Chapter 4

Protest and Resolution

The campaign to save Interfaith moved into high gear in the summer of 2013 with an unprecedented mobilization across many sectors of civil society. Activities began with mass meetings held every Tuesday of the rank and file from 1199SEIU and NYSNA, elected officials, community members and others.29 The Tuesday Meetings were a forum that brought together a wide array of community stakeholders for discussion, debate, deliberation about strategy, and planning for the future.


What readers will learn:

  1. Understand the “movement-building” approach and campaign used by organizers to fight the closure of Interfaith

  2. Identify key activities that fueled the Interfaith campaign

  3. Describe the outcome of the campaign.

A movement-building approach was beginning to unfold that fueled an array of other actions, from public protest, to direct dialogue, to petitioning hospital administrators and state decision-makers. This rich variety of opportunities for involvement spurred increasing engagement of community, organizational and institutional participants, and set the stage for the emergence of a unified vision for the wellbeing of the community.

Marches, Vigils, Protests and Plays

In the Summer of 2013, organizers began a series of protests-- a march from Interfaith to King Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church in June,30 and “funeral march” across the Brooklyn Bridge in July: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported:

While a brass band played funeral jazz, weeping protesters carried coffins and tombstones. Cars, including a gray hearse, blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. Hundreds joined the procession on the Manhattan side and still more merged with the crowd at Foley Square. . . . About a dozen protesters--including City Councilman Brad Lander, nurses, community members, workers from SEIU 1199 and others--were arrested as they blocked traffic on the bridge in a deliberate act of civil disobedience.31

Brooklyn Bridge Blockaded During Funeral March for Brooklyn Healthcare.

In August, there was an all-night candlelight vigil.32

In January 2014, protests took a creative turn with the staging of a play by a local theater company in the Interfaith hospital lobby.33  The play, The Death of Bessie Smith by Edward Albee, was about a black woman dying because she lived too far from a hospital. The theater company performed it for months inside the hospital.

Play Production of Death of Bessie Smith at Interfaith Medical Center

The theater director, Jonathan Solari, explained:

[i]t is the only hospital that serves Central Brooklyn, a symbol for the dozen hospitals that have closed in the last decade and for several others that are in danger. I think it’s our obligation as artists who are active in our community and have a wider audience to use our medium to address that issue.” He noted that the setting at Interfaith inspired the actors, “every night, when the cast leaves, we have to walk through an empty hospital . . . it’s a constant reminder to us of why we’re doing it.34

Occupying Interfaith

These and other related activities led to the Coalition’s occupation of the hospital on January 17, 2014.   News coverage of the mounting chaos at Interfaith showed that in the prior six months, the State health department had instructed Interfaith to close at least six times, each time later reversing the order.” According to Crain’s at the time, “[t]he hospital is burning through $5 million a month, without state money it could not make payroll by as early as next week.”35

Within two weeks of the occupation, Interfaith reached an agreement with its main creditor, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY). The agreement included three major provisions that allowed Interfaith to remain open: 1) an immediate infusion of $7.5 million in cash, a stop-gap measure to enable the hospital to maintain its short-term operations; 2) a $25.1 million loan agreement; and 3) a requirement that Interfaith’s board select new management within six weeks.36

Chapter 4 Questions

  1. Describe the range of actions taken by community and union members to keep Interfaith open.

  2. Why was a wide variety of different actions necessary?

  3. Explain the impact of the Interfaith campaign on the community.

  4. What were the Tuesday Meetings and why were they important?

  5. How did the agreement with the State Dormitory Authority help Interfaith?

1. An Epidemic of Hospital Closures
2. Crisis at Interfaith
3. Time to Mobilize: Forming the Coalition to Save Interfaith
4. Protest and Resolution
5. Medicaid Reform
6. Research-Based Action
7. Participatory Action Research as a Tool for Change
8. Healthcare System Reform: Cross-Sector Collaboration
9. Reinventing Interfaith
10. Focus on Health Equity
11. Creating Healthier Communities: Leveraging Community Assets
12. Community Planning for Healthier Communities
13. Making Health a Shared Value: Building Civic Infrastructure
14. Building a Culture of Health: Outcomes
15. Planning for the Future
16. Sustaining Transformation in the Face of Challenge
About the Report