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Jun 21, 2018 11:25 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: LaValle Says Linking Hospital Bill To Key Union Legislation Was A Key To Its Passage

Southampton Hospital.
Jun 25, 2018 12:40 PM

UPDATE: Friday, 4:45 p.m.

State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle said Friday that it took “every fiber of intellect and toughness” to get a deal struck in Albany late Wednesday night to secure a lease deal clearing the way for a new hospital at the Stony Brook Southampton campus.

It also helped that, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, he was able to flex a very important muscle: He linked approval of a paybill, an important piece of legislation closely related to the contracts for state university professors, to approval of his measure for the hospital.

“I said—once—that both the paybill and the Southampton bill have to go contemporaneously,” he said.

With that, the NYSUT withdrew its objections. That, along with language added to a revised version of the legislation to satisfy the CSEA’s concerns about future Civil Service jobs at the hospital on the Stony Brook Southampton campus, was enough for opponents to step aside and allow the bill to pass.

Mr. LaValle, 79, talked about the significance of the vote in a 42-year career in the State Senate—it was, he said, a “legacy” accomplishment, the last step in a long series of moves: the purchase of the Shinnecock Hills campus from Long Island University, the establishment of Stony Brook Southampton, and the hard-won affiliation agreement between Stony Brook University Hospital and the former Southampton Hospital.

“This process started in 2007. So this is an 11-year process,” he said. “It’s … a long way.”

The goal all along, he said, was to make sure the health care needs of his district were met, particularly on the South Fork. He said he was driven by a phone call he received around the time the process began: A woman who lived in Southampton talked about going to medical school and qualifying for financial aid because she lived in a “medically under-served area.”

He bristled at the label: “I said, that’s my Senate district! I’ve got to do something about that.”

He noted that a new state-of-the-art hospital on the college campus is a “critical piece” of meeting the region’s needs in the future, with the aging Stony Brook Southampton Hospital facility in the village: “I think everyone is of the mind that a new facility at this time is what we really need.”

He credited Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. as a “great teammate” in getting the legislation through Albany before the end of session late Wednesday night, and echoed Mr. Thiele’s praise of Robert Chaloner, chief administrative officer of Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, and said his role in the process was crucial.

Original Story:

A last-ditch scramble paid off on Wednesday night, as a bill authorizing the lease of property on the Stony Brook Southampton campus for a new $250 million hospital was approved by both the State Assembly and Senate, and now awaits the governor’s signature.

On the last day of the legislative year, with the clock ticking, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle were able to briskly escort revised legislation through the committees in Albany and to secure overwhelming support from their colleagues, despite opposition from state unions. The agreement will give the Southampton Hospital Association the ability to begin raising funds for the hospital project.

“Today’s legislative victory brings us one step closer to a new hospital for the South Fork,” Mr. Thiele said early Thursday morning. “It means better health care, jobs and the continued revitalization of the Southampton campus. In the end, these benefits were undeniable. … Our community is the big winner.”

He also urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to “quickly sign the bill so that the next steps can be taken.”

As an “alienation of state land,” the legislation needed the support of two-thirds of both houses—and got it. The Senate approved it, 50-10, on Wednesday evening, and the Assembly followed with a 130-0 vote after midnight.

The vote totals, Mr. Thiele said, don’t tell the whole story.

“In doing this for 23 years, that was one of the hardest and most intense bills I’ve ever had to work on,” he said. “It’s nice to get a good result.”

He added with a laugh, “People will look in the history books 50 years from now and say, it must not have been a big deal—it was overwhelmingly approved. But it was a close call.”

Three state unions—the Civil Service Employees Association, New York State United Teachers and the Public Employees Federation—had opposed the legislation, worried about the mingling of a private nonprofit entity leasing space on state university property, and the possible impact on future Civil Service jobs at the hospital. With the legislation, the Southampton Hospital Association will lease 23.9 acres of the 82-acre Stony Brook Southampton college campus in Shinnecock Hills for a state-of-the-art hospital facility. It will raise private funds to build it, then lease the new hospital back to Stony Brook University Hospital to operate.

