Throws out NYSNA suit; NYU to operate LICH ER
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Brooklyn judge dismissed a lawsuit by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) on Monday, allowing NYU-Langone to take over the walk-in emergency department at Long Island College Hospital (LICH) without rehiring LICH nurses.
The walk-in center is all that’s left of LICH, which SUNY is selling to developer Fortis Property Group. Fortis plans luxury condos at the Cobble Hill site.
State Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes ruled that NYU doesn’t have to give current LICH nurses priority in staffing the walk-in center, even though they committed to do so in the proposal that won Fortis Property Group the bid.
Justice Baynes wrote in his ruling that the commitment to rehire LICH nurses was not in the original Settlement Agreement made between NYSNA (and others) and SUNY, but only in Fortis’ proposal.
NYSNA was seeking to compel “non-parties to this proceeding, Fortis and NYU to take certain actions not provided for in the Settlement Agreement...,” Baynes wrote.
“The relief sought by NYSNA was never contemplated by the Settlement Agreement between the parties. Nor is NYSNA now seeking either injunctive relief, as stated by counsel for NYSNA on the record on September 18, 2014. NYSNA also does not claim, nor can it that it is a signatory to any contract between SUNY and Fortis nor a third-party beneficiary of any such contract. Frankly, it is unclear what it is that NYSNA seeks, and the instant application must fail procedurally and substantively,” Baynes wrote.
On Sept. 18, NYSNA attorney Richard Seltzer had argued that NYU’s promises were “material to the RFP. NYU and SUNY are acting as if these words don’t exist. This is a bait-and-switch, your honor.”
After Baynes ordered that NYU and Fortis be brought into NYSNA's litigation, NYU announced it was dropping out of the bid.
Over the weekend, Capital New York reported that NYU had agreed to rejoin the deal if NYSNA’s lawsuit was dropped or dismissed. On Monday, it was dismissed.
In his decision, Baynes wrote that he had included NYU and Fortis in the litigation to give them the chance to state their opinion about the lawsuit in writing. “The Court has been advised that neither NYU nor Fortis wish to submit papers on this matter. Therefore, the Court now renders decision on NYSNA’s Motion.”
Eliza Bates, spokesperson for NYSNA, said the nurses were disappointed in the ruling. "We are reviewing the court's decision and considering our options. We remain committed to protecting care for Brooklyn patients."
SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall said in a statement that the ruling would “bring a positive health care outcome for Cobble Hill and a sensible solution for the State University of New York.”
NYU Langone Medical Center “can soon begin providing their world-class services, and SUNY can return to providing its students with a world-class education,” he added.
NYU said in a statement, "NYU Langone Medical Center is looking forward to expanding our practice of excellent health care at the NYU Langone Cobble Hill facility."
Roughly two dozen nurses will be working at the facility. LICH had previously employed more than 1,500 health care workers.
No date set for return of ambulance service
NYU had previously committed to restart ambulance service to LICH by Sept. 1. An NYU spokesperson said Monday that NYU had no further details about the timing of their takeover. NYU received “contingent approval” from the state Department of Health (DOH) in June to operate the walk-in center.
Officials have been pushing for the immediate return of ambulance service to LICH. Since LICH was put on ambulance diversion, ERs across Brooklyn have become overwhelmed, with stretchers and paramedics filling emergency department hallways, creating delays throughout the system.
NYU also committed to build a new ambulatory care center on a nearby street. A lawyer for SUNY said in court on Sept. 18 that it would be a “state-of-the-art” $150 million facility.
NYU has not filed for this facility with DOH, however. NYU has filed for an “Ambulatory Surgery Center at LICH” to be located at 97 Amity Street, at a total project cost of $5,769,250. The filing is under “administrative review.”
Not everyone applauds deal
Despite the rosy scenario painted by SUNY and NYU about the walk-in facility, many community members and officials say northwest Brooklyn needs a full-service hospital, not another urgent care center.
Several members of the LICH coalition said on Monday that the failure of NYU to follow through on its commitment to rehire the nurses reflects the state’s failure to act ethically throughout the entire LICH closure.
“First they shut our hospital, now they’re trying to bust the unions,” Jeff Strabone, spokesperson for the Cobble Hill Association, told the Brooklyn Eagle.
“There’s no rule of law in New York State when the governor is involved,” he said. “Stipulations don’t mean anything, restraining orders don’t mean anything – whatever Cuomo says goes.”
Trudy Wassner, a Brooklyn Heights resident and member of Patients for LICH, offered her personal opinion on the ruling. “I am distraught to think that nothing we do, our representatives do, the nurses, doctors, communities – all the facts and the truth that we’ve uncovered to shine a light on this unjust closing of LICH matters. Because New York State is so corrupt that SUNY and Cuomo can literally get away with murder to make their deal.”
SUNY has battled a coalition of community groups, local officials, patients and LICH staff for almost two years as it pushed to close the 157-year-old hospital, which served a fast-growing swath of Brooklyn stretching from Red Hook to Williamsburg.
At a rally on Sept. 24, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer said, “Brooklyn’s exploding population needs more health care services, not less.” He called the lack of hospital services to the communities served by LICH a “civil rights issue.”
City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who represents Red Hook, a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area, said during the rally, "This summer a death in Red Hook was very much related and took place right after LICH’s closure. This affects us in a very real way.”