A4J Challenges Closing of Beth Israel Hospital in Downtown NYC

A4J commenced a lawsuit on behalf of the Progressive Action of Lower Manhattan and two residents of downtown Manhattan challenging the closing of units of Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Hospital (“Beth Israel”).   The proceeding is brought pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) and Article 78 of the CPLR (alleging violations of the Certificate of Need process) to compel the N.Y. State Department of Health to reverse its decision to approve the partial closure of Beth Israel, to require the commencement of appropriate review under SEQRA and the N.Y. State Public Health Law, to enjoin Beth Israel from engaging in further action to close its hospital, and to compel the reopening of those portions of Beth Israel which have been closed.

Mount Sinai Medical Center merged with Continuum Health Partners in September of 2013, creating a large hospital network stretching across Manhattan. Through the merger, Beth Israel Medical Center (located at First Avenue and 16th Street in Lower Manhattan), Roosevelt Hospital on West 59th Street, St. Luke’s Hospital in Morningside Heights and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in the East Village all joined the Mount Sinai Health System. Mount Sinai officials touted the merger as having the potential to improve quality of care, but unions representing the hospital workers immediately voiced concerns about downsizing, closing or relocation of some services within the sprawling network.

Less than three years later, in May of 2016, the Mount Sinai system announced plans to close the 800-bed Mount Sinai Beth Israel (“MSBI”) Medical Center. Officials said the facility would be replaced with a new 70-bed Mount Sinai Downtown Beth Israel Hospital and emergency room and with a network of outpatient centers and doctors’ offices.  Mount Sinai officials insist that the new 70-bed hospital will be sufficient to serve the needs of Lower Manhattan residents. However, community residents and public officials representing them have voiced concerns. “The downsizing of Beth Israel hospital to a 70-bed medical/surgical center may be inadequate and will cause significant harm to health care services in Lower Manhattan,” the Village Independent Democrats stated in a resolution adopted in December 2017.

In the last decade, Lower Manhattan has witnessed a significant decrease in medical services, specifically hospital beds, specialty clinics and emergency centers attached to full service hospital. Residents had already been affected by the sudden closure of St. Vincent’s Hospital in 2010. Needs assessments performed after that closure demonstrated that residents of Lower Manhattan were relying on Beth Israel for a significant portion of their care. In fact, Beth Israel’s inpatient admissions increased 16 percent after the closure of St. Vincent’s and its emergency room visits increased 12 percent, with Beth Israel absorbing over half of St. Vincent’s emergency room patients.

In addressing the Department of Health’s Certificate of Need (CON) review requirements, Mount Sinai officials have packaged the closing of hospital services at the existing Beth Israel facility into multiple narrowly-framed applications that have been deemed to meet the current CON qualifications for what is called “limited review” by DOH staff. This is instead of “full review,” which would be conducted at public meetings.  Mount Sinai has filed, received approval for and completed six separate limited review applications to decertify or close services at Beth Israel or to add services at its satellite locations.

See the plaintiffs’ Verified Amended Petition and Memorandum of Law below.

1st Amended verified petition-c

Memo of Law in Support of Amended Petition

12/10/18 ER School Board President Wieder Attacks NYS Equivalency Guidelines

Thousands of children are getting almost no education in many yeshivas in East Ramapo and other parts of NY.  In response to the updated guidelines on equivalency of education in non-public schools issued by NY State, East Ramapo School Board President Aaron Wider has effectively “declared war” on the State Board of Education.

See a brief video clip at this link:


12/4/18 – YAFFED Announces NYS Release of New Guidelines For Non-Public School Curriculum

YAFFED announced the following on Dec. 4/18:

(see NYS Guidelines here…http://www.nysed.gov/nonpublic-schools/substantial-equivalency


After years of hard work, and with the help of average people like you, New York State felt the pressure building and finally released updated guidelines pertaining to the requirement for nonpublic schools, including Yeshivas, to provide an education that is “at least substantially equivalent” to that of public schools.

The new guidelines mince no words, spelling out the subjects that need to be taught and the number of minutes each subject needs to be taught for.

This is far from done since it gives local districts plenty of time to go and inspect all schools before implementing actual changes.
And Yeshiva leaders have vowed to fight this, and have declared “war” against the state.


11/1/18 New Documentary on East Ramapo by Award Winning Film Maker

Outsider is a short documentary that explores how activists are fighting for better education for students of both public schools and private yeshivas, fire officials are fighting the widespread epidemic of illegal housing and over development, and long time residents are reflecting back on how exactly this sudden and drastic change occurred.

It is produced by award-winning New York and Boston based filmmaker Noah Graham, who grew up in Rockland County.

You can be a part of this project by supporting it on Kickstarter.  Here is the link…


Power Of Ten Update 11/18/18: News on Appointed Monitor, Aid & ER Performance Measures

Power of Ten Special Update:

New East Ramapo Monitor Announced
With the announcement of a new monitor for the East Ramapo school board, it seems to be an appropriate time to review what has been happening in the district.
Notable Accomplishments
The announcement by the state education department about the new monitor contains a review of “notable accomplishments by the district”:
  • improved fund balance and improved reports from auditors and comptroller
  • capital improvement projects underway
  • full-day kindergarten for all students
  • elementary arts programming
The impact of these accomplishments on the lives of children in the district is admirable and should be applauded.
Information about the work of the monitors is available at: https://eastramapomonitorupdate.wordpress.com/
None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the work of hundreds of activists. Students, parents, clergy, education professionals all worked to demand action from Albany. They formed groups such as the Rockland Clergy for Social Justice, Save Our Schools, Padres Unidos, and Strong East Ramapo. They’re the ones who caused monitors to be appointed, they’re the ones who caused a new superintendent to be hired, they’re the ones who caused the state to increase aid.
The school board fought these changes tooth and nail, just as they fought the NYS Education Department’s oversight of illegal special education placements and the NY Attorney General’s criminal investigation into fraud in the sale of the Hillcrest elementary school.
Increased State Aid
Increasing educational programming costs money, and the accomplishments that the monitors report could not have been realized without increased state aid. The following table illustrates changes to district revenue from the 2014-15 school year (before the monitor law) to the 2016-17 school year (the latest data available from the state website)
(in millions)
% Change
– 4%
Total Revenue
Measuring Results
One of the objectives the monitors set for themselves in 2016 was to “set clear performance objectives for students”. It does not seem unreasonable that an organization with a budget of a quarter billion dollars per year, and whose mission is so vital to the community, should be able to demonstrate quantitatively and qualitatively that it’s fulfilling its mission. However, after this one mention in September of 2016, the word “performance” does not appear again in the monitor’s blog.
The statistics available on the state education department web site present a mixed picture:
  • Scores on state tests have been improving overall, with the exception of math scores of Latino students, which have remained flat compared to the state average since 2014.
  • Even after modest improvements, only about one quarter of our students are deemed “proficient” by the state, as compared to about half of students statewide.
Graduation rates are not yet available for the school year ending in 2018; they dropped overall between 2014 and 2017:
  • African American students in East Ramapo graduated at about the same rate as others in New York State.
  • The graduation rate for Latino students has fallen further behind, down to 37 percent in 2017!
Factors which are known to be associated with lower educational outcomes:
  • Elementary class size in East Ramapo is higher than the average in New York State.
  • Children with special needs are less likely to be placed in a regular classroom in East Ramapo than the state average.
  • Children in East Ramapo often lead separate lives from their peers of other races (de facto segregation).
The Most Vulnerable
A public education system cannot be measured only by the achievements and opportunities available to those who excel. It can’t offer math only to those who excel at math or art to those who display talent or gym to those who are physically fit.
There are laws in place which force educational institutions to provide education for all, because there is a long sordid history of educational institutions neglecting students with disabilities, those in need of remedial services, female students and students of color.
There are three groups of students who are the most vulnerable to educational neglect in East Ramapo today. These are: preschool children, students with interrupted formal education, and students in some yeshivas (Jewish private schools).
  • Many preschool children in East Ramapo are not exposed to a modern early childhood development environment. The main barrier is economic. Parents do not earn enough to pay for quality, licensed childcare or for transportation to pre-K programs. The children don’t understand that this is not their fault. The result is that the district will spend years trying to undo the damage to the child’s self-esteem. Knowing the tremendous impact that lack of preschool education is having, the district (and the monitors) should be addressing this issue, starting by stating publicly that it is a problem and proposing plans to address it.
  • Every year, families move into East Ramapo with school age children. Some of these children have experienced difficulty and hardship, including missing school, sometimes for years. The technical term is “students with interrupted formal education”. The district has just as much responsibility to these children as to any other child in the district. The failure of the district to adequately address the special needs of this group is a major factor in the higher dropout rate over the past two years. Many of the dropouts are going to work in the same underground economy as the parents who can’t afford early childhood education, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty in our district.
  • Years ago, the administration of the East Ramapo school district made a deal with the operators of some of the yeshivas. The school district would not enforce the state truancy law which requires that all children receive an education regardless of placement, and the yeshiva parents would stay home on school budget day and not vote the public school budget down. This secret arrangement was covered up for decades until some of the children who had attended yeshivas began to realize they had been cheated out of an education. They found themselves unprepared for the job market and unable to provide for their families.
Reading Between the Lines
What do you see between the lines when you read reports from the NYSED monitors? What are they not saying about the most vulnerable? What are they not saying about the governance of a public school system where most children attend private school?
The monitors will either serve the children or they will serve those who profit from the status quo. They do not have veto power over the school board, but you, dear reader, have veto power over the monitors through your elected representatives in Albany.

