Democratic mayoral contender Bill Thompson, the city comptroller, slammed the Bloomberg administration for not fighting harder to keep the now shuttered St. John’s, Mary Immaculate and Parkway hospitals open.
“I thought the city fell down on the job,” Thompson said during a Monday interview with reporters and editors from Community Newspaper Group, TimesLedger Newspapers’ parent company. “The city failed miserably.”
Thompson said it was a “mistake” that the Bloomberg administration did not push the state to keep the hospitals open.
Bloomberg spokesman Andrew Doba said the three closed institutions “were not city hospitals.”
“They were closed as a result of a state mandate,” Doba said. “Rather than wasting time assessing blame, the mayor has and will continue to find ways to provide residents with quality and accessible health care in all five boroughs.”
Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills closed its doors in November after the state Department of Health revoked its operating license. St. John’s in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate in Jamaica closed in February.
Thompson said the closings have overburdened other borough health care facilities, and in June the comptroller issued a report that detailed recommendations to improve efficiency at the remaining hospitals. Thompson called on the state to bring additional staff from outside the city to Queens to handle the increase in patients at places like Jamaica Hospital and said the state should provide borough medical centers with loans and working capital to cover expansion costs.
Thompson addressed numerous other issues during his hour-long interview at CNG’s Metrotech headquarters in Brooklyn, including Willets Point, mayoral control of schools, the city’s ticketing policy, and campaign funding. Thompson is up against Democratic Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in the Sept. 15 primary, which the comptroller is favored to win. Should he take the primary, Thompson will face Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, in November.
Thompson said he supports the Willets Point redevelopment that will transform the industrial expanse into a residential and commercial area.
The candidate said, however, that “we still have a long way to go on Willets Point.”
Thompson said the city needs to help the businesses relocate instead of using what critics have called aggressive tactics to acquire private Willets Point property.Eminent domain has been threatened by the Bloomberg administration.
Bloomberg last week defended the way the city has handled Willets Point, saying plans for the area have for too long remained stagnant.
Thompson, who had been the president of the now dissolved city Board of Education, criticized Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein’s handling of the city schools. While Thompson said he supports mayoral control, he said he would replace Klein, de-emphasize the role of standardized tests, and put more of a focus on arts and music education.
“Parents for seven years have been shut out and ignored,” Thompson said of mayoral control, which was implemented in 2002.
Railing against the what Thompson said was the city’s overzealous ticketing policy, Thompson said “the city should not be using the people of the city as a revenue stream.”
Area business owners in the borough, especially in areas like Bayside and Forest Hills, have complained they are losing business because of ticket-happy officers.
“If someone double parks and runs in to grab something, they’ll give the person in the car a ticket,” Thompson said. “We used to just ask them to leave.”
Bloomberg last week dismissed criticism that traffic officers have too liberally been doling out tickets.
“If people are getting too many traffic tickets, the future is in their hands,” Bloomberg said. “They’re the ones deliberately breaking the law.”
Running against Bloomberg, who has spent $37 million on his own campaign, has proven challenging, said Thompson, who has about $2.6 million on hand.
Thompson said the only way he can go up against the billionaire mayor is to “put together the second greatest grass roots campaign this city has seen.” The comptroller said President Barack Obama’s campaign was the greatest grass roots effort.
“I believe this is a winnable race,” Thompson said.
©2009 Community News Group
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