LICH, Interfaith supporters get out the vote
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In an elegant speech that seemed to catch established TV commentators off guard, Bill de Blasio, who surged ahead in the Democratic mayoral primary with 40 percent of the vote before write-ins were counted, vowed to change the policies “that have left so many New Yorkers outside City Hall.”
Promising “to do something about this tale of two cities,” de Blasio asked, “Is our ambition too bold? Are we guilty of thinking too big?
No, he answered. “We are New Yorkers, proud citizens of the greatest city in the greatest country on Earth. Thinking big isn’t new to us. It’s at the foundation of who we are. We are bigger, better, stronger as a city when we make sure everyone has a shot.”
WABC’s Bill Ritter, sounding surprised, commented, “That sounds mayoral.”
Brooklynites who have followed de Blasio on marches to save threatened Brooklyn hospitals, however, were not surprised by his ambitious vision. In August, after winning a postponement in the closure of Interfaith Medical Center, de Blasio responded to criticism that his Brooklyn Health Authority plan was “too ambitious” to be approved by Albany.
“That’s an amazingly insincere criticism,” he said. “To say it’s just too difficult to have a different vision for the city, so let’s just close hospitals and let rampant inequalities grow, I don’t accept that.”
In their analysis of de Blasio’s win, political analysts described his “luck,” his experienced inner circle, and voters’ rejection of anything smacking of Mayor Bloomberg, including Christine Quinn.
Less emphasized is the galvanizing effect his personal and ongoing commitment to saving Long Island College Hospital (LICH) and Interfaith had in getting out the vote, not only in Brooklyn, but across the city.
De Blasio has personally fought a ferocious battle against the closure of LICH and Interfaith, filing lawsuits, leading marches and even getting arrested with nurses and other LICH supporters for civil disobedience. He issued reports showing the dire consequences of closing these major hospitals and in July, he called for the creation of the Brooklyn Health Authority, with sweeping powers to transform hospitals across the entire borough.
Jill Furillo, Executive Director of the New York State Nurses Association, had told the Brooklyn Eagle after SUNY Downstate voted to close LICH back in March, “NYSNA nurses will do whatever it takes to save our hospital.”
On Tuesday, NYSA rallied nurses and hospital supporters to the polls. NYSNA spokesperson Eliza Bates told the Eagle, “We have almost 30,000 members in the New York metro area,” and they were standing by the man who stood by LICH and Interfaith.
Supporting de Blasio was Maribel Agosto, a nurse at LICH. “We started the fight to save Long Island College Hospital over eight months ago. No one was paying attention to us in the early days. But Bill de Blasio came out and took action again and again to protect patients. We’re really proud and honored that he has stood by us and our patients.”
Interfaith Medical Center nurse Sharon Bedford said she backed de Blasio “because he has supported our patients. As Public Advocate, he filed an injunction in bankruptcy court to keep the hospital where I’ve been working for 12 years open for care.”
Members of health care union 1199SEIU, one of the city’s largest with 200,000 members, had endorsed de Blasio in May. “We need leaders who have a love for New York. It’s not just about buildings and architecture and it’s not just a playground for the wealthy,” said 1199SEIU President George Gresham. “All we want is someone who is going to stand up for all of us.” As the election approached, union organizers pushed their members to the polls.
LICH and Interfaith supporters reportedly voted in big numbers across Brooklyn. On Tuesday, supporter Martine tweeted, “Got 23 confirmations from friends who have voted already!”
Patients at LICH, serving a broad swath of Brooklyn from Red Hook to Williamsburg, also came out to vote. “I do think LICH played a big part in how folk were voting here in [Brooklyn] Heights. I heard many talking about it outside of the temple where I vote,” said Susan Raboy, a patient at LICH who has attended many rallies for the hospital.
“I want a mayor to fight for all New Yorkers the way Bill de Blasio is fighting for LICH. Same for the city council seat,” Raboy said. “Many equate the fight for LICH as the fight for health care and hospital access for all, especially with the roll out or ObamaCare. If residents don't have access to a hospital what good is health insurance?”
De Blasio thanked many people Tuesday night after his victory. He called his wife, Chirlane McCray, “My best friend in the world – strong, compassionate...” And he said that “no father could ask for more from their two kids,” Dante and Chiara.
He thanked the people of Brooklyn, his political advisors and his armies of volunteers, some of whom were nurses wearing the red shirts of NYSNA. Standing on stage behind de Blasio as he hugged his family, beamed NYSNA’s Jill Furillo, who had promised to do “whatever it takes.”.
“You have the knowledge that I’ll never forget what you’ve done,” he told the cheering volunteers who have rallied for him on freezing days and throughout a sweltering summer. “You made this campaign a cause,” he said.