Neighbors question center board on bids for Five Towns Community Center


The Five Towns Community Center held a town hall meeting on March 13 to address neighbors the latest on the ongoing concerns of its future.

The center’s board of directors and president Gwynn Campbell were in the spotlight as they answered questions on the two proposals submitted to Nassau County.

One of the proposals comes from the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC. Officials from the Gural JCC reiterated their plan to  collaborate with the center in a Monday news release. Previously, the JCC noted its plan in a February letter.

“The proposal that the JCC has offered said that we would be able to stay,” Campbell said, “in the community center in a newly renovated facility of which they would provide the capital funds for it.”

The center would enter a 25-year lease with the JCC if approved by a county committee. Current programs would remain the same with the opportunity to expand. The center’s lease with the county expires in July of next year.

Campbell said that although the JCC’s proposal states they would collaborate with them, it does not guarantee that the county will accept that plan.

The Lawrence school district announced its proposal on March 10 in a news release. Nine days after the county’s March 1 deadline for proposals. Meeting attendees were given both proposals.

Lawrence district officials have not met or spoken with the center about its proposal, Campbell said. A possible sign that the center as it exists now is not in the district’s plans.

“They did not call us,” Campbell said to the audience, “or asked if we would like to go into this together.”

Neither  proposal mentioned having  a substance and abuse program. The Gural JCC is associated with and supports the Saving Lives Five Towns Drug & Alcohol Coalition.

County Executive Bruce Blakeman has criticized the center for having substance abuse programs in the same building with children.

Portia Robinson, who directs the center’s Committee on Drug Program, questioned the board on what would happen to the service when a proposal is accepted.

“You (Blakeman) are putting families in communities at risk when you don’t have these services,” Robinson told the Herald, “what is going to happen to all these people that we serve?” If they are not going to be in this building, where are they going to be? Outside?

One meeting attendee who declined to give her name felt that both proposals were a slap in the face.

“The RFP with the JCC or Lawrence school district is not to be trusted,” she said, “the JCC wants to squeeze the Five Towns Community Center and make a separate entrance. What is this going back to the days of segregation?”

Board member Pat Jones said that Blakeman has not returned calls since August. She said the last time both parties spoke, he assured he would resign the lease.

“Can we call him?” one audience member asked.

“People are coming at the board and I know you are getting your feelings out,” Jones said, “but it is not us. We’re doing the best that we can with the hand that we were dealt.”

Jones added that the JCC promised that the center would run independently. Community members appeared unconvinced.

“I find it quite odd that they (JCC) are quick to turn this building into a JCC without even taking it into consideration that the community is not Jewish,” Joel Martin said, “unfortunately now it is becoming a fight between people with little resources against people with better resources.”


Have an opinion on the future of the Five Towns Community Center? Send letter to jbessen@liherald.