Mayor DeBlasio’s Tuesday appointment of a businessman who once presided over the gutting of Long Island College Hospital to an advisor position sparked outcry among anti-hospital closure activists this week, then silence.
Fighting the state’s bid to close the hospital was a signature issue of DeBlasio’s campaign, so the announcement that he would hire former Continuum Health Partners head Stan Brezenoff as an unpaid advisor on labor relations to Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris did not sit well with the Cobble Hill Association. The civic group tweeted its outrage immediately after the news broke, but then clammed up, apparently in deference to DeBlasio, who as mayor will play a key role in deciding the hobbled hospital’s fate.
“Stan Brezenoff the LICH-killer as special advisor to the deputy mayor?!?! Are you kidding me?” the association tweeted on Tuesday.
Other mini missives from the group accused Brezenoff of plundering the hospital’s $140-million Othmer Endowment Fund.
The fund has not had a public accounting, but Brezenoff’s Continuum ran the Cobble Hill medical center into the ground in the late 2000s, racking up $170-million in debt, firing staffers, selling hospital buildings, and trying to close key departments. In 2008, pols including former Borough President Marty Markowitz accused the company of trying to kill the hospital, while then-Slope councilman DeBlasio said Continuum execs should have asked for help sooner.
But on Thursday, activists’ lips were sealed on Brezenoff’s appointment. Union reps at the New York State Nurses Association did not return requests for comment. And Roy Sloane, president of the Cobble Hill Association would say only that he did not want to “influence any outcome regarding the hospital” and that the tweets were written by someone else in his organization.
Nor was Brezenoff eager to highlight his track record.
“We have enormous challenges ahead of us,” said Brezenoff in a written statement that made no mention of his time at Continuum. “It won’t be easy, but this will be a progressive and effective administration that protects taxpayers and respects its workers.”
The State University of New York took over the healthcare facility in 2010, but that did little to alleviate its woes. State hospital honchos spent 2013 trying to again pull the plug on the hospital that sits on land valued at as much as $500-million over the objection of staffers, DeBlasio, and other elected officials.
Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Carolyn Demarest, who issued a bombshell court order demanding the state relinquish control of the hospital to any taker — she first picked Continuum, but it declined — has also ordered the state to account for and pay back the money it took from the Othmer endowment. The state said it burned through most of the permanent operating fund and would have trouble paying it back because it had always planned to sell off hospital property to make up the difference and is now prohibited from doing so.
Brezenoff has been in and out of city government throughout his career. He served under Mayor Ed Koch as head of the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation. He later worked as director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and was in command during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, for which the agency avoided paying out millions to victims after nearly 20 years of court battles over whether it was negligent for ignoring warnings that the buildings’ underground parking garage was vulnerable to a terrorist attack.