OPINION: LICH: Not just for ‘Heights and Hill’
In Justice Carolyn Demarest’s recent ruling asking SUNY Downstate to forfeit control over Long Island College Hospital (LICH), there’s an interesting sentence saying that LICH is not only the hospital for the nearby residential areas, it’s also the closest hospital for the people who work in Downtown Brooklyn – including the court system.
Not only is this true, this may have been the reason why the supporters of LICH had more clout than the supporters of any number of hospitals that have closed in the last 10 years, such as Cabrini Hospital in Manhattan, St. Mary’s Hospital in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Peninsula Hospital in the Rockaways and several others. (St. Vincent’s Hospital is a special case.)
The biggest employer in Downtown Brooklyn is probably the court system. A page in the New York State Unified Court System website says that the state Supreme Court, Criminal Term building at 320 Jay St. is home to “more than 30 judges and 500 court employees.” The corresponding page on the Supreme Court, Civil Term at 360 Adams St. doesn’t have any such numbers, but one can bet that they’re similar.
You also have the Criminal Court building on Schermerhorn Street, the Housing Court, the Appellate Division in Brooklyn Heights and the federal courthouse on Cadman Plaza East. All in all, that’s a lot of employees.
But we’re not finished yet. Downtown Brooklyn is far from a “one-industry town.” There’s also the Brooklyn Municipal Building, which contains offices of the Finance Department, the Office of the Sheriff, the City Clerk’s Office (where I got my marriage license), the Department of Buildings, the Probation Department and the Department of Environmental Protection. Across the street is Borough Hall, where Borough President Marty Markowitz’s staff works. To top it off, a few blocks away you can find MTA New York City Transit’s headquarters building at 130 Livingston St., which probably has hundreds of employees.
Leaving the public sector aside, Montague Street and the stretch of Court Street near Montague have the offices of perhaps a dozen banks, including TD Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, Flushing Bank, Sovereign Bank, the MCU Credit Union and others.
All in all, that’s a lot of workers, from secretaries, retail clerks and tellers to city managers, bank managers, court officers, professors and judges. And if any of these people get sick on the job, where’s the first place they call or are taken (at any rate, until recently?) That’s right – Long Island College Hospital, although people working further to the east, such as at MetroTech, might be taken to the Brooklyn Hospital Center instead.
If a manager for the MTA or a professor at Brooklyn Law School or a court clerk complains that they can’t get to their favorite doctor at LICH anymore, the odds are that their complaints will be listened to.
I have great respect for the officials and community groups representing Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook. But add powerful institutions like the court system, city offices, Brooklyn Law School and the Montague Street banks into the mix, and you’ll see a rarely-discussed, added reason why SUNY might have such great opposition to its plans to close LICH.