Fifteeen arrested for protesting LICH closure in front of SUNY office

Fifteeen arrested for protesting LICH closure in front of SUNY office
Office of Steve Levin

Fifteen protestors, including Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio and Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg), were arrested July 10 for disorderly conduct at a midtown Manhattan rally to save Cobble Hill’s Long Island College Hospital.

Levin presented a petition with 7,000 signatures to Leydi Zapata, the director of strategic engagement and branding at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, which runs the hospital. Zapata was representing SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.

The petition, started by Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens), demands that the state follow a temporary restraining order issued by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes that requires it to keep the institution operational and adequately staffed. The petition also called for the state to lift a controversial June 19 decision to divert ambulances from the hospital’s emergency room.

DeBlasio then announced that they wouldn’t leave until immediate action was taken.

“We are going to lose a vital community hospital in a matter of weeks unless something changes,” DeBlasio said in a written statement. “This is a moment for all New Yorkers to stand up and fight, and I’m proud to do my part.”

Police arrested the 15 protesters and took them to Midtown South Precinct after warning the throng that anyone who didn’t step back would be detained.

“By getting arrested, we are sending a message that we will not tolerate SUNY’s disturbing disregard of the court’s orders,” Levin said in a written statement. “LICH provides vital healthcare to our community and must be kept open for care.”

In addition to DeBlasio and Levin, the protestors arrested included New York State Nurses Association Executive director Jill Furillo; president-elect Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez; Jess Stravone, a member of the Cobble Hill Association; and nine hospital employees. All 15 were released hours after the arrests.

And the protestors said it was worth it to them to get locked up.

“If this is going to help the hospital stay open I’ll do it again, and again, and again,” said nurse Leonicha Williams after she was released.

The rally was attended by approximately 200 people, according to union spokeswoman Eliza Bates. It was held in front of the site of the state’s first vote to close the hospital in February – Zimpher’s office at the School of Optometry on W. 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues. The rally was organized by the nurses association and 1199 Service Employees International Union, a healthcare workers union.

“Today, 15 of us were arrested for standing up for our patients,” Furillo said in a written statement. “But, perhaps law enforcement should have detained SUNY executives, who have put greedy real estate deals before the needs of our community, who have flouted court orders, and who have failed to make good faith efforts to find a new operator for LICH.”