By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The battle for shuttered Long Island College Hospital (LICH) played out in front of the state Appellate Division in Brooklyn Heights on Thursday, as supporters waved signs reading, “Save LICH!” and “We’re still here, we still need a full service hospital.”
The rally was held to support an appeal by a doctors group seeking to overturn the State University of New York’s (SUNY) decision to award the hospital property to Fortis Property Group.
SUNY has been trying to throw out the appeal of the Concerned Physicians of LICH, one of many community groups that fought for more than two years to save the historic Cobble Hill hospital.
Update: The Eagle learned late Friday that the Concerned Physicians appeal was dismissed by the court. Check back soon for the full story.
Barbara Gartner, a member of the group Patients for LICH, said, “The Physicians have a good case, they should have their day in court.”
Holly Fuchs, corresponding secretary to the Society of Old Brooklynites, attended the rally with wheelchair-bound Alfred Kohler, a former professor at Touro and St. Francis colleges. Fuchs said the LICH ER “was wonderful after Alfred suffered a traumatic brain injury” in a bike accident. “Now, there’s no place to go.”
SUNY trustees voted to approve the sale of LICH to Fortis Property Group for $240 million in June 2014. The sale cannot close, however, if litigation is pending.
A lawyer for the Concerned Physicians told the Brooklyn Eagle on Friday that a decision on SUNY's motion to dismiss the appeal could come this week.
“SUNY contended in their request for dismissal that the Concerned Physicians were not a party to [attorney for LICH's community supporters] Jim Walden's original motion,” said attorney Eric Creizman. “However, the transcripts from the hearing held on June 10, 2014 shows SUNY's contention to be completely untrue.”
Creizman pointed out that on page 34 of the transcript, Walden states, "… and to be clear, the motion that we submitted was not just for the community groups, it was all those doctors that had been here from the beginning who we now represent filed this motion as well."
The doctors were also listed as a party on various other documents reviewed by state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes, Creizman said.
SUNY attorney Frank Carone, however, maintains the Physicians lack the standing to appeal.
“How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” he said on Friday. “SUNY’s position has not changed. The Concerned Physicians or any individual member can spin it all they want. They simply have no standing.”
Supporters: Court failed to enforce the settlement
Supporters say the court failed to enforce a settlement that was worked out by community groups, health care workers and SUNY after months of protests and litigation.
Patients for LICH member Cynthia Nebel told the Eagle during Thursday’s rally, “The courts failed to enforce the settlement stipulation that called for a full service hospital to be given a higher technical score. This was highly bargained for."
“We believe that Johnny Lee Baynes erred when he refused to grant what Jim Walden wanted, one of three things: either discovery, or throw out the scores of the six evaluators who breached the settlement stipulation, or re-do the RFP,” Nebel added.
Concerned Physicians member Dr. Douglas Sepkowitz filed the appeal on behalf of the group. “We gave up contempt charges against SUNY to get a new RFP with the purpose of getting a full-service hospital,” he told the Eagle in March.
“It was understood by all, overseen by Justice Baynes, approved and applauded by the newly-elected mayor. But the RFP had rules: more points were to be given to full-service hospital proposals. That’s not what we got. The deal made in February did not abide by the rules of the RFP.”
NYU Langone has been running a walk-in emergency department at the site since last June and plans to expand the facility in 2017 or 2018 to include a “freestanding ER,” outpatient ambulatory surgery, doctors’ offices, labs and a cancer center.