Myrie tells ‘the truth’ about proposed closure of SUNY Downstate Hospital

Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Zellnor Y. Myrie.

State Sen. Zellnor Y. Myrie on Friday stressed that he was telling “the truth” about the proposed closure of SUNY Downstate Hospital in Central Brooklyn.

“You may have seen SUNY-Downstate in the news over the past several weeks. I wanted to take a moment to make sure you have the facts, and that you know exactly where I stand,” said Myrie, whose grandmother hailed from Jamaica, in a message to constituents in his 20th Senate District that encompasses SUNY Downstate Hospital.

“SUNY-Downstate Hospital is a full-service hospital that has served our community for generations. SUNY-Downstate is one of only two Regional Perinatal Centers (RPCs) in Brooklyn, providing complex care for high-risk pregnancies and deliveries. Downstate also has Brooklyn’s only kidney transplant program,” added Myrie, who has been in the vanguard of keeping open the major hospital in the apex of the Caribbean community in Brooklyn.

“In January, the State announced plans to close SUNY-Downstate hospital and send patients elsewhere for care. The governor and SUNY Chancellor have called this their plan a ‘transformation,’ but we need to be clear: their plan is to shutter the hospital,” he accentuated. “The governor has asked us to approve this plan by April 1, 2024. That means our community has barely two months to fight for a plan that truly serves our needs, instead of one that will reduce access to healthcare where it’s needed most.”

Myrie pointed to a recent study by the State’s Department of Health that states that Brooklyn’s safety net hospitals are at capacity.

“Yet under the governor and SUNY’s plan, Downstate’s patients would be transferred to another hospital that’s already bursting at the seams,” the State Senator said. “What impact will this have on Central Brooklyn’s women and children, who already struggle to receive high-quality care?”

He said while many of his colleagues in government, including the governor, have made a cause of maternal healthcare and health equity, “what’s more important than our rhetoric is what we actually do.”

Myrie said that, last year, legislators passed a bill in the State Senate, with bipartisan support, to build a community-driven process to create a sustainability plan for SUNY-Downstate. The bill did not pass in the Assembly.

“I have consistently voted to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates, and sponsored legislation to improve the financial standing of all our safety-net hospitals, including Downstate,” Myrie said. “In 2022, we wrote a law requiring a report on Downstate’s infrastructure needs. The State has not complied with that law, yet they are basing their entire plan to close Downstate on its alleged ‘capital needs’”.

He noted that last Thursday Gov. Kathy Hochul confirmed that the State will help Downstate financially— “but only if the hospital closes.”

“I reject this plan, and I believe the community should not have to negotiate our lives over the next six weeks of the budget process,” Myrie said. “Instead, we need to center our community’s needs and come up with a plan that truly invests in Central Brooklyn without reducing care.”

“On Feb. 29, we’ll be holding a rally outside of SUNY-Downstate to make our voices heard in opposition to the governor and SUNY’s plan,” he added. “In the meantime, I encourage you to contact the governor and SUNY Chancellor to share your opinion on their plan to close the hospital: Gov. Kathy Hochul, call (518) 474-8390; SUNY Chancellor John King, email:, or call 518-320-1355.

“I want to assure you that I’ll never stop fighting for health equity in our community, and will continue to oppose any plan that reduces care in Central Brooklyn,” Myrie vowed.

As protests heighten in urging Gov. Hochul and State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor King to reverse course on the proposed closure of SUNY Downstate Hospital, State Assemblyman Brian Cunningham also vowed last week never to support closing the major hospital in Central Brooklyn.

“I want to address the recent concerns regarding the future of Downstate Hospital. Let me be unequivocal: Closing SUNY Downstate is not an option that is on the table or one that I would ever support,” said Cunningham, representative for the 43rd Assembly District in Central Brooklyn, in a message to constituents on Friday.

“However, it’s no secret that Downstate, like many hospitals across our borough and state, faces financial challenges due to Medicare reimbursement rates set by the federal government,” added the son of a Jamaican immigrant mother. “Designating the hospital as a COVID-only hospital has only exacerbated its financial situation by limiting the procedures performed on the site.

