Parkway case back in court

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Parkway Hospital has a pulse.

An anonymous group trying to reopen the shuttered medical facility in Forest Hills scored a small victory last month in the federal Court of Appeals. A lawyer won the right to argue that he should be ´╗┐allowed to represent the group in their quest to reinstate the hospital’s license.

“If I win the appeal, I get the right to proceed in the district court and prove my claims,” said Lawrence Wolf, the attorney who is filing to take control of the case. “First I have to get back in the ballgame.”

Wolf hopes to prove to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals that he should take the legal place of a court-appointed trustee who abandoned the larger appeal to reopen the hospital. But that trustee is currently liquidating the hospital as part of its Chapter 7 Bankruptcy proceedings and does not believe the hospital can reopen.

For Wolf and other advocates for the hospital, appealing for control of the case is the first step in overturning the state closure of the hospital in 2008, according to John Krall, an advocate who has said he has the investors and funding to reopen the facility.

“I still want to put this hospital back online,” he said. “The appeal could potentially give us back the license from a legal perspective.”

The hospital’s license was revoked in 2008 as part of what the state Department of Health said was a plan designed to make health care facilities more cost-effective and efficient´╗┐. The parent company of Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica and St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurst filed for bankruptcy and closed several months later.

Krall and Wolf believe the license was revoked illegally, and if Wolf wins the first appeal, he will move on to the larger appeal to reinstate the hospital’s license.

But according to Ian Gazes, the court-appointed trustee who is liquidating the hospital’s assets, there is no way the hospital can reopen.

“I don’t see how, under the Bankruptcy Code, a Chapter 7 debtor could reopen,” Gazes said, adding that he did not agree with the court’s decision to allow Wolf to argue for legal control. “It’s my position that Wolf has no standing to assert this appeal, but the court has asserted it.”

To further hamper the hospital’s efforts, its former CEO Robert Aquino was indicted on bribery charges earlier this year. Aquino also owns the property.

Aquino’s ties to the hospital have hindered past requests for the state to reopen the hospital, Krall said.

But Aquino would have no ties to the revamped hospital, according to Krall, and if the appeal goes through and the hospital gets a green light to open, investors will swoop in to buy the property.

“Even if Aquino wins the appeal, he will not be part of the management chain,” Krall said. “He may be a temporary landlord until we buy him out.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 10:53 am, October 12, 2011
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