2012-06-08 / Front Page

Final Countdown Begins

Two Court Motions Seal PHC’s Fate
By Howard Schwach

Want to buy 50 surgical aspirators? How about 75 hospital beds or some ultrasonic blood flowmeters?

How about a rehabilitation facility and nursing home; or even a large building that once was a vital hospital?

If so, have we got a sale for you.

Two motions approved by Federal Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Stong might well seal the fate of the Peninsula Hospital Center, which served Rockaway under one name or another for more than 104 years before it was abruptly closed by the state’s Department of Health in early April. One motion allows trustee Lori Lapin Jones to hire a national liquidation corporation called the Great American Group to get rid of all the machinery, furniture and equipment now held by the shuttered Peninsula Hospital Center through a public liquidation sale that will begin soon and must end by July 31.

The other allows Jones to hire Friedman and Gotbaum as a “zoning consultant” with an eye to rezoning the hospital’s real property into two prime sites available for sale – one being the nursing home, which is still up and running, and the other being the now-shuttered hospital.

The sale motion was approved on May 30. The zoning motion the next day, on May 31.

Great American says on its website that it is one of the largest liquidation organizations in the world, and that many of its sales are done through webcasts, but it is unclear at press time as to what form PHC’s liquidation will take because the company has not responded to calls for comment.

Court documents, however, say, “GAG has the right to uninterrupted use, access and possession of the property Monday through Friday, during regular business hours, to conduct the sale and allow the removal of the MF&E from the property through July 31, 2012, provided, however, that such date may be extended by the Trustee in her business discretion.”

For its expertise and sale activities, GAG will get a 15 percent “buyer’s premium” on all sales, as well as “up to $150,000 for an expense reimbursement.”

The company has to post an $800,000 performance bond.

The money from the liquidation sale will not go to the hospital’s creditors. Instead, it will be used to finance the draw-down of the hospital and to pay expenses until the hospital’s real estate holdings are liquidated sometime late in the summer or early in the fall, records show.

The zoning motion comes on the heels of the fire sale motion.

“The trustee seeks to employ F & G to provide certain preliminary services and related zoning services with regards to PHC’s real property, located at 51-15 Beach Channel Drive and designated as Block 15843, Lot 1,” the motion says. “Specifically the trustee requires assistance in assessing whether the property can be subdivided into two or more tax lots, which can ultimately be sold separately under the applicable zoning regulations.”

“The firm will assess the feasibility and likelihood of any applications by PHC to the City of New York seeking to subdivide existing PHC tax lots into two or more tax lots for the purpose of establishing individual buildings on each individual tax lot. A sale of the property in separate tax lots will maximize value for the debtor’s estates,” Jones added.

Insiders say that Jones chose wisely in hiring high-priced lobbyist and insider Shelly Friedman and one-time city powerhouse Betsy Gotbaum to insure that the zoning changes will be made.

Sources say that the nursing home is a valuable asset and will most likely go to Revival Home Health Care, the company that bailed out the hospital at the end of last summer.

They added that Jones has been working to “repurpose” the hospital building into another healthcare facility, although there is no information forthcoming on who had bid on the property.

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