Myrie ‘pleased’ with massive rally to save Downstate

Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Zellnor Y. Myrie.

State Sen. Zellnor Y. Myrie said on Tuesday that he was “pleased” with the massive turn-out at the rally to save from closing State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Hospital in the heart of the Caribbean community in Brooklyn.

“Last Thursday, we rallied as a community against the governor’s proposal to shutter SUNY Downstate Hospital. Despite the frigid temperatures, over 1200 healthcare workers and community members stood together, and the energy and passion were felt by all,” said Myrie, who represents the 20th Senate District that encompasses Downstate Hospital, in a message to constituents.

“I was pleased to see so many of you join us at the rally,” added Myrie, who has been in the vanguard to keep the doors of the major hospital in Central Brooklyn open. “The message has been and continues to be clear: this community opposes any plan to reduce healthcare access where it’s needed most in Central Brooklyn.

“I was proud to stand alongside so many faith and labor leaders, doctors, nurses, and concerned neighbors who stand in strong opposition to this plan,” continue Myrie, whose grandmother hailed from Jamaica. “In fact, new polling released today confirms that Central Brooklyn is overwhelmingly against the governor and SUNY’s Downstate proposal.”

At the rally, in front of the hospital on Clarkson Avenue in Brooklyn, Myrie was explicit that he will continue to fight valiantly to save Downstate Hospital.

“Think about the babies who will be born just a few steps from us. Think about the future we’re protecting,” he said. “If we have to hold 10 more rallies, we will.

“What more do we have to sacrifice?” Myrie asked. “We deserve better.”

Amid chants of “Brooklyn needs Downstate,” United University Professions (UUP) President Fred Kowal, whose union represents the majority of workers at Downstate, said: “We’re here for one reason and one reason alone, and that’s because Brooklyn needs Downstate.

“We will not let Downstate close,” he said. “Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”

Kowal further warned that if Gov. Kathy Hochul pursues her plan “to close this place of healing, she will be locking out Black mothers and Black babies,” adding: “That is wrong.”

Civil right activist the Rev. Al Sharpton also spoke at the rally, telling demonstrators: “We don’t have much choice in Brooklyn, so we choose to fight.

“If we don’t do our duty, people will suffer,” he also cautioned.

Later, State Assemblyman Brian Cunningham, who also represents Downstate and the surrounding communities, told Caribbean Life that he remained “steadfast in my commitment to preserving Downstate Medical Center, a lifeline for thousands of low-income people of color in District 43.”

Cunningham, whose mother hails from Jamaica, said while the recently announced investment of $200 million to cover two years of operating costs and $300 million for future infrastructure improvements “appears promising on the surface, this funding is meaningless without input from the local community.

“I am outraged by the state leadership’s refusal for real engagement with residents, healthcare workers, and local leaders,” he said. “Infrastructure funding cannot be allowed to move forward without input from those who know our community’s needs best.

“I also refuse to view funding to keep the lights on as anything more than the bare minimum,” he added. “That money is not charity, nor is it undeserved; it is essential, and our community has earned it.”

Cunningham noted that earlier last week he introduced another piece of legislation, which calls on Gov. Hochul and SUNY leadership to create a Community Advisory Board “that will play an active role in funding decisions for Downstate.

“The board must represent the demographics of this historically Black and working-class neighborhood and include patients, healthcare workers, clergy, and local government leaders who reside in the surrounding community,” the assemblyman said. “A transformation plan that is not informed by the needs of our community is an affront to racial and economic justice and an insult to the people of Central Brooklyn.”