Friday, August 2, 2013

Seahorses and security guards

Iceberg - LICH in the background

On separate and personal trajectories yesterday evening, Vincent and I learned two interesting things about this town we live in.

He, embarking on a cruise around New York Harbor, read a sign beside the Hudson that said that lined seahorses (that's their name: lined seahorses) frequent the wooden piles in the water, and like that habitat.


In the Hudson River.


Speechless, really.

I will be looking into this. And Vince feels about sea horses what he feels about chameleons. He may just have found a reason to like this city.

That's the big news, despite its brevity.

I discovered, after days of wondering about their presence, that there are now 70 private security guards deployed around the edges of  LICH (rhymes with hitch) - the beleaguered and sprawling Long Island College Hospital, two doors up from us. It has - had - a busy emergency room, my primary care physician was there, and that's where I was (not) treated for the raccoon disease Frank was convinced I might have two years ago (instead, they gave me a course of Hepatitis B shots in the light of the Litter Mobbing activities I was engaged in at the time). LICH is owned by SUNY (rhymes with looney) - State University of New York, who says it is haemorrhaging $15 million a month and must close.

And, get this: the staff has been told not to come into work. But remains on full pay. Patients are turned away.

SUNY wants to sell the property to developers who will knock it down and turn it into some very expensive real estate. Ask Mr Elgart, our landlord. Market forces, says his daughter, in response to my question about why they raised the rent $600 on us. But our neighbour's market forces only raised his rent $200. Whatever.

Things have become ugly, there have been arrests, including that of my councilman, Brad Lander.

In the last week or so we have noticed a sudden bloom (like the algae that preceeds a dead zone in the ocean - a consequence of phosphate runoff) of security guards around the place. And fewer sirens. There is apparently a handful of patients left in the building.

So I talked to one of the security guards today. It was that guard who told me there are 70 guards, from 12 different security companies on the premises.

But all of them have very basic uniforms that say "Summit". They have nothing like genuine ID's - no photo ID at all - just names embroidered on baseball caps and a laminated badge that says "Security". Then there are the guys in dark blazers, whom news reports have describe as armed.

It is creepy. And smells of dead rats.

Who are you guarding? I asked.

They don't tell us everything, the guard said, half apologetically.

Do they tell you to look out for any particular sort of person?*

No, not really. It all seems peaceful to me.

Then the guard said, They tell us not to use our radios! He was incredulous.

They sound paranoid, I said. Like someone's listening to you.

Uh huh, the guard concurred. They are.

The guard had Googled the hospital at home and said, It's real old, dating back to the 19th century...

Uh huh, I said, that's the part next door to us.

I hope it stays open, said the guard.  But if they want to pay a lot of money for us to work every day, I'm glad.

Oddly, it sounded like good money.

More expired rats. Most security guards don't make good money.

It is creepy.


I like the seahorse story, better.

Update, 6.49pm - just spoke to another guard taking his "fifteen" as he put it, on our stoop's front steps. He says they are guarding the hospital against angry workers whose pay will cease the minute the hospital is officially closed. "No severance, nothin'." Nurses, doctors, technicians, cleaners, caterers..."We are the hospital's bullet proof vest, " he said, spreading his hands over his chest to illustrate. "They are calling us scabs. But I understand. They got mortgages to pay, kids to send to school. I just hope nobody goes postal."

More LICH Links:

Nurses Roam the Empty Halls - New York Times
650 LICH Employees Told Not to Come Back to Work - Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Waits in the Wings - World Socialist Website
Brooklyn Officials Storm LICH - Brooklyn Daily Eagle
LICH Under Lockdown - - Red Hook Star Revue


  1. So here is the seahorse confirmation...

  2. So this LICH thing has the sound of a fast one being pulled by someone, somewhere.... besides being creepy. Also, seahorses..

    1. I Googled them too! I think there may be three sea horses :-)

  3. Cool about the seahorses (along with everyone else who sees this, I Googled them). Bummer about the hospital and market forces.

  4. I wasn't convinced, I just said that the raccoon poop carries, told to me by animal "experts" and Brad Lander heard it too as he was in attendance. I bet his kids don't play under the poop tree.

    But more importantly, in my opinion, closing hospitals heavily used by the poor is a way certain folks want to control health care costs, particularly those costs driven by hospital visits for non-emergency conditions, visits made by people without privately funded healthcare.

    LICH, I'd like to say "like" for the "I" is hard in island. As a graduate of looney, I'll accept your SUNY. :-)

    1. Teasing you, Frank. You hate bugs with a vengeance :-)

    2. Did I ever tell you how my doctor insisted the hepatitis shot was unnecessary. She then pestered me about wearing gloves (which were not always available). So I told her that I ask only because of your experience, and she looked at me kind of sidelong. I started to wonder whether she thought I wasn't cleaning the woods, but participating. So I never got the shot.

    3. I think the Hep. B was overkill - but I was worried by a few scratches I got on my hands on gloveless days, and then the occasional brush-by from the trash grabber against the hand holding the bag (ah, war stories...those were the days).

      I thought there really was an outside chance that the disgusting piece of something could make contact with the open scratch, and voila...

      Long shot, very long shot. But it was easier to have the shots than to worry.

    4. Safe over sorry. Best outcome.

  5. The contrast between your pleasant trip back home and present dynamics must be a bit hard to process. But at least the fascinating sea horses (!) add colorful interest, especially when bored security guards offer the human response.

    Down by the dock a bit ago, a swooping bald eagle plucked from the air a large fish dropped by a terrified osprey who was only too glad to permit its release.. "The fish or your life," sayeth the bad actor..

    1. Poor osprey. It's uncanny how similar bald eagles look to African fish eagles.

  6. It seems that suddenly the area you living in has become expensive real estate. So, if it is true they are operating in the red, why keep the doors open if the real estate is worth more. The big question is why suddenly is real estate in your neighborhood gotten expensive?

    1. Perhaps "more expensive" would be accurate, Rachelle, but only within the microcosm of these few blocks, where imminent redevelopment looms. Cobble Hill is very high end Brooklyn - and for the privilege, we live in such a small space, with an unusually derelict landlord.

  7. If the landlord comes after you good folks, please remember that you have friends.

    1. Thank you, Clark. That is a nice feeling.

      He can't really come after us - well, maybe he can. Anything is possible. But we have not decided yet what we will do.

      Uncertainty is a lady dog.

  8. To chime in about the landlord.... We were former neighbors of yours down on the first floor of the Henry Street building. Said landlord was incredibly devious when we moved out and refused to repay last month, and security- which as you know, is a pretty penny. Long story short we took him to small claims court and won our case. His behavior was quite despicable, and I see it continues with a $600 rent increase. Really despicable. In the event that you are up against a bad situation with Mr. Elgart, know that you have back-up if it helps.


Comments on posts older than 48 hours are moderated (for spam control) . Yours will be seen! Unless you are a troll. Serial trollers are banned.