“Last month, the governor and chancellor developed a plan they believed would both save the institution and provide the quality care the community deserves. I have been clear that community input and engagement must be at the forefront of the conversation,” Cunningham continued. “I am committed to preserving the healthcare resources and jobs that the institution provides.

“While I am open to a reimagining process to ensure long-term stability and solvency, I cannot and will not stand for a process that does not put our communities’ needs first,” he said, stating that he recently introduced legislation with Sen. Kevin Parker, representative for the 21st Senate District in Brooklyn, which would establish a SUNY Downstate Medical Support Fund to provide financial support for infrastructural upgrades and expansion.

Cunningham said this bill will facilitate research and development grants in medical and health-related fields, offer scholarships and financial aid, and support community health initiatives and outreach programs.

In addition, he said the Brooklyn Health Care Commission would be established in examining the system of general hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory and primary care facilities, and medical school facilities in Kings County, and recommending changes to that system.

“Those two bills, coupled with A07546, authored by Sen. (Zellnor) Myrie and me, will develop a sustainability plan for the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center,” Cunningham said. “As the process continues, my fellow elected officials and I will be in close contact with SUNY leadership and the public.

“The work of governing is challenging, and requires the active participation of its citizenry,” he added. “I will continue to fight for the neighborhoods of Central Brooklyn, while I’m in Albany, and I look forward to ensuring our priorities and values are reflected in both my legislation and the New York State Budget.”

Two Tuesdays ago, Myrie joined colleagues, healthcare workers and labor leaders in a massive rally in Albany in appealing to Hochul and King to halt the proposed closure of SUNY Downstate Hospital.

“Our community, our people, walked past refrigerators with dead people in them; we had doctors who had heart attacks; and you have the temerity to tell us you want us to go; how dear you!” Myrie told the vociferous rally in Albany.

“’We want you to serve’, and we serve; and, for that, we get a slap in the face,” added Myrie, flanked by colleagues, healthcare workers and labor leaders. “When I had COVID, Downstate saved my life, and you tell us Downstate has to close.

“We reject this plan!” he declared. “And don’t come to Central Brooklyn for votes because this is an election cycle. You will hear from us until justice is done.”

George Gresham, president of the labor union 1199SEIU, told the rally: “We cannot sit idle while New York’s hospitals fall like dominoes— Kingsbrook Jewish, Eastern Niagara, Mt. Sinai Beth Israel, and now SUNY Downstate.

“Hospital closures have dire consequences for our state, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color, which already have fewer hospital beds and face glaring healthcare inequities,” he warned. “With New York sitting on nearly $50 billion in reserves, there is simply no reason why we should be facing a healthcare emergency.

“Gov. Hochul must pass a budget that saves hospitals by ending the Medicaid underpayments that are a root cause of this crisis,” Gresham added.

United University Professions (UUP), the nation’s largest higher education union, which represents over 2, 300 workers at Downstate, said SUNY’s plan to make drastic changes in the structure and operation of SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University “will instead undermine the hospital’s central mission and the Brooklyn communities it serves.”

UUP President Frederick E. Kowal said that SUNY’s plan would “essentially relegate the safety net hospital to a wing in Kings County Hospital Center; other health care services would be farmed out to neighboring hospitals.

“This will unequivocally result in the closure of SUNY Downstate,” he said. “SUNY is calling its vision for Downstate a transformation, but it is anything but that. Let’s call this what it is: SUNY is closing Downstate.”

In an e-letter, widely circulated by the Action Network and sponsored by the UUP, the UUP urges Gov. Kathy to “stop SUNY’s ill-conceived plan to shut down the public teaching hospital at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn.

“SUNY’s plan would essentially relegate the safety net hospital to a wing in Kings County Hospital Center; other health care services would be farmed out to neighboring hospitals,” the letter cautions. “This will absolutely result in the closure of SUNY Downstate.

“By sending this e-letter, you are asking Gov. Hochul to work with the Legislature and all stakeholders to come up with a sustainability plan for SUNY Downstate,” it adds.

