Within a whisper of an agreement
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
UPDATE TWO: Lawyers working around the clock are very close to announcing a settlement in the case of Long Island College Hospital (LICH), attorney Jim Walden of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who represents six pro-LICH community groups, said Thursday morning.
“We have reached an agreement in principle and are within a whisper of an agreement,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle Thursday morning. If all proceeds according to plan, attorneys for the State University of New York (SUNY), the state Department of Health (DOH) and a coalition fighting SUNY's attempts to close LICH will report on their progress to state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes at 12:30 p.m. and return to court at 2 p.m. to announce details of the setlement.
Intense negotiations, which had been restarted after collapsing Monday, stretched on through the night and into Thursday morning.
Check back for details.
Day Two of a contempt hearing against the State University of New York (SUNY) had originally been scheduled for Thursday morning in Brooklyn.
On Tuesday, state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes had adjourned the proceedings for two days at the request of the unions, in light of ongoing “good faith discussions” and the possible involvement of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Justice Baynes also extended a “standstill” agreement, which fended off layoffs at LICH, until Thursday morning.
Thursday's hearing had originally been scheduled for 11 a.m.; Justice Baynes asked both sides' attorneys to confer with him Thursday morning.
Financially-ailing SUNY Downstate is accused of myriad violations in its rush to sell Long Island College Hospital (LICH) and its valuable Brownstone Brooklyn real estate.
The alleged offenses range from refusing to admit patients to firing doctors, padlocking units, diverting ambulances and intimidating staff and patients with armed guards, in apparent disregard of seven court orders issued by Justice Baynes.
Negotiations between attorneys for SUNY and LICH supporters have broken off several times, but on Wednesday attorney Jim Walden of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who represents six pro-LICH community groups, said the talks had recently been close to succeeding.
Advocates are pushing for LICH to remain a full-service hospital and are calling for a study of the health care needs of its growing service area, stretching from medically-underserved Red Hook to Williamsburg, encompassing booming Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
They are also calling for an open RFP (Request for Proposals) process, with community involvement.
The SUNY board earlier this month heard the pitches of four developers competing for the LICH property in the second round of what LICH advocates have called a “secretive” and “frenetic” RFP process “slanted towards real estate developers.”
Squabbles have now reportedly broken out among two of the four participating developers. According to Crain’s New York, Fortis Property Group has charged that another bidder, The Related Companies, was allowed to raise its bid after the RFP had closed. In an earlier round of bidding, similar arguements broke out after Fortis changed one of its partners after the RFP had closed.
One of the four developers told the Brooklyn Eagle last week that they have “lost confidence in the process.”
SUNY spokesperson David Doyle defended the procedure, however. On Monday he told the Eagle, “SUNY's process and the path with which we got to this point have been above reproach. We continue to act in good faith to reach a viable long-term solution, and if and when a hearing occurs SUNY's legal team is prepared to defend the institution."
LICH supporters had planned to march to state Supreme Court, at 360 Adams Street, Thursday morning.
Nurses had reported late Wednesday that "more than 90 percent of available patient beds" at LICH were filled Wednesday night.
LICH supporters involved in the contempt action include the Boerum Hill Association, Brooklyn Heights Association, Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, Cobble Hill Association, Riverside Tenants Association, Wykoff Gardens Association, Inc., the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), 1199 SEIU and Concerned Physicians of LICH.
SUNY is also entangled in another series of legal proceedings before state Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest.