Sunday, March 2, 2014

Massively Developing Northwestern Brooklyn Needs More Hospital Beds; Comptroller Warns Closing LICH Would Be Mistake Like St. Vincent's

Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: MK Metz
A staggering number of developments, both residential and commercial, are on the drawing board or in the beginning stages of construction  in Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn Bridge Park, DUMBO, the waterfront, Gowanus and beyond.

But hospital access in these areas is already stretched to the breaking point, with Long Island College Hospital's (LICH) service levels reduced by SUNY, and the next closest hospital, Brooklyn Hospital Center already clocking two-hour average waits in its ER. Further away, at New York Methodist, patients are spending nights in the hallways of the ER.

More developments have just been announced that will bring thousands of workers to the area.  The new owners of five former Watchtower buildings in DUMBO are getting ready to convert the towering properties into offices for techies, the Brooklyn Eagle reports.

They will join employees at the new hotels and retail developments under construction in Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, and Downtown, and the tens of thousands of new residents who will soon be moving into the towers springing up in Downtown Brooklyn (see this report by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership), DUMBO, the waterfront and Brooklyn Heights.

More thousands are expected as NYU expands its footprint utilizing its air rights at Metrotech, and CUNY does the same at City Tech.

If LICH disappears, as developers are trying to make happen, those thousands will be forced to rely on Brooklyn Hospital Center, which cannot physically take care of them. Its location is also a problem. From DUMBO during rush hour it already takes more than a half hour to drive there.

If developers are successful, another thousand units of housing will be built where LICH now stands.
The thousand new units will have no hospital to serve them except, once again, Brooklyn Hospital.

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer warned on Thursday:
 "Dismantling a hospital --- you can’t rebuild from scratch a hospital, you have a network and you have the brick and mortar of the hospital. You can’t bring that back.”

He told the Brooklyn Eagle, “When we realize that five or ten years from now, what do we do? It will cost us twelve times, twenty times more in terms of construction, so I think we’re at a health care crossroads, where creativity is needed and same old, same old isn’t going to cut it."

Based on the current census data, Brooklyn has just two certified hospital beds for every 1,000 residents. Manhattan, by comparison, has five hospital beds for every 1,000 residents. Those figures don't include the recent developments.

We need to be add more hospital capacity to northwestern Brooklyn right now, not subtract capacity. If we don't, the lack of critical health care infrastructure could cripple the economic boom that northwestern Brooklyn is experiencing, and leads to preventable tragedies.

This kind of planning is the job of government, not developers.

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