NY1-War of Words Erupts Over Plan to Close Brooklyn Psychiatric Center
By: Zack Fink
A squabble between Staten Island and Brooklyn lawmakers has erupted over the planned closure of Kingsboro Psychiatric Center. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
Kingsboro Psychiatric Center is the only hospital of its kind in Brooklyn, providing long-term psychiatric care for a borough of roughly 2.5 million residents. But following a recommendation by a state advisory panel, a 60-day closure notice has been issued. And now local leaders are fighting to keep it open.
"This will have a devastating impact -- first of all on the mental health treatment of the patients in that facility who are being forced to go to Staten Island," said State Assemblyman Karim Camara of Brooklyn.
The plan from the New York State Office of Mental Health is to consolidate Kingsboro's services with South Beach Psychiatric Center on Staten Island. That means some family members of patients would have to travel to Staten Island from Brooklyn to see their loved ones.
The proposal prompted a controversial response during a legislative budget hearing Wednesday.
"And obviously I don't want to have to have to suggest to anyone that I represent or in Brooklyn that they now have to go to Staten Island. You know how we don't like Staten Island essentially anyway," said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery of Brooklyn.
Two State Assemblymen from Staten Island, Mike Cusick and Louis Tobacco - both of whom were at the hearing - immediately criticized the remark.
"Unbecoming of a senator. And it's disrespectful. She made a public disparage and I demand from her a public apology," said Tobacco.
Tobacco says the comment underscores a feeling that Staten Island residents have that they live in the "forgotten borough." Montgomery later said she was only joking.
Members of the Brooklyn delegation, meanwhile, defended Kingsboro from accusations that the 290-bed facility is outdated and beset with problems.
"For the past almost two decades the state has neglected this facility. They've not had the resources they've needed. The leadership they've needed," said Camara.
The 60-day notice gives Kingsboro until April 1, but it will likely remain open longer.
There are nearly 700 workers there whose fate remains uncertain.