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Alarm raised about ‘dark money’ in de Blasio’s LICH - Fortis letter

Backlash grows over a controversial letter supporting the sale of LICH to a developer, sent out by de Blasio lobbyists. Photo by Mary Frost

Brooklyn Heights Association joins fray, debunks ‘Reilly’ letter

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The backlash continues against a letter sent out by a de Blasio lobbying group supporting the sale of Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital (LICH) to a developer.  

The government watchdog group Common Cause raised alarms on Tuesday about “dark money” funding the mass mailing, and the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) has added its voice to those debunking the letter's claims.

The controversial June 26 letter touts the “stand-alone ER” that will be replacing the historic hospital. Although it was signed by Carroll Gardens’ resident Gary Reilly, the letter was mailed from the headquarters of de Blasio lobbyists operating under the name “The Campaign for One New York.”

In the letter, Reilly says, “I was asked by Mayor de Blasio to share my views on what [the sale of LICH] means for families in Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn and Red Hook.” 

The outcome, Reilly writes, “. . . is a lot better than we had reason to think one year ago.” With SUNY selling the hospital complex to developer Fortis Property Group, “We will have a freestanding, high quality emergency room, with up to 20 observational beds.”

The letter has evoked a storm of criticism from residents of these neighborhoods who fought for more than a year to save the hospital, and who supported de Blasio in his campaign for mayor largely based on his promise to save LICH.

That promise was seemingly forgotten after the election, however.

In its statement, the BHA disputes the letter’s claim that a “stand-alone ER” could replace the 156-year-old hospital. After consulting area doctors, BHA found that patients with serious conditions would have to be transported to other hospitals to be treated. 

“When seconds count, we’ll be out of luck,” their statement reads. BHA lists some of the conditions that will not be able to be treated at the Fortis ER, including, “acute heart attack or cardiac arrest, acute stroke, most pediatric emergencies, massive gastrointestinal bleed, pulmonary embolism, appendicitis, overwhelming infection leading to acute shock, high-risk pregnancy with bleeding, or other major traumas, including car accidents.” (See full letter below this article.)

 

De Blasio’s Use of Lobbying Organization Called ‘Unacceptable’ by Common Cause

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday that de Blasio’s use of a lobbying organization to send out the mailings, “while technically legal, is still unacceptable.”

“Our elected officials have a vast bully pulpit. They should speak to their constituents through their office and the communications staff we pay for – not outside groups who raise limitless amounts of cash from people and entities who want something from city government. Here in New York City we have a very good campaign finance system designed to discourage this kind of ‘buying access.’”

She added, “That is the problem with a system that advantages those with buckets of money. Ordinary citizens’ voices can’t be heard.”

Common Cause is still waiting to see who is putting up the money behind The Campaign for One New York, she said. “It’s a form of dark money, used for the advancement of specific development projects.”

The wealthiest contributors to groups like these are developers, she said. “They have the most to gain or lose.”

As a 501 (c)(4), the group is legally required to file the names of donors who contributed more than $5,000 with the state. Lerner said the group claimed they would disclose these names on Tuesday.

“They claim to be filing,” she said. “We keep waiting.”

The Campaign for One New York is led by Bill Hyers, de Blasio’s campaign manager. Its treasurer, Ross Offinger, is the mayor’s former campaign finance director. De Blasio’s former campaign consultant Stephanie Yazgi serves as its secretary.

This means that the same team that crafted de Blasio’s election campaign -- and his pre-election message that closing LICH would plunge Brooklyn into a health crisis – has created his post-election message that LICH’s sale and development is good news.

Hyers, who joined the powerful public affairs and political consulting firm Hilltop Public Solutions in December, operates out of its New York City office at 32 Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn. The Campaign for One New York also operates out of 32 Court Street.

On the Hilltop website, Hyers quotes newspapers calling his management of the de Blasio campaign “masterful” and “shrewd.”

Some Brooklyn residents who received the letter, however, called it deceptive.

Heights resident Trudy Wassner told the Eagle, “I think what Gary Reilly is saying is terribly misguided. A free-standing emergency room will give this community nothing beyond a 24-hour urgent care center. Even if it were run by Hippocrates himself, an urgent care center cannot accept patients with heart attacks, strokes, traumatic injury and other serious conditions.”  She added, “I am not buying what Gary Reilly is selling."

Susan Raboy, spokesperson for Patients for LICH, said in a statement, “What Mr. Reilly does not understand is that the issue is not elective surgery but about saving lives. Add at least 10 minutes to nearest hospital and hours waiting in ER, and a patient could die. The latest hospital rankings have no Brooklyn hospital in the top 20. LICH was once in the top five.” She added, “We already have what NYU is planning.”

Dr. Arnold Licht, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at LICH for 25 years, said in a letter addressed to Reilly, “I would hope that you are medically naïve and thus led astray by your ‘experts.’ The alternative is that you are simply a toady for the  de Blasio camp and the Mayor’s abandoning LICH to the big money real estate interests. Perhaps you know what the Mayor will get himself arrested for in his next campaign as LICH won’t be around for him to use next time.”

