OPINION: Could LICH cost Cuomo the election?
The growing political fallout over the closure of Long Island College Hospital (LICH), described by Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter Mary Frost in a recent article, should be no surprise.
Personally, I don’t believe that a full-fledged hospital is coming to the former LICH complex any time in the near future, although it’s possible a new push for a hospital could emerge in a few years. Just as local community groups about 10 years ago didn’t have enough clout to stop the city from closing firehouses in Cobble Hill, Williamsburg and elsewhere, community groups and their allied elected officials in the neighborhoods served by LICH didn’t have enough clout and big bucks to stop Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his SUNY board, his New York State Health Department and what Jack Newfield called the “permanent government.” I’m not celebrating this development—I wanted LICH to survive.
Those officials who fought to keep LICH open felt obliged to make a statement, partially to reassure their political base that they haven’t “sold out.” The statement by State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblymember Joan Millman and Councilmembers Brad Lander, Steve Levin and Carlos Menchaca quoted by Frost reads, in part, “While this agreement includes some healthcare services, it falls far short of a full-service hospital. And it does not resume immediate ambulance service, nor require an independent community needs assessment. We will continue to stand with the community, and urge SUNY and all parties to work collaboratively to meet the needs of the neighborhood and all of Brooklyn.”
Similarly, Frost quotes a statement by Patients for LICH calling on Mayor de Blasio and the Health and Hospitals Corporation “to support our efforts to ensure the return of a full-service hospital to LICH and to help facilitate the New York State licensing process for such a hospital.” But deep down inside, the pro-LICH forces must know that at this stage, the chances of saving the hospital as we know it are infinitesimal. You can’t blame the doctors, nurses or community organizations for what happened – the truth is that SUNY and its allies used every trick in the book to manipulate the situation until it was too late.
Still, all actions have consequences, and the shutting of LICH is no exception. Will Gov. Andrew Cuomo have to pay at the polls because of LICH the way Christine Quinn did because of St. Vincent’s Hospital? Remember that when Quinn entered the mayoral race, she thought she was a shoo-in because she had all the right connections as well as the implicit support of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. However, she was in for a rude shock – at almost every meeting where she appeared, someone was sure to ask her why she didn’t do enough to save St. Vincent’s.
What very well might happen in the governor’s race is that large numbers of disaffected Democrats will stay home or won’t vote for governor, thus swinging the election to Cuomo’s Republican opponent, Westchester County Executive Ralph Astorino. Already, I know of two Democratic clubs that voted “no endorsement” for governor rather than endorsing Cuomo. Few of these Democrats would vote for Astorino, but a good number of them might vote for Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins, which would still have the net effect of taking more votes away from Cuomo.
Frost reported that about 56,000 people in Brooklyn and elsewhere signed petitions to keep a full-service hospital at LICH. It’s highly unlikely that any of these people will go into the voting booth with enthusiasm about voting for Andrew Cuomo.