LICH advocates call bidding process ‘rigged’
By Mary Frost
Four of the developers invited by the State University of New York (SUNY) to submit revamped responses in the controversial bidding war for Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital (LICH) have revealed the details of their new proposals to the press.
SUNY had given the developers five days to change their bids in a disputed Request for Proposals (RFP) process.
In general, the proposals call for closing the 155-year-old hospital and redeveloping its real estate, while providing ambulatory care through partnerships with health providers.
LICH advocates have been fighting SUNY’s attempts to sell the Cobble Hill hospital for more than a year, saying that closing it would cripple health care delivery in some of the fastest-growing and underserved neighborhoods in northwestern Brooklyn.
The original winner of SUNY’s RFP, Fortis Property Group, has expanded the number of players involved in its proposal, which originally involved developing condos and partnering for the health component with ProHealth medical group, later dropped in favor of NYU Langone Medical Center.
In its latest bid, Fortis says it is partnering with both NYU Langone and Lutheran Family Health Centers (LFHC) for the medical component of the proposal, and L&M Development Partners to add a 25 percent affordable housing component. L&M has had a hand in developing Utica Place in Crown Heights and Navy Green near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Fortis said that LFHC, a federally qualified network affiliated with Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, would develop “an integrated system of care at LICH.”
The proposal calls for a 24-7 freestanding Emergency Department and Urgent Care Center as well as primary and preventative care, behavioral and dental care, and other medical services.
Fortis has increased the square footage dedicated to the health care component of its bid to 75,000 square feet (from 60,000) with 5,000 square feet “for other health and/or social services.”
In a second bid, developer Don Peebles, CEO of The Peebles Corporation, said Peebles would partner with the Institute for Family Health, which operates federally qualified community health centers. Peebles’ proposal includes a 50,000-square-foot primary care facility, with “up to 35 percent affordable units and larger units catering to families in the area.”
A Peebles spokesperson told the Brooklyn Eagle that the plan “maintains existing buildings instead of demolition and new construction, which is less disruptive to the area and creates jobs sooner.” He also said that Peebles is offering more money for the site.
In the third proposal, The Brooklyn Hospital Center said it would “transform available tracts of the existing LICH site into mixed-income housing with a commitment to develop a signiñcant number of units of affordable housing, and responsible development sensitive to community needs.”
For the medical component of its plan, Brooklyn Hospital said it would create a 24/ 7 Comprehensive Care Center on the current LICH campus, including an emergency department, able to accept ambulances and provide emergency health care services.
Brooklyn Hospital said it would be able to offer treatment for acute illnesses and injuries including cardiac and pulmonary conditions, fractures and moderate trauma, infections, early-onset stroke and behavioral health issues. Critically ill patients “or cases of considerable severity” would be transported to Brooklyn Hospital in Fort Greene “for further evaluation and possible admission requiring treatment as an in-patient.” Brooklyn Hospital also said it would create at least four walk-in clinics.
According to Crain’s NY, a fourth proposal comes from Brisa Builders, and also includes North Shore-LIJ Health System and Lutheran Medical Center as a provider of primary care, dental services, and behavioral health service care. Brisa would partner with Cornell Realty and the Chetrit Group to develop the property. Originally, Brisa had planned to partner with the Chinese Community Accountable Care Organization in Manhattan, which was interested in operating LICH as a full service hospital.
Both Fortis and Brooklyn Hospital said they would also fund a community health foundation.
It’s not clear that any winner in the LICH bidding war would have smooth sailing. Community groups and officials representing LICH’s service area have called SUNY’s RFP illegal and “rigged” to favor developers over hospital operators. Advocates are calling for a “fair and open process” that would reflect the health needs of the burgeoning community.
While Governor Andrew Cuomo and other SUNY officials have been trying to make the case that Brooklyn “has too many hospital beds,” Brooklyn has fewer hospital beds per thousand residents than almost anywhere in the metro region, and few than the New York State average, according to figures published by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Capital New York.
Echoing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s oft-repeated theme of “a tale of two cities,” New York State had roughly 3.0 beds per thousand population. Brooklyn, however, has only 2.15 beds per 1,000 residents, while Manhattan has 6.17.
Jeff Strabone, board member of the Cobble Hill Association, one of six community groups suing SUNY, said on Monday, “Let’s be clear: when a hospital becomes something that is not a hospital, that means a hospital has closed. The H in LICH stands for Hospital. It doesn’t stand for Band-Aid Central or for a bogus ‘free-standing’ ER.”
Strabone added, “As for Fortis’s offer of affordable housing at LICH, that is a trick that has been played one too many times in Brooklyn where we are still waiting for the affordable housing to be built at Atlantic Yards. Brooklyn will not be fooled by billionaires who dangle affordable housing promises in the face of our demands for health care.”
SUNY Downstate acquired LICH in 2011 with the understanding it would operate the complex as a full service hospital. A year ago, cash-strapped SUNY announced they would be closing LICH and monetizing its assets. A series of court orders, however, has barred SUNY from doing so.
SUNY and DOH officials are facing contempt charges on February 11 before state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes for violating his orders on multiple occasions.