Brigid Bergin is the City Hall reporter for WNYC. She covers city politics including the 2013 mayoral race and transition.
#Speedgate Hangs Over Murky LICH Deal
Friday, February 21, 2014
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is hailing a deal he says is the "best chance" for the future of Brooklyn's Long Island College Hospital.
De Blasio announced the agreement, reached with the State University of New York and Governor Andrew Cuomo, that ends a lawsuit from healthcare workers, unions, and community groups that had sought to block SUNY from shuttering LICH and selling the property.
At times, the press conference held in the Blue Room of City Hall felt more like a pep rally, with de Blasio acknowledging each of the 13 elected officials, advocates and union leaders who had been fighting to save the cash-strapped facility, calling for "long and sustained applause" after he read each name.
Then after 40 minutes of accolades, city attorney Jim Walden made an important clarification: "It's not a settlement that's going to guarantee anything."
"But I echo the words of the mayor in saying this settlement represents the best possible chance at a hospital and that the proposer who offers a hospital and a good price will be selected through this process," Walden added.
More weight will be given to development proposals that include a hospital. And when a new panel convenes to review the proposals, those meetings will be open to the public. But the timeline is tight. Developers only have approximately three weeks to submit new plans.
Meanwhile, the City Hall press corps was more interested in what the mayor didn't say. To the disbelief of eager reporters, de Blasio declined to take any questions on news reports that his official SUVs may have broken traffic laws. In a prepared statement, he said he takes traffic safety seriously, and said NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton had already covered the issue.
"Commissioner Bratton addressed the topic of my security detail earlier today," said de Blasio. "I'm very comfortable with what Commissioner Bratton said and I refer you to his comments."
Bratton had said he was not "overly concerned" with CBS-2 video that appeared to show an NYPD officer driving the mayor above the speed limit, changing lanes without signalling and blowing through two stop signs. Bratton said officers have to make judgements based on security and traffic conditions.
Responding to a query from WNYC, the state Department of Motor Vehicles sent this statement:
"There are no specific provisions of NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law regarding the transport of public officials. Public officials and their drivers are subject to the same traffic laws as the general public. There is no exception for law enforcement unless the officer is operating an authorized emergency vehicle during an emergency situation."
With reporting from Robert Lewis and Tracie Hunte