The People’s Champion and The Fight to Save Brooklyn’s LICH



Dear Readers:

Last month, I introduced to some (and re-introduced to others) New York City’s Public Advocate Letitia James. At that time I provided a broad overview of the important items on her agenda: good work for fair pay, access to healthcare, a common sense public education policy, universal school lunch and a constituent services plan.

Today I will focus on Public Advocate James’ determination to preserve one of Brooklyn’s venerable health care institutions – Long Island College Hospital (LICH). This has been a public fight and some New Yorkers have been critical of her stance around this issue. The plea was to keep the hospital running as a full service medical center – a noble aspiration but one without any real takers.

LICH was a financially troubled institution for many years.  In 2011 when SUNY raised its hand, and agreed to partner with the medical center, there was a collective sigh of relief and another health care crisis seemed to be adverted.

IMG_0084All of this changed in 2013 when SUNY decided to sell LICH, which was losing anywhere from $6 million to $10 million per month. On October 9, 2014, after a lengthy RFP process and many setbacks – including a labor dispute with the New York State Nursing Association (NYSNA) – Fortis Property Group would be successful.

What does this all mean?  Fortis has been given the green light to redevelop the site to include condominiums and a state of the art medical center to be operated by NYU Langone Medical Center.  In 2018, if all goes according to plan, a new housing development will be on the market and the residents of south Brooklyn will have a free-standing emergency room department. This is not the deal community residents and public advocates originally lobbied for, but sometimes success comes in small steps. Here is what the structured settlement will call for:

  • $5 million to upgrade the interim emergency department that NYU Langone Medical Center will operate until the new facility is complete.
  • $175 million to build a new facility with 125,000 square feet of space.
  • A medical treatment plan that will employ 70 doctors.
  • A total staff of 400.

I must admit there were times when I felt this would be a hopeless fight, and the residents would end up with little or no hope for quality health care.  In the early stages it was easier to call for an all or nothing proposition, but as we all know life is rarely this simple.  There are always challenges seen, and unseen, that further complicate financial deals of this magnitude. Not to minimize the daunting challenge of operating LICH, but my sense of why this fight was so important for James, and former Public Advocate now Mayor Bill DeBlasio, comes down to one word – ACCESS.  This was their way of ensuring an open dialogue around access to health care, during a time when the need is so great.  Perhaps, one day plans for a full-service hospital will show up in another form.

Outlining her agenda -

Outlining her agenda –

For me, this does not mean that Public Advocate James’ fight was lost or not needed.  I’m glad to know that we have elected officials who want to win for the people they represent.

While standing in opposition to a huge business deal such as this was may not always be practical, it is indeed admirable. This was not an easy process for Public Advocate James but she stood by the community and saw the debate through to the end.

To me, she still a champion and, from time to time, everybody needs one.

Have a great week!



SUNY, Fortis reach agreement on LICH –
The End for Long Island College Hospital – New York Time –
LICH Deal Collapses After Hiring Dispute –
University Hospital of Brooklyn at Long Island College Hospital –
LICH History – Dr. Hugh Gilgoff, LICH Pediatrics, Brooklyn, New York

The People’s Champion – Public Advocate Letitia James

Dear Readers:

In a couple of weeks, we will witness summer’s seamless transition to fall.  For many, the shift in seasons ushers in a new set of priorities.  There is a renewed sense of purpose, and we are committed to finishing the year on a high note.

At a New York City Council Meeting -

At a New York City Council Meeting –

Last year at this time, Brooklynites lent their support to former Councilwoman Letitia James as she pursued her dream of becoming New York City’s Public Advocate.  She would be the first African-American woman from Brooklyn to hold this position.  For many voters, James was the perfect choice, as she has spent much of her career advocating for the people of Brooklyn.  Ascending to this new role was clearly the next step.  On November 2, 2013, she would be successful in her quest.

Outlining her agenda -

Outlining her agenda –

Since taking office, Public Advocate James and her team have charted a broad agenda, and are focused on creating effective change for all New Yorkers.  They envision: Good Work for Fair Pay; Access to Healthcare; a Common Sense Public Education Policy; Utilizing the Court to Preserve Public Education; Universal School Lunch; Keeping New Yorkers in New York, and Legislative Action for Working People.

This past April, Public Advocate James and her team published their first progress report – Our First 100 Days.  Many New Yorkers have expressed their gratitude for the care and concern that she, and her team, bring to today’s challenges.  As a Brooklynite, this does not surprise me.  James is a tireless champion for social justice, education and legislative reform.  While the title that she holds is new, her support for those in need is not.

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We will provide you with a closer look at these initiatives, and their impact, in future Brooklyn Legends posts.  Today we wanted to provide you with a glimpse of the many things our champion is up to.

