Cuomo challenger calls hospital deal ‘classic corruption’
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham law professor challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the upcoming Sept. 9 primary, called for an investigation into the sale of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) during a press conference in Cobble Hill Saturday morning.
Brooklyn was the final stop on Teachout’s statewide “whistleblower tour” where she’s been visiting “some of the most egregious examples” of corruption in Albany, she said.
“The closing of LICH and the process through which the sale happened -- a sale where a health facility becomes a real estate development – is classic corruption,” she told a gathering of community members and health care workers.
“That bidding process looks a lot like the bidding process that I studied when I was studying corruption in Bosnia,” she added.
She called for an investigation by the state Attorney General.
The 20-building LICH campus is being sold by SUNY to a developer, Fortis Property Group, despite almost two years of litigation and protests. Before the deal can close, however, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman must approve the sale.
Calling Cuomo “cold and silent” on the health care crisis in Brooklyn and on issues such as underfunded schools, she said, “I have a vision for this state where everyone has meaningful access to health care and health facilities. I don’t think an urgent care taxi stand is meaningful access to a hospital,” she said, referring to a walk-in center that will lease space on the site of the former hospital.
Other stops on her whistle-blower tour included a Pennsylvania fracking site, “because Cuomo has taken over a million dollars in pro-fracking money,” Teachout said, and a Manhattan luxury tower built by developer Extell, inventor of the “poor door.” Soon after Extell donated $100,000 to Cuomo, he signed a bill giving the company millions in tax breaks.
The Brooklyn Eagle has reached out to the Governor’s Office for comment but has not yet received a response.
While many voters are still not sure who Teachout is, her whistleblower tour has attracted the attention of voters angry about issues like fracking, the new Common Core curriculum in schools, and corruption in Albany. Teachout lags Gov. Cuomo in name-recognition, but appeared to pick up some new supporters in Cobble Hill.
“Cuomo, we have watched you destroy a hospital. We have had enough,” Charlene Nimmons, president of the Wyckoff Gardens Resident Association, said, throwing her support behind Teachout. Wyckoff Gardens is one of the six community litigants in the LICH legal battle. “We’ve watched you allow your drones to mismanage over $100 million” at LICH,” she said.
Jeff Strabone, corresponding secretary of the Cobble Hill Association, speaking on his own behalf, said that Cuomo is “not a Democrat. He’s for fracking, he’s for casinos, he’s for lower taxes on the rich, he’s for lower corporate taxes, he closed this hospital right across the street on a campaign of lies to sell it to his friends.”
"I’m a teacher, I’ve held teach-ins, I don’t know what a Teachout is, but I’m going to find out," he said.
Rev. John Williams of New Creation Ministries in Flatbush said that Cuomo was losing the support of the faith-based community because he failed to clean up Albany as promised.
Several LICH employees and former staffers said they liked what they saw in Teachout. May Ng, a pharmacist for LICH, told the Brooklyn Eagle, “She’s available, she believes in grassroots and she is running against Cuomo who destroyed our hospital. Good enough for me.”
Paul Guzman, a former LICH employee, agreed. “I hope she defeats him because we need LICH back.”
"Every leader in this state should be shouting about what Cuomo and his trustees did to LICH, how the community was railroaded, almost 2,000 New Yorkers were put out of work, and a vital medical facility was shut down to benefit wealthy real estate developers and other friends of the Governor," said Julie Semente, long-time LICH nurse and member of the New York State Nurses Association's executive committee at LICH, speaking on her own behalf.
Semente said Teachout had her vote. "I hope Ms. Teachout talks loud and clear about what was done to LICH and the communities it served," she said.
Dr. Jon Berall felt that Teachout and her running mate Tim Wu could bring LICH back. “She’s new energy, young energy, smart energy and she’s angry energy.”
Jeanie Segall, part of the skeleton crew remaining at the LICH clinic, said, “I’m so glad there’s somebody out there who embodies and wants to support the values that the Democratic Party is supposed to value and support.”
Some former LICH patients said they also liked Teachout. “I just think it’s great that somebody is going to be running against Cuomo,” said Bette Bast. “She’s going to beat his tail.”
“I’m just looking forward to getting Gov. Cuomo out and somebody new into office who actually cares about healthcare and people, and continuing service and not closing any more hospitals,” said Debra Bingham.
Doug Biviano, running for Assembly in the 52nd District in Brooklyn, said that he hoped that Teachout, "as an expert in corruption," would be looking into the “special interest relationships, the power grabs behind all this." He accused Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Working Families Party, “party boss” Frank Seddio and his law partner and SUNY attorney Frank Carone of working together as part of the political machine.
This story has been update to delete some lines at the end that were a repeeat of an earlier quote.