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LICH’s fate still unknown, but activists praise new deal

Stephon Johnson | 2/27/2014, 4:36 p.m.
Officials and activists fighting over the fate of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) have tentatively agreed to a deal
Long Island College Hospital is here to stay

Officials and activists fighting over the fate of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) have tentatively agreed to a deal that figuratively washes SUNY Downstate’s hands clean of the medical facility and reopens bidding for the space.

As part of the deal, both parties have decided that all bids on the property that houses LICH must contain plans for a medical care space as well.

SUNY Downstate has been looking to sell the facility and didn’t initially stipulate for a medical space to replace what might be lost to Brooklyn residents. SUNY claims it’s been losing tens of millions of dollars monthly operating the space.

While SUNY has looked at bids that would turn the property into condominiums, hospital workers, patients and activists have fought for a full-service hospital. The new agreement also calls for community representation moving forward in the bidding process.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who aligned himself with activists during his days as a public advocate and a mayoral candidate, said the new agreement was a victory for LICH supporters.

“For months, we were told the free-fall closure of Long Island College Hospital was inevitable,” said de Blasio in a statement. “We fought back. We went to court to keep the padlocks off the doors. We fought shoulder to shoulder with this community and used all the tools of city government to press for a better outcome—and now we have a resolution that finally puts people’s health first.

“Patients, nurses, caregivers, doctors, community groups and elected leaders have stood united in our fight to save LICH,” read the statement. “If it weren’t for our movement, LICH would have closed long ago. All along, we’ve been calling for an open and transparent process that would give the community a voice in decisions that impact their care.” 

Assembly Member Walter Mosley wrote a letter to H. Carl McCall, chairman of SUNY’s board of trustees, advocating the acceptance of a bid by NYU Langone, Lutheran Family Health Centers, Fortis Property Group and L&M Development Partners. 

“After a great deal of consideration, I believe that the NYU/Fortis plan offers the best approach to addressing the health care and affordable housing needs of the communities surrounding the Long Island College Hospital site,” wrote Mosley in the letter. “The Fortis proposal offers a truly transformative approach to providing health care and housing services, coupled with a plan for ongoing community engagement.”

As the AmNews reported in January, Fortis Property Group scared many of LICH’s constituents with a bid to SUNY that would have leased the hospital’s main building to ProHealth for a “medical mall.” The rest of the building would have been developed for condos. After SUNY’s board of trustees suspended a December vote on the proposal, Fortis revised its offer to include NYU Langone Medical Center and Brooklyn’s Lutheran Medical Center as partners.

“I firmly believe that the Fortis proposal and the team that they have assembled to develop this visionary proposal will transform the state of health care in Brooklyn and in New York City as a whole,” said Mosley. “Thousands of my constituents rely upon the medical services provided at the Long Island College Hospital facility, and I am thrilled to support this proposal.”

But, as the AmNews reported in January, that proposal would replace most of the hospital with luxury condos and an outpatient facility with emergency services. According to charts displayed at a meeting last month, NYU would help provide a freestanding emergency room, an urgent care center, a radiology and diagnostic center and six specialty centers that include primary care, pulmonary care, psychiatry, cancer care, cardiology, gastroenterology and orthopedics.

According to de Blasio, no matter who is awarded the winning bid, workers and patients need to have a place to call home.

“Protecting continuity of care and ensuring the health care needs of this community are met will now be the yardstick by which proposals for the future of LICH are measured,” said de Blasio. “There is more work ahead, but we are closer than ever to the long-term, sustainable solution all of us have sought.”