By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
During the past few weeks, we’ve gotten used to photos of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who also is a Democratic mayoral hopeful, on the front lines with nurses, doctors and community residents outside Long Island College Hospital, demanding that SUNY Downstate keep the beleaguered hospital open. Some people think de Blasio is out there because he’s from a nearby area in Brooklyn, has been involved with local issues for many years and sincerely cares about healthcare and hospitals. Others, who are more cynical, think that de Blasio has seized on to LICH as a campaign issue.
No matter what de Blasio’s motivations, my question is not why he is doing this. My question is simple: Where are the other mayoral candidates? (And please note that I am not a partisan of any mayoral candidate—they each have their good and bad points, and indeed, I've changed my mind several times).
Accounts of de Blasio’s arrest mentioned that two other mayoral candidates, former Congressman Anthony Weiner and City Councilman John Liu, were at the same demonstration but didn’t choose to get arrested. Now, I can understand that – getting arrested isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But a search of the internet for “John Liu, Long Island College Hospital” and “Anthony Weiner, Long Island College Hospital” reveal very little except the fact that those two candidates were at that rally. Liu and Weiner certainly are opposed to the closing of LICH – otherwise they wouldn’t have been there – but it doesn’t seem like the issue is an important part of their campaigns.
Bill Thompson Jr., like de Blasio, has lived in Brooklyn for quite a long time, and one would think he would have something to say about the SUNY-LICH affair. But a search for “William Thompson LICH” or “Bill Thompson LICH” mainly comes up with mentions of his father, former Appellate Judge William Thompson Sr., who was reportedly named as mediator in the dispute. Perhaps that’s why Thompson Jr. hasn’t been front-and-center on the issue – to avoid a conflict of interest, since his father is involved.
Now, we come to Sal Albanese, former city councilman from Bay Ridge. Sal has been as outspoken as de Blasio on LICH, although he doesn’t get as much publicity. According to his campaign website, he “raised the alarm” on LICH as early as January, called for an investigation of the hospital’s finances by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and has repeatedly taken part in demonstrations. Albanese also is in favor of a moratorium on hospital closings. So kudos to Albanese for a job well done.
Now we get to Christine Quinn, who was considered the front-runner until Weiner came along. She came to at least one LICH protest, saying that SUNY has “gone rogue” and demanding an overseer. She also released a statement on Twitter saying "Access to vital health care, esp. during a heat wave, is essential. We demand #LICH keep its doors open as stipulated by law.” Still, many people in Quinn’s own backyard say that she didn’t do enough to save St. Vincent’s Hospital in a similar case several years ago.
That leaves the Republican candidates. I couldn’t find any material on the web about either John Lhota’s or John Catsimatids’ stands on the issue. Why this is, I won’t speculate.
To sum up, the question shouldn’t be why de Blasio is getting up there, day after day, and protesting about LICH. It should be, “Where are the other candidates?”