As the final legislative session of 2018 was closing on Wednesday, one of the three unions, NYSUT, dropped its formal opposition to the legislation. That was key, Mr. Thiele said, and he credited the lobbying of local members of NYSUT at Stony Brook University for convincing state leaders of the merits of the project.

“We had a good product to sell,” he said. “Better health care, jobs—we had the better argument to make.”

Ultimately, Mr. Thiele said, it was a combination of hard lobbying, the veteran status of both Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle in Albany, and the support of Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan, who was “very, very helpful,” and Carl E. Heastie, the Bronx-based Speaker of the Assembly—and a graduate of Stony Brook University.

The bills also note that the new hospital “is a key part of the strategy for the growth of Stony Brook Medicine and University as a regional center of health care and a national leader in innovation and discovery.” It also will be an “anchor for the development of the Southampton campus as a site of advanced technology, clinical research, and education for the health sciences and the general health care community.”

“We are so pleased that our elected representatives have passed this transformative ground lease legislation,” Robert Chaloner, the chief administrative officer at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, said on Thursday morning. “It is a continuation of our efforts to ensure that there is better health care provided on the East End of Long Island. This project will lead to more jobs, better health care and the ability to plan for a new 21st century healthcare facility, all of which will greatly benefit our East End communities. “

Mr. Thiele, in turn, credited Mr. Chaloner.

“That guy—we are so lucky to have this guy,” he said. “… You’re in these meetings, you’re on these conference calls with the unions, legislative staff, Stony Brook officials, and here’s a guy who knows every square inch of the deal, every square inch of his hospital, and has the temperament to deal with it, get people answers. He was tremendous.”

Mr. Thiele said he was “pretty confident” the governor would sign the legislation. When, however, is another question: Hundreds of pieces of legislation were approved in the waning days of the session and will be sent to the governor for consideration in groups. He said the key is to try to get the hospital bill into one of the “early groups.”

Mr. Chaloner said the Southampton Hospital Association has hired fundraising counsel, identified campaign leadership and hired a strategic planning firm to prepare for a capital campaign to launch before the end of the year. He has said having the lease in place was necessary before reaching out to potential donors.

“They want to get a good summer of fundraising in,” Mr. Thiele said. “They’re all set to go—all they were waiting for was this legislation.”

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Fred Thiele is a fantastic politician who has been working hard for decades to help the east end. Thank you Mr. Thiele : )
By Aeshtron (431), Southampton on Jun 21, 18 11:47 AM
Mr. Chaloner is one of the best administrators the hospital has had, if not the best. His knowledge and temperament has led Southampton Hospital from the brink of disaster to one of stability and excellence. As a retired RN, I had seen quite a lot of the various administrators over my 40+ years at Southampton.
Thank you Mr. Chaloner
By sandydog21 (195), Southampton on Jun 22, 18 7:04 AM
2 members liked this comment
KUDOS to our great Senator Ken LaVelle ! You earn to be reelected again !
By carsrus (65), Hampton Bays on Jun 22, 18 6:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
State Senator Ken is little more than a suit in a red ballcap -- as good as he once was, he's simply stayed around too long.

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jun 22, 18 6:30 PM
Obviously, you don't understand seniority. No need for you to respond, I'm not looking for a debate. Thanks.
By Robert I Ross (250), Hampton Bays on Jun 24, 18 9:51 AM
Unlike Mr. Ross, with whom I agree entirely, I am ready to pursue this. Indeed Mr Wheeler apparently doesn’t understand seniority, but it goes further than that. Here’s Ken LaValle with a singular accomplishment completing, as he puts it, eleven years of hard work. And here’s Mr. Wheeler with a nonspecific, unsupported, snarky charge that Ken has “stayed around too long.”

Hey, back it up, Mr. Wheeler. What exactly are you talking about? Ken LaValle has been ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 25, 18 10:50 PM