Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wealthy hospital wines and dines Hackensack officials

Deputy Mayor Marlin G. Townes, second from left, announced near the end of Tuesday night's meeting at City Hall that he and other Hackensack officials had attended the lavish 125th anniversary celebration of Hackensack University Medical Center.

A growing Hackensack University Medical Center has destroyed the residential character of its neighborhood, but as a non-profit pays no taxes to the city of Hackensack on property with an assessed value of $130 million.

The medical center uses many city services and, a few years ago, took over the profitable ambulance service from the city Fire Department.

Only a fraction of its patients live in Hackensack.

So, why did City Council members and other city officials attend a party to celebrate the medical center's 125th anniversary in luxury suites at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford?

City officials should be negotiating with hospital officials for payments in lieu of taxes, not sipping free champagne.


Councilman John Labrosse, the only incumbent seeking another term in the May 14 election, works at the medical center, and has been totally ineffective in getting HUMC to give back to the city. 

On Tuesday night, Deputy Mayor Marlin G. Townes, who described himself as a Giants fan, gushed about the party at MetLife Stadium

Mayor Michael R. Melfi praised the medical center and said the city of Hackensack is lucky to have the world-class complex.

Councilwoman Karen K. Sasso, who also attended, described the celebration as "a business meeting."

City Attorney Joseph C. Zisa Jr. said he didn't attend, presumably because he was too busy rubber stamping payments of tens of thousands in legal fees to fellow lawyers.

I didn't see a story about the celebration or the attendees in The Record.

Today's paper

Editor Marty Gottlieb devotes two of the four elements on Page 1 today to lawyers -- who appear to be at the root of all of our problems in Hackensack and North Jersey, where high legal fees restrict access to the courts.

There are more lawyers involved in defending doctors and others in the Medicare and insurance fraud story at the bottom of A-1.

The poorly edited story should have focused on the laboratory owning Nicoll brothers from Wayne and Mountain Lakes -- one of whom allegedly received $33 million in a six-year period that he blew on exotic cars, private jet travel and a Manhattan apartment for a "female companion" (A-6).

Dissing Hackensack

Don't look for any news from Hackensack in the Local news section, even though a reporter from The Record attended Tuesday night's council meeting.

The Local front is filled with court and process stories, but a heart-breaking piece on a hit-and-run victim is relegated to L-2, when it should have been on A-1.

Vladimir Artavia, 31, a native of Costa Rica, left his job as a waiter at Bel Posto, an expensive restaurant on Prospect Avenue in Hackensack, when he was knocked down by a hit-and-run driver and left to die.

Head Assignemt Editor Deirdre Sykes and her deputy, Dan Sforza, leave out the reason Artavia was "walking home" to Hasbrouck Heights.

He and other restaurant workers are paid so little -- less than $3 an hour -- they can't afford cars.

But God forbid Sykes and Sforza should wake up from their news comas and expose the dark side of restaurants -- one of the paper's biggest advertisers. 

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