Hospital-free LICH pitches spell death for Brooklynites: Residents

News analysis: If LICH closes, housing towers could rise
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The Brooklyn Hospital Center’s takeover plan for Long Island College Hospital would put lives in danger, no matter what other medical services it provides, said angry Red Hook residents at a presentation of the plan on Tuesday night.

One Red Hooker, who said her cousin died last year of a heart attack in an ambulance that was turned away from the Cobble Hill medical center, warned that the chaos that surrounded the state’s diversion of ambulances amid the year-long battle to close the facility is only a taste of the danger to come if it shutters for good.

“We can’t go for this,” said Annette Amendolla after a presentation of Brooklyn Hospital’s overhaul proposal at the Red Hook Volunteers office. “This would never work for us.”

Amendolla was one of 20 on hand to hear about Brooklyn Hospital’s overhaul bid. Presenting was Richard Becker, chief executive of The Brooklyn Hospital Center, which submitted a plan to the state earlier this year that called for maintaining a few medical offices in or near the Cobble Hill facility, while handing over the bulk or all of the valuable land to mega-developer Related Companies to turn into a residential complex.

A court order last month voided the original five redevelopment bids and re-opened the proposal process with new conditions about what types of health services should be provided by whoever takes control. Becker made the trip to Red Hook along with Jay Kriegel, a senior advisor to Related Companies, in order to sell the community on the latest plan, which includes a few tweaks to the original.

The presentation seemed to stick to the same basic components put forward back in February, proposing the transformation of the hospital into a a large residential compound with an urgent-care center and some short-term medical facilities.

New on Tuesday night were proposed partnerships with Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan, and the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center, which operates a network of health centers that has a location in Red Hook.

Becker said Mount Sinai could help provide patients with the long-term care that would no longer be offered at a greatly diminished Cobble Hill outfit and that an expansion of the existing Addabbo location could provide the neighborhood with much-needed access to primary care.

“This really is a proposal that moves services into all areas of the LICH community,” said Becker. “We can address 90 percent of health care needs outside of a hospital.”

Most of the spiel fell on deaf ears, though, because Long Island College Hospital advocates in the audience called, as they have since the state first moved to shutter the facility in February 2013, for keeping the institution in its current form without any reduction in services.

“It’s been here for a million years,” said Sheryl Braxton, neighborhood resident (the number is actually 156). “We need the same services we’re used to. And we want what we need.”

Becker stressed that the state is making the decision to sell Long Island College Hospital and said his team is not able to keep it open.

“LICH is where it is,” Becker said. “We’re not in a position to run two hospitals.”

The back-and-forth over keeping Long Island College Hospital a hospital took up most of the two hour meeting and produced zilch in the way of compromise.

“He was very clear. He said no hospital,” said Maribel Agosto, a nurse at Long Island College Hospital. “People are just opposed to the idea of not having a full-service hospital.”

The evening meeting followed the afternoon announcement that the state, freed from a court order that barred it from doing anything to reduce service levels at the medical center, gave nearly half of the hospital’s staff pink slips. Another healthcare company that has announced its plan to submit a revamp bid is the development firm MedDev, which lists the State University of New York and Mount Sinai among its clients. Further complicating the bidding is the fact that executives from Related and from the Fortis Property Group, which submitted an earlier proposal along with New York University Langone Medical Center, both donated to Gov. Cuomo.

Cuomo, as The Brooklyn Paper has documented, controls the State University of New York, whose representatives effectively have final say in choosing a buyer.

Related’s Kriegel denied that his company tried to curry favor with Cuomo, saying that Related founder Stephen Ross’ $5,000 contribution is a drop in the bucket.

“You think $5,000 makes a difference? Don’t be silly. Five thousand dollars doesn’t even rank in the top hundred donors,” he said. “Does he have a relationship? Yeah. But he’s a donor to all kinds of elected officials,” he added, pointing out that Ross was a major fund-raiser for Mitt Romney.

He also stressed that no one from Related has given Cuomo money since the company formally entered the running to buy Long Island College Hospital.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.