Sen. Montgomery breaks with other Brooklyn pols, drops support for LICH

Three days after standing  with a half-dozen other federal and state officials in Brooklyn “against SUNY's latest attempt to turn LICH into a luxury condo deal,” state Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-25) broke with the group on Friday and sent SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall a letter endorsing the Brooklyn Hospital Center’s proposal to build apartments at the Long Island College Hospital site and “redesign the Long Island College Hospital health delivery system.”

“This is an opportunity to stabilize the delivery of health care services in Brooklyn and move forward towards a future network of locally delivered community health,” Sen. Montgomery, who represents areas served by SUNY Downstate and Brooklyn Hospital, said in her letter. “It will also save SUNY Downstate, one of the great teaching and medical institutions in the country.” (Sen. Montgomery’s entire letter follows below.)

SUNY "reopened" the RFP (Request for Proposals) process this past week to five of the seven finalists from the first round in July 2013, giving them five days to reconfigure their bids, and sent a letter to officials asking them to choose two representatives to help judge the resubmitted offers.

SUNY Chairman McCall said in a statement Saturday that he “appreciates Senator Montgomery's recognition of both the seriousness of the crisis to SUNY and the community. As one of the elected representatives of the people  with the most to gain by a viable long term health solution we respect her input and continue to call on all stakeholders to join this open and transparent process.” (His entire statement is below.)

While Brooklyn officials who represent LICH’s service area did not comment on Sen. Montgomery’s move, they sent their own letter to Chairman McCall.

In it, they said they refused to participate in the rejiggered RFP, calling it illegal and non-transparent.  

“As federal, state and city elected officials representing the community impacted by Long Island College Hospital, we are deeply disappointed in the wide gap between your letter of January 30, which claims SUNY has embarked on a process that is ‘reopened and publicly transparent,’ and your continued actions, which neither correct the deficiencies of the July Request for Proposals (RFP), nor add meaningful transparency. As we have told you collectively, SUNY's current path is not legal and will not lead to the best possible conclusion to address the community's needs. As such, we will not participate in this process.”

(The officials’ letter, signed by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, and Councilmembers Brad Lander, Steve Levin, and Carlos Menchaca, follows below.)

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James also sent a scathing letter to McCall, declining his offer “to join a flawed and unfair process that is not consistent with the New York State Procurement Guidelines and does not offer the people of Brooklyn the best value for this critical health care provider. As Public Advocate, I have a fiduciary obligation to ensure that a fair method is used when the sale of public assets are sold to private parties. l am not confident that obligation would be fulfilled in the current situation.”

"It was my hope that after having violated the State’s open meeting laws and diverting ambulances in contempt of a judicial order, SUNY had learned from its mistakes," James wrote. "Yet once again, the State University of New York seeks to subvert the process and undermine the people’s access to the essential health care that LICH provides and jeopardize the jobs of the employees who work there." (Her entire letter is included below.)

SUNY spokesperson David Doyle said that if the officials choose not to be part of SUNY’s process, that is “their choice.”

“Throughout the process that has lasted more than a year we have and will continue to work with all stakeholders to end the health crisis at LICH. If individuals choose not to be part of the process that is their choice,” Doyle said. “It is imperative, however, that we continue SUNY's open and transparent effort to reach a common sense solution to provide long term health care services to the community. The community, our medical school and our students across the SUNY system deserve no less.”

Attorney Jim Walden of the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who represents six community groups fighting to save LICH, thanked the officials for standing by the community’s wishes, and called Sen. Montgomery’s decision “unfortunate.”

"We are grateful for those elected officials who stuck by what is right, who stuck by the community,” Walden told the Brooklyn Eagle on Saturday.

"The affected communities have spoken loudly, clearly, and emphatically: they want a full and fair process designed to find a hospital operator at LICH,” Walden said. “Senator Montgomery's apparent decision to abandon this principle is very unfortunate. There will be a time in the very near future when the Freedom of Information laws will allow us greater visibility into the decision some politicians reached to turn their backs on their constituents' clearly articulated goals."

LICH supporters have been fighting SUNY’s attempts to sell LICH, in Cobble Hill, for more than a year, saying that closing the hospital will cripple health care delivery in some of the fastest-growing and underserved neighborhoods in northwestern Brooklyn.

Sen. Montgomery represents District 25 in the New York State Senate. On January 20, mentioning Interfaith Medical Center, SUNY Downstate, Long Island College Hospital  and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, Sen. Montgomery said, "There is a move against hospitals in Brooklyn unlike anything seen ever before. The buck stops with Governor Cuomo."

On Wednesday, Councilmember Carlos Menchaca call LICH a “lifeline for the communities that I serve, particularly Red Hook.”

In July, 2013, Montgomery introduced a bill with state Sen. Kevin Parker (D-21) directing that that if LICH’s valuable real estate was sold,  “two thirds of the net asset value . . .  will be devoted to subsidy of SUNY Downstate Hospital and Long Island College Hospitals' operations during a three year transition and development period.” Under her bill, the other third of the LICH money would go towards developing “freestanding primary and ambulatory care satellites.”

There have been other bills sending money from the sale of LICH to SUNY Downstate as well. In July, state Senators Eric Adams (now Brooklyn Borough President) and Kevin Parker introduced a bill that would fund a "Brooklyn health trust" with money “equal to the proceeds derived from the sale” of the 18 LICH properties. The health trust would serve elderly and poor patients at SUNY Downstate. Brooklyn’s Borough President -- Adams -- would serve as chair, and would appoint ten members of the 15-person board. Adams reiterated his support for SUNY's sale of LICH as recently as Wednesday.

In the first round of bidding, SUNY said that LICH’s real estate had been won by Fortis Property Group, which plans to develop condos. Fortis’ proposal also included ambulatory care provided by ProHealth medical group, but after the RFP (Request for Proposals) process ended Fortis changed the medical care provider to NYU-Langone.

Brooklyn Hospital Center, which hopes to develop apartments at the site, objected to the change in Fortis’ original proposal after the RFP period had ended. Neither of these plans call for a hospital.

Advocates for LICH say the original RFP process was shrouded in secrecy and slanted towards real estate developers, and the “redo” is more of the same.

SUNY Downstate acquired LICH in 2011 with the understanding it would operate the complex as a full service hospital. A year ago, cash-strapped SUNY announced they would be closing LICH, but a series of court orders has barred SUNY from closing the hospital.

SUNY and DOH officials are facing contempt charges on February 11 before state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes for violating his orders on multiple occasions.

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Statements

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Brooklyn Elected Officials Respond to SUNY on Long Island College Hospital

BROOKLYN -- Today, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, and Councilmembers Brad Lander, Steve Levin, and Carlos Menchaca sent the following letter to State University of New York (SUNY) Chairman Carl McCall regarding Long Island College Hospital (LICH):

February 1, 2014

H. Carl McCall, Chairman, Board of Trustees

The State University of New York

33 West 42nd Street

New York, NY 10036

Dear Chairman McCall,

As federal, state and city elected officials representing the community impacted by Long Island College Hospital, we are deeply disappointed in the wide gap between your letter of January 30, which claims SUNY has embarked on a process that is “reopened and publicly transparent,” and your continued actions, which neither correct the deficiencies of the July Request for Proposals (RFP), nor add meaningful transparency. As we have told you collectively, SUNY's current path is not legal and will not lead to the best possible conclusion to address the community's needs. As such, we will not participate in this process.

For more than a year, each of us, along with community organizations and healthcare providers, have urged SUNY to adopt a truly fair and open process with the shared goal of preserving healthcare in Brooklyn. At every step, including at the meeting convened by Public Advocate James and referenced in your January 30 letter, we have been rebuffed.

As we have expressed repeatedly, a good-faith effort to solve the crisis at LICH must include a fundamentally improved process, with healthcare focused priorities and significant community representation throughout. As you know, allotting the community merely one token representative per committee is deeply insufficient, as is the continuation of the same RFP process that has been rejected since July.

We have outlined a process to reach a reasonable conclusion. We again implore SUNY to engage it substantively. SUNY's unwillingness to meaningfully address our concerns needlessly risks extending the process indefinitely.

