Woodmere, NY: Neighbors Against Hatzalah Garage


The following is an article by the Jewish Star:

Hatzalah of the Rockaways and Nassau County may soon be engaged in a costly legal battle in Woodmere. Neighbors are fighting the volunteer ambulance squad’s proposed development of a two-story garage intended to house four ambulances at 752 West Broadway.

Critics contend that the garage construction and operations will disrupt traffic on the narrow street, which they say is too dangerous for ambulances to come and go.

“We’ve called it the ‘dead man’s curve,’” said Robert L. Douglas, an attorney who lives near the proposed site. He, along with several neighbors, chipped in to hire a lawyer to oppose the project. Douglas praised the work of Hatzalah, but called it “arrogance” to place an ambulance garage in the midst of a residential area.

“That’s the most disappointing thing,” he explained. “To have a good organization behave in this way. It sends the wrong message.”

In order to demolish the current structure and build the garage, Hatzalah will require a variance as well as a permit from the Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals that would allow it to convert the site from a residential development to a commercial one.

A preliminary hearing on the variance took place last Thursday. Four people representing Hatzalah found themselves opposed by twenty other members of the community. James G. Preston, the lawyer representing those opposed to the garage, offered the argument that the building would not be a philanthropic entity given that it could be used to host dinners and community functions. At least one member of the zoning board spoke up to strongly disagree.

“Just because the Red Cross has a party, doesn’t mean it’s not the Red Cross,” the board member said.

Lisa Cairo, the lawyer for Hatzalah, echoed the point.

“If this isn’t a philanthropic entity, I don’t know what is,” she told the Jewish Star.

The meeting was adjourned without a resolution or a hearing date for the next meeting.

Rabbi Elozer Kanner, one of the coordinators of Hatzalah, said opposition to the proposed garage site marks the first time the organization has had complaints from neighbors, and most neighbors, he maintained, remain highly supportive of the organization.

Kanner said that Hatzalah had consulted with safety and traffic experts who saw no problem with placing an ambulance garage at the location.

“Ignorance and lack of knowledge create fear,” he said.

(LINK: http://thejewishstar.com/)