March 9, 2014

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UUP joins Brooklyn community coalition to defend Downstate

uupdate 3-9-14

AFT President Randi Weingarten urges more than 300 activists and supporters to act to protect services at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Community members, politicians and high-ranking labor leaders joined the SUNY Downstate Coalition of Faith, Labor and Community Leaders March 9 as the coalition kicked off its 48-hour interfaith fast to defend SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Weingarten, UUP President Fred Kowal and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams were three of nearly two dozen speakers who spoke at the chilly, sunny, Sunday afternoon rally. The event took place outside Downstate’s 470 Clarkson Ave. entrance in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James spoke at the event, as did several Brooklyn faith-based leaders and statewide union leaders from UUP, NYSUT, CSEA, PEF, and UFT. All of UUP’s statewide officers were at the rally.

The coalition, a grassroots organization of Brooklyn-area religious groups, community organizations and unions, organized the fast to urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators to increase state funding for beleaguered Brooklyn hospital. Coalition members also called for lawmakers to reject Executive Budget language that would allow private corporations to run SUNY’s public hospitals.

Weingarten urged lawmakers to defend the life-saving health care services the hospital provides and preserve the jobs of thousands of Downstate workers.

“We have a big fight ahead of us to get the funding for this hospital and medical college,” said Weingarten. “The bottom line is that we need to invest in Downstate for it to be the transformative health center for this city and this decade.”

UUP President Fred Kowal urged legislators to forego a tax cut for the wealthy and instead commit those state dollars to keeping Downstate a fully operational, state-run public hospital.

“Why in this day and age are we taking the wealth of this state and giving it to the wealthy?,” asked Kowal. “We need it here! We need it now!”

“This is about justice for the people of Brooklyn!,” said Brooklyn NAACP President Joy Williams.

People at the rally chanted “Save Downstate” and “SUNY Downstate” after several speakers. The crowd also joined the clergy in a rally-ending rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”

“We cannot and will not stand by and allow this institution to be closed or privatized,” said Bishop Orlando Findlayter of New Hope Christian Fellowship and chairman of Churches United to Save and Heal (CUSH).

Findlayter and a half-dozen Central Brooklyn faith-based leaders will fast during the two-day event. Clergy will stay in a trailer parked outside of Downstate. A second trailer is also on site to shelter dozens of Central Brooklyn residents and congregation members that have gathered to support those fasting.

Coalition leaders will hold a news conference at the conclusion of the fast at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, March 11.

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