By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and City Councilman Steve Levin (D-Brooklyn Heights) were among more than a dozen demonstrators arrested in Midtown Manhattan on Wednesday during a protest against the closure of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.
The protesters, chanting "Hell no, we won't go!" were arrested and cuffed outside the doors of the State University of New York's (SUNY) College of Optometry.
Financially troubled SUNY Downstate Medical Center in East Flatbush, also under the authority of the State University of New York, has begun shutting down LICH departments and diverting ambulances from the ER in defiance of a Brooklyn Supreme Court court order.
“We are going to lose a vital community hospital in a matter of weeks unless something changes,” de Blasio said. “The Governor must act to save LICH, and SUNY Downstate must stop its end run around a judge’s direct order and commit to keeping this hospital up and running. This is a moment for all New Yorkers to stand up and fight, and I’m proud to do my part.”
Councilman Steve Levin said, “Today, nurses, doctors, community members, and elected officials stand together against the blatant attempt by SUNY Downstate to shutdown Long Island College Hospital. Their actions fly in the face of the law and are literally risking the lives of Brooklyn residents. By getting arrested, we are sending a message that we will not tolerate SUNY’s disturbing disregard of the courts orders. LICH provides vital healthcare to our community and must be kept open for care.”
The head of the New York State Nurses Association, nurses and hospital aides were also arrested.
"SUNY needs to immediately stop the unsafe and unlawful ambulance diversion, and commit to fully staffing LICH and keeping it open for care until a suitable operator takes over the hospital,” Jill Furillo, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association said in a statement.
Furillo said that SUNY’s ambulance diversion has caused overcrowding and long wait times in other Brooklyn emergency rooms. “SUNY has put the lives of thousands of Brooklyn patients at risk, and they've created chaos and fear for patients who depend on LICH for care.”
Rather than arresting local representatives and nurses, Furillo said, "Perhaps law enforcement should have detained SUNY executives, who have put greedy real estate deals before the needs of our community, who have flouted court orders, and who have failed to make good faith efforts to find a new operator for LICH.
All of those arrested were released by early afternoon, according to the Nurses Association.
Supporters of LICH have been protesting nonstop SUNY’s plan to close the hospital. On Thursday, Parents for LICH will be holding a “Bedtime Rally” and march at 5:30 p.m. at LICH’s Henry Street playground calling on Governor Cuomo to save LICH, in response to the shuttering of overnight pediatric care.
Updated at 2:35 p.m. to include the location as SUNY"s College of Optometry.
Updated at 3 p.m. with a quote from Councilman Steve Levin.