State gives LICH drop-dead date

News analysis: If LICH closes, housing towers could rise
If the state opts to close Long Island College Hospital, its campus will become a hot commodity for housing developers, real estate experts say.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Long Island College Hospital will close in May if the state does not find someone to take over the hobbled hospital by then.

The state will reopen the bidding process for redeveloping the Cobble Hill medical center and will give preference to plans that keep it open as part of a settlement reached with staffers and activists last week and announced on Feb. 21. But no matter which developer-medical-company partnership is picked or when it is given the keys, the state says it will walk away on May 22, under the agreement. Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Johnny Lee Baynes hailed the settlement, which ended a yearlong court battle over the fate of the hospital, and said that the new bidding rubric will favor whichever team will provide the most medical services, but added that the paperwork doesn’t guarantee a smooth landing.

“Whatever entity comes to the table with the most healthcare will probably get [control],” Baynes told a packed courtroom on Feb. 21, “but there’s always the chance that things could go in reverse, that they could go bad.”

Baynes called the negotiations “some of the most difficult work I have seen in 21 years,” but has yet to sign off on the agreement. Three days after he does, the state will take new redevelopment proposals for three weeks, and is then supposed to pick one within a week.

A lawyer for the community groups that sued the state to keep the hospital open is concerned that it could be fumbled during the handoff process.

“All of this holds out the hope of uninterrupted medical services, but there are no guarantees,” said lawyer Jim Walden.

The newly devised bid evaluation scheme operates based on a point system that counts the scope of medical services as two-thirds of the score and weighs the amount of cash the developer is willing to put up as one-third. Bidders will be docked points if their proposals do not include a full-service hospital, intensive care, in-patient beds, or un-interrupted service. Whoever takes over will be required to meet with community groups about what medical services neighbors want the development to provide.

The proposals will be scored by a committee made up of state officials, Public Advocate Letitia James, and representatives of the nurses unions and community groups that sued the state.

Some hospital advocates are not satisfied with the system, saying that any reduction of the amount of hospital beds is too much.

“It seems to me that the administration is trying to reduce in-patient beds,” Patients for LICH member Cynthia Nebel said, pointing to Gov. Cuomo’s decision to keep Long Island College Hospital from getting any of the $8 billion in Medicaid money the state received on Feb. 13. “It seems like the trend is trying to dismantle hospitals.”

The State University of New York is adamant that it took over the hospital with good intentions but was forced to bail when it could not balance the budget. The plan was not, as critics have charged, to close the hospital and sell off the prime real estate it sits on, the state claimed.

State reps say the five redevelopment proposals already on the table are reasonable.

“I strongly believe the hospitals we got last time around were solid proposals,” State University of New York spokesman David Doyle said. “We have lost a lot of money from this deal.”

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.

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