Issues regarding Long Island College Hospital have been front and center for the past several years, since its pediatric and maternity departments were threatened with closure, and then the hospital as a whole nearly shut down. In 2010, after many months of negotiations with Governor David Paterson, the State Department of Health and all concerned stakeholders, an agreement was reached to apply funding from the State Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law (HEAL) to allow LICH to remain open and a merger with SUNY Downstate Medical Center to go forward.
In February 2011, word suddenly came from the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo that there may be a delay in releasing these HEAL funds, which would have spelled the nearly immediate closure of LICH. Within days, elected officials on the local, state, and federal levels met with the State Department of Health and representatives from Governor Cuomo's administration.
I was proud to take part in this extraordinary gathering of officials and to announce that Governor Cuomo made a commitment to honor $62 million dollars in HEAL grants which will keep LICH open and allow it to merge with SUNY Downstate: "We all knew that the community could not stand to lose this institution, and as a result we worked together to reach a solution. Long Island College Hospital has served the residents of the 52nd Assembly District incredibly well for over 150 years and thanks to today's announcement, will continue to serve us for at least another 150 years."
As a former public school teacher and librarian, I am always interested in seeing what is happening at school libraries in our community. P.S. 32, at 317 Hoyt Street, has made a tremendous effort over the past two years to raise funds for its library, led by Librarian Adam Marcus (wearing a scarf in the picture) and P.S. 32 principal Deborah Florio. I had the pleasure of visiting the library at an event in February.
On February 23, 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a public meeting to discuss the results of their year and a half long remedial investigation (RI) on the Gowanus Canal. Residents of the community packed the auditorium at P.S. 32, curious to know just how polluted the Canal is and how long and extensive its clean-up is likely to be.
Christos Tsiamis, the Remedial Project Manager for the Gowanus Canal Superfund site explained that in a 144-page report, the RI found, to no one's surprise, that the Canal is contaminated with dangerous pollutants which are hazardous to the environment and the health of people living around the Canal. Pollutants such as polychlorinated biphyenals (commonly called PCBs) and heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury are present in the water and along the canal floor. People can be harmed by contact with the water or sediment and by consuming fish and crabs from the canal.
Walter Mugdan, EPA's Superfund Division Director described the next steps put in place by the EPA to clean up sites like the Gowanus, including a feasibility study, expected to be completed by the end of 2011, which will look at ways to clean up the Canal. At the end everyone who wished to ask questions was allowed to get up and address their questions directly to the EPA. Community residents followed up with questions about health hazards associated with the clean-ups and the timeline of the clean up after the feasibility study is done.
Brooklyn is fortunate to have many important cultural institutions and recently I met with Dr. Arnold Lehman, the Director of the Brooklyn Museum. The Brooklyn Museum presents programming suitable for the entire family including First Saturdays, presenting free entertainment on the first Saturday of every month.