The state diverted ambulances from Long Island College Hospital early on Thursday morning amid a multi-directional court battle that has a judge demanding that everyone play nice.
The ambulance banishment means patients picked up by paramedics in Downtown, Cobble Hill, and surrounding neighborhoods will end up at Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park or Kings County Hospital Center in East Flatbush, both of which are more than a 10-minute drive away, leaving locals-turned-activists worried for they could die in transit should tragedy strike.
“It frightens the life out of me,” said Sue Raboy, a member of the pro-hospital group Patients For LICH who once had a brush with death and was rushed to Long Island College Hospital. “Today if I got sick like I did two and a half years ago and I had to call an ambulance, I might not live to get to another hospital.”
The end of ambulance service comes as the state tries to wind down operations ahead of washing its hands of the 156-year-old Cobble Hill institution on May 22 at 7 am. Judge Johnny Lee Baynes on Thursday banned the state from taking any further steps to shutter the hospital and, presented with dueling lawsuits from activists and a passed-over developer seeking to have the current top bidder barred from taking over, ordered all the parties involved to a private courthouse conference room to hash things out by Tuesday.
The Peebles Corporation took the negotiation seat after Baynes threw out a bid by a company called Brooklyn Health Partners when it failed to come up with satisfactory proof it had the financial backing to build the complex it proposed. Peebles plans to dismantle the hospital and build an unspecified amount of housing along with an ambulatory surgery center and doctors offices, which is similar to the bid from third-place winner Fortis Property Group. Community groups are suing, claiming that the ranking of the two takeover plans in second and third places was arrived at through a manipulation of the scoring process that was meant to value proposals the kept the hospital a hospital over others — and that one of the other three hospital-inclusive proposals should be on tap now. Fortis, meanwhile, is suing to have its plan picked, also on grounds of scoring impropriety.
At Thursday’s hearing, Baynes ordered lawyers for the top three bidders and for the community groups and staffer unions that sued to stop the closure to hash out a deal that preserves a hospital on the site, Raboy said, adding that the demand was reassuring.
“Baynes’ decision gives me great hope that, at minimum, the services that are there now would be there the day after the state leaves,” she said.
The medical campus sits on land valued at as much as $500 million. Peebles head Don Peebles has political ties to State University of New York chairman H. Carl McCall, Crain’s New York Business first reported. A Fortis Property Group founder and his uncle, who does not work for the company, donated $17,500 to the re-election campaign of Gov. Cuomo, who controls the State University of New York.
The emergency room is still open for walk-ins,
The governor’s office did not respond to questions about whether the state will preserve service at the hospital if no deal can be reached by May 22.