NYS Board of Regents 11/7/18: Press Release Re: Appointment of Second Monitor for ERCSD


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   November 7, 2018
 Media Contact:
JP O’Hare or Jeanne Beattie
(518) 474-1201


 Appointment Continues Cooperation Among State, District and Community to Advance Progress Already Made by Monitor Team

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia today appointed Dr. Denise Lowe as a State Monitor for the East Ramapo Central School District. Dr. Lowe will coordinate efforts with Mr. Charles Szuberla, a State Monitor in the District since August 2016, to propose actions for improvement to ensure students have access to high-quality instruction, programs and services and oversee District operations.
“Through the efforts of our State Monitors, the school district and the school board, we are starting to see needed improvements in East Ramapo’s academic and fiscal affairs,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. “We know our work is not done and the Board of Regents remains committed to ensuring all children of East Ramapo receive the education they deserve to help prepare them for success in life. Dr. Lowe’s expertise in high-need schools and curriculum-driven budgeting  will be invaluable to a district that faces so many challenges.”
“With over two decades of experience as a school leader and nearly five years helping struggling schools and districts, Dr. Lowe has demonstrated an ability to effectively lead, develop staff, implement programs and policies, and adapt supports to meet school and community needs,” said Commissioner Elia. “Dr. Lowe’s background in special education and experience providing technical assistance to Priority and Focus schools will enable her to provide the support and oversight needed in East Ramapo to build on the progress we’ve seen over the past several years.”
“East Ramapo continues to focus on instructional initiatives that offer promising progress for putting students on the path to success,” said Regent Judith Johnson. “Facility repairs and renovations are underway at many schools, kindergarten and arts programming are being restored and, there is new leadership to help ensure English Language Learners and students with disabilities get the supports they need to learn. I look forward to working with Dr. Lowe and to continuing to support the administration’s efforts to set East Ramapo in the direction that gives all students the comprehensive educational resources they need to become successful students.”
Dr. Lowe has extensive experience in top leadership positions and has served as Superintendent at the Asbury Park School District in New Jersey and Assistant Superintendent in Central Islip Central School District in New York State. Dr. Lowe’s 34 years in education also includes roles as an associate at the State Education Department to help schools in needs of assistance, a special education teacher and an adjunct professor. She holds a BA in psychology from Northeastern University, an MA in special education from C.W. Post College, a P.D. in educational administration from C.W. Post College and an Ed.D. in Educational Administration from Columbia University.
Dr. Lowe will report directly to Commissioner Elia and will be a regular presence in the East Ramapo School District. Her responsibilities will include to:
  • monitor district operations in the areas of curriculum and instruction, budgeting, and planning;
  • provide guidance and technical assistance related to educational policies, practice, programs, and decisions of the district, its Board of Education, and superintendent;
  • consult with the district to develop a long-term strategic academic and fiscal improvement plan;
  • provide an annual report to the Commissioner and the Comptroller on contracts that the districts entered throughout the year; and
  • provide regular feedback, progress reports, and updates to the district, SED, and to the Board of Regents upon request.
Monitors Szuberla and Lowe will continue to build on the progress that East Ramapo CSD has made over the past several years and will continue to work with the district, the school board and the community to help address academic and fiscal challenges. Dr. Lowe will replace Dr. John W. Sipple, who has been a State Monitor since 2015.
“Dr. Sipple was instrumental in working with the district to develop a long-range fiscal improvement plan that balanced the budget and funded improved learning opportunities for students,” Commissioner Elia said. “We thank Dr. Sipple for his fiscal expertise and extraordinary efforts to get the district’s finances back on track.”
Working cooperatively with the State Monitors and the School Board, the district has taken actions to improve its financial stability; academic opportunities and outcomes for all students; success for students with disabilities and English language learners; and compliance with state and federal laws and regulations.
Notable accomplishments by the district in recent years includes that it:
  • ended the 2017-18 school year with a $245,000 surplus and started 2018-19 with a fund balance equal to 3.6 percent of the general fund. (State law allows 4 percent). Further, the district received an unqualified opinion from its external auditor, an improvement from previous years.  Also, the State Comptroller upgraded the district’s stress category to undesignated from moderate, also an improvement from previous years.
  • started $58 million in capital improvement projects at 11 schools and is on a path to complete the projects by 2020;
  • strengthened its financial management practices, implemented an improved accounting policy and vigorously monitors expenditures;
  • restored full-day kindergarten for all students and elementary arts programming using the $3 million grant from New York State; and
  • hired new directors of Special Education and English Language Learners while implementing new systems to identify students needing these services.
East Ramapo students, parents, teachers, community members and other interested stakeholders can sign up for the Department’s email distribution list to receive updates on district-related information.
Community members can contact the monitors directly by emailing EastRamapoMonitors@nysed.gov.

Daily News 10/23/18: DeBlasio Pledges to Give Unlimited Sick Leave to Civilian Employees Affected by 9/11

De Blasio agrees to provide unlimited sick leave to city employees suffering from 9/11 illness

De Blasio agrees to provide unlimited sick leave to city employees suffering from 9/11 illness
City Hall has agreed to give civilian employees suffering from a 9/11 related illness unlimited sick leave, the Daily News has learned. (Todd Maisel/New York Daily News)


Mayor de Blasio on Tuesday caved to pressure brought on by 9/11 survivor advocates and the Daily News and promised to secure unlimited sick time to all city employees who helped in the rescue and recovery efforts in Ground Zero — and are now paying for it with their lives.


Hizzoner approved the special sick leave for one of the city’s largest unions on Tuesday as a rally was held on the City Hall steps demanding he put all city employees who responded to 9/11 on the same footing as first responders police officers and firefighters.

Read more…