Daily News has it backwards, by George Fiala

The NY Daily News is owned by Canadian Mort Zuckerman, a real estate developer with a personal net worth of at least $2.4 billion. Once again he blasts LICH using his editorial page to fabricate truth. In many ways we love the Daily News, as it still maintains many of the traditional roles of a city newspaper, including honest investigative and political reporting.

Brad Lander surrounded by sympathetic politicians at last summers march over the Brooklyn Bridge in support of LICH and Interfaith Hospitl.

Brad Lander surrounded by sympathetic politicians at last summers march over the Brooklyn Bridge in support of LICH and Interfaith Hospital.

Despite the nearly unbiased reporting whenever they get around to writing about the LICH/SUNY debacle, their editorial page has consistently gotten the facts wrong as Zuckerman seems to be carrying the torch for Governor Cuomo in his battle to convert our local hospital into luxury condominiums, complementing the luxury condos that are going into nearby Brooklyn Bridge park, further turning our part of Brooklyn into a playground for the rich, and a continuing source of outsized profit for real estate developers and banks.

To summarize, this is what the editorial  on page 40 of the Sunday, December 22nd edition says.

  • LICH is bankrupt.
  • LICH has bled the SUNY system.
  • SUNY is only now appealing the court orders that prohibit them from closing LICH.
  • Having a successful full service hospital in Cobble Hill is a pipedream.
  • The trustees who voted to table the sale of LICH to the FORTIS real estate group are ‘weak kneed.’
  • $13 million a month is wasted keeping LICH open.
  • Sanity will prevail when NY Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman hears Carl McCall’s plea for an appeal of Judge Baynes’ and Demarest’s rulings.

First of all, here is what Wayne Barrett, one of NY’s most knowledgable political reporters, has to say about Judge Lippman:  “Lippman has been a hardworking ambassador and manager of the courts for decades, visiting almost all of the system’s 343 locations and acquainting himself with virtually every one of its 1,300 judges. But he has also been its consummate political player, seemingly more interested in influence than law. ”

Barrett’s complete article can be read here.

The LICH case is nothing if not political. LICH used to be one of NY’s best hospitals (it was still ranked the #2 Brooklyn hospital this past year in Mr. Zuckerman’s other publication – US News and World Report). It had been independently run until the 1990’s, when it became fashionable for all sorts of hospitals to merge and form consortiums. LICH merged with the Continuum Group, which was run by longtime political operative Stanely Brezenoff. After a number of years of raping and pillaging by Continuum, the scraps were turned over to New York State in the ridiculous hope that SUNY Downstate would set it right. Instead, as is now suspected in court documents by the Judge who signed over the hospital, SUNY’s plan was to further undermine the hospital’s credibility by closing wings and this year attempting to close the entire thing. If it wasn’t for the nurse’s union (NYSNA, which by the way is also political), the place would be torn down by now.

Until SUNY’s announcement earlier this year that they would be shutting the hospital , LICH’s 250 beds were just about filled to capacity. SUNY has done everything to empty the hospital, both figuratively and literally. There is still no certainty that the hospital will survive, and so many of the doctors have left and signed on with hospitals that they know will remain open. The best ones have been cherry picked off by competing hospitals, in some cases emptying whole departments. Doctors owe it to their patients to have a functioning hospital to have their patients admitted to, so you can’t blame them for leaving. We are told that were the uncertainties taken away, many of these doctors would happily return, as they love the hospital and the neighborhood.

In any case, the reason that SUNY originally stated for closing LICH was that they were losing $4 million per month. This included a corrupt deal with Brezenoff where Continuum was still allowed to handle the billing of LICH patients, even after abandoning the hospital to the state. For this they were paid $2 million a month, and according to local Assemblywoman Joan Millman, many patients never received bills. It’s possible the hospital was really profitable, but that would not serve SUNY’s purposes. Even a $4 million loss was not enough for them, so they stopped allowing patients to be admitted, and hired hundreds of unnecessary security guards, inflating the losses to $15 million a month, which they claimed a few months ago. Now the claim is $13 million. These are all just numbers used to justify the killing of a hospital. Were SUNY serious about running a top notch hospital in one of the most desirable areas of NYC, LICH would be a financial and professional success story.