Sincerely,

Nydia M. Velazquez, Member of Congress

Daniel Squadron, State Senator

Joan Millman, Assembly Member

Brad Lander, City Councilmember

Stephen T. Levin, City Councilmember

Carlos Menchaca, City Councilmember



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Letter From Senator Velmanette Montgomery

January 3l, 2014

Chairman H. Carl McCall

State University of New York Board of Trustees

State University Plaza

353 Broadway

Albany, NY 12246

Dear Chairman McCall

As the state elected official representing The Brooklyn Hospital Center and a substantial portion of the catchment service area for Long Island College Hospital, l take this opportunity to endorse the proposal sent by The Brooklyn Hospital Center to redesign the Long Island College Hospital health delivery system.

This is an opportunity to stabilize the delivery of health care services in Brooklyn and move forward towards a future network of locally delivered community health. It will also save SUNY Downstate, one of the great teaching and medical institutions in the country.

I acknowledge that there is an overwhelming interest by communities that have long looked to LICH as their hospital. and the representatives of those communities to maintain LICH as a full service hospital. I support those interests. The community must always protect their health services.

However, I also recognize the financial Status of LICH as a fully staffed and operated traditional hospital does not seem tenable. The January, 2013 audit by State Comptroller DìNapoli made this very clear. The nature of health delivery systems is evolving, with a new emphasis on a balance of Primary, Preventive, and Critical care. For these and a variety of other reasons, LICH no longer has resources for it to function as it has for 150 years.

The Danger to SUNY Downstate

I have grown increasingly concerned that the ongoing financial burden of operating LICH is endangering the continued existence of SUNY Downstate.

SUNY Downstate has been responsible for the education of the majority of African American doctors and health professionals in New York City. lt has a wonderful record of medical technology development, and is a crucial employer and health care provider for Central Brooklyn. lts health is vital to its community, the state, and the entire medical community.While

I am necessarily unfamiliar with the other proposals, these are the reasons I favor tlie TBHC proposal for its many benefits and likelihood of success.

The Brooklyn Hospital Center proposes:

To create a new 24/ 7 Comprehensive Care Center on the current LICH campus

Including an emergency department, able to accept ambulances and provide emergency health care services

Offer treatment for a range of acute illnesses and injuries including cardiac conditions, pulmonary conditions, pediatric conditions allergic reactions, fractures and moderate trauma, infections, early-onset stroke and behavioral health issues. Additionally, the new Care Center would be send Critically ill patients or cases of considerable severity to to The Brooklyn Hospital Center for further evaluation and possible admission requiring treatment as an in-patient.

Working with the community, the creation of an additional network of at least four community-based primary and specialty clinics and doctors located throughout Brooklyn to provide easy access to every resident in the LICH neighborhood for high quality health care on a walk-in basis. The new facilities will offer adult and pediatric care, wellness and preventive care, OPÍGYN services, occupational medicine, radiology and laboratory services, dental services, treatment for low grade to moderate injuries, orthopedic care, and additional Services based on the results of discussions with community, union, health care and elected leaders as well as research on the services historically provided by LlCl-l to Brooklyn residents.

All facilities will be under the leadership of, integrated with, and operated by The Brooklyn Hospital Center to ensure that the health needs of the Brooklyn community are met by doctors, nurses, and other health care workers who have a long standing commitment on health care in Brooklyn.

To improve the delivery of quality health care in Brooklyn in a manner that is consistent with community needs, federal and state health care reform

To preserve as many existing LICH jobs as possible in new facilities and other Brooklyn providers. TBI-IC will collaborate the l 199 SEIU and NYSNA, other Brooklyn providers and City and State government to:

Offer interested former LICH union employees jobs at the new health care facilities Provide benefits above and beyond those job security benefits that workers are entitled to under union contracts

LICH unionized employees will have preference for vacant positions for which they are qualified at other Brooklyn hospitals, with the goal of placement for all employees who desire to  jobs in health care within two years

To transform available tracts of the existing LICH site into mixed-income housing with a commitment to develop a signiñcant number of units of affordable housing, and responsible development sensitive to community needs.

To establish a Foundatíon to enhance and improve health of the community

The Benefits to the Community, and to SUNY Downstate

The TBHC plan offers many benefits lo the community, including not just the continuation of emergency and urgent care services on the existing LICH campus, but also:

* the commitment to critical ill-hospital services at TBI-IC,

* substantial affordable housing,

* the development of a health care network providing health care services in closer proximity to the community,

* Consultation with the community in the design and operation of the network,

* and employment continuity opportunities for current LlCI-I employees.

ln accomplishing these considerable benefits, SUNY Downstate will be relieved of a crushing financial obligation and will be better able to Continue its critically important role in developing future generations of medical professionals.

