Thursday, December 27, 2007

311 to the Rescue ?

An anonymous reader of this blog recently suggested that I DO something about the graffiti, instead of just talk talk talk. Well, thanks to this poster, I called 311, the City's all-purpose information and complaint address. And, what do you know, this poster was right: there is something I could do that I had not thought of before. And I did it.

I called 311 to report these graffiti, and was told that the City will notify the owner of the property, LICH, within 21 days. The City will ask LICH to remove the graffiti, and will, in fact, offer City money to do this in the form of a City work crew (I did know about the financial aspect, and so notified LICH several months ago). The City will tell LICH that unless something is done, it will be fined. My complaint number is SR #: C1-1-368592991.

Will all this come to something ? Will this story have a happy ending in, say, 2008 ? Will it be a matter of 311 TO THE RESCUE ? Stay tuned, stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is LICH a good neighbor ?

Picture taken 12/19/07

Not only is graffiti unattractive, it lowers property values and encourages other types of crime in neighborhoods.
Fort Worth Police Department

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Mayor Bloomberg:

"Graffiti is something for which our administration has zero tolerance," the mayor said, calling it "an invitation to criminal behavior."

And here is the reply by LICH, in a photo taken Tuesday, December 4, 2007:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Is it too much for LICH ?

Picture taken Wednesday, November 28

How much does it take, in money and effort, to repaint a black door ? How much does it take in care and consideration ? Is it too much for LICH ?

Here are some thoughts from the National Crime Prevention Council:

Graffiti Prevention Improves the Quality of Life for Communities and Residents

Graffiti is a sign of decay and makes people feel that their neighborhood is being lost to gangs and crime. If allowed to remain, it sends the message that the community is unconcerned about its appearance.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why can the City hire its hospital boss for so much less ?

In my posting of September 25, I reported on the salary of LICH president Rita Battles, approximately $700,000. I did have figures at the time for the presidents of other private (non-profit) hospitals in the area, and found that of Ms. Battles to be on the low side.

But I did not have the figure for the chief executive of New York City's Health and Hospitals Corporation, Mr. Alan D. Aviles, who oversees a far larger complex of hospital facilities than does Ms. Battles. Here is NYCHHC's own job description for Mr. Aviles:

Alan D. Aviles is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), the largest municipal healthcare system in the nation. Mr. Aviles was appointed by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in February 2005 to lead the 38,000 employees of this $5.4 billion corporation, which includes 11 acute care facilities, four nursing homes, six large diagnostic and treatment centers, more than 80 community-based clinics, a large home care agency, and a Medicaid managed care plan with more than 250,000 enrollees. Last year, HHC facilities served 1.3 million New Yorkers that reflect the diversity of this global city – including nearly 400,000 uninsured.

Unlike the non-profit private groups, HHC does not file IRS disclosure forms that show top salaries. And unlike "direct" government departments, HHC, a public corporation, does not show its salaries in public directories like New York City's famous Green Book. I found that I could get HHC salary figures only by filing a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. This I did, about two months ago, and today I received the information I requested.

The salary of Mr. Aviles is currently $291,192. And remember, Mr. Aviles's responsibilities are far more extensive than those of Ms. Battles.

In my view, the relatively modest salaries paid to public servants like Mr. Aviles calls into question the necessity -- the appropriateness, if you will -- of the much higher sums paid at non-profit facilities like LICH. The current crisis in health care costs is one of the most pressing public issues in the country. Perhaps our public officials could look at the contrast between Ms. Battles and Mr. Aviles as pointing to one way of alleviating the crisis.

A biography of Mr. Aviles, with an outline of his background, is given in the NYCHHC site. That of Ms. Battles may be consulted on the LICH site.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Does LICH want Bush impeached ?

Among the many unsightly graffiti that adorn the exterior of LICH's building on 385 Hicks Street, there is one that says "Impeach Bush." I first showed it here clearly on August 16 of this year.

