Peninsula Hospital Center Closure: Pain For Rockaway; $ For Lawyers
There has got to be something wrong with a bankruptcy court system where the only winners in the game are the lawyers who sit in the middle and take money from all sides. The Peninsula Hospital Center is closed and those who need emergency treatment sometimes have to be transported as far away as Nassau County. Nearly 700 Rockaway residents have lost their jobs and now some of them are facing the loss of their home as well. A vital institution that had served Rockaway for more than 100 years is gone for good, its meds, furniture, equipment, supplies and records trucked away to other medical venues. People who filed malpractice and other suits against the hospital prior to its bankruptcy filing have been put on hold. Dozens of suppliers and medical services wait for some payback, perhaps a few cents on each dollar they are owed. It’s a sad picture, except when you read the court filings submitted by the law firms associated with Lori Lapin Jones, the bankruptcy trustee appointed by Judge Elizabeth Stong, the judge in the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York. At the end, Jones will get three percent of everything she carves out for the creditors of the hospital, which some experts say could be as much as $1 million as her fee for acting as trustee. It does not stop there. Jones hired a firm as her counsel, LaMonica, Herbst & Maniscalco in Wantagh. That firm has just filed an interim application for payment for funds owed them because of the PHC bankruptcy for March 23 to June 30. It amounts to $138,004.95. Top attorneys at that firm bill at $495 an hour. Then there is another firm, this one in Great Neck, Long Island, right around the corner from Jones’ office, called Garfunkel, Wild. On July 20, an application for payment was filed by Jones on behalf of Garfunkel, Wild. That filing asks for a total of $484,076.70 as “compensation sought as actual, reasonable and necessary” for a four-month period from March 9 through June 30. During that period, one of the firm’s many partners, Burton Weston, billed 383.10 hours at $459 an hour (minus a 10 percent discount) for work on the PHC bankruptcy, a total of $175,842.90. Partners who worked on the case billed anywhere from $387 to $459 an hour. Associates billed anywhere from $180 to $306 an hour. Paralegals billed anywhere from $175.50 to $220.50 an hour. The firm claims that it expended a total of 1,231.10 hours during the time period on the case, for a blended hourly rate of approximately $394. That comes to about 14 hours a day for the 85 day weekday working period. That’s a bill of more than $622,000 for a three-month period and the beat goes on. Add on the costs of the company selling the furniture and equipment, the company selling the pharmaceuticals, the company hired to change the physical zoning of the property, the company hired to sell the real estate and others, and you can see what it means. While Rockaway people lose their homes, a fairly small group of Nassau County attorneys get rich. There has to be something wrong with that.