By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Long Island College Hospital (LICH) supporters are renting buses to travel to Purchase, New York on Tuesday, to speak out against the controversial closure of the Cobble Hill hospital at the SUNY board’s hastily thrown-together re-vote.
“SUNY wouldn't give us a place on the agenda to make our voices heard before their vote on LICH tomorrow,” Eliza Bates, NYS Nurses Association told the Brooklyn Eagle. “So we're holding our own speakout before the vote. We'll be there in full force even though they're holding the vote in Purchase.”
The buses are leaving at 8 a.m., Bates said. People can sign up by emailing [email protected]
SUNY is re-doing its meeting on LICH because Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes ruled last Thursday the original board meeting didn’t comply with the Open Meetings Law.
Supporters, however, say the re-vote is far from “open.” Not only is the hearing being held far from Brooklyn, but the item was added to the SUNY board’s agenda too late to allow interested parties to sign up to for a reserved slot to comment on the closure.
The deadline to sign up for a reserved five-minute slot to comment and submit written material was noon Friday. Others interested in making "brief extemporaneous comments" of "no more than three minutes" will be heard at the end of the hearing.
People can walk in," a SUNY spokesman told the Eagle Friday afternoon. "They won't be turned away."
On Friday, State Senator Daniel Squadron called the move "a slap in the face."
"It's absurd that SUNY is responding to its unlawful lack of transparency with a shocking lack of transparency,” he said. "To hold a hearing nearly 40 miles away, without a reasonable opportunity for those most affected to testify, is simply a slap in the face to all those impacted.”
"The public is supposed to have the opportunity to be present and participate in the public hearing," said Julie Semente, a nurse at LICH and member of the NYS Nurses Association. "Our community consists of neighborhoods from Red Hook to DUMBO across this end of Brooklyn -- not Westchester.”
Financially-troubled SUNY Downstate took over an ailing LICH from Continuum Health Partners in 2011. In light of SUNY's lack of follow through and its actions to close the hospital, many LICH supporters speculate the takeover was a transaction driven by real estate rather than medical considerations.
SUNY Chairman Carl McCall has refused to rule out selling the valuable Brownstone Brooklyn properties, estimated to be worth anywhere from $100 to $500 million.
A coalition of Brooklyn civic organizations -- the Cobble Hill Association, Friends of Sunset Park, the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, the Brooklyn Heights Association, National Action Network, and New York Communities for Change – will be joining nurses, doctors and patients on the trip to Purchase.
“LICH is vital to the community and closing the hospital would put patients from across Brooklyn at risk,” the coalition said Monday in a statement. “For 150 years patients have depended on LICH for emergency and primary care services. Without LICH, Brooklyn’s severely over-crowded emergency rooms would be stretched beyond capacity, wait times would increase, and patient outcomes would get worse.”
The meeting takes place at SUNY Purchase, 735 Anderson Hill Road in Purchase, New York on Tuesday, March 19th at 12:30 p.m., followed by the hearing at 3 p.m. The proceedings will be livestreamed and can be viewed at the SUNY Downstate Campus, Education Building, Auditoria ABC at 395 Lenox Road in Brooklyn; and at LICH's Avram Conference Center, 339 Hicks Street in Cobble Hill. Proceedings can also be viewed online at http://www.suny.edu/Board_of_Trustees/meetingnotices.cfm (special viewing software, which can be found here, is necessary).