Federal statutes prohibit non-profit groups from engaging in partisan political campaigns. Is this a case of political partisanship, or is it something worse: a willful negligence that drags down an otherwise attractive residential neighborhood ?

(Picture taken Friday, November 8, 2007)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Madison Ave. vs. Hicks St. -- ct'd

The planter in front of LICH's Graffiti House (385 Hicks) has once again become the target of theft. Another beautiful plant has been stolen within the last twelve hours or so.

Is other crime encouraged by the vandalism known as graffiti ? Mayor Guiliani thought so. These graffiti are ugly and should be removed for that reason alone. But they also contribute to the blight and crime of a neighborhood. There is no excuse for LICH to just ignore the situation.

Would Mr. Wren tolerate this at his other location ? I don't think so.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hicks Street is not Madison Avenue

The graffiti at 325 Hicks Street, a LICH building, are still where they were months ago. Is that a pretty sight ?

As it happens, LICH shares leadership with the Omnicom Group, "A Global Leader in Advertising ...," as it describes itself. Mr. John D. Wren is the CEO of Omnicom and the chairman of the board of LICH. Omnicom is headquartered at 437 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. So I went over there this morning to see how that building is kept, in comparison with 325 Hicks. I took seven pictures on Madison Avenue, another seven new ones here on Hicks, all today, October 25, 2007.

Can you tell which picture was taken where ?

Monday, October 22, 2007

LICH: What do you mean, you want to give us money !!

As the faithful readers of this blog know, I have tried to effect a modest financial contribution to LICH, in recognition of its good work for the sick, and also in appreciation for its beautification of our block. This latter project is not complete, but it's on its way.

My wife and I manage our charitable contributions through the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund (CGF). Here is how this works. We give the money to CGF, and CGF gives it to any charity that we recommend, as long as it is properly recognized by Internal Revenue. There are tax advantages to modest givers like us, and also, it turns out, another advantage: CGF vets contributions to make sure that the proposed charity complies with federal rules. In the several years of our relationship with CGF, the procedure has worked without a hitch.

Well, with LICH there is a hitch. Not being privy to the ins and outs of the LICH bureaucracy, I don't know just why LICH does not currently qualify for charitable contributions from charitable gift funds. It apparently has something to do with the way LICH has structured its IRS status. I've been on the phone with CGF several times, and I was told that LICH needs to fill in some papers to qualify. CGF has repeatedly phoned LICH but LICH has not responded. And neither has LICH responded to the several e-mails that I have sent to their man in charge of fund raising. Of course it's only a matter of $300 in contributions from me, and so, it seems, from LICH's point of view, why bother.

And so, reluctantly, I withdrew our grant recommendation for LICH today.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Thief of Hicks Street

One of those nice planters on Hicks Street that LICH placed there so recently has just been robbed of most of its flowers (Diana Garden Mums). The first picture shows the holes that the thief left. The second picture shows another planter on the same block, which the thief has not (yet ?) emptied of its flowers.

The plantings are very new and easy to scoop up. It's easy to steal the easy prey. But why would a person do a thing like this ? Is the thief the kind of person you would like as friend or neighbor, or, God forbid, as family member ?

I chatted with a LICH employee as we both inspected the damage. "Whoever did this," she said, "will not enjoy the flowers. They will not grow for him. Why ? Because cheaters never prosper." Amen.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Health Care Report Card

I have previously reported on available data about the overall quality of LICH. Most of these data, and more, are conveniently brought together in an excellent site called Health Care Report Card.

So, how good is LICH in comparison with other area hospitals ? It emerges from these HCRC reports that LICH is more or less average. It receives some bad marks in some areas, but so do most of the other hospitals. This site needs to be studied, however, and in detail. One surprising detail is that Columbia Presbyterian, which I have mentioned before (for example in connection with its extraordinarily high compensation for its top executives), doesn't seem to be doing much better than LICH in patient care, at least according to these HCRC data. Lenox Hill Hospital was another surprise to me -- coming in so very low in patient care scores.

