State regulators still looking at deal
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The State University of New York (SUNY) signed off on Thursday on the sale of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, to Fortis Property Group for $240 million.
Fortis plans a residential development.
SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall said in a statement that the deal would provide “health care services for the community” in the form of an ambulatory care center to be built by NYU Langone Medical Center, and protect SUNY and the state’s taxpayers from financial losses.
The sale, long opposed by the community and local officials, must still be approved by the state attorney general and state comptroller, and other legal considerations have yet to be fully resolved.
NYU also needs final approval from the state Department of Health; it received contingent DOH approval in June to operate a small walk-in emergency department (ED) still operating on the site of the hospital.
Earlier this month, NYU said it would take over the operation of the ED, currently operated by SUNY, within two business days following regulatory approvals.
When asked about a timeline for their decision, a spokesperson for the New York State Comptroller’s Office said the office does not comment on contracts that are under review. The New York State Attorney General’s Office did not respond to a request for information.
In September, NYU pulled out of the deal after the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) demanded that SUNY enforce a commitment by NYU to give priority in rehiring LICH nurses at the walk-in ED.
State Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes ruled against the nurses, however, and NYU returned to the table.
McCall said in a statement that NYU had increased the square footage of the future ambulatory care facility, to be built by NYU, to 135,000 square feet, from 65,000 square feet.
“This includes the construction of a new state-of-the-art facility and a total private investment by NYU Langone Medical Center of $175 million,” McCall said. “This significant expansion and commitment to Cobble Hill patients was negotiated by SUNY in recognition of the need for greater services in the community.”
SUNY has been treating walk-in patients in the small pediatric ED while NYU works on the adult space. NYU said in early October that it has spent more than $5 million to upgrade the ED.
Officials have been pushing for the immediate return of ambulance service to LICH. Since the hospital was put on ambulance diversion, ERs throughout Brooklyn have experienced serious overcrowding.
McCall said Thursday that NYU-Langone “is committed to resuming ambulance service” after the deal receives final approval.
SUNY closed LICH after nearly two years of community protests and legal action. A coalition of community organizations, health care providers and elected officials has maintained that northwest Brooklyn’s exploding population needs a full-service hospital, not a “walk-in” emergency department which will not be able to treat serious conditions.
Jeff Strabone, spokesperson for the Cobble Hill Association, one of six community groups fighting the sale, said in a statement, “Governor Cuomo has decided to sell a hospital for condos without a single assessment of community health needs. No process, not even a bogus one, was ever undertaken to show whether or not booming South Brooklyn needs more or less hospital health care. At the start of 2013, LICH's beds were over 90 percent occupied. Red Hook remains a Health Professional Shortage Area under federal HHS guidelines. None of that matters to a governor intent on rewarding his friends with a waterfront development deal. People will die because of this deal. Their deaths will be due to the hubris of one man: Andrew Cuomo.”