For more than a decade, Mary McKinney has worked to ensure her community has a voice in issues directly impacting their quality of life. A tireless advocate and passionate leader, she has played an instrumental role in campaigns to compel the appropriate clean up of a contaminated property that poses a threat to the health of her community and to prevent the closure of a hospital on which many residents depend for critical health care services.
Born and raised in a small town in North Carolina, Ms. McKinney moved to the Bronx in 1962 to attend Lehman College. After receiving her B.A. in Business Administration, she worked for close to thirty years in the field of hospital administration. She has lived in the Bronx for the past forty years and in the Soundview section for the past twenty-six years.
After serving as president of her tenant’s association, in 2000 Ms. McKinney founded and currently serves as the Executive Director of the Concerned Residents Organization (CRO), a nonprofit that works to improve the quality of life in the Soundview community and other areas of the Bronx, in response to community concerns over a contaminated property that was home to Loral Electronics Systems, a company that manufactured electronics components for the Air Force from 1948 to 1996. Although Loral used hazardous chemicals during the course of its operation, the site has never undergone sufficient clean up and is partially occupied by a high school. For the past three years, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest has partnered with the CRO to ensure proper clean up of the portion of the site on which the school is built and address the egregious land use violations of the larger Loral site.
In addition to addressing the environmental hazards posed by the Loral property, the CRO’s activities also include assisting seniors with getting to and from the voting booth, assisting seniors with their medical problems, and improving relationships between the police and the community.
When Ms. McKinney learned of the proposed closure of Westchester Square Medical Center, a hospital where she receives critical treatment for several serious medical conditions and that serves a community that has experienced a significant divestment of health care resources in the last few decades, she decided to fight to keep it open. Westchester Square was one of eight hospitals statewide that the Commission on Health Care in the 21st Century (also known as “The Berger Commission”) recommended closing. The Berger Commission was created in 2005 by the State Legislature to review the status of health care resources in the State, and make binding recommendations to downsize, close or merge hospitals and nursing homes statewide.
Earlier this year, Ms. McKinney partnered with NYLPI and Chadbourne & Parke LLP to file a lawsuit alleging that the Berger Commission violated the New York State Constitution by permitting an unelected commission to institute massive policy changes in the distribution of health care resources in the State with no accountability to the voting public. The case has been dismissed by the lower courts, but is currently before the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York. Irrespective of the lawsuit’s ultimate outcome, Ms. McKinney has succeeded in bringing attention to an important issue impacting thousands of health care consumers.
Ms. McKinney’s numerous community service activities have included serving as the fundraising chair of the Bronx chapter of the Lupus Foundation from 1985 to 1995 and director of the local Boy Scouts unit from 2002 to 2005