By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Protest rallies by supporters of Long Island College Hospital have been continuing on an almost daily basis, and at one of them, Assemblywoman Joan Millman folowed Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and City Councilman Steve Levin’s earlier lead when she was arrested for civil disobedience.
The episode, Assemblywoman Millman told the Eagle, happened on Thursday evening after a rally outside the hospital. This particular protest was a “stroller rally” featuring families of toddlers who had been born at LICH (including the toddlers themselves) as well as nurses and community leaders.
“There was also one pregnant woman who wants her baby to be born at LICH,” she said.
The group then marched to the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge and blocked the roadway, she said. As opposed to Wednesday’s incident in Manhattan at which de Blasio, Levin and 13 others were arrested, only three people were arrested on Thursday night. The other two were Dorothy Siegel and Peter Sikora, both local activists.
The action was planned knowing that some people might get arrested, and the organizers asked people to bring driver’s licenses and other ID, said Millman.
Millman and the other two were taken to the 84th Precinct stationhouse on Gold Street, held for a few hours, then given summonses and released, she continued.
Interestingly, Millman and de Blasio, who was then a councilman, were arrested together in 2003 when they took part in a civil-disobedience action against the planned closing of FDNY Engine Company 204 in Cobble Hill. The firehouse closed anyway.
“This time was better,” said Millman. “Back then, they fingerprinted us and took our mug shots.”
Millman confirmed earlier reports that the hospital, under the administration of the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate University Hospital, had barred ambulances from its emergency room, closed some departments and discouraged new admissions.
“One local woman was choking and gagging, called an ambulance, and it took 20 minutes for the ambulance to drive her to New York Methodist Hospital,” said Millman. Up until recently, the ambulance would have taken her to LICH, taking much less time.
All in all, said the assemblywoman, “Last week, the focus was on the court proceedings. We want to make people don’t lose sight of the hospital issues themselves. We’re trying to get the attention of Governor Cuomo.” So far, the governor has been silent on the issue, despite a petition drive aimed at persuading him to take action to save LICH.
Earlier this year, SUNY Downstate announced its decision to close LICH for financial reasons, but Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes issued a temporary restraining order preventing SUNY from ceasing the hospital function of LICH. Justice Baynes also reportedly appointed former Appellate Justice William Thompson Sr. to mediate the SUNY Downstate-LICH dispute.
A hearing was supposed to be held on Monday before Justice Baynes, but Steven Greenberg, a spokesman for SUNY Downstate, told the Eagle in a statement, “In light of the filing of an appeal with the Appellate Division, proceedings in Supreme Court have been stayed. Therefore, there is no hearing before Justice Baynes on Monday.”
There is also a separate legal case involving LICH before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest, who ordered SUNY Downstate “to account for every stick of property and every dollar it has transferred from Long Island College Hospital (LICH) to itself since it took over LICH on May 29, 2011,” in the words of Eagle reporter Mary Frost.