Which could still happen, except for politics. Bill De Blasio, took on LICH’s plight last summer as he was plodding along as a second tier mayoral candidate. In a stroke of political genius, he got himself arrested in the cause of saving LICH, which actually raised his own visibility more than it did LICH’s. He showed up at many rallies, always saying the right things.

Now, as mayor-elect, he continues to say some of the same things. Which is that our area needs health care services. We haven’t heard him repeat the chant “Hospitals – not Condos,” as he did so often last summer. Carl McCall, head of the SUNY trustees, on the other hand, is now saying that the state would gladly give the hospital over to NYC for De Blasio and the NYC Health and Hospital Corporation to run.

We think that NYC could be at the least be  a transitional operator, guaranteeing the survival of LICH until a permanent operator is found, or until they reorganize to run themselves, as they used to. LICH has a modern plant, and it is in a great neighborhood, surrounded by lots of wealthy people with health insurance. With the addition of some top doctors, and a serious commitment to the best healthcare, and a good commissary, LICH could blossom and thrive. Having the city ensure its short term future would begin this transition.

We are disappointed that De Blasio has remained silent for now, as push comes to shove. We know it’s all political, and nobody can say anything without rocking whatever boat they are riding on. That’s why we are saying it, as we are not running for anything, nor plan to.

So come on New York. Ignore Mort Zuckerman, who never met a real estate developer he didn’t like. Come on new mayor, who is also the former City Councilman for the LICH community – follow through on your campaign promise to save the hospital and SAVE LICH!

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7 Responses to Daily News has it backwards, by George Fiala

  1. -j says:

    Excellent rebuttal. More people need to see this. George should send this article into the Daily News for their “Guest Opinion” space

    • Sweeti says:

      If not in the daily news then as an op-ed in another city paper. Kudos to Red Hook Star for telling it like it is.

    • Byron Major says:

      Remember that Zuckerman like the other news mogul Murdock are also heavy into real estate. They are political pals of Cuomo and were members of his now recently disbanded ” Committee to Save 1% NY ” along with the NYC Real Estate Advisory Boards and Cuomo’s Wall Street pals like Berger of that famous “Berger Commission.”. It was started to promote the development and sales of NYC Real Estate and other ventures for profit, part of which would be turned over to Cuomo’s political campaign chest. H. Carl McCall was also a member of that group. Because it was deemed a potential embarrassment this election year, Cuomo was advised to disband it. Remember also called upon George Pataki to come up with a tax reduction proposal for the “Cuomo” rich. That is the same Pataki that while running for reelection as Governor made a deal with the Insurance giants to reduce their hospital reimbursement rates so as to receive their financial backing. That reduction in hospital reimbursement rates is now especially hurting Brooklyn Hospitals. Why are the reimbursement rates lower for Brooklyn than for Manhattan. Their expenses are the same – wages, supplies etc..

  2. redhookstar says:

    Natalie Musemeci who now writes for the Daily News until recently worked for the Brooklyn Paper. Maybe someone who knows her can email it to her… Thanks for the nice words!

    • Sweeti says:

      The Brooklyn Paper has yet to show any concern for what is happening at LICH & the neighborhoods that rely on it. They have yet to get the story straight, tell the truth about it & do any kind of real reporting on it. Seems like they prefer regurgitating SUNY’s pr line.

  3. Sweeti says:

    BTW, do you have any updates on what that meeting was about at Borough Hall this recently between the elected officials, H Carl McCall & SUNY Chancellor Zimpher? Wish I was a fly on that wall.

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