SUNY's RFP process bypassed top two minority bidders
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Unrest over SUNY's sale of Brooklyn's Long Island College Hospital (LICH) continues, this time with New York's minority leaders, who are demanding an investigation into the state’s process in choosing a buyer for the shuttered Cobble Hill hospital.
A press conference is planned for 9:30 a.m. Friday on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan.
The advocacy groups are urging Governor Cuomo, Attorney General Schneiderman and Comptroller DiNapoli to instruct the SUNY Board to suspend its deal with developer Fortis Property Group until they can justify bypassing the two highest-ranked bidders for the hospital.
Both of the top bidders – Brooklyn Health Partners (BHP) and the Peebles Corporation -- are minority-owned developers.
Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, President of the NAACP NYS Conference is set to attend, along with Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara, Chair of the NYS Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus; Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green, President of Mobilizing Preachers and Communities (MPAC); and others.
In a joint statement, the groups said, “An official inquiry should explore the lack of transparency in the negotiation process and the peculiarity in which Fortis – the third place bidder of the current bid – has been positioned as the preferred buyer."
They added, “The Governor, Attorney General and Comptroller have a short window and real opportunity to validate their transparency, accountability and commitment to our communities immediately to halt SUNY’s sale of LICH.”
The SUNY board of trustees officially approved the sale of LICH to Fortis on Wednesday.
SUNY’s Request for Proposals (RFP) process in the selling LICH had been challenged earlier by Brooklyn community groups, patients and doctors who said a panel ranking the proposals did not follow the rules worked out in a court settlement. According to the re-issued RFP, proposals offering to operate a full-service hospital at the site were to be ranked higher than non-hospital proposals.
State Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes rejected the challenge, however. In his decision, he wrote, “Ultimately, the decision to accept a particular Offer, as provided in the Stipulation, lies solely in the discretion of SUNY, subject to the implicit requirement that the parties negotiate in good faith.”
Other LICH advocates have raised questions about SUNY’s “fast-tracking” of Fortis by state agencies. Fortis had been chosen by SUNY in January in an initial RFP process that was later rejected for lack of transparency.
BHP’s proposal for LICH included a hospital at the Cobble Hill site, while developer Don Peebles agreed to conduct a community needs survey and build a hospital if necessary.
Fortis plans to develop the one million-square-foot LICH campus as co-ops. Fortis says it will not operate a hospital, but proposes to lease space to NYU-Langone and Lutheran Medical Center for ambulatory services, a “stand-alone” ER, doctors offices and other health-related services.
LICH, which serves a swath of Brooklyn from Red Hook to Williamsburg, including Downtown, was closed by SUNY after more than a year of protests, the arrests of city officials and an intense court battle before state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes.A vestigial walk-in center is still in operation, but is not allowed to treat serious cases or receive ambulances.