Two months ago, the JCC placed a bid of approximately $9.1 million. Shortly after, The Hebrew Academy of Long Beach reportedly made an offer of about $150,000 more. There has been speculation that because most members of the Lawrence School Board have children who have attended HALB or been honored there themselves, that HALB was tipped off on the bid.
Now the JCC is announcing that they have moved forward with their bid and have submitted a contract for the Number Six School.
Rabbi Nahum Marcus, Lawrence School Board Trustee, said that the JCC can’t go forward with a contract because it has to go to the public first.
“They can’t sign a contract to purchase it because it’s got to go to the community first,” Marcus said. The board picks the bidder and then the sale goes to a public referendum where residents can approve or deny the sale. Marcus said that he suggested to the board giving the public the option of picking between the HALB or JCC bid because the price of the bids are so close.
As of press time, there has been no public referendum regarding the sale of the property.
Sources from the JCC said that they decided to run the advertisement to let the community know that the bid for the school is in. “We feel this community deserves a full service JCC and we are hoping the community will support us.” The advertisement asks for community members to show their support of the JCC’s actions by sending them an email.
According to David Sussman, Lawrence School Board Trustee and Republican candidate for New York State Assembly, “the board has signed no contract with anyone” that he is aware of.
“I certainly have not voted on giving anyone a contract and I’m unaware of any meeting they can place without me being there, I can’t imagine how they have a contract,” Sussman said.
Albert D’Agostino, attorney for the School Board, said “the district has not bound itself to any contract.” According to D’Agostino, the board is “nowhere near” selecting a purchaser for the property.
Executive Director of HALB Richard Hagler said he is aware of JCC’s advertisement and “as of right now, the Hebrew Academy has not submitted a contract.” Hagler said the School Board sent a letter through the broker in charge of the sale that asked HALB, if interested in the contract, to sign and return it at a price the school board decided.
“As of right now, we have not submitted a contract,” Hagler said. “I will take instructions from the Board of the Hebrew Academy, they will tell me what to do.” Hagler said that it is possible the board will discuss if they want to go ahead with the contract at their next meeting.
In response to the advertisement, Hagler said “I don’t feel anything about it, they’re allowed to do what they want to do and I wish them the best of luck. If the JCC gets the property we’re very happy for them. The JCC is a very worthwhile community organization and they do good work.”
According to Hagler, there have been more bids for the property. “I understand there are more offers but I don’t know what they are or who they’re from. Greiner-Maltz, the commercial brokers for the property, could not be reached by press time to confirm the existence of other bids.
Sources from the JCC would not comment on any other aspect of the proceedings of the sale of the Number Six School. Dr. Asher Mansdorf, president of the Lawrence School Board, when called by The Standard, would not comment on the matter.
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