More than 100 angry, screaming residents demanded that Gov. Cuomo reverse the closure of Long Island College Hospital’s emergency room to ambulances during a June 22 rally outside the hospital on Henry Street between Amity and Pacific streets.
The rally was a response to state officials on Thursday violating a temporary restraining order with their illegal closure of the medical center’s emergency room to ambulances. The restraining order prohibiting the closure of the Cobble Hill hospital had come from Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes. He had ordered that the hospital stay open and continue to serve the community. In fact, when alerted of the plan a day before it was enacted, Justice Baynes said the state was in contempt of the order. The ralliers came out to persuade Gov. Cuomo step in and take action.
“We’re out here to send Gov. Cuomo a message that he’s got to save LICH, not close LICH,” said Pete Sikora, a member of Parents for LICH, the group which organized the rally.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D–Manhattan) addressed the crowd, and spoke in favor of keeping the hospital open. Other speakers included Public Advocate Bill De Blasio (D), Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez (D–Sunset Park), state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg), and various community members.
The speakers stressed that the medical center is extremely important because it’s the only hospital in the area, and that Cuomo has a responsibility to take action.
“We want Gov. Cuomo to demonstrate the same kind of leadership that our local officials have, and to step up,” said Liz Holden, a member of Parents for LICH. “He’s ultimately the boss. He is the one that has the authority to stop all this.”
The group then marched from the playground, along Atlantic Avenue and Court Street, to Brooklyn Borough Hall to listen to more speakers. Ralliers chanted loudly and passersby showed their solidarity with encouraging cheers — some even joined the march.
“What’s going on now is just unconscionable,” said Brooklyn Heights resident Trudy Wassner. “This would be a great hospital if these people who don’t know how to manage would just get out of the way.”
Hospital spokesman Robert Bellafiore acknowledged after the rally the professionalism of the hospital’s staff, but claims it loses $4 million every month. He added that a number of hospital employees have resigned in the past few months, including the directors of medicine and nursing.
“We understand the passion and commitment of the people at the rally, but the fact is that passion and commitment alone do not make a viable hospital,” he said.
Gov. Cuomo’s office did not reply for a request for a comment by press time.