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What You Need to Know About Long Island College Hospital Amid Federal Probe

 Bill de Blasio as public advocate spoke during a rally to save the hospital July 29, 2013.
Bill de Blasio as public advocate spoke during a rally to save the hospital July 29, 2013.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

COBBLE HILL — It's been two years since Long Island College Hospital closed its doors, yet the embattled hospital's story appears far from over.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is now investigating Mayor Bill de Blasio's role in the sale of LICH. Subpoenas have been issued for emails from de Blasio and top aides regarding the hospital's sale.

The State University of New York, which once operated LICH and handled its sale, has received a subpoena from federal authorities "for correspondence with Mayor de Blasio and his office regarding the sale of Long Island College Hospital," a spokeswoman said. "We will provide the requested documents in accordance with law."

Healthcare workers union 1199 S.E.I.U. has also been issued subpoenas, the New York Times reported. 

LICH, a 156-year-old hospital, was licensed for more than 500 in-patient beds but operated roughly 250 the year before it closed. The institution made headlines for more than a year as the community fought to keep the facility running as a full-service hospital.

Even after its closure and slow-paced demolition, residents continue to battle plans for high-rise condo towers at the site. 

Now that the hospital is back in the news, here's a brief history on its closure, sale and the mayor's involvement:

► When did this fight over the hospital begin?

The State University of New York in February 2013 voted unanimously to close Long Island College Hospital after officials said SUNY was losing millions of dollars each month keeping it open. 

► What was the reaction to that decision?

The backlash to SUNY's vote was swift and immediate. Hospital employees, Brooklyn residents and local politicians banded together in an effort to save the hospital. For several months, the drawn-out fight between hospital advocates and state officials continued, with protests, legal proceedings and court orders.

► How was Bill de Blasio involved?

In July 2013, de Blasio was the city's public advocate and a Democratic candidate for mayor. Calling LICH "a vital community hospital," he stood firmly against its closure and was arrested at a protest outside a Midtown SUNY campus. He also secured a court order that required SUNY to reinstate hospital services that had already been cut.

He even announced a healthcare plan in July 2013 that called for the city and state to work together to prevent community hospitals from closing.

The LICH fight helped catapult de Blasio to victory in the mayoral elections, but his position on maintaining a full-service hospital at the site later shifted.

In February 2014, a settlement was finally reached between state officials, labor unions and community groups. Developers were asked to submit new proposals for the site, with greater consideration for those who included healthcare facilities in their plans. It also allowed the developers to build residential units on the site. 

The settlement far from guaranteed a full-service hospital at the LICH site, but de Blasio praised the settlement as "truly historic." He was later criticized for using the hospital as a "political prop" in his campaign for mayor.

► So who wanted to buy it?

Nine proposals were submitted in the bid for the LICH site — four of which would have operated a hospital. 

One of the bids came from real estate developer Don Peebles, at one point a front-runner in the negotiations. DNAinfo New York first reported in May that de Blasio asked Peebles for a donation while the state was considering the developer's proposal for the site. 

► Was the hospital eventually sold?

Yes, though the process was rife with accusations and uncertainty. Negotiations with two other developers failed before Fortis Property Group's $240 million proposal with NYU Langone Medical Center won out. 

SUNY signed a deal to sell Long Island College Hospital to Fortis Property Group later in 2014. LICH closed its doors and hundreds of nurses and workers were laid off.

► What is planned for the LICH site?

Fortis currently has two proposals for the site, both of which largely involve building luxury residential condo towers. A new medical center and freestanding emergency room will be operated by NYU Langone.

Cobble Hill residents, many of whom fought to save LICH, were outraged by the plan. The proposed high-rise towers stoked fears of overcrowding in schools, on streets and on public transit — all without a full hospital in their neighborhood.  

NYU Langone Cobble Hill now operates a 24-hour emergency room in one of the former LICH buildings. Patients who require hospital admission after their initial treatment are transferred by ambulance to another location, according to NYU Langone's website. Eventually, the plan calls for it to operate a four-story, outpatient facility and a new, state-of-the-art emergency department.

► Is de Blasio still involved in LICH and its redevelopment?

Earlier this year DNAinfo reported that City Hall was in direct negotiations with Fortis Property Group, elected officials and the Cobble Hill Association, a community group representing the neighborhood.

Fortis has said it would build 225,000 square feet of affordable housing on the site only if it's allowed to rezone the property through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. (That plan would also let it build 900,000 square feet of market-rate residential real estate and a new public school).

As it stands now, Fortis has begun internal demolition on some of the buildings and there is no precise timeline on when the developer has to decide which proposal it plans to build.

Despite deep resistance from the neighborhood and elected officials, the de Blasio administration has thrown its support behind the developer's rezoning plan in hopes of bringing more affordable housing to the city, a key part of the mayor's agenda. 

"We continue to believe that pursuing a ULURP would deliver the maximum benefits to the people of Cobble Hill," a mayoral spokesman said in February.