The Likelihood for Success and Sustainability

Hospital systems external to Brooklyn proposing to take over LICH will likely continue the unfortunately familiar (and current) practice of draining vital health service dollars away from Brooklyn to their external home facilities by referring clients there for lucrative specialty service, thus sacrificing development of such capacity at the Brooklyn campus. The proposal by The Brooklyn Hospital Corporation comes from a local institution with deep roots in and a commitment to the community. The proposal is well thought through and describes a network that will continue to provide emergency and critical care, extend the availability of primary and preventive care to the neighborhood level, and allow SUNY Downstate to continue its acknowledged leadership role in developing medical techniques that will benefit not just Brooklyn but all of New York City.

Governor Cuomo has indicated he is depending on a Medicaid waiver to address the hospital crisis in Brooklyn. But currently there is no money for this purpose in the budget, and former Department of Health and Human Services Chair Sibelius has said that waiver money cannot be used to rescue individual institutions. We are on our own in this crisis.

TBHC is working with a strong financial partner with a long term commitment to New York City and the people who live here. The management team is seasoned and reliable, and dedicated to the health of Brooklyn. This is a proposal designed for growth, health and sustainability.

For the last two years my office has been working with TBHC as part of a Community Health Planning Workshop to better address the important needs for better health care for all the residents of Brooklyn, performed in Brooklyn by providers in Brooklyn. In that time I have been struck by the vision and commitment of the TBI-IC team under the Visionary leadership of Dr. Richard Becker. They have my confidence, my respect, and my heartfelt support in their efforts to continue the mission of Long Island College Hospital.

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Letter from NYC Public Advocate Letitia James

January 31, 2014

The Honorable H. Carl McCall, Chairman

SUNY Board of Trustees

353 Broadway

Albany, NY 12246

Dear Chairman McCall:

I write in response to your January 30th letter inviting my participation in the Request for Proposal (RFP) process to obtain a new health care provider and sell the assets of Long Island College Hospital (LICH). Respectfully, I must decline your offer to join a flawed and unfair' process that is not consistent with the New York State Procurement Guidelines and does not offer the people of Brooklyn the best value for this critical health care provider. As Public Advocate, I have a fiduciary obligation to ensure that a fair method is used when the sale of public assets are sold to private parties. l am not conñdent that obligation would be fulfilled in the current situation.

The position I take is in consultation with the communities who are directly harmed by this process. For the past few weeks, this office has engaged community members and hospital employees in good faith to seek an amicable agreement that would address the health care needs of the people of Brooklyn. It was my hope that after having violated the State’s open meeting laws and diverting ambulances in contempt of a judicial order, SUNY had learned from its mistakes. Yet once again, the State University of New York seeks to subvert the process and undermine the people’s access to the essential health care that LICH provides and jeopardize the jobs of the employees who work there.

On July 17, 2013, SUNY issued RFP  X002539 for the acquisition of all the assets of Long Island College Hospital. The due date for proposal was September 16, 2013. Indeed, on December 17, 2013 a committee ofthe Board of Trustees voted to advance the Fortis proposal. Now, more than four months later, SUNY seeks to “reopen” the process to only allow five of the seven bidders to “clarify and modify their proposals.” In addition, the January 28, 2014 letter permits the inclusion of “additional interested parties” but permits bidders only three business days to make these changes. It is impossible for any ñscally responsible bidder to prepare a proposal for a half billion dollar property requiring the delivery of critical medical services in this short time period.

Mr. Chairman, the changes that SUNY contemplates are material and are made long after the closing date for the RFP. Moreover, by limiting the RFP to only five bidders, SUNY violates the basic tenets of the RFP process, t0 obtain the best value for the people that LÍCH serves and the taxpayers of New York. Lastly, the RFP gives considerably greater weight to the financial value of proposed bids over the quality of health care that would be provided to the community.

It is for these reasons that I have no choice but to decline your invitation to participate in the flawed process lo sell the assets of this vital public institution.