SUNY bypassed two higher-ranked minority bidders for Brooklyn's Long Island College Hospital
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican/ Hispanic and Asian Caucus have sent a letter to the SUNY Board of Trustees expressing deep concern with the way it handled the sale of Long Island College Hospital.
The letter was signed by Caucus Chairman Assemblymember Karim Camara (Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens), Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley (D-57), and 23 other Assembly members.
SUNY bypassed two higher-ranked minority bidders to go with a third-ranked proposal from Fortis Property Group, owned by the prominent Williamsburg Satmar Hasids Louis Kestenbaum and his son Joel. Last week the SUNY board approved the sale to Fortis.
Fortis has no plans to operate a hospital at the site, but will lease 80,000 to 90,000- square feet to several health care providers, including NYU-Langone, for ambulatory healthcare, a “stand-alone ER,” a cancer treatment unit and doctors’ offices.
The caucus is especially disturbed that SUNY rejected prominent minority developer Don Peebles, who came in second in the much-contested RFP process. The first-ranked group, California-based Brooklyn Health Partners, is also minority-owned.
In a letter to the SUNY Board of Trustees, caucus members said they were “greatly concerned” by the process used by SUNY “that resulted in a rushed termination of the top two bidders in the sale of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) campus.
“We ask what were the flaws that led to their rejection? In addition to winning the RFP on the merits of their application, it was also a great opportunity to fulfill this Administration’s expressed intent and policies to include minority-owned-and-managed businesses on major projects of this scale.”
The letter said that the sale of LICH “was the perfect template for the State to showcase its commitment to the principles and spirit of its MWBE program. By SUNY’s own scoring process, a major minority developer was fairly positioned and qualified to take the helm as a prime contractor in the sale of LICH.”
The officials also questioned why SUNY did not “drive a higher profit” from the sale of the one-million-square-foot property “by selling campus assets in smaller parcels.”
Members of the Caucus met on Tuesday to explore their options, Assemblymember Camara told the Brooklyn Eagle.
The letter was cc’ed to Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, and SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall.
Another minority-affiliated group, Mobilizing Preachers & Communities (MPAC), representing 250-plus churches in the city and state, wrote to Governor Cuomo last Tuesday today to express “deep concern about how the SUNY Board and its chairman, H. Carl McCall, have managed the sale of Long Island College Hospital.”
“The recent selection of Fortis by the SUNY Board confirms our suspicions that this process was not intended to be fair and even handed from the start,” they wrote.
MPAC says it is especially troubled by “the fact that the SUNY Board has chosen a developer who is not committed to building and maintaining a full service hospital in Brooklyn. This is a devastating development for our community.”