This whole court settlement is out of order!
So claim activists who are suing the state once again, stating that the settlement-outlined scoring process that put developer Fortis Property Group in the negotiation seat to redevelop Long Island College hospital was manipulated by state appointees. The process was supposed to favor developer proposals that kept the Cobble Hill hospital a hospital, but only one of the three top-ranking bids did. Now that the State University of New York has called off talks with two suitors, the state is back to its original, pre-lawsuit pick, a donor to Gov. Cuomo, who controls the university system. The hospital closed on May 22, but the courthouse saga has rambled on and, during an all-day hearing Tuesday, a lawyer for the seven groups suing said once again that a resolution is just over the rise.
“The seminal moment of this case is about to come,” Jim Walden said.
Walden emphasized that the stakes are dire, but expressed hope that the former medical center could still be resurrected.
“If we lose, the chances of a hospital at that campus are dead,” he said.
During the morning portion of the hearing, Judge Johnny Lee Baynes said the community groups, Fortis, and the state were near an agreement, but when court resumed that afternoon there was no mention of a compromise and Walden dove straight into arguing the motion which seeks to have the scoring rearranged to favor fourth-place Prime Healthcare Services, which made a hospital-inclusive pitch, or to start the bidding all over.
“We traded justice for a process,” Walden told the court. “But it was a process in which the other side believed this community was looking for a unicorn.”
Lawyers for the State University of New York and for the state Department of Health explained its appointees’ reported down-voting of hospital-inclusive plans by saying instructions given to the evaluators were necessarily vague and left room for discretion.
“If the criteria were mandatory, why even have evaluators? It could be done by a computer,” said Nicole Gueron, an attorney representing the health department. “That’s not what we set up. We asked smart people to take a hard look.”
The state is continuing its negotiations with the current top bidder Fortis after the state torpedoed talks with Brooklyn Health Partners and Peebles Corporation. The State University of New York is continuing to operate an emergency room at the former site of Long Island College Hospital, though its legal obligation to do so ended May 23. The university system’s website now says the standalone emergency department will remain open until Aug. 30. The department is not accepting ambulances and activists argue that without the attendant services of a hospital it is nothing more than a glorified walk-in clinic.
A pair of deaths in Red Hook over the past two weeks have residents questioning whether the fatalities could have been prevented had the state kept Long Island College Hospital open.
A man died after suffering an asthma attack in his Red Hook Houses apartment on May 21 and it took 32 minutes for paramedics to get him to New York Methodist Hospital, according to FDNY officials. A 14-year-old was fatally struck by the driver of a Bavarian Motor Works car on Hicks Street in Red Hook on Monday morning, according to a report by the New York Post. The boy was also taken to Methodist and died there, the Post wrote.
Fortis president Joel Kestenbaum gave Gov. Cuomo’s re-election campaign $5,000 last November, while his uncle Moshe — who is not a partner in the firm — gave $12,500 in Jan. 2014.