Streams

De Blasio Promises Further Court Action on LICH

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Wrangling over the future of financially-strapped Long Island College Hospital – or LICH – in Brooklyn continues.

SUNY Downstate spokesperson Robert Bellafiore says only 11 patients remain at LICH and others are being turned away because so many doctors and nurses have left. He says the hospital is losing $15 million a month and has become a drain on the university system.

"The financial impact hits all the SUNY campuses," he said. "460,000 students attend SUNY campuses across the state of New York. And the drain doesn't just go to SUNY downstate. The drain goes to all of those other campuses, like Stony Brook, and Albany and Plattsburg and New Paltz."

But Public Advocate Bill de Blasio says the closure threatens the health and safety of Brooklyn residents. "They're supposed to be thinking about the patients, the people in need in Brooklyn," he says. "And what's happened instead is a relentless pursuit of a real estate deal."

He says a judge has set a hearing for Monday to hold SUNY in contempt for violating a temporary restraining order that requires the hospital to maintain staffing and services. And he says the case has also been referred to the Brooklyn District Attorney who is considering whether to press charges against SUNY.

Editors:

Julianne Welby

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About LIPA board members

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s war on the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) for its handling of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath reached its high point on Tuesday. The governor says he’s appointing a special commission to investigate the state-controlled authority and make recommendations on improving it, which could go as far as dissolving or privatizing the maligned agency.

"From Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, to Hurricane Sandy, over the past two years New York has experienced some of the worst natural disasters in our state's history," Cuomo said in a statement announcing the creation of the commission. “As we adjust to the reality of more frequent major weather incidents, we must study and learn from these past experiences to prepare for the future.”

Yet Cuomo’s LIPA demonizing may sound hollow to some. After all, LIPA is, like the MTA, a creature of the State of New York. And, like the MTA, Cuomo himself has direct control over who oversees the agency. Yet the governor has made only one appointment to LIPA’s board of trustees—despite having appointment authority over six of the fifteen board members—since coming into office in January 2011. This includes the board’s chair.

In the meantime, a host of appointees—some with clear political connections and most with little to no experience in the industry industry—been steering the agency through its recent bought of crises, including:

Howard E. Steinberg

The current chair of the LIPA board, Steinberg was originally appointed to the board in 1999 by then-governor, Republican George Pataki. Before that, Steinberg served as the director of the New York Thruway. He is a corporate lawyer in his private life, as well as a past contributor to state and national Republican interests. His term on the LIPA board was up at the end of August of last year.

John Fabio

An appointee of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver since 2003, Fabio has a resume filled with government administrative positions. He spent over three decades with the New York City Board of Education before a stint as the VP of the Nassau County branch of Off-Track Betting from 2001 to 2009. His positions have also helped him fill political coffers: Fabio has donated more than $20,000 to Democratic political interests over the past decade.

Suzette Smookler

Smookler has been the head of SUNY Stony Brooks’ Director Clinical Nutrition and Education Services since 2000, according to her Facebook profile. That background—along with regular campaign contributions to Suffolk County’s Republican state senator, Ken LaValle—was enough to earn her an appointment from former majority leader Joe Bruno in 2006. The current leader, Senator Dean Skelos, re-upped the appointment until 2016.

Peter Tully

Governor Cuomo’s sole appointment to the LIPA board came in May of last year. But long before them, Tully was surely known to the governor: he’s the president of a major construction company and vice-president of one of the industry’s biggest advocacy groups, the New York Building Congress. He’s also a prolific Democratic political donor. Among his $53,000 in personal donations over the past decade are $15,000 donated to Cuomo. Then there’s his company, Tully Construction, which also donated more than $80,000 over the same time period to both Democrats and Republicans alike, including an additional $4239 to Governor Cuomo.

The other board members confirm the trend of political donors (X. Cristofer Damianos, whose company donated more than $120,000 to political campaigns over the last decade), member’s backgrounds with little relevance (Susan Gordon Ryan, former special education teacher and head of the LI division of the state parks department) and/or lame-ducks (Ryan and Lawrence J. Waldman both had terms that ended last year).

As Capital New York’s Dana Rubenstein recently pointed out, Cuomo’s crusade against LIPA may be well deserved. But the question remains why hasn’t he used his considerable power and influence over the agency to do something sooner?

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