On Wednesday, SUNY announced that it will launch a “community-driven visioning process” to shape its proposed $300 million capital investment “to build a stronger SUNY Downstate.”

“SUNY will engage in a robust engagement process, including community surveys and five themed focus groups and stakeholder sessions in February and March,” the statement said.

In mid-March, SUNY said it will publish a report detailing findings and recommendations.

“After extensive analysis of community health needs, hospital usage in the Downstate service area, the perilous condition of the Downstate building, and historical and current patterns in Downstate’s capacity, SUNY and the Executive Chamber have established a set of principles to guide the path forward,” SUNY said.

It said the community survey and focus groups will engage Downstate students, alumni, faculty, staff, and patients; Central Brooklyn residents; healthcare advocates; community-based organizations; and faith leaders.

SUNY said the process will begin with a needs assessment “to better understand stakeholders’ perspective on the current state of affairs at SUNY Downstate’s health sciences university and teaching hospital, followed by a visioning process to ensure that community-sourced ideas inform SUNY’s plan for a stronger Downstate at all levels.”

SUNY said the stakeholder workshops and focus groups will engage Downstate personnel and community members on their concerns and aspirations surrounding a variety of topics, including the following themes: Needs Assessment – tackling Health Disparities in Central Brooklyn – assessing the practical impact of systemic health inequities on Downstate’s surrounding neighborhoods; Training the Healthcare Workforce of Tomorrow – engaging students, faculty, and staff on the academic experience at Downstate and generating ideas to modernize education, training, and research capabilities; and Building a Secure Future for Downstate Staff – hearing and addressing workforce concerns about how Downstate’s future will affect them.

Working with community partners and stakeholders, SUNY said it intends to put forward a “bold plan to secure a stronger, more stable future for Downstate’s students, staff and faculty while enhancing the quality and quantity of healthcare services available to Brooklyn residents.”

It said the capital investment, which will be informed by stakeholder input, is intended to: Continue to provide primary and specialty care and ambulatory surgery and expand access to urgent care; enhance the academic experience for students, including a new student center to provide academic services and supports; and build a new Brooklyn Institute for Health Equity to do action-oriented research on health disparities.”

In addition, SUNY said Downstate’s current inpatient services will be provided by Downstate staff at other facilities in collaboration with other Brooklyn hospitals, including through a SUNY Downstate “wing” at Kings County.

SUNY said the dates for the workshop sessions and surveys will be released shortly.

To learn more about the plan development and visioning process, sign up for updates at

Meantime, the latest UUP Retiree News & Info. said that last week UUP advocates joined with fellow New York State Union of Teachers (NYSUT) Higher Educations members (CUNY & Community Colleges) “to advocate for our needs and had a special ask to Save Downstate Med. in Brooklyn.”

“SUNY is pursuing a plan that will ultimately close SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University Hospital (SUNY Downstate Hospital),” Kowal said. “This plan is poor public policy, which will reduce health care in Brooklyn, undermine the hospital’s central mission, and harm the Brooklyn communities it serves.

“Furthermore, SUNY’s ‘transformation’ plan for Downstate will negatively impact medical education, which provides a pipeline of doctors and medical professionals to New York hospitals statewide,” he added. “While this is a plan that directly impacts our Downstate members, it will no doubt have a ripple effect on the health care available to all New Yorkers.

“Additionally, if SUNY were to execute a plan that closes a major facility in the system, many SUNY campuses could become vulnerable to a similar outcome,” Kowal further warned. “UUP members work every day to improve, support and protect the lives of patients at SUNY Downstate Hospital – and, together, we can remind New York State that an attack on one is an attack on all!”

The UUP president called on members across the State to stand together in the fight to stop the closure of SUNY Downstate.

“This hospital serves the unique needs of Brooklyn and New York City, will YOU stand with your colleagues to stop the closure of SUNY Downstate Hospital?” he asked, urging members and the community to rally on Feb. 29, at 12:00 noon, in front of SUNY Downstate, 450 Clarkson Avenue, Brooklyn.

Visit the Brooklyn Needs Downstate campaign webpage for more actions and information by going to: