BP Eric Adams moderates BRIC public access panel
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A televised presentation featuring five of the bidders in SUNY’s much-disputed search for a buyer for Long Island College Hospital (LICH) is now available for viewing on BRIC's community access Brooklyn Public Network. (See schedule below.)
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams hosts the presentation. BP Adams said the developer’s forum was put together “in an effort to promote transparency and community engagement in the process determining the hospital’s future.
“The short time frame presents challenges,” he acknowledged.
The televised presentation is the first public airing of SUNY’s plans to sell and redevelop LICH. The number and identities of the players bidding on the site had been a closely-held secret, though some names had leaked out through back channels.
The SUNY Board of Trustees says it plans to hold a meeting for the board about the proposals on Friday morning at SUNY’s Global Center in Manhattan. SUNY had originally planned to present the plans to the board on Thursday, Crain’s reports, and vote on the proposals Friday. SUNY told the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday, however, that no vote would take place on Friday.
LICH advocates plan to attend the Friday 10 a.m. meeting, as usual, en mass.
The broadcast, which had been taped Wednesday afternoon at Brooklyn Borough Hall, was originally scheduled to air Wednesday night but a technical glitch led the station to substitute alternate programming, causing a backlash among many who had gathered to watch the program.
A Twitter page set up by Adams for residents’ questions (#LICHQandA) was inundated with negative comments regarding SUNY’s attempts to close LICH, located in Cobble Hill. Many area elected representatives, who have called the bidding "rigged," have been pushing for a reopened RFP process .
“BRIC sincerely apologizes for our failure to air the presentations of the proposals submitted for the re-development of Long Island College Hospital,” said Leslie G. Schultz, president of BRIC. “The event was recorded as planned, but the recording was later found to require improvement to assure broadcast quality.”
During the presentation, representatives from the Brisa Builders Corporation, Related Companies/Brooklyn Hospital Center, Chinese Community Accountable Care Organization, Fortis Property Group and the Peebles Corporation described their proposals and answered questions pre-submitted to BP Adams via email and Twitter.
When Adams asked the panel why they were not proposing to operate LICH as a full service hospital, four of the five presenters said that figures provided by the state and SUNY's “guidance on the RFP” showed a hospital was “not feasible.” The fifth, The Chinese Community Accountable Care Organization, confirmed it is proposing to operate LICH “as a full-service hospital.”
All five of the presenters said they had met with community organizations and had the backing of local leaders. But local leaders contacted by the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday said that was news to them.
State Senator Daniel Squadron’s spokesperson Amy Spitalnick told the Eagle, “That's surprising to hear....”
Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA), said, "To my knowledge, none of the five LICH bidders has contacted the Brooklyn Heights Association.”
Jeff Strabone, spokesperson for the Cobble Hill Association (CHA), when asked if any of the developers reached out to the group, replied, "Hahahaha!"
BHA and CHA are two of six community groups involved in litigation against SUNY for their actions in closing LICH.
Attorney Jim Walden of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who represents the six groups and others, told the Eagle, “There is no sense commenting on or reacting to any of the proposals, since this process has no chance whatsoever of withstanding legal scrutiny. SUNY and its enablers can claim this process is ‘open and transparent’ all they want, but repeating a lie one thousand times does not make it true.”
When asked by Adams if the process has been “fair,” the representatives from Brisa, Related/The Brooklyn Hospital Center, and the Chinese Community Accountable Care Organization answered “Yes.”
The representative from Fortis hesitated, then said, “It appears to be.”
Don Peebles, CEO of The Peebles Corporation, said, “Incomplete.”
Several of the proposals have changed since the original round of bidding, which was won (temporarily) by Fortis. Each developer or hospital group used the short amount of time allotted to make the case for their company.
The Eagle has summarized a few of the talking points made by the various presenters. For their full and accurate comments, visit http://bricartsmedia.org/community-media/watch-brooklyn-public-network. Details about viewing the program on cable can be found at the end of this article.
Don Peebles, CEO of The Peebles Corporation said his company was the country's largest African American real estate development company, and emphasized that his proposal would build on the cultural and ethnic diversity of the community.
Peebles would partner with the Institute for Family Health, which operates federally qualified community health centers. Neil Calman, CEO of IFH, said the proposal includes a 50,000-square-foot primary care facility. The plan includes up to 35 percent affordable housing. Peebles said the plan would maintain existing buildings instead of demolition.
Dr. Richard B. Becker, CEO of The Brooklyn Hospital Center, presented a plan backed by mega-developer Related Companies, together with Blue Wolf Capital. Becker emphasized that Related’s plan was a “made in Brooklyn” proposal. The plan offers mixed-income housing with affordable component, and an expanded network of clinics. Dr. Becker said the Mt. Sinai group in Brooklyn would offer guidance.
The Brooklyn Hospital Center would operate a “satellite” emergency department and comprehensive care center on the current LICH campus and at least two urgent care centers and two health care centers in the greater service area. Critically ill patients would be transported to Brooklyn Hospital in Fort Greene for further evaluation or admission. Related Cos. is looking to rezone the property.
Ericka Keller-Wala emphasized that her company, Brisa Builders, with the Chetrit Group, had a vision for the community from the perspective of a woman, mother, and Brooklyn-born individual. Keller-Wala said Brisa was in negotiations with North Shore-LIJ, which would operate a free-standing ER and fast-track urgent care center. Lutheran Medical Center and Allure Health Care, Inc would operate a multi-purpose campus incorporating healthcare, residential and retail development and an early childhood program.
After the presentation was taped, the Wall Street Journal and Crain’s reported that North Shore-LIJ denied it was in negotiations with Brisa. North Shore did not responded to press inquiries by press deadline. Late on Thursday, however, Keller-Wala told the Eagle, “Our medical partnerships are currently in discussions with Northshore LIJ, which have not yet been finalized.”
The original winner of SUNY’s RFP, Fortis Property Group, said it had improved its original proposal since SUNY decided to hold a second round of bidding. Fortis says it is partnering with both NYU Langone and Lutheran Family Health Centers for the medical component of the proposal, and L&M Development Partners and KF Brock for mixed housing, including affordable housing. The percentage of affordable housing could amount to 25 percent, depending on rezoning.
Fortis emphasized that NYU was ranked “top in the country” and would provide a free-standing emergency department, primary care and observation bed for “up to a 23-hour stay,” after which patients would be transferred to hospitals if necessary. Fortis said their plan was endorsed by Assemblyman Joe Lentol.
Josephine Wu described a proposal to run LICH as a full service hospital, offered by The Chinese Community Accountable Care Organization partnering with the Eastern Chinese American Physician IPA (CCACO/ ECAP). “It’s a simple plan,” she said. “We will provide a full-service hospital at LICH. We are not developers.” She emphasized the doctors’ group provided “a high quality, low cost hospital and health care solution.”
The group proposes a medical mixed-use campus including medical services, commercial, retail and residential facilities. The hospital would start with 100 inpatient beds then potentially grow. Wu said the proposal had an academic vision as well, and would provide residency-training programs.
The proposal is to be funded by John Catsimatidis, owner and CEO of the Red Apple Group and Gristedes Foods, and Rudy Washington, a private real estate developer who worked with John Lhota in the Giuliani Administration. Details about the amount and ratio of housing, however, were not available.
The presentation first aired at 1 p.m. on Thursday and will be rebroadcast several times, including at 8 and 9:30 p.m. on Thursday. It will air again on Friday at 1, 2:15, 8 and 9 p.m. on the Brooklyn Public Network, which can be found on Cablevision (Channel 69), Time Warner Cable (Channel 56), RCN (Channel 84), Verizon FIOS (Channel 44) or on their website’s Channel 3 at http://bricartsmedia.org/community-media/watch-brooklyn-public-network.