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Board to death: Committee secretly plotted LICH’s sale, or its demise, activists claim

The Brooklyn Paper
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State officials either called a closed-door meeting to plot the sale of Long Island College Hospital’s valuable real estate the day before they voted to shutter the medical institution — or they broke the law, according to a lawsuit.

For weeks, representatives from the State University of New York have claimed that the beloved-but-beleaguered Cobble Hill hospital’s primo property hasn’t crossed their minds, but the land beneath the marked-for-death facility was the only thing a state committee could have legally discussed when it called a closed-door, “executive session” during a public hearing, activists allege.

The board didn’t explain exactly why it made the public meeting private, stating only that it would discuss Long Island College Hospital and justifying its secrecy by citing sections of state law that permit such back-room discussions only when talking about legal matters, confidential information under state or federal guidelines, political meetings, union negotiations, or the “proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property.”

But Long Island College Hospital supporters say there’s no way the board discussed judicial matters, top-secret data, politics, or collective bargaining — insisting the state used the meeting to plot the sale of land, or to illegally decide to close the hospital without public scrutiny.

“They were having conversations about real estate,” said Long Island College Hospital backer Roy Sloane, the president of the Cobble Hill Association. “I’m sure they were salivating over it.”

University officials have broadly denied talking about the hospital’s real estate — which has been estimated at as much as $500 million.

“I know there are a lot of people out there who are saying that this is really a real estate deal,” Robert Bellafiore, a spokesman for the university’s hospital system, told The Brooklyn Paper last week. “The fact of the matter is that zero consideration has been given to the real estate factor of it. It is so cart before the horse, it’s not even funny.”

But Bellafiore wouldn’t say what the meeting was about.

“We’re not going to litigate that in the press,” he said. “We’re going to litigate that to the judge.”

Besides, he said, the suit ultimately doesn’t matter.

“Nothing in the litigation is going to change the fact that the hospital is losing $4 million a month and is threatening to drag down a jewel of Brooklyn health care,” Bellafiore said.

Moments after the closed-door meeting ended, the board made its case to close Long Island College Hospital in what activists describe as a show trial.

The whole board process was more courtesy than necessity, according to Bellafiore, who said SUNY Downstate president Dr. John Williams could have simply called for the shutdown himself.

But activists — whose lawsuit to save Long Island College Hospital won a temporary restraining order that will keep the facility on life support until a hearing on Thursday — hope any discrepancy in board procedures will stall the closure, buying them more time to find a healthcare operator willing to take over the hospital.

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at jlutz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.
Updated 10:08 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

kelly from park slope says:
good catch!
March 5, 2013, 10:06 am
saveLICH from LICH says:
They have nerve constantly saying that LICH is dragging Downstate down. And they grab every opportunity to publicly repeat that -like if they say it often enough people might believe it. Fact is, its the other way around. Downstate is losing double the amount every month than LICH ever did & it's Downstate itself that is dragging its own system & LICH down. Publish the numbers & show LICH is the least of their problems. Why isn't anybody saying that?
March 6, 2013, 10:54 am
Baddog from Crown Heights says:
The NYS Comptroller went through all the figures and declared it was LICH that was dragging down SUNY Downstate. You can say any old thing and pretend LICH is not loosing millions per week but that old song does not cut it any more. I am sorry LICH has to close.
March 6, 2013, 2:15 pm
sL says:
lich isn't losing the millions. it's being pilfered by downstate who took the lich funding to Flatbush. and lich is practically being extorted by that contract with continuum for services that are not being provided. Without having to pay that contract every month (which downstate imposed on lich), lich would not be in the red. The amount of money it's "losing" every month is equal to what it is forced to pay to continuum every month. The comptroller cited Downstate for not having a business plan for lich, and for all of the above he cited Downstate for having "weak governess & ineffective financial management". lich does not have to close. it needs a competent, responsible, management.
March 6, 2013, 2:39 pm
Allen says:
SUNY Downstate has acknowledged a $117 million deficit, of which they say LICH is responsible for less than one-third - $40million. Obviously LICH is not the problem. Where is the majority of that $117 million being lost and why aren't they talking about what they'll be doing to fix that? Closing LICH will not solve their financial management problem. They don't know how to run a hospital. They should turn their entire hospital enterprise over to another hospital system like Northshore LIJ to run and just focus themselves on running their school.
March 6, 2013, 4:03 pm
Eman from Cobble Hill says:
To Baddog: explain how Dr. Williams suddenly renegotiated the payment for services deal with Continuum from $3M to $1.4M month after the deal embarrassed management, how they never changed billing codes for procedures and lost millions in reimbursements, how the census at LICH remains in the 90% range and how LICH has been in the black in '13, since they shaped up. Explain why a hospital has to close when two well managed prestigious hospital systems are exploring ways to take over and run LICH responsibly... Everyone knows it's a crass land grab that violates the ethics of responsible government. Wise up.
March 6, 2013, 5:03 pm
Cacao from Portland says:
All one has to do is visit the old Beth Isreal Hospital North (formally known as Doctors Hospital) across from Gracie Mansion, on East End Avenue to see what the intentions of those deeply involved with closure of LICH had in mind. Luxury condominium over looking the East River.
The only continuum with Continuum is with NY state (Berger and friends) and a waterfront Land Grab in Brooklyn over looking New York Harbor and Lady Liberty.
The real estate foot print of LICH was significantly sold off/reduced by Continuum over the years they while they were at the helm. Tens of millions of dollars sold of and funneled away.
A federal investigation is warranted in my opinion and at minimum would lead to multiple resignations if not criminal punishment.
Keep up the fight!!!!
March 7, 2013, 9:30 am
Kao from CA says:
As a part time resident of Boerum Hill, I see the LICH ambulances all over the neighborhood. The ER was busy when I visited a friend there, with some very serious cases receiving a lot of attention. I recall hearing a 'Stroke Team' called to the ER and over ten doctors and nurses responded. Closing a hospital for condos is bad karma.
March 7, 2013, 10:06 am
SHAME ON SUNY from Downstate says:
LICH is fully staffed, fully equipped, fully operational & OPEN FOR CARE. The staff is not resigning - they're fighting for the hospital's survival. They aren't abandoning the community and the community is not abandoning the hospital. So what does frustrated Downstate do? They plant some scare tactic in the daily news to try to keep patients away & get LICH to close itself before the DOH has made any decision. Playing on patients fears, scaring people who may have loved ones in the hospital, and manipulating people into not using the hospital just to advance your own agenda to close is really disgusting. SHAME ON SUNY & DOWNSTATE.
March 7, 2013, 9:01 pm

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