Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow.

Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Daily Point

Hochul calls for new leadership to rescue hospital

Gov. Kathy Hochul is pushing for big changes to the Nassau University Medical Center board.

In letters written to state and local leaders who have the power to recommend board members for NUMC’s public benefit corporation, Nassau Health Care Corp., state appointment secretary Rose Rodriguez asked elected officials to choose new candidates for available board positions.

The letter points to the hospital’s “dire situation” — a mix, Rodriguez wrote, of “significant financial distress exacerbated by a lack of effective board leadership.”

“Currently, half of NUMC’s board members are in holdover status, and vacancies remain unfilled,” Rodriguez wrote. “I am urging you to swiftly review and replace these individuals with candidates who possess the courage to confront waste, fraud, and abuse, and the determination to steer NUMC towards a path of success.”

The letter came after a Newsday editorial that ran March 13, noting that Hochul has the power to appoint eight members of the NUMC board that are recommended by the Nassau County executive, the majority and minority leaders of the county legislature, and the state Assembly speaker and State Senate majority leader. Hochul also has the option of rejecting choices made by those individuals. Of the eight, at least four are “holdovers” whose terms have expired. One additional seat — to be recommended by the county legislature’s presiding officer, Howard Kopel — is vacant.

“The board requires leaders with the tenacity to address systemic challenges, the integrity to identify mismanagement, and the commitment to revitalizing this essential institution,” the letter said. “Together, a new, stronger board can ensure NUMC fulfills its mission of providing quality health care to the community.”

Separate letters — all saying the same thing — were sent to Kopel, County Executive Bruce Blakeman, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Appointments to the board’s seven other seats are made directly by county officials, without the state’s involvement. That includes the chairman of the board, Matthew Bruderman, who was appointed by Blakeman. According to board records, his term expires in 2026.

Rodriguez closed the letter, dated March 28 and written on Executive Chamber letterhead with Hochul’s name on it, by saying state officials were ready to “review your candidates and support this important hospital.”

With an overdue state budget to negotiate, however, even the “dire” situation at NUMC may take a backseat for a few days.

— Randi F. Marshall

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Final Point

Another partisan-tinted court fight looms

Long Island’s two Republican-run counties are expected to play a still-to-be-defined role in supporting a new lawsuit, filed recently by Onondaga County and its GOP leadership, aimed at voiding New York’s new even-year election law, insiders tell The Point.

The legislation, pushed by the state’s dominant Democratic Party and signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in December, places local, state and congressional elections on a single, lengthy ballot in alternate even years. The rationale was to do away with low-turnout “off-year” election days in New York. Presidential and gubernatorial races are run in alternate even years, creating opportunities for a “coattail” effect further down ballot.

Foes of the measure expressed doubt throughout the legislative process that this new law would encourage participation as advertised and predicted it would actually starve local races, currently in odd years, of their share of voter attention.

Now Onondaga County argues in state Supreme Court that by dictating the timing of all ballots — except for New York City and certain state-mandated and judicial offices — the state infringes on the constitutional power of counties to set duties and terms of their elected posts.

The upstate county’s charter provides that elections for county legislators for a two-year term, and for county executive for a four-year term, are to be held in odd-numbered years. To accomplish the shift under the new state law to even years, some terms are due to be shortened, starting in 2025. Though it would happen only once, it would still usurp the county’s power, the complainants are saying.

“The Even Year Election Law is a blatant violation of Article IX of the New York State Constitution, which grants expansive home rule rights and powers to local governments, including the County,” states the court complaint filed March 22. “The Court should declare the Even Year Election Law unconstitutional.”

Supporters of the change say language in the bill provides for legally overriding these charter provisions.

The lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Ed Carni, is a well-known lawyer based in Syracuse who formerly served as a state Supreme Court justice and associate justice in the Appellate Division.

The court challenge might parallel the extended battle just ended over redistricting — in the sense that the major parties are fighting in court over how electoral playing fields are set. A time frame for this new case has yet to be set. Other counties in other regions are expected to weigh in, as suggested by the fact that the legislation was firmly opposed last year by the bipartisan New York State Association of Counties.

— Dan Janison

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