The Five Towns Community Center feared losing its home on Lawrence Avenue when Nassau County issued a request for proposal in January, seeking a new entity at the property. In the meantime, the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC has seen continued growth at its headquarters on Grove Avenue in Cedarhurst, and has outgrown the facility.
So the Gural JCC has proposed a partnership with the 116-year-old Five Towns center, in which the two organizations would share a home.
“Our proposal is an impactful initiative, one that serves all community residents,” the JCC’s proposal letter states. “Our vision brings together two tenured and respected organizations that currently serve the greater Five Towns, who will collaborate and share one community campus.”
The county owns the Lawrence property where the Five Towns Community Center has operated since 1972. The county and the center agreed on a 50-year lease in 1974, but it is set to expire next year, with no offer for extension. The county RFP is seeking a new tenant that can provide youth-oriented activities and services at a more modern facility. The county is looking for a nonprofit to make a minimum of $5 million in capital improvements on the property. The deadline for RFP submissions was March 1.
The proposal from the Gural JCC was brought to the attention of the Five Towns center’s board at its Feb. 23 meeting.
The JCC is proposing to spend a minimum of $6 million on capital improvements that would include renovating the gym, lighting, lobby and classrooms, and paying for routine maintenance and utilities. The center would be able to operate independently, and continue the services it has offered for the past half-century.
“Our plan is to provide the Five Towns Community Center renovated space of approximately 7,500-square-feet in the north wing with their own main entrance and lobby,” the letter states.
According to the proposal, the organizations would have separate boards of directors. The partnership would be an expansion for the Gural JCC, which would move programs and services from Cedarhurst to the Lawrence Avenue campus, and sell the Grove Avenue building.
“The Gural JCC, together with the Five Towns Community Center, will be releasing information at a future date together,” Stacey Feldman, executive director of the JCC, said. “We will not be talking about it independently at this time.”
Once again, the Community Center’s board president, Gwynn Campbell, and Executive Director K. Brent Hill declined to comment.
Lawrence High School junior Jayden Emery has been a vocal advocate of the center since the RFP was issued, but doesn’t support the JCC’s proposal.
“The merge with JCC is not our way out of this problem we have with our center currently,” Emery said. “Most of our residents in the Five Towns are unable to pay the fees the JCC is requesting, and it’s only insulting to institute them and propose it as if it were beneficial to the community.”
Emery was referring to a new Health and Wellness Center the JCC has proposed, which would include a fitness center, private training rooms, studios for classes and a child watch space. Membership would be open to everyone, regardless of religion, ethnicity, race or gender, according to the proposal. It is not known how much memberships would cost.
The Gural JCC offers an array of services at the facility in Cedarhurst and at its Harrison-Kerr Family Campus in Lawrence. It acquired that property from Temple Israel of Lawrence in 2017.
The JCC has an Early Childhood Center in Cedarhurst in Cedarhurst, and it uses the temple’s ballroom for events. Its services include programs for seniors, adults and teens, and the Sustenance Hope Opportunities Place, also in Cedarhurst, houses the Rina Shkolnik Kosher Food Pantry and social assistance services.
The Five Towns center is home to Aid to the Foreign Born, a Head Start program, Gammy’s Pantry, a Youth Community Action Center and counseling services, all of which, the JCC’s proposal stated, would continue if the organizations came to an agreement on a partnership.
Have an opinion on the Gural JCC proposal for the Five Towns Community Center? Send a letter to jbessen@liherald.