Nearly a month of relative quiet in the legal wranglings over what will happen to cash-strapped Long Island College Hospital (LICH) ended on Tuesday, December 17, with the announcement that hospital owner SUNY Downstate Medical Center is weighing a proposal to sell the 20-building-site at 339 Hicks Street to a developer that would transform the 155-year-old community hospital into luxury condominiums and an urgent care center.
However, that same day, a vote on whether to enter into negotiations over the proposal was tabled/postponed by SUNY trustees, after board members were divided on the issue and LICH advocates protested en masse.
According to SUNY Trustees Chairperson H. Carl McCall, the plan is “exactly what the community has asked us to do all along, and that is to find us another operator.”
That claim met with indignation and outrage from residents, politicians and LICH staff and advocates—including Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio.
“SUNY is doing the opposite of what the community wants – going forward unilaterally with a redevelopment scheme that does not offer a full service hospital,” said Congressmember Nydia Velázquez, who was arrested at one of this year’s many pro-LICH protests and rallies. “From the beginning, SUNY’s proposal process has been conducted in a secretive way that left out the community, elected officials and stakeholders.”
Councilmember Brad Lander agreed, tweeting that “SUNY’s proposal to sell LICH to a real estate developer is a betrayal of the community and will not stand.”
Following the stalled vote, Councilmember Stephen Levin said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the latest turn of events.
“I have never seen anything like I did today,” said Levin. “The community, doctors, nurses, elected leaders and everyone else in this fight have been clear all along that LICH must remain a full service hospital so it can continue to provide essential care for Brooklyn. . . We will continue to fight until a new operator is secured who will provide the community the full service hospital it needs.”
It is unknown if such a potential operator exists, though.
According to Lora Lefebvre, SUNY’s associate vice chancellor for health affairs, they did not receive any proposals from hospital operators within New York State.
Of the seven proposals SUNY did receive in July from real estate developers, charities, and healthcare operators, the one now being mulled is from DUMBO-based Fortis Property Group.
Fortis’ proposal offers SUNY $228 to $278 million—less than the estimated $500 million value—for the 200,000-square-foot complex. They would allot 15,000-square-feet to be transformed into a “medical mall” with an urgent care center, physical therapy facilities, dentist offices, and other surgery space—to be run by NYC-based ProHealth. No emergency room was included.
The remaining 185,000-square-feet would be converted into condos.
Cobble Hill Association board member Jeff Strabone testified at the SUNY hearing and stated that the fight to save LICH will continue since “LICH is essential every day but especially in the event of another Sandy-type storm or 9/11-type event in lower Manhattan. Medical decisions should be based on need, not greed.”