Settlement Reached on Long Island College Hospital's Future, Attorneys Say

By Nikhita Venugopal on February 20, 2014 5:52pm 

 Attorney Jim Walden at the Brooklyn Supreme Court after announcing a settlement on Long Island College Hospital.
Attorney Jim Walden at the Brooklyn Supreme Court after announcing a settlement on Long Island College Hospital.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

COBBLE HILL — Unions, community groups and state officials reached a settlement Thursday afternoon that will determine the future of Long Island College Hospital.

The deal opens the door to new proposals for the long-struggling hospital and will give the community more input in choosing a developer for the site, officials said, though it was unclear if LICH would remain a full-service medical center. Attorneys for all parties involved in the lawsuit praised the settlement, reached after days of deliberation, calling it “unique” and “extraordinary."

“We have a settlement,” said attorney Jim Walden, who represents the six community groups accusing the State University of New York and state Department of Health of violating court orders in their attempts to sell and close the hospital.

The contempt hearing against SUNY and the state DOH was rescheduled to Thursday morning after attorneys for the labor unions requested time to continue settlement talks with state officials.

The deal will launch a new "Request for Proposals" process to solicit ideas for the hospital's future, followed by an expedited seven-day selection process, according to a joint statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, SUNY Chairman Carl McCall and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Officials will consult with the unions and the community before choosing a proposal, according to the settlement.

A new owner for the hospital will be selected by May, when SUNY will hand over control of LICH, officials said.

The agreement will require the court's approval.

Additional details of the settlement will be announced in court Friday at 2:30 p.m, Judge Johnny Lee Baynes said, after attorneys requested a one-day delay.

SUNY Downstate attorney Frank Carone emphasized that all parties involved in the discussions compromised to reach the settlement, including NYSNA, 1199 SEIU, six local community groups, SUNY and the state DOH.

“We didn’t all get what we wanted but it was worth it,” he said.

 Long Island College Hospital at 339 Hicks St., in Cobble Hill.
Long Island College Hospital at 339 Hicks St., in Cobble Hill.
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University Hospital of Brooklyn

Thursday marks not only the long-awaited settlement but also the one-year anniversary of the courtroom battle over LICH, said Baynes, who has presided over the case for the past year.

“I have heard some of the terms [of the settlement] and I am impressed,” said Baynes. “And I don’t impress easy.”

SUNY, LICH's operator, has spent months trying to sell the hospital, which state officials say loses $13 million a month. Four bidders have proposed redevelopment plans for the hospital, three of which will strip medical services at LICH, but it is unclear how the proposals are involved in the settlement.

Unions and community groups have long advocated for a full-service hospital in the neighborhood and are fighting any plan that would sacrifice the valuable Cobble Hill real estate for condominiums and reduced healthcare facilities.

It is unclear whether the settlement will include a full-service hospital — something that LICH supporters say is vitally needed in the community.

Susan Shanahan, a registered nurse at LICH, said she didn’t know what the “unique” settlement would entail but believed that the unity of the groups fighting for LICH was extraordinary in itself.

“Of course, my hope and desire is that the settlement will get a full-service hospital,” she said.

Dr. Alice Garner, a physician at LICH, said the hospital’s future should be left to its staff and community members who had their own vision for keeping the hospital sustainable.

“If they settle without having a full-service hospital, we did this community a disservice,” she said.

City and state officials praised the settlement Thursday afternoon.

“This agreement represents the culmination of all the tremendous work by nurses and doctors, neighborhood associations, patients and elected officials who refused to back down," de Blasio said in a statement.

“Protecting continuity of care and ensuring the health care needs of this community are met will now be the yardstick by which proposals for the future of LICH are measured. There is more work ahead, but we are closer than ever to the long-term, sustainable solution all of us have sought.”

SUNY Chairman Carl McCall said in a statement, "SUNY always believed the solution to the crisis at LICH would be achieved outside a courtroom and through meaningful and respectful dialogue between the parties."

Public Advocate Letitia James said in a statement, "we finally have an agreement that will preserve healthcare access for our communities.”

“As this case settles, we must continue the fight to preserve hospitals under duress across the city and make sure every New Yorker has access to quality, affordable healthcare.”

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