LICH bidders provide answers, prompt more questions

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LICH. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
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Dan Goldberg

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It was an indication of things to come when North Shore LIJ Medical Center announced Wednesday that, despite being named a partner by one of the bidders to take over Long Island College Hospital, they wanted nothing to do with it. 

"We didn't feel we were in a position to submit a proposal for LICH at this time," said Terry Lynam, spokesman for LIJ. "We made it clear that we were not going to be part of this formal process."

At a community event that very evening, the would-be partner, Brisa Builders Corporation, duly presented the Long Island health system as part of its bid anyway.

It was just one of the many oddities that occurred during a forum hosted by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams Wednesday in the hopes of better informing the community about the offers on the table to take over the money-losing state-run Cobble Hill hospital.

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“My goal is for our community to be educated and engaged in the future of Long Island College Hospital,” Adams said.

But the event -- which failed to air at 9:30 Wednesday night on the Brooklyn Public Network because of technical difficulties but is scheduled to be rebroadcast several times on Thursday -- is more likely to remind everyone how fluid the LICH situation has become and how many important details have yet to be worked out.

For example, when asked how many affordable housing units would be created under their proposal, Dr. Josephine Wu, representing the Chinese Community Accountable Care Organization, said she wasn't sure. CCACO is mounting a bid financed by John Catsimatidis, the supermarket magnate and former mayoral candidate, in a deal brokered by Rudy Washington, deputy mayor to Rudy Giuliani.

Catsimatidis declined to comment.

The presentations, which were given by a representative from each of the five bidders, did shed new light on some issues.

Don Peebles, a developer, announced he would partner with Neil Calman, CEO of the Institute for Family Health. Calman said he hoped to do for the LICH community what he did for Harlem after North General Hospital closed in 2010.

Fortis Property Group, whose initial proposal was scored highest by officials of SUNY, the state entity that (grudgingly) runs LICH at the moment, announced its plan had the support of Assemblyman Joe Lentol, dean of the Brooklyn delegation.

"I know the Kestenbaums (owners and operators of Fortis) who have done health care forever in my district," Lentol said Wednesday night. "I know they are reliable health care providers. The proposal make sense."

Lentol also highlighted Fortis' planned partnership with NYU Langone and Lutheran Medical Center, which can provide acute care for the community. 

Brooklyn Hospital said it plans to partner with Mount Sinai Medical Center, which will provide operational guidance.

SUNY officials are expected to score the proposals quickly and have scheduled a meeting on Friday to discuss the different proposals, which can be seen in full on their website. No action is expected to be taken at Friday's meeting. 

The presentations had the feel of a local campaign. The candidates made their pitch to the camera in a mostly empty room, emphasizing their best traits while glossing over anything that might be controversial.

“Luxury condominiums,” for example, became “market-rate” apartments. Bidders were quick to highlight their Brooklyn roots and everyone appeared to have the support of the community. All promised jobs and health care and all said the process, at least appears, to have been fair.

No one, however, appears to have the support of the community groups currently fighting SUNY in court.

“There is no sense commenting on or reacting to any of the proposals, since this process has no chance whatsoever of withstanding legal scrutiny,” said Jim Walden, the attorney representing six community groups. “SUNY and its enablers can claim this process is ‘open and transparent’ all they want, but repeating a lie one thousand times does not make it true.”