Long Island College Hospital is going condo.
The State University of New York reached a deal to sell the former Cobble Hill Hospital to residential developer Fortis Property Group on Sunday. Fortis plans to build luxury housing in place of the medical center and has pledged to run some healthcare facilities at the site. The university system is glad to wash its hands of the medical center it has been trying to unload since February of 2013, a spokesman said.
“The deal begins the process of easing the tremendous financial burden being shouldered by students and campuses across the state,” said State University of New York rep David Doyle.
Details on the residential plan are scant, but Fortis will partner with New York University Langone Medical Center and Lutheran Healthcare to provide medical services at the complex, including a freestanding emergency department, observation beds, primary and preventative care offices, nine specialty departments, an ambulatory surgery center, and a human immunodeficiency virus clinic. Fortis also agreed to foot the bill for the state keeping the emergency room open in the shell of the hospital, until the developer fully takes over, and agreed to set aside space in the development for more medical services. Fortis refused to sign up for the study of neighborhood medical needs that community groups have called for. Activists had wanted the builder to be bound by the prescription of such a study, but are now calling on the company to take it upon itself to reboot the hospital that closed in May, as the terms of a court-settlement-dictated call for bids says that it should.
“We hope that the highly-regarded healthcare institutions associated with the Fortis proposal will give serious consideration to meeting the RFP goal and community healthcare needs by extending their medical services to include an in-patient hospital,” said a statement by the group Patients for LICH.
The redevelopment scheme will give the firm Fortis Property Group the medical campus with views of the New York Harbor for just $240 million, far less than its estimated $500 million value. A Fortis founder and his uncle, who does not work for the company, donated $17,500 to the reelection campaign of Gov. Cuomo, who controls the university system.
The Fortis deal comes after the state torpedoed talks with two previous developers who scored higher in the bid-ranking scheme created by the settlement in the activists’ lawsuit to keep the hospital open. The arrangement was supposed to favor proposals that included a hospital and maintained continuous medical care at the hospital, but neither third-place Fortis nor second-place Peebles Corporation pitched a hospital and activists sued to have scores thrown out, claiming that the state rigged the results. Judge Johnny Lee Baynes squashed the latest lawsuit on Friday evening, just more than a dozen hours after information surfaced showing that an eyebrow-raising score at the center of the challenge, which gave a full-service hospital plan 0 out of 70 points while awarding the Fortis plan 70 out of 70, was penned by Baynes’s friend and hospital-lawsuit mediator William Thompson, Sr. the father of mayoral also-ran Bill Thompson, as Capital New York reported.
Fortis was the only suitor the state was publicly considering in December, before the lawsuit settlement forced the state to reopen the process.
In February, Mayor DeBlasio hailed the settlement as “a victory for all parties involved.” A spokesman responded to the latest development in less glowing terms, but phrased his comment as if the hospital had not closed.
“A year ago the doors at LICH were on the brink of being padlocked and the entire facility shut down forever,” rep Phil Walzak said. “But as a result of the unified advocacy and activism of the community, closure was prevented, and now there is a proposal on the table that could provide a wide range of medical services at LICH for the tens of thousands of residents in the surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods.”
Gov. Cuomo has been silent on his appointees’ shuttering of the hospital, though he has controlled its fate since he took office in 2011. Cuomo has not responded to requests for comment made every weekday since May 15. That is 32 days without a response, for those keeping score at home.
The deal fills the first square — “Politically connected developer seals deal” — in the Bingo-inspired Long Island College Hospital game LICHO, made exclusively for the Community Newspaper Group by our crack team of game wizards. DeBlasio’s offices defense of his record fills a second.