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SUNY to Seek 'Final and Best Offers' for Long Island College Hospital

By Nikhita Venugopal | January 29, 2014 8:40am | Updated on January 29, 2014 5:07pm
 Public Advocate Letitia James speaks at a rally in front of Long Island College Hospital Jan. 29.
Public Advocate Letitia James speaks at a rally in front of Long Island College Hospital Jan. 29.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

COBBLE HILL — The State University of New York is seeking “final and best offers” from bidders proposing to take over Long Island College Hospital, officials announced Tuesday night.

But only bidders who met the state’s initial deadline last year can take part in the reopened “Request for Proposals” process. No new hospitals or healthcare providers can submit proposals for the Cobble Hill hospital, SUNY officials said.

In an effort to enhance “openness, transparency and effectiveness," firms will have a chance to “clarify and modify” their proposals, which must be submitted before Feb. 3, officials said.

“SUNY and the Board have always advocated for a real solution to the crisis at LICH that benefits the community while allowing SUNY to return to its core academic mission in Brooklyn and across the entire State of New York,” board chairman H. Carl McCall said in a statement.

“It is our hope that reopening the RFP process will ensure greater transparency and openness, enhance opportunity for public review, and ultimately result in a project that meets the community’s healthcare needs.”

But LICH supporters fighting to keep the hospital open cried foul.

"By acting unilaterally, SUNY assures only one thing: the community will fight until hell freezes over, and then we will fight it out on the ice," attorney Jim Walden, who is representing six community groups in the battle to save LICH, said in a statement.

The state’s announcement came just days after the groups submitted a letter, addressed to SUNY board of trustees and Mayor Bill de Blasio, in which they argued the selection process for a LICH operator was invalid and needed to start from scratch.

SUNY said they would seek community input and insisted that bidding firms publicly show details of proposals before a selection is made, state officials said.

But the Cobble Hill Association, which has been a strong advocate of the struggling hospital, slammed the state’s sudden announcement.

The state decision was made “without consultation or notice,” said Jeff Strabone, spokesman for the association.

“SUNY has acted unilaterally with no forewarning, let alone consultation, to community stakeholders,” Stabone said in a statement.

The local association accused SUNY of steering LICH towards developers with an eye on the hospital's valuable real estate, rather than to hospital operators.

“SUNY has not reopened its RFP process: it has simply given its favored parties an opportunity to make their condo proposals look less repugnant,” Strabone said.

“Despite negotiations, SUNY has chosen to ignore our good-faith offer and has acted in bad faith by releasing its unilateral plan to the press before the community and the elected officials.”

Jill Furillo, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association, pledged the group's commitment to a full service hospital with vital services for LICH.

"[NYSNA] think[s] that the decision by SUNY to reopen the RFP process is a step in the right direction but we are concerned that this is not a serious effort to address the needs of our communities," said Furillo in a statement.

"We need a truly transparent process and a serious effort by SUNY to work with the community find a viable solution to the healthcare crisis in Brooklyn," she said.

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio urged the federal government to deliver an influx of cash to ease the ongoing Brooklyn hospital crisis.

Last year, SUNY officials opened their RFP in order to get rid of LICH and find an alternate operator for the struggling Cobble Hill hospital. More than half a dozen proposals were submitted before the July 2013 deadline.

SUNY yanked one proposal from Fortis Property Group last December in which LICH would be turned into condos with an urgent care center. Earlier this month, Fortis and NYU Langone Medical Center resubmitted their proposal for LICH with a 60,000-square-foot medical center with a freestanding emergency department and cancer center.

“I appreciate @SUNY's decision to reopen the bidding process for the future of #LICH, and their instruction that the community be included,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams tweeted Tuesday night.

Public Advocate Letitia James along with other elected officials, nurses and hospital advocates rallied Wednesday afternoon in front of LICH, blasting SUNY for their "flawed" RFP process.

In a statement, eight Brooklyn officials put forward their criteria for a fair RFP process, which includes opening the process to a wider range of bidders, community input through a selection committee and minimum healthcare services of a smaller full-service hospital or one that offers emergency ambulance services.

The officials are James, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, state Senators Daniel Squadron and Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, and Councilmembers Brad Lander, Stephen Levin and Carlos Menchaca.

"Brooklyn healthcare deserves better," the statement read. "Only an open process, with revised goals and criteria that prioritze healthcare, and provide genuine community representation in the decision-making process, can ensure the best possible healthcare outcome."