One year later and court wrangling continues over LICH’s fate

February 19, 2014 Heather Chin
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It has official been over a year now since the real-life hospital legal drama over the fate of Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital (LICH) began and the roller coaster of protests, legal wranglings, negotiations and real estate bids continues as fervent as ever.

The latest development saw a planned January 21 contempt hearing postponed first to January 22, then to February 11 and February 18, and now to Thursday, February 20 at 11 a.m., pending alleged “good faith discussions” between hospital owner/operator SUNY Downstate Medical Center, hospital unions and New York State lawyers.

The Save LICH Coalition of six community groups from Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Wyckoff Gardens, through their lawyer Jim Walden, have said they know of no such discussions and want the hearing finally to take place.

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At that time, Justice Johnny Lee Baynes of the Kings County Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether LICH operator SUNY Downstate violated Baynes’ and fellow Justice Carolyn Demarest’s court orders to keep LICH open and operating at regular staffing and service levels in summer of 2013.

SUNY Downstate—which is facing financial hardships of its own—has repeatedly tried to close LICH by transferring patients to other hospitals, banning ambulance drop-offs, reducing patient services, and laying off hospital personnel. They are currently entertaining multiple bids from potential buyers of LICH’s complex, which sits on valuable real estate at 339 Hicks Street in Cobble Hill/Brooklyn Heights near the Brooklyn waterfront.

The two most publicly popular bids are real estate/hospital partnerships: Fortis Property Group/NYU Langone Medical Center vs. The Related Cos./Brooklyn Hospital Center.

Fortis/NYU has offered $185 million for the 20-building complex, which they would transform into luxury condominiums, 25 percent affordable housing, and an urgent care center with specialized health services. Related/Brooklyn Hospital has offered $105 million for the complex, which it has said would become a series of primary, urgent and specialty care centers and clinics, as well as 1,000 mixed-income residential units, at least 350 of them marked as affordable housing.

The Save LICH Coalition maintains that bids must include a full-service hospital in order to be considered viable by the community.

However, according to SUNY, LICH will cost it over $200 million in losses and loses money every day.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, February 13, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the federal government had finally approved an $8 billion Medicaid waiver request originally filed 19 months ago.

According to Cuomo, the funds will help “preserve vital health services in Brooklyn and other parts of the state, including struggling hospitals.” However, he also stated in a WNYC interview that LICH’s fate—as well as other privately-owned hospitals—was “not directly connected to this waiver situation” and was in its owner, SUNY Downstate’s, hands.

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