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Smart Brain Coming?

Parking issues and student capacity were at the heart of the discussion during Smart Brain America’s public hearing in Mineola last week. The tutoring franchise is looking to open a new location at 345 Hillside Avenue.


Smart Brain CEO Surendra Gupta noted two parking spots are currently available at the location. Furthermore, that he’d enforce traffic concerns with customers.


“We’ve told people to not double park at our other sites,” Gupta said. “It’s not safe for the children. If the classes are at any particular time, maybe eight or nine kids at a time, I don’t see any parking issues occurring.”


Nearby residents on Concord Avenue assert that surrounding businesses use their street to park cars and that a new facility would create sidewalk gridlock in front of their homes.


“I think the biggest concern is parking,” Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira said. “Dropping off, picking up. You’re replacing what used to be a tile place. Where do you foresee (parking) activity happening? Hillside Avenue? Concord?”


Concord Avenue connects with Hillside Avenue; half of the block is in Mineola, with the other in Williston Park.


“If we have to get Williston Park involved, we’ll get them involved,” said Pereira. “No solution is perfect, but we need to look at anything that can mitigate the situation. But we don’t want to take one block’s problem and push it off to another block.”


Donald Scal of Concord Avenue wants the area to remain residential and cited past experiences with businesses on Hillside Avenue. He handed in a petition to the board from residents opposing the center’s opening.


“We’ve had bad experiences with children’s party store approximately at the same location,” he said. “There was continuous traffic of children being picked up and dropped off at all hours, including weekends, blocking our driveways. It caused arguments and calls to the police.”


Mary Lamonda, a 40-year resident, has had numerous run-ins with other storefronts on Hillside Avenue, including Napoleon Development and Keller Williams Realty. She complained of parking issues and employee rudeness.


“I’m am the first house next door [from the building site],” Lamonda said. “The children will get hurt getting in and out of the cars. There is not enough space to have more cars there. There is no room for the cars that [Gupta] will be bringing in to our neighborhood. Weekends would be horrible.”


Trustee Paul Cusato wants Smart Brain to avoid Sunday classes. Gupta strongly opposed it.


“[I can’t close Sunday] without severely impacting our revenue stream,” he said after a long pause. “Weekends are very important to parents. They count on Saturdays and Sundays to drop the kids off.”


Gupta is looking to move the current New Hyde Park location to Mineola. The center would be open seven days per week and as early as 10 a.m., with no Friday classes, if approved. Gupta, 44, says the early start time is for administrators, while classes would most likely start after 4:30 p.m. He estimated that anywhere between 15-20 students would be in the building at a given time.


“Programs usually last about an hour...hour and half, depending on the program,” he said.


Smart Brain serves as an after-school educational program, instructing students between 5 and 15 years of age. The company uses New York State-certified instructors for their programs.


The tutoring business utilizes abacus arithmetic (a calculating tool that was in use centuries before the adoption of the written modern numeral system) and right brain development programs.


“It’s pretty much a semi-private instruction in a group setting,” Gupta said. “All the kids are working on their own material. It works with us because unlike other centers, we don’t use college kids to teach young students.”


Gupta felt the small classroom setting would be easy to accommodate and parking would be handled.


“This is not like a caravan of cars coming in or buses parking,” he said. “I’ve seen other places have those issues. We don’t.”