Democratic mayoral nominee Bill DeBlasio refused on Friday to give a straight answer about the content of his conversations with Gov. Cuomo about the fate of Long Island College Hospital. Cuomo has endorsed the former Park Slope councilman and current public advocate and the two have been talking ahead of DeBlasio’s likely move to City Hall.
The fate of the beleaguered medical center has come up, DeBlasio said three days before the election. He just would not say how.
Asked at an anti-hospital closure press conference at Borough Hall what the governor has said about Long Island College Hospital, DeBlasio took a detour around the question.
“We’ve had most of our conversations with SUNY officials, and I haven’t been personally a part of a lot of those,” DeBlasio said.
“But I think, look, we have a real difference with SUNY,” he continued, glossing over the fact that Cuomo appoints 15 of the 18 members of the university’s board of trustees as well as the commissioner of the Department of Health, which approved the closure. “And we are hopeful that the governor and other leaders in Albany will prevail upon SUNY to stop doing the wrong thing, which they consistently have done with LICH.”
The latest poll shows DeBlasio likely to sail to an easy victory on Tuesday and, though he has been a vocal opponent of the closure of the 155-year-old Cobble Hill hospital, as mayor he would work closely with the governor, whose underlings have been trying to shutter the facility since February.
This reporter pressed further, asking if DeBlasio had not discussed the closure with Cuomo, who endorsed him after his September primary win. Again, DeBlasio demurred.
“Not in the past week or two, but I think the point is that we’re going to keep pushing for a different approach from SUNY,” he said.
Hospital leaders have hailed DeBlasio for his efforts as public advocate to keep the institution alive. He is active in lawsuits against the state for its handling of the hospital and got himself arrested protesting the shuttering. His activist efforts have been so major that they garnered him the New York State Nurses Association’s first-ever mayoral endorsement back during the Democratic primary season, long before it was a near-certainty that he would be the city’s next mayor.
The state has allowed ambulances back at the hospital and is supposed to be out of the picture sometime soon due to a bombshell ruling by Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Carolyn Demarest that stripped it of authority over the place, but the facility remains in a vegetative state with no new operator in the offing.
Gov. Cuomo’s office has not declined repeated requests for comment about the hospital’s fate over the past eight months.
As long as the state runs the hospital, Gov. Cuomo holds the keys to stopping its closure, but both he and his likely future colleague are staying tight-lipped about what the future has in store.