The somber looks on the faces of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (at right in photo) and Brooklyn Heights Association President Jane McGroarty reflect the seriousness of the discussion that followed Velazquez’ remarks at the BHA Annual Meeting last night. While the Congresswoman spoke mostly about issues at the federal level, such as the role of government in assisting the revitalization of the Brooklyn waterfront and providing relief from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, many of the questions from the audience were about the threatened closure of Long Island College Hospital. When first asked about this, the most reassuring answer Velazquez could give was that she and other elected officials had met with Carl McCall, former State Comptroller who now serves as chair of the SUNY Board of Trustees (which has unanimously voted to close LICH) and that he had promised some sort of plan to deal with health care needs in the neighborhoods around LICH. Velazquez also said she thought LICH needed a better marketing plan to fill the fifty percent of its beds that are now empty, and that SUNY had not done sufficient “due diligence” with respect to its purchase and operation of LICH.
McGroarty was much more forceful in her remarks. She said she was convinced there had been “misdeeds,” and that the assertion that Brooklyn Heights residents won’t use LICH is false. In her annual report delivered before Velazquez’ address, she referred to Jane Jacobs notion, described in her book Systems of Survival, of two ethical systems (or “syndromes,” as Jacobs calls them): a “commercial” and a “guardian” system. Jacobs said both of these are necessary: the commercial system provides for entrepreneurship and markets, while the guardian system provides government and the provision of public goods such as national defense, police, the courts, infrastructure, and hospitals. According to Jacobs, problems result from the encroachment of either of these systems into the proper domain of the other. McGroarty said she believes that SUNY, which should be governed by the guardian system, has allowed the commercial system to determine a decision that the land now occupied by LICH should be put to what that system, taking its cue from the real estate market, regards as its “highest and best use,” that is, for luxury housing.
During the question and answer period, Maribel Agosto, a LICH nurse and area resident, said there would be a community forum about LICH at the Kane Street Synagogue, 236 Kane Street, this Thursday evening, February 14, from 6:00 to 8:00.
In her annual report, McGroarty also noted as a “troubling event” Brooklyn Public Library’s proposed sale of its Brooklyn Heights branch building to an as yet to be determined real estate developer who would demolish the existing building and replace it with a high-rise structure, which existing zoning allows, incorporating a new library (but without the Business Library, which would be relocated to the main library at Grand Army Plaza). At the close of the meeting, Montague Street resident Michael D.D. White, author of the blog Noticing New York, and his wife Carolyn McIntyre, urged those concerned with preserving the branch library to sign her petition.