Community board chairman: Southwest Brooklyn needs more health services

Guarinello forming task force to draft a plan

September 5, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bill Guarinello, chairman of Community Board 11, and Marnee Elias-Pavia, the board’s district manager, at the board meeting Thursday night.
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The closure of Victory Memorial Hospital took place six years ago, but it’s still having a negative effect on the delivery of health care services in southwest Brooklyn, the chairman of Community Board 11 said.

Bill Guarinello, whose board advocates on behalf of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach residents, told Board 11 members at their Sept. 4 meeting that he is forming a task force to come up with recommendations for city and state officials on how to improve services in southwest Brooklyn communities.

“We just want to send a message that we don’t want to be forgotten souls here. Something needs to be done in your own backyard,” Guarinello said at Thursday’s meeting at the Bensonhurst Center for Health and Rehabilitation.

It’s not clear if the task force will push for a new hospital or if it will fight for beefed up services at existing medical facilities.

Victory Memorial Hospital in Bay Ridge closed its doors for good in 2008 after 107 years of service. The 254-bed hospital had been hemorrhaging money for years. The shutdown was ordered by the New York State Department of Health (DOH). The closure took place despite protest rallies, petition drives, and pressure put on the DOH by elected officials.

The closure left many residents high and dry when it came to health care, according to Guarinello and other advocates, who said that although it was small, Victory Memorial took some of the burden of caring for the sick off the shoulders of Maimonides Medical Centeri n Borough Park, which has 711 beds, and Lutheran Medical Center, a 468-bed facility in Sunset Park.

“Now we only have Maimo and Lutheran. We have very little here,” Guarinello said.

The State University of New York (SUNY) at Downstate operates an urgent care clinic at the former Victory site. But the facility, called SUNY Downstate at Bay Ridge, handles non-emergency cases only. While he praised the SUNY Downstate facility, Guarinello said it is underused because not enough residents are aware of its existence.

In other Community Board 11 news, District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia said the board was disappointed with what she termed a lack of response from the mayor’s office over concerns about the recently completed Santa Rosalia Feast on 18th Avenue.

Several months ago, the board and the event’s sponsors issued a request to the mayor’s Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO) to move the date of the traditional Italian-American street fair to mid-August so that the final day of the 10-day feast would not bump up against Labor Day. For years, the feast has taken place during the 10 days leading up to Labor Day.

But concerns over sanitation issues and the need for the avenue’s merchants to prepare or Labor Day sales led the board and the sponsors to request an Aug. 14 start date.

Instead, SAPO issued the permit for Aug. 21-31, according to Elias-Pavia, who told the board that the feast ended the day before Labor Day, something the board and the merchants did not want.

The feast took place on 18th Avenue between 68th Street and Bay Ridge Parkway.

“The mayor’s Street Activity Permit Office did not hear the board’s recommendation,” Elias-Pavia said.

The good news, however, is that the festival’s sponsors did address the sanitation concerns the board raised, Elias-Pavia said. The streets and sidewalks in the festival area were clean and largely free of litter after the fast ended, she said.

The board is not giving up its quest for an earlier Santa Rosalia Feast, Elias-Pavia said. “We are going to try again next year,” she said, adding that she has written a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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