As fight for LICH goes on, nurses flex new political muscles in NYC
Endorse candidates including de Blasio, Levin and Lander
The battle to save threatened hospitals in Brooklyn has galvanized the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) into flexing its increasingly robust political muscles and endorsing, for the first time in its history, candidates for New York City offices.
On August 23, NYSNA endorsed mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, who has thrown himself wholeheartedly into the fight to save Long Island College Hospital (LICH), Interfaith Medical Center and other Brooklyn hospitals.
Now NYSNA, which represents roughly 25,000 nurses in New York City, is spreading the love to other candidates who have stood by them on marches in the rain and during this summer’s heat wave, in court, and in jail cells after acts of civil disobedience to save LICH.
On Wednesday, at a rally on Hicks Street next to LICH, NYSNA endorsed Steve Levin, running for reelection to the City Council for District 33 (Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Park Slope, Greenpoint).
“Long Island College Hospital is still open for care, and now it seems everybody is paying attention,” said Jill Furillo, NYSNA Executive Director to a crowd that included nurses, LICH supporters and Levin’s mom, Adah Levin. “It is a central issue in the mayor’s race. Have you seen the poll numbers for de Blasio? He’s at 36 percent in the latest Quinnipiac poll.
“This speaks volumes about our coalition of nurses, physicians, 1199 caregivers and community organizations, and Steve Levin has been a key leader in the coalition,” Furillo said. “He has attended countless rallies and community meetings, co-sponsored a City Council resolution on behalf of the hospital, delivered a petition to SUNY with more than 7,000 signatures, and got arrested side by side with me, Gloria [a fellow nurse] and so many others. He went to jail to save LICH. Not only does he talk the talk, he walks the walk -– exactly the kind of representative we need on the City Council.”
Levin’s support for LICH is nothing new, said Susan Shanahan, a nurse at LICH and a resident of Levin’s district for many years. She recalled Levin fighting for LICH when its previous owners, Continuum Health partners, tried to shut down the pediatric ward. “He’s a true advocate,” she said.
Levin told the crowd that the endorsement was especially meaningful, “after what we’ve all gone through in the past few months.” He compared the battle to keep LICH open despite efforts by SUNY to shut it down a “David and Goliath” story.
“The tenacity has been remarkable,” he said, describing days of marching in the rain, in sleet and through heat waves. “Doctors, nurses, and the community have all said, ‘This is our hospital.’ We can’t allow them to dismantle our health care system for pure profit; we’ve been blessed with two judges who recognize that. I’m proud to have been a small cog in the wheel.”
After the rally, Furillo told the Brooklyn Eagle that NYSNA’s new board, comprised of nurses who work on a daily basis inside hospitals, wanted the organization to go in a “different direction.”
“We have to challenge corporate health care and make sure services are available to the communities where we live,” she said. “We’re not going to let anybody stand in our way. We’ve never endorsed New York City candidates before, but we’ve seen some incredible people step up where we haven’t seen that before. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Steve Levin have been action-oriented. De Blasio has redefined what the Office of the Public Advocate means, every step of the way bringing transparency of the issue into the public eye. For that reason we decided to break the mold.”
Over the next few days NYSNA will be endorsing a list of candidates throughout the city. Besides Bill de Blasio for Mayor, these include Letitia James for Public Advocate; Scott Stringer for Comptroller; Brad Lander in City Council District 39 (Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Boro Park); Jumaane Williams in City Council District 45 (Flatbush, Flatlands, Midwood, Canarsie); and Carlos Menchaca in City Council District 38 (Boro Park, Red Hook, South Slope, Sunset Park).
The primaries take place September 10. To find your polling location, visit nyc.pollsitelocator.com
To see NYSNA’s endorsements in other boroughs, visit http://www.nysna.org/news/13primaryEndorsements.htm