Downtown Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Hospital launches multi-year campaign to celebrate its 175th anniversary

August 27, 2019 Editorial Staff
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Brooklyn Eagle of 1840s played major roleIn getting city hospital established

By Andy Katz and Francesca Tate

DOWNTOWN — Unquenchable zeal built The Brooklyn Hospital Center (TBHC) 175 years ago.

That same zeal, chronicled in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle even before the hospital’s founding, is what keeps on fueling the center’s status as one of the East Coast’s largest and most successful independent community medical providers. So says TBHC Immediate Past Board Chair and Brooklyn 175 Co-Chair Carlos Naudon.

“Without good health, one has nothing,” said Naudon at the 175th anniversary launch breakfast earlier this year, at which time the first group of 175 honorees was announced. “Our mission will continue to bring the best health care available to people in our community.” 

Over the next three years, the Brooklyn Hospital Foundation will continue to recognize 175 individuals and institutions from the past and present that have made a unique contribution to the depth, breadth, individuality and well-being of Brooklyn. These icons have helped to produce one of the world’s most dynamic and sought-after places to live, work and raise families. This Brooklyn Hospital Foundation effort will be partnering with organizations and venues across Brooklyn to raise awareness of these icons who have shaped this great city.

ebrooklyn media/Photo by Andy Katz
CEO and President Gary G. Terrinoni presents awards to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

The next group of honorees will be announced on Wednesday, October 2 at the Fall Fashion Show being held at Lafayette 148 New York in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The venue will showcase the latest in high-end fashion by New York’s own Deirdre Quinn, CEO and co-founder of Lafayette 148.

And the multi-year effort will continue through 2020 as TBHC celebrates its official 175th year.  Nominations will be accepted by anyone and everyone in our community and forms can be found on The Brooklyn Hospital Center’s website at or can be sent directly to Deborah Niederhoffer, VP and chief development officer at the Brooklyn Hospital Foundation, at [email protected].

The Brooklyn Eagle is a proud media sponsor of the multi-year campaign and will continue to highlight honorees as they are selected.

The Hospital’s Inception and Earliest Years

The Brooklyn Hospital is continuing to live up to its original purpose from its 1845 founding as Brooklyn City Hospital. The Brooklyn Eagle of the time played a pivotal role in urging the citizens of Brooklyn — then an independent city — to help build the hospital. The year 1845 was also when a number of educational and philanthropic societies were founded including the Brooklyn Female Academy, which later became the Packer Collegiate Institute.

ebrooklyn media/Photo by Andy Katz
Brooklyn Hospital Foundation VP & Chief Development Officer Deborah Niederhoffer and Brooklyn Historical Society President Deborah Schwartz.

The Brooklyn Eagle petitioned on its pages of February 12, 1845 for a city hospital as such: “Since the original apology for a Public Hospital in the city of Brooklyn has been closed and its effects disposed of, we have been left entirely without any place for the reception of those who may be sick and unable to procure medical attendance. If a stranger should fall down in the street, a child breaks its limbs, or any other of the thousand and one accidents which, in a great city, endanger life, should happen, there is no place to which the unfortunate victim should be carried. 

The ‘Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor’ in the city have felt the great evils attendant upon this state of things, and received upon making an effort to establish a hospital, for which purpose a meeting will be held at the Institute [Brooklyn Institute on Washington Street] on Monday evening next. Meantime we invite the attention of our readers to an eloquent Address upon this subject, which we publish today. It is from the pen of one who understands the whole matter thoroughly, and can produce numberless facts, from his own experience, which go to establish the crying necessity for such an institution.”

That same page carried an eloquent editorial, incorporating Scripture and references (particularly Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 25) to Christian charity, as an appeal to the citizenry to support and vote for a city hospital. The author, listed only by the initials J.W.C., concluded, “Citizens of every class, we call upon you to redeem the character of your native or adopted home. A wealthy Christian [sic] city of fifty thousand souls in the nineteenth century without a hospital! Let us speedily arise as one man and wipe off the stigma forever.”

Six weeks later, on March 28, 1845, the Eagle covered the New York legislature’s passage of a bill to incorporate Brooklyn City Hospital, as it was called at the time

In addition to TBHC’s demisemiseptcentennial, 2019 also marks the bicentennial of Walt Whitman’s birth. Brad Vogel of the Walt Whitman Initiative, who represented TBHC honoree, Walt Whitman said, “Brooklyn Hospital Center was especially significant to Whitman. “When the Civil War broke out, the Brooklyn Hospital took on the role of caring for the sick and wounded soldiers of the Union Army. Whitman, who was trained as a nurse, also cared for soldiers during the Civil War.”

Breakfast launches ‘demisemiseptcentennial’ year; first honorees announced

“Happy ‘demisemiseptcentennial,’” City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo said. “Say it with me now: ‘demisemiseptcentennial.’” Cumbo credited her staff with seeking out the proper Latin term for a 175th anniversary. It is one that doesn’t get used very often, especially with hospitals, which labor under expectations by both the public and medical community that they will always feature cutting-edge healthcare technology.

TBHC’s January 2019 breakfast acknowledged key supporters and bestowed the first three of the Brooklyn 175 medals to Cumbo, the Fort Greene Park Conservancy and Walt Whitman.

 “In 1845, people with vision came together,” said TBHC Board Chair and Brooklyn 175 Co-chair Lizanne Fontaine, “to create the city’s very first voluntary hospital, one that would serve the needs of all of the people here.”

“Brooklyn is more than just brick and tarmac,” said Cumbo. “Most of all, it is people, people reaching out to one another, interacting, working together, which institutions like TBHC facilitate.”

Collaboration with Brooklyn Historical Society exhibit

ebrooklyn media/Photo by Andy Katz
The Brooklyn Historical Society hosted the launch of its “Taking Care of Brooklyn” exhibit this spring, dovetailing with the Brooklyn Hospital Center’s 175th year. From left, Senior Development Manager Amanda Dorn; TBHC Foundation Chair and Brooklyn 175 Co-Chair Lizanne Fontaine; and Development Intern Ingeborg Hyde.

“There’s a way in which all of Brooklyn’s history is the history of healthcare,” said Brooklyn Historical Society VP of Curatorial Affairs and Collections Julia Golia. The occasion was the opening of the society’s latest exhibition, “Taking Care of Brooklyn: Stories of Sickness and Health.”

Golia’s declaration echoes Brooklyn’s 19th century civic leaders, who persevered in their call for a city hospital after seeing their first attempt fizzle.

The exhibit, launched on May 30, chronicles the healthcare history of the entire borough including TBHC and included the next announcement of honorees selected to be part of the Brooklyn 175 commemorating TBHC’s 175th anniversary.

For Golia and assistant curator Erin Wuebker, the exhibit’s launch marks the culmination of three years of research, during which they encountered a great deal of surprising information. “We learned, for example,” said Golia, “that 19th century Brooklyn was home to African-American women doctors such as Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward. It also played a key role in shaping the development of American nursing education.”

“We understood how much of Brooklyn is a story of challenges: health, poverty, nutrition, labor,” said Brooklyn Historical Society President Deborah Schwartz, who herself was one of the evening’s honorees along with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Mt. Sinai Health Network President Dr. Arthur Klein.

The exhibit will be on display until Spring 2022 at the Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont St. It is open to the public Wednesday to Sundays, 12 to 5 p.m.; suggested admission is $10 for adults, $6 seniors and no cost to veterans/active duty personnel and students.

Groundbreaking for new emergency department: July 2019

Photo by Rick Schwab
Breaking ground for TBHC’s new state-of-the-art emergency department in July: Left to right: New York State AssemblymemberWalter Mosley; TBHC President and CEO Gary Terrinoni; TBHF Board Chair Dino Veronese and TBHC Board Vice Chair Susan Skerritt; Community Advisory Board Chair Kim Best, PhD and Emergency Department Chair Sylvie DeSouza, MD. Photo: Rick Schwab

Gary Terrinoni, president and CEO of TBHC, along with invited dignitaries and community partners, recently broke ground on the emergency department renovation project. The project was, in part, funded by a New York State Department of Health Transformation Grant of $25 million, the largest award for any New York City health provider in the year that it was granted.

This renovation will revolutionize the hospital’s response to traumatic injury and illness. “We already serve more than 70,000 patients each year in our emergency department,” noted Terrinoni. “This renovation will result in a state-of-the-art facility within lifesaving minutes of our neighbors’ homes.”

“Our current emergency department was built to serve about 35,000 patients each year,” said Emergency Medicine Chair Dr. Sylvie de Souza. “Presently, we’re treating about 70,000, twice that number.”

Looking to the Next 175 Years

ebrooklyn media/Photo by Andy Katz
A century-plus of public health warnings, on exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Approaching the future, TBHC prides itself on offering first class bariatric surgery, orthopedic surgery, comprehensive cardiac care, ambulatory health treatment, pediatrics and AIDS treatment, to name just a few. For the first time ever, TBHC joined the 8 percent of New York State hospitals that received an “A” rating from the Leapfrog Group to mark outstanding patient safety.

Using multiple measures of patient safety data, the non-profit Leapfrog assigns letter grades to hospitals depending on the quality of outcomes. Most New York City hospitals rate “C.” TBHC was the only hospital in Brooklyn to receive an “A” in 2018.

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