Cobble Hill

LICH nurses taking SUNY back to court in Brooklyn

Brooklyn has been ‘snookered again,” they say

August 27, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
LICH nurses fought for the hospital for almost two years. Photo by Mary Frost
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Nurses and other staffers at Long Island College Hospital (LICH) are taking the State University of New York (SUNY) back to state Supreme Court in Brooklyn on Wednesday.

The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) filed a temporary restraining order on Tuesday to halt the sale of the LICH campus to developer Fortis Property Group. An attorney for 1199 SEIU Healthcare Workers East appeared in court with NYSNA attorney Richard Seltzer to stand in support of his filing.

The nurses and other caregivers say that Fortis and its main health care partner NYU-Langone Medical Center, which will be operating a free-standing emergency room on the LICH site, violated a promise to rehire LICH workers laid off after SUNY shut down the hospital.

“Fortis and NYU were selected to take over Long Island College Hospital based on commitments they made to the community, patients, nurses, and the State University of New York,” NYSNA Executive Director Jill Furillo said in a statement on Tuesday.

“But Fortis and NYU have reneged on their commitments– from their promise to provide affordable housing to their clearly stated intention of maintaining continuity of care by employing LICH nurses,” she said.

SUNY spokesperson David Doyle said early Tuesday, “SUNY has been working diligently with all sides to finalize this deal which will provide a long term health care solution for the community. SUNY has been in constant contact with representatives of all parties, including NYSNA, and will continue to do so until a final agreement that adheres to the objectives of the court-mandated RFP is reached.”

SUNY chose to sell LICH to Fortis over two higher-ranked developers after a convoluted and much-litigated RFP process.

Community groups have complained out that the SUNY board and the state Department of Health repeatedly made concessions to Fortis that they did not extend to Brooklyn Health Partners (BHP) or the Peebles Corporation, which ranked higher in the bidding than Fortis. SUNY rejected these bidders after claiming they could not carry out the promises made in their proposals.

Now nurses want this same reasoning applied to Fortis.

Fortis’ proposal states, “In addition to employing SEIU 1199 and NYSNA staff and providers, [NYU] and [Lutheran Family Health Center, another partner] will independently contract with NYSNA nurses through an intermediate entity or staffing company. This will help maximize the number of NYSNA nurses continuing to work at LICH and thereby help preserve the legacy of excellent care provided at LICH.”

Despite this seemingly explicit commitment, nurses told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday that NYU has been advertising on the internet for non-union workers and also hiring their own staff for what they call the “NYU Langone Cobble Hill Brooklyn ER.”

When LICH staff “found out what was happening” in late July, one nurse said, they started applying for jobs but were rejected.

“Brooklyn and its elected officials have been ‘snookered’ again, as [Assemblywoman] Joan Millman said. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice . . .” the nurse said.

NYSNA attorney Seltzer will argue the case before Justice Lauren B. Jacobsen. Justice Johnny Lee Baynes, who has overseen the LICH legal battle for a year and a half, is on vacation.

Elected officials will be sending a letter to Dr. Robert Grossman, C.E.O. of N.Y.U., urging the hospital to “live up (to) the commitments that it made in its bid,” according to Capital New York.

This is not the first change to its proposal Fortis has made after winning the bid to buy the valuable LICH property. Partner L + M Development Partners, which develops affordable housing, recently dropped out of the partnership.

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