By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Roughly 500 supporters chanting "Health care, not condos!" joined nurses, doctors and elected leaders in Red Hook for a march to Long Island College Hospital (LICH), to keep the Cobble Hill institution open.
While the hospital serves a swath of Brooklyn from Red Hook to Williamsburg, Red Hook residents say their lives depend on LICH; the neighborhood is designated a “Health Professional Shortage Area” by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
“Long Island College Hospital is vital to Brooklyn – especially for medically-underserved neighborhoods like Red Hook, where LICH is the closest primary and acute care facility,” Jill Furillo, RN and Executive Director of the New York State Nurses Association, said in a statement.
“Common sense needs to prevail. This hospital is direly needed in South Brooklyn, Downtown Brooklyn, and especially areas like Red Hook, where people are still recovering from and have yet to see the long-term health impacts of Hurricane Sandy,” said LICH nurse and NYSNA member Linda O’Neill.
"LICH remains open -- and our fight continues. There's no question: closing LICH makes no sense,” said state Senator Daniel Squadron. “Now DOH [Department of Health] can and must ensure that the needs of our community and all of Brooklyn are met."
The SUNY board of trustees voted on March 19 to close LICH, a SUNY Downstate affiliate. SUNY said the move was necessary to save financially troubled SUNY Downstate in East Flatbush.
Downstate’s head, Dr. John Williams, said at that time, “We are losing money -- $12 million a month between the two hospitals.”
LICH supporters say that Downstate means to sell LICH’s valuable brownstone real estate to keep itself afloat – regardless of the health consequences.
A restraining order issued by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes, however, bars the New York State Department of Health from shutting LICH down until a hearing on May 2.
The rally was sponsored by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the New York State Nurses Association. New York Communities for Change’s Political Director Amelia Adams emceed. Other community participants included the Red Hook Initiative, the Cobble Hill Association, Carroll Gardens Association, and the National Action Network.
Elected leaders came out to show their support, including State Assembly Members Joan Millman, James Brennan and Felix Ortiz, State Senators Eric Adams and Daniel Squadron, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Council Members Sara Gonzalez, Mathieu Eugene, Letitia James, Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, and former City Council Member Sal Albanese.