By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In the continuum of legal maneuvers involving the embattled Long Island College Hospital (LICH) and the State of New York University-Downstate (SUNY), a Brooklyn Supreme Court justice has granted Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio permission to help find a new operator for the hospital.
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justices Johnny Lee Baynes and Carolyn Demarest have, throughout the summer, placed various blocks on the attempts of LICH’s operator, SUNY, to cease LICH’s existence as a functioning hospital and maintaining LICH’s mission “to provide, on a non-profit basis, hospital facilities and services for the care and treatment of persons who are acutely ill or who otherwise require medical care…”
Given that SUNY has made it clear in its actions, legal filings and statements to the public to close LICH, Demarest has ordered a new operator be assigned to take over the operations of LICH and recommended that its former operator, Continuum Health Partners, take on the operator role once again. Continuum, however, has “adamantly refused to assume responsibility for operating the LICH hospital,” court papers revealed.
Given Continuum’s refusal to take on the task, Demarest, “in order to preserve what remains of LICH as an operating hospital,” permitted SUNY to continue its function as LICH operator until a qualified entity can be selected to assume the responsibility. Many groups have deemed the search and appointment of such an operator to be high priority.
A myriad of community groups, along with de Blasio, submitted a motion to intervene in an attempt to plead the court to allow de Blasio and the groups to take an active role in selecting the needed LICH operator and removing SUNY from LICH’s helm. SUNY argued against the intervening motion primarily on the grounds that the moving papers did not follow procedural guidelines for filing motions in special proceedings — the current posture of the LICH/SUNY case.
Demarest, not finding SUNY’s argument persuasive, noted that New York procedure allows for persons to “intervene in an action … when the representation of the person’s interest…may be bound by the judgment.” Procedure also allows for the word “action” to include “special proceeding[s],” Demarest pointed out. Therefore, Demarest found SUNY’s argument that the moving papers failed to follow adequate procedure to be “unavailing.”
Further, the moving parties have a significant interest in the ultimate judgment of the court as to the new operator of LICH, Demarest found. Here, the community groups argued that they bring “a unique to the community’s need for hospital services,” and de Blasio asserted that as Public Advocate, he is “charge[d] with standing up for the delivery of key services—such as health care—to all New Yorkers,” the motion papers declared.
SUNY challenged de Blasio’s intervention in the matter arguing, that “it is not enough that [the Public Advocate has] an opinion about how [LICH’s] assets should be used in the future." Demarest noted the as public advocate, de Blasio does not have free reign to enter all litigation, but stated that de Blasio “merely seeks to participate as a representative of that public interest which may not be adequately represented…”
The fact that the community groups and de Blasio have a significant interest in the new operator of LICH allowed Demarest to grant the motion to intervene.
A spokesman for de Blasio’s office says that as the intervening party, “we [the Public Advocate’s Office] would be able to take part in conferences, question witnesses, appeal decisions, sign off on any agreement,” although Justice Demarest would have the ultimate authority to select an operator.
“This community has to have a seat at the table to protect the future of this hospital. We won’t let this become another real estate deal that robs a neighborhood of vital healthcare,” said de Blasio. “We will keep fighting for a long-term solution that keeps LICH open for care.”