State officials either called a closed-door meeting to plot the sale of Long Island College Hospital’s valuable real estate the day before they voted to shutter the medical institution — or they broke the law, according to a lawsuit.
For weeks, representatives from the State University of New York have claimed that the beloved-but-beleaguered Cobble Hill hospital’s primo property hasn’t crossed their minds, but the land beneath the marked-for-death facility was the only thing a state committee could have legally discussed when it called a closed-door, “executive session” during a public hearing, activists allege.
The board didn’t explain exactly why it made the public meeting private, stating only that it would discuss Long Island College Hospital and justifying its secrecy by citing sections of state law that permit such back-room discussions only when talking about legal matters, confidential information under state or federal guidelines, political meetings, union negotiations, or the “proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property.”
But Long Island College Hospital supporters say there’s no way the board discussed judicial matters, top-secret data, politics, or collective bargaining — insisting the state used the meeting to plot the sale of land, or to illegally decide to close the hospital without public scrutiny.
“They were having conversations about real estate,” said Long Island College Hospital backer Roy Sloane, the president of the Cobble Hill Association. “I’m sure they were salivating over it.”
University officials have broadly denied talking about the hospital’s real estate — which has been estimated at as much as $500 million.
“I know there are a lot of people out there who are saying that this is really a real estate deal,” Robert Bellafiore, a spokesman for the university’s hospital system, told The Brooklyn Paper last week. “The fact of the matter is that zero consideration has been given to the real estate factor of it. It is so cart before the horse, it’s not even funny.”
But Bellafiore wouldn’t say what the meeting was about.
“We’re not going to litigate that in the press,” he said. “We’re going to litigate that to the judge.”
Besides, he said, the suit ultimately doesn’t matter.
“Nothing in the litigation is going to change the fact that the hospital is losing $4 million a month and is threatening to drag down a jewel of Brooklyn health care,” Bellafiore said.
Moments after the closed-door meeting ended, the board made its case to close Long Island College Hospital in what activists describe as a show trial.
The whole board process was more courtesy than necessity, according to Bellafiore, who said SUNY Downstate president Dr. John Williams could have simply called for the shutdown himself.
But activists — whose lawsuit to save Long Island College Hospital won a temporary restraining order that will keep the facility on life support until a hearing on Thursday — hope any discrepancy in board procedures will stall the closure, buying them more time to find a healthcare operator willing to take over the hospital.
Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at email@example.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.