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CONTACT: Mike Lisi (518) 640-6600
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February 6, 2014

Elected leaders join Central Brooklyn faith, community and labor leaders, to save SUNY Downstate Medical Center

– Facing the possibility that their community’s lifeline could be closed as early as next month, the SUNY Downstate Coalition of Faith, Labor and Community Leaders joined with elected officials to urge a stop to any moves to close SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

More than 100 coalition leaders and members got support from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, New York Public Advocate Letitia James and several state and city lawmakers during a prayer breakfast and news conference at St. Lucia House, near SUNY Downstate. Hundreds of Downstate employees have either been laid off or notified of the loss of their jobs. The SUNY Board of Trustees recently warned that Downstate could be closed in March.

In addition, the Coalition is concerned about possible privatization. Article VII legislation in the 2014-15 Executive Budget contains a pilot program that would allow up to five private corporations to control public hospitals in New York; one must affiliate with an academic medical institution or teaching hospital. SUNY Downstate operates Brooklyn’s only state-operated public teaching hospital.

“Our community could not survive without Downstate,” said Coalition member Bishop Orlando Findlayter of the New Hope Christian Fellowship, Chairman of Churches United to Save and Heal (CUSH). “It is the lifeblood and the provider of vital life-saving services in Central Brooklyn. We believe it’s our moral obligation to stand in solidarity with workers and the community.”

“We hear all this talk about tax cuts, including some for the wealthy. But they come at our expense, robbing the state of its ability to fund the vital health care services needed to sustain the low-income residents of Central Brooklyn,” said Pastor Gilford Monrose of Mt. Zion Church of God 7th Day.

“Downstate Medical Center is really the blood bank of Brooklyn,” said Pastor Shane Vidal of the Maranatha Seventh Day Adventist Church. “We are calling on Gov. Cuomo to take action to keep SUNY Downstate a full-service, public hospital.”

“SUNY Downstate is an essential institution to the entire community,” said Rabbi Eli Cohen, executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. “We face the loss of accessibility to quality health care and the ability of families to be with their loved ones when they need their support the most.”

Rowena Blackman-Stroud, president of the United University Professions chapter representing nearly 3,000 workers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, said the support from coalition and elected officials are a signal to Albany to act quickly to save SUNY Downstate and the vital jobs her members perform.

“The clock is ticking on the future of this hospital, the well-being of our community and the future of hundreds of workers.” Blackman-Stroud said. “We desperately need more support from the state to keep SUNY Downstate‑‑ the only state teaching hospital in New York‑‑ running and fully serving our community.”

The SUNY Downstate Coalition of Faith, Labor and Community Leaders is a Brooklyn-based organization collectively fighting for vital health care services and jobs at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 37,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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