I cannot believe that these HCRC scores tell the whole story of these hospitals. Columbia Presbyterian is connected with one of the top research institutions in the world. I would certainly hope that the indisputably high quality of its science accrues to the benefit to its patients, although perhaps not in ways that HCRC can measure.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Welcome, Baby Oak !

LICH has put a beautiful little oak tree into what only recently was an ugly pit of weeds. As Joyce Kilmer already put it, back in 1914 (well, he almost said it):

Blogs are made by fools like me
But only LICH can plant a tree

On the other hand ... a phrase I hate to need so often ... there remains the problem of debris that is not cleared up. A nice environment needs daily attention ! Here is the tree pit just next to that beautiful baby oak:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It takes 190 LICH nurses ....

At LICH, it takes 190 nurses to earn as much as the Chairman of the LICH Board of Regents. Even LICH executive salaries -- and those of hospitals generally (see previous posting, below) -- pale when compared to top executive salaries in private industry.

LICH's President was no doubt appointed by the LICH Board of Regents, a board that contains many accomplished men and women from many walks of life. The Chairman of this Board of Regents is Mr. John D. Wren, who is also the CEO of the Omnicom Group. Omnicom is required to file detailed reports with the SEC, including detailed information about its top salaries. For 2006, Mr. Wren's compensation package at this corporation totaled $13,241,034, roughly nineteen times the salary of LICH's President/CEO, almost forty times the salary of a LICH surgeon, and one hundred ninety times the pay of a LICH Registered Nurse.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Salaries at the Hospital -- the President and the Others

Rita Battles became President and CEO of LICH on Monday, September 20, 2004 -- three years ago almost to the day.

For the calendar year of 2004, which is the last year for which salary figures are readily available, Ms. Battles was paid $163,036, plus $8012 in benefits, or a total of $171,048. This covered the 102 days that she served in 2004. If we prorate this figure to arrive at an annual salary rate, we get $613,735 for that year. It is fair to assume that now, three years later, her compensation is higher than that, perhaps, roughly, $700,000 per year.

There is another job title at LICH for which compensation figures are readily obtained, that of Registered Nurse. According to the contract currently in force, RN's at LICH at the lowest level of experience are paid $61,188, and are granted regular increases until they reach the maximum, after 28 years of service, of $89,118. The President of LICH, then, earns between eight and twelve times the salary of the average registered nurse at her hospital.

Compensation figures for physicians are more difficult to ascertain. But the New York area median salary for (employed) family practice physicians is $184,555. For surgeons this figure is $335,751. These are current figures. Based on them, we can estimate that the President of LICH earns about four times the salary of the average family physician, and more than twice as much as the average surgeon at her hospital.

For a complete outsider like myself, it is difficult to compare the background and experience of the President with, say, that of a surgeon. Ms. Battles has had years of distinguished work experience in hospital administration, but her formal education does not seem to have gone beyond that of a master's degree in business administration from Suffolk University in Boston. The formal educational and professional requirements of a surgeon, on the other hand, are much more clearly defined. In addition to graduation from medical school, a surgeon must have served an internship, passed the State Board examination in medicine, and then have spent many years of specialized training leading to certification by his specialty Board.

With all that, LICH, which has 506 beds [not 258, as I had said originally], seems to lag behind certain other area hospitals in executive compensation. Or you might say, since its salaries are more modest, it is ahead of these institutions.

New York and Presbyterian Hospital is perhaps the most noteworthy. In 2004 it had two part-time chief executives, each working about 22 hours per week. The combined salaries of these two (one a physician, the other not), was $6,412,332. This hospital has 2233 beds.

