Sick settlement! State to abandon LICH by May, re-open bidding war

At the gates: Furious ativists demanded on Wednesday that the state open the state’s bidding process for Long Island College Hospital’s redevelopment.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

The state will let go of Long Island College Hospital by May and re-open bidding for developers and medical providers hopeful to overhaul the medical facility as part of a court settlement reached with staffers and activists on Thursday.

A sped-up process for submitting new redevelopment bids will be followed by a seven-day period for picking who will take over the Cobble Hill medical center that sits on land valued at as much as $500 million, if Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Johnny Lee Baynes approves it, according to a joint announcement by Governor Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio. The mayor made fighting to keep the hospital full-service a signature issue of his 2013 campaign but has been tightlipped about it since winning the Democratic primary in September. Now, he is declaring victory.

“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,” Mayor DeBlasio said in a statement. “There is more work ahead, but we are closer than ever to the long-term, sustainable solution all of us have sought.”

The agreement between the State University of New York and hospital advocates marks the end of a yearlong chapter in the battle over the state’s attempts to close the hospital and sell off the prime real estate it sits on. The settlement was announced on Thursday afternoon and is expected to be unveiled in its entirety this afternoon.

The settlement ends the lawsuits by unions and community groups against the State University of New York, which is still technically facing contempt charges until this afternoon for barring emergency vehicles from Long Island College Hospital despite orders by Judge Baynes to keep service levels where they were on July 19. In the latter five months of 2013, the state placed 650 hospital staffers on paid administrative leave, stopped surgeries, and surrounded the hospital with security guards, moves that hospital advocates said were obviously illegal.

The five current bidders, each of them developer-healthcare-company partnerships, are encouraged to re-submit their plans, according to the statement.

The agreement is “unique” and “extraordinary,” according to attorneys representing six anti-closure community groups who said they could not legally unveil any details of the compromise on Thursday afternoon.

“At the end of the day, we achieved our core principles,” said lawyer Jim Walden. “We really appreciate SUNY coming forward and choosing peace rather than continuing litigation.”

Judge Baynes, who avoided deciding whether the state broke the law for the last four months, applauded both sides for finally reaching a compromise in the lengthy lawsuits.

“I am impressed and I do not impress easy,” Baynes said. “We did some of the most difficult work I have seen in 21 years.”

Defenders of the hospital said they are relieved and optimistic that the settlement could bring an outcome that includes a substantial amount of healthcare services.

“I feel safe for the first time since I almost died at LICH two and a half years ago,” Brooklyn Heights resident Sue Raboy said. “I am very hopeful.”

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
We did it!: Mayor DeBlasio and Gov. Cuomo are crowing, too.

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