Many of the people who I have come in contact with believe our Public Advocate is just getting started.  She is just sharpening her focus.  I believe that her best days are ahead, and I want to see her win.  Her successes will become our successes, and that suits me just fine.  Besides, everyone needs a champion.

Enjoy the rest of the week.


Congratulations to Mayor de Blasio & First Lady Chirlane McCray

Dear Readers,

Happy New Year.  I hope that 2014 will be filled with love, peace, joy, happiness and prosperity.  Brooklyn Legends proudly joins all New Yorkers, particularly the people of Brooklyn, in saluting our new Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, our First Lady Chirlane McCray.

We also salute our new Public Advocate Letitia James, a Brooklynite, and Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Clearly, the road ahead will be filled with challenges.  However, as New Yorkers we are filled with hope and great expectation.  Our new leaders cannot win this battle alone.  Let’s all commit to standing with them and encouraging them along the way.

New York City is on the move and Brooklyn is “in the house”.  We are writing a new chapter in this history of our City.  Can you see the possibilities?  I believe that I can.

Have a wonderful day.

Congratulations to Letitia James, NYC Public Advocate Elect

Dear Readers,

LJ PAThe past 72 hours have been filled with excitement for New York City residents, particularly those who live in Brooklyn.  Many of us did not sleep until we knew for certain that Letitia James would become the next New York City Public Advocate.  She is the first African-American woman to ever hold this position!

Everyone who lives in Brooklyn knows that Letitia James is a force to be reckoned with.  All I can say is look out New York City, better days are ahead!  As a reminder to us all, here are a few of the many accomplishments she has brokered for us.

Letitia JamesAs Counsel and Chief of Staff to state assembly members, she worked on a law that gave grandparents rights in family court.  Given that many of our children are being raised by their grandparents, this is important and appropriate.

During her law career, she served as a public defender for the Legal Aid Society and represented countless young people in the criminal justice system.  We all know that many of our young people have been incarcerated for minor offenses.  Having a representative who will go the distance for them has, for many, been a turning point in their lives.

In the administration of former NYS Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, she was appointed the first Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Brooklyn Regional Office.  In that role, she resolved hundreds of consumer complaints and investigated predatory lenders who prey on first-time home-buyers.  I know that many of us are familiar with this scheme and probably know people who came close to losing everything as a result of these practices.

She also assisted the Civil Rights Bureau in their investigation of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy.  This is truly one of the City’s problem areas that must be addressed.  I can image that with Letitia in this role, and with Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio leading the way, this conversation is just getting started.

NLN_Letitia_JamesAs a Council Member, she was a strong social justice advocate.  She sponsored a law that addressed the Department of Corrections reporting to the Council violent incidents involving adolescents.

Public Advocate Elect Letitia James was born in Brooklyn, and has remained a Brooklyn resident throughout her life.  She is a young woman who, for me, has given new meaning to the term “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  The people have spoken and I like what they have said.

Please join Brooklyn Legends in saluting our new Public Advocate Elect Letitia James.

Banner – Letitia James for Public Advocate 2013
Second photo – Letitia James for Public Advocate 2013
Last photo – Letitia James Wikipedia
Additional information – Letitia James for Public Advocate 2013

Everything Is Falling Into Place

1029-brooklynDear Readers,

Wow! So much time has passed since my last post.  I really miss connecting with you.  Now that fall is here I, like many of you, am consumed with a busy work agenda, continuing education plans and life in general.  This is not a complaint, but simply my way of acknowledging that summer is over, and I must yield to the tasks before me.

Even with its growing list of priorities, fall is still my favorite time of the year.  I am more focused on my goals and dreams, and I approach each item on my list with a renewed sense of purpose.  This is a season of great expectations, and rewards.  I hold to the belief that with perseverance and dedication, everything will fall into place.

During the past few weeks New Yorkers concentrated on the September 10th Primary Elections.  By all accounts we were absorbed with the challenges brought by unemployment, inadequate housing, an overtaxed transportation system, and inequities in our educational system.  Equally important was the question, who will get the job done?  This was especially true in Brooklyn where I am pleased to report the conversation was shaped by seven distinguished women of African-American and Caribbean descent: Letitia James, Olanike Alabi, Laurie Cumbo, Ede S. Fox, Kimberly Council, Sylvia Kinard and Sharon Thomas.