Dr. Toomas Sorra, a member of Concerned Physicians for LICH, told the Brooklyn Eagle, “The Reilly letter seems to be a blatant attempt by Mayor de Blasio to justify his desertion of LICH. The Fortis ER will not provide the backup necessary for any acute emergency, whether that be cardiac, major trauma, surgical, obstetrical or otherwise. If you have suspected appendicitis, have vaginal bleeding and are 30 weeks pregnant, have major rectal bleeding or any other similar problem, the message is: Don't go to Fortis ER if you have anything serious!”

 

Statements follow.

 

______________________________________________

 

Statement from the Brooklyn Heights Association

LICH Update: What Will the Fortis ER Provide?

Following the announced closing of Long Island College Hospital (“LICH”), residents are confused by a letter they received that is signed by Gary Reilly, Carroll Gardens Assn. board member, bearing the return address "The Campaign for One New York".  In the letter, which he said he "was asked to send by Mayor de Blasio", Reilly says the LICH site will have a "free-standing, high-quality emergency room", which, he acknowledges, will not provide "in-patient services like elective surgery and some very specialized forms of care."

LICH’s buyer, Fortis Property Group, has said it has no plans to open a hospital on the LICH site. Instead, Fortis has said that NYU-Langone, Lutheran Family Services and Lutheran Medical Center will provide ambulatory healthcare services in a new building they will build, with a stand-alone emergency department that has 20 observational beds.

What does “ambulatory health care services” mean?  In an effort to prepare Heights residents for what to expect in the absence of a hospital to back up the ER, the BHA asked several doctors formerly associated with LICH to explain specifically what services the stand-alone emergency room – as Fortis has described it - would provide.  They said that walk-in non-emergency illnesses and injuries such as sprains, cuts and bruises, flu, sore throats and fever could be treated there. To read Fortis' description of medical services to be offered at LICH, click here: http://www.thebha.org/userfiles/HealthProposal.pdf

When seconds count, we’ll be out of luck.  Ambulance/EMT protocol requires technicians to take anyone with serious medical problems, including: acute heart attack or cardiac arrest, acute stroke, most pediatric emergencies, massive gastrointestinal bleed, pulmonary embolism, appendicitis, overwhelming infection leading to acute shock, high-risk pregnancy with bleeding, or other major traumas, including car accidents, to the nearest hospital with the capabilities to treat such conditions. The Fortis ER will not have the capacity to treat such serious medical emergencies.

______________________________________________

 

Letter from Dr. Arnold Licht to the Campaign for One New York

 

Arnold Licht, MD

161 Atlantic Ave

Brooklyn, NY 11201

Tel: 718-237-2150

Fax: 718-237-4434

 

July 8, 2014

 

Gary Reilly

Campaign for One New York

32 Court Street Suite 2109

Brooklyn, NY 11201

 

 

Dear Mr. Riley,

 

I don’t know which facts you have looked into and which experts you have spoken to, but they are clearly the wrong facts and experts who know so little.

First let me tell you something about myself. I have lived in Brooklyn since 1967 and in Cobble Hill since 1974. I founded the comprehensive Department of Psychiatry at Long Island College Hospital and was its Chairman for twenty five years before retiring in 2006. I now run a psychiatric specialty group on Atlantic Avenue. I have appeared regularly on the Castle Connoly list of top doctors. I am an expert and know the facts.

Prior to Continuum getting its hands on LICH it was far and away the best hospital in Brooklyn.

Even at the time of SUNY’s announcing its’ closing LICH was ranked only a tad lower than Maimonides by US News’ Hospital Rankings as the best hospital in Brooklyn.

Lutheran Hospital which you claim will run “high quality” medical services for our community has always been a second class institution. In the US News rankings it’s not even assigned  a high quality ranking for any of its services. It is ranked below Brooklyn, Methodist and below Interfaith and Brookdale hospitals. Whatever they will provide cannot come close to any of LICH’s now defunct services.

NYU is a quality medical institution and as such they are well aware that “ free standing emergency room” is a contradiction in terms. Any true emergency will require immediate transfer to an outpatient service (possibly Langone?) What we will have in the midst of all the new condominiums is another urgent care center. We have plenty of those already. Those are the facts.

I would hope that you are medically naïve and thus led astray by your “experts”. The alternative is that you are simply a toadie for the DiBlasio camp and the Mayor’s abandoning LICH to the big money real estate interests. Perhaps you know what the Mayor will get himself arrested for in his next campaign as LICH won’t be around for him to use next time.

 

Sincerely,

 

Arnold l. Licht, MD FAPA

Physician in Charge and President 

BPA Behavioral Medicine, Clinical and Consultative services PC

 

July 15, 2014 - 6:06pm


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