Here are some other examples of presidents' 2004 salaries at New York area hospitals:

New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens (439 beds): $817,867

Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center (565 beds): $ 1,888,553

St. Vincent Catholic Medical Center (845 beds, as of 2003): $1,412,452


President of the United States -- $400,000, plus $50,000 benefits

Governor of the State of New York -- $179,000

Mayor of the City of New York -- 0

Associate Justice, U. S. Supreme Court -- $164,100

Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene, City of New York (currently Thomas R. Frieden, M.D.,M.P.H) -- $171,038

Chancellor, New York City Schools -- $250,000

President, Fordham University -- 0 (Jesuit priest)
highest paid vice president at Fordham -- $233,250, plus $40,472 in benefits


Non-profit groups are required to file annual reports of their financial dealings, including salaries paid to their top employees (religious groups, unfortunately, are exempt from this requirement). These reports to the IRS on IRS form 990, and, in principle, become public documents. Each group is required to make its report available to any member of the public. In practice it is often difficult to inspect these reports in a timely manner, mainly because the groups have little incentive to make such inspection convenient.

Fortunately now, for the last few years, a great many of these reports are available on line at For most of the groups that I looked up for this posting, the last available 990's were for the calendar year of 2004. Readers who wish more up-to-date information should approach the organizations themselves.

The information on the salaries of public officials came from the 2005-06 edition (the latest) of The Green Book, an official publication of the City of New York, and a mine of information on matters of government on all levels -- city, state, and federal.

Average salaries come from another fabulous source of information, the Salary Wizard of This site takes a bit of practice to get the hang of it.

The information on the salaries of nurses at LICH was furnished to me by the New York State Nurses Association.

A particularly interesting source of data on New York City public salaries is the City's Civil List. It is thousands of pages long and contains salary information on all city employees. All the other sources I have mentioned so far only have information on top salaries, but the Civil List is exhaustive. Your cop on the beat, if you happen to know his name, can be found there. (Are there still cops who walk beats ? Never mind.)

Finally, I must report an unfortunate gap in what is easily available in this area. The New York City Health and Hospital Corporation (HHC) seems to fall between the cracks. It was created by state legislation, and, while run by a board that is appointed by the Mayor, it is an independent body, at least in some ways. Anyway, I was unable to find the salaries of its top officers anywhere on line. I was told that I am entitled to the information, and that I will, in fact, receive it in good time ... but the good time has not yet arrived. My interest in the HHC stems from the fact that it operates the twenty-odd public city hospitals, and of course it would be interesting to know how its top officers are compensated.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Beautification is progressing !

LICH has put a couple of planters on our block last week, so the beautification project seems to be under way. To express my appreciation, I've sent the first half of my promised $300 contribution to the LICH Corporation.

So there's light at the end of this tunnel but we're not altogether out of it yet:

a) The graffiti on the wall are still there, in all their gory.

b) As the picture shows, the planter is a big improvement over what that tree pit used to look like. But as the picture also shows very clearly, the pit around the planter obviously needs attention. The ground there looks ugly and detracts from the flowers in the planter. Perhaps some sort of ground covering would do the trick.

c) A different topic but not entirely unrelated: No matter how beautiful the flowers on the perimeter, data for what goes on inside the hospital are still inadequate. Here LICH should emulate the City's hospitals (see my posting of 9/8/07).

Saturday, September 8, 2007

How Good a Hospital is LICH ? --Part II

The New York Times of Friday, Sept. 7, published an important article by Sarah Kershaw about a new policy of openness on the part of New York City's own hospitals, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (NYCHHC). This policy affects city-owned hospitals, not private hospitals and nonprofits like LICH. The data to be made available concern infection and death rates, preventable blood stream infections and pneumonia cases, and other items. One of the new HHC web pages for this purpose gives data for heart attack care; data for other crucial categories are linked to this page.

Kershaw's article makes it clear that this is a new step by the city administration to provide data that are crucial to patients. The article also makes it clear that the rest of the industry, and this presumably includes LICH, has a long way to go to match this level of transparency.

Ladies and gentlemen of the LICH administration: follow the mayor on this !

Below please find data taken directly from the website of the HHC. It shows that in the crucial area of preventing surgical infections, the city hospitals do better than other hositals in the NYC area. Where does LICH stand here ? It would sure be good to know !

Note: the remainder of this posting is taken directly from the HHC site.


The chance of surgical infection can be minimized if doctors adequately seal wounds, ensure completely sterile conditions and administer appropriate antibiotics in a timely fashion. The appropriate antibiotic should be given no more than one hour before surgery and should be stopped within 24 hours after surgery.

As reflected in data reported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the New York State Department of Health, many HHC hospitals have achieved some of the best results in the nation in this category of care.

Preventing Surgical Infections

Hospital-Specific Data
HHC Average= 85.1%
NYC Vicinity Average = 76%
National Average=74.5%

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How Good a Hospital is LICH ?

How good is the Long Island College Hospital from the point of view of the patients that it serves ?

Here is my short answer: I think it's good, but I am not sure.

The Department of Health in Albany publishes grades for hospitals in the state, broken down by several dimensions. Readers should study these materials themselves on the site of the Health Department. But the matter is highly technical and without interpretation by experts, these data may be misleading.

I gave the matter only a preliminary study. Moreover, I have no expertise in interpreting public health statistics, so my impressions may be wrong.

The site, as far as I can see, has four areas that give meaningful information about LICH performance when compared to averages for the state.

1) Overall performance related to heart failure conditions.
LICH gets a grade of 94.58, as compared to 91.35 for the state average. This would seem to be an excellent performance by LICH. Columbia-Presbyterian gets 94.45, about the same as LICH.

2) Overall performance related to pneumonia care.
LICH gets 74.64, with a state average of 87.77. LICH does not seem to be doing very well here. On the other hand, Columbia-Presbyterian is worse than LICH, with a grade of 70.47. So -- I am guessing -- for a city hospital, LICH seems to be doing well, even though it falls short of the state average.

3) Heart attack care.
Hospitals in the state seem to do very well in this category. LICH gets 97.06, Columbia-Presbyterian 97.30, with a state average of 95.28.

4) Overall grade related to Surgical Infection Prevention.
This area, at least on the surface, may well be reason for concern for LICH patients. LICH is given a score of 77.13, the statewide average is 80.11, and Columbia-Presbyterian gets 80.77.
Do we need to worry ? I really don't know. But LICH may very well wish to explain its score here, and, indeed, explain its other scores as well.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

LICH's playgrounds on Henry Street

The frontage of the LICH building at 385 Hicks Street, despite the great recent improvement, is still a bit of a mess. The graffiti are still there, and no maintenance person seems to have been assigned to keep a daily lookout for dirt and debris.

But a block east, on Henry Street, LICH continues to show what it can do for the beauty and pleasure of the neighborhood: two really nice playprounds.

These LICH-built and LICH-operated playgrounds have an interesting history. They were built some ten years ago in an agreement with the City in return for City park land (North Van Voorhees Park) which the hospital used to build a parking garage.

There was great controversy at the time over this deal. Opponents felt that city park land is sacred and should never be diverted for private use. I was one of these opponents. The opponents were also skeptical about LICH's ability and good faith to produce worthwhile playgrounds. The controversy is well described in a New York Times article of August 8, 1993. Well, it's now about a decade later, and I, for one, am happy, very happy with what LICH has done here. Over the years I have used these spaces to play with some of my grandchildren, to meet neighbors, and, weather willing, to enjoy the glorious outdoors.

Here are some pictures that I took of the northern playground today (if you look real hard -- well, not all that hard -- you'll spot a grandson of mine) :

Friday, August 17, 2007

Dawn of a New Day ?

Here is the news I've had this morning from LICH :
1) The landscaper is coming in over the weekend to have a look.
2) Additionally, we are looking to hire a company to power-wash the graffiti off the brick face. Our corporate compliance policies dictate we solicit bids for the project rather than just award it to a vendor. Meaning that this, too, will churn through the system, but eventually get done.

Obviously we'll have to wait and see. But, in anticipation, let's just say good work, LICH.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Debris is gone, but grafitti stays

Here are some pictures, taken on Thursday, August 16, 2007, about 6:45 p.m. This is the exterior of LICH's building at 385 Hicks Street. It is a block that also has residential homeowners who try to keep their neighborhood neat and clean. As Mr. Reagan might have put it (if he had been as polite as I): Ms. Battles, madam, please, clear up that ugly facade !

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


LICH has today cleaned up the frontage to its 385 Hicks property !! Not only was the trash and debris removed, but all those unsightly weeds have been cut down. Great job, LICH.

The next step, to which they have also agreed, is beautification, meaning well-cared-for plantings and ongoing monitoring of the site. As I have shown in a previous posting, there are some beautifully executed tree pits on Hicks just north of State. These should serve as a model of what can be done.

I had previously agreed to contribute $300 toward the cost of beautification, and I am eager to send my check. I have asked for details of the planning, perhaps sketches, and also, most important, a time table. I have asked for a completion date no later than a month from now. I hope to be able to send my check real soon.

In my preoccupation with the debris problem, I have been remiss in not mentioning the many good experiences I have had with LICH over the years. One of my grandchildren was born there; my wife had a successful operation at LICH; a number of times the LICH emergency room saved us from much grief. Thank you for all that good medical service, LICH.

Please stay tuned for the progress of the beautification program.

Monday, August 13, 2007


August 13, 2007

Ms. Rita Battles,
President, LICH

Dear Ms. Battles,

As you know, I am one of your neighbors on the 300 block of Hicks Street. I want to help you beautify the perimeter of your buildings on this block. We're in this together.

I will make a modest donation ($300, say) to help you buy plants for those unsightly tree pits if your people will provide the labor and you promise to do the maintenance on an ongoing basis.

Sorry to be so public about this little letter, but the LICH site does not furnish a contact address. Besides, this public communication may encourage others to also make donations ! I have already written to a neighbor along these lines.

Your neighbor

Werner Cohn, 391 Hicks St.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Whose Pits are These ?

Yes, these tree pits are on Hicks Street. Yes, each is but a stone's throw from LICH's main hospital building. Do they front buildings owned by LICH ?

Not !

The private owners of the buildings that these pits do front are tax payers. They do not benefit from the municipal tax exemptions of the non-profits. But their simple beauty and cleanliness, and civic spirit, could well serve as an example to certain non-profit groups.

The Garage Door

LICH's building at 385 Hicks has two entrances. One, only partially shown here, is on the right, and is regularly used by LICH personnel. The other, on the left, seems to be an unused garage. As this picture show, it is surrounded by debris, weeds flourish, and some trenchant grafiti seems to enjoy tolerance from the LICH administration. The door does not seem to have been cleaned, let alone painted, since the days of Mayor Jimmy Walker.

Remember that this building stands in a residential block of Cobble Hill where private owners take pride in both cleanliness and property values.

Pit #2

I have so far only talked about the left, southern tree pit that is found in front of LICH's building at 385 Hicks Street. But there is also a Pit #2, as I call it, which is located a few feet north of Pit #1. The top picture here shows this tree pit, bereft of trees, but well supplied with weeds. What kind of weeds ? Several different kinds, not including, I sincerely hope, rag weed.

Now the lower picture here is what you see if you look through the weeds from above, directly to the ground. At this level there is a nice assortment of debris, bottles, papers, you name it.

Both pictures were taken today, 8/12/07.

The Pit, 8/12/07

The top picture shows the situation a day later. Not much has changed. The bottom picture gives a closeup of one part of the this pit, as of today.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Tree Pit - 8/11/07

LICH owns a building at 385 Hicks Street. In front of this building there are two tree pits. The left one has a tree, some weeds, and a lot of debris. The right one has just weeds and debris. I am watching the left one. This picture above was taken on 8/11/07, at 6 p.m.