NLN_Letitia_JamesLetitia James, the esteemed Councilwoman from the 35th District, was one of two Democratic candidates for Public Advocate.  She is a brilliant lawyer who also established the Urban Network, a coalition of minority organizations that raise funds for scholarships that are awarded to inner city youth.  After the September 10th primary, she was in a runoff with Dennis Squadron, the second Democratic contender.  We are pleased to report that Ms. James’ has successfully secured the nomination.  Her decision to enter this race has paved the way for three Brooklyn women – Olanike Alabi, Laurie Cumbo and Ede S. Fox – to compete for opportunity to continue her distinguished legacy of service.

7796186736_129c89b0cdOlanike Alabi is a dedicated public activist who has served as State Committeewoman (District Leader) of Brooklyn’s 57th A.D.  She was also a Legislative Assistant to a member of the New York City Council and District Manager of Community Board #2.  Her affiliations include: the League of Women Voters of the City of New York, Church Women United, Board for the Education of People of African Ancestry, Community Advisory Board of the Cumberland Diagnostic & Treatment Center and Emmanuel Baptist Church.

We salute Ms. Alabi for her dedication and commitment to the issues, and to the residents of Brooklyn 35th District.

laurie-cumboLaurie Cumbo is an esteemed business woman, college educator and the founder and Executive Director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA).  Her affiliations include: ARTTABLE, the American Association of Museums, the National Alliance of African and African-American Art Support Groups, the Cultural Equity Group, the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance and the Spelman College Alumni Association.

We salute Ms. Cumbo for her role in revitalizing Brooklyn’s art and business community and we congratulate her for winning the democratic nomination for Council Representative.

436568077_640Ede S. Fox is a tireless voice for the people of Brooklyn with more than six years’ experience in the New York City Council.  She was also Chief of Staff and Legislative and Budget Director for one of the city’s largest healthcare workers union.  Her organizational affiliations include: Brooklyn Community Board 8 Member and Chair of the Environmental/Sanitation committee; President of the Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

We salute Ms. Fox for being a consummate professional, and for her strong voice in New York’s City Council.

th (2)Kimberly Council, a committed advocate for the residents of East New York, is the only woman and the only person of African-American and Caribbean descent, to enter the race for Council Representative of the 37th District.  She served as Vice President of the East New York Housing Development Corporation, where she was instrumental in securing more than 200 units of affordable housing for the residents of East New York.  Her organizational affiliations include: American Association of Law Librarians, Local Development Corporation of East New York, East New York Housing Development Corporation, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and an Associate Minister with Berean Baptist Church.  Ms. Council had a strong showing and finished second to Rafael Espinal.

We salute Ms. Council on running a great race and for representing women of African American and Caribbean descent with excellence and grace.

In the 40th City Council District, which includes my neighborhood, Prospect Lefferts Garden in Flatbush, it was great to see Sylvia G. Kinard and Saundra Thomas lead the discussion for our community.

sylvia-kinard-fbSylvia Kinard is the Chief Diversity Officer at Medgar Evers College.  She is also a distinguished lawyer who has also worked as a Senior Legislative Attorney for the New York City Council and, as Assistant Commissioner and Deputy Counsel for the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal.  She was also served as a Vice President for Community School Board 13.

Her organizational affiliations include: Metropolitan Black Bar Association, New York Women in Film and Television, Church Women United and Brown Memorial Baptist Church.

We salute Ms. Kinard for her keen vision and for her many years of leadership at Medgar Evers College.

imagesSharon Thomas is Vice President for Community Affairs at WABC TV, a role she has held for more than a decade.  In this position, she works to ensure that grassroots non-profit organizations receive much-needed funds, and exposure, for their mission and programs.  She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from St. Francis College, in Brooklyn Heights.  Her organizational affiliations include: Dancewave, Council for Unity, New York Women in Communications Foundation, Grace Institute and Services for the Underserved.

We salute Dr. Thomas for her unwavering support of non-profit organizations in Brooklyn.  Her leadership has helped many grassroots organization thrive.

While Ms. Kinard and Dr. Thomas were unsuccessful in their bid against incumbent Dr. Mathieu Eugene, we have no doubt that these two distinguished women will continue to serve as strong leaders for Brooklyn’s 40th District.

In each race there can only be one frontrunner, but each woman highlighted in today’s post is a winner in her own right.  With great expectations, each candidate has boldly pursued her dream of helping residents like you and me, find our voice in Brooklyn’s political landscape.  We look forward to more from each woman in the future.

As for Letitia James and Laurie Cumbo, we can truly say that everything is indeed falling into place.  We look forward to celebrating them on November 5th.

Photo of Letitia James –
Photo of Olanike Alabi – The New York Times
Photo of Laurie Cumbo – New York Daily News
Photo of Ede S. Fox –
Photo of Kimberly Council – New York Daily News
Photo of Sylvia Kinard –
Photo of Sharon Thomas – New York Daily News