BY HEATHER J. CHIN
Coney Island Hospital (CIH) is one of four hospitals that will receive a combined $1.6 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds, designated to reimburse the city Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) for approximately $65 million in existing Sandy repairs and to pay for future mitigation, climate resiliency and storm recovery projects.
The hospital, located at 2601 Ocean Parkway, will get $923 million of the overall payout. This will be used to fund construction of a new “resilient critical services building,” the rebuilding of the Ida G. Israel health clinic, and ongoing projects such as flood walls and flood-proof elevators, and the purchase of equipment such as new generators and water pumps.
CIH’s basement and first floor had become flooded and the power went out when Superstorm Sandy hit on October 29, 2012, requiring the evacuation of all patients and staff the next morning.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced the financial windfall during a press conference at CIH on Thursday, November 6. Both lauded the grant as important to southwest Brooklyn’s recovery process and a step towards “building it back better and more storm-resistant.”
“The largest of its kind, this FEMA Public Assistance award will help ensure that our public hospitals have the necessary safeguards in place to operate continuously during a storm, mitigate damage and power loss, and, if evacuation is necessary, quickly return to normalcy,” said Schumer, who also pointed out that the funds are fully approved and cannot be trimmed or cut by Congress in the future.
HHC President Dr. Ram Raju noted that when CIH closed temporarily, “It reminded all of us that hospitals aren’t just healthcare delivery systems, but are part of the community fabric. These funds will ensure in the long-term that we won’t suffer the same problems again.”
Councilmember Mark Treyger, chair of the council’s Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, added that “it will take an unprecedented amount of cooperation to recover from an unprecedented storm [and this is] solid cooperation and a large step forward for southern Brooklyn’s recovery.”
As CIH Chief Nurse Terry Mancher explained, seeing her nursing staff and other medical staff scared but completely in control and focused on patient safety despite floods, fires, blackouts and lack of phone service to check on their own families remains one of the “proudest moments in my career.
“Now this [funding] is the best gift you can give me,” Mancher said emotionally. “Now we won’t have to go through that ever again.”
The other three hospitals supported by this grant are Bellevue Hospital Center ($376 million) and Metropolitan Hospital Center ($120 million) in Manhattan, and Coler Specialty Hospital ($181 million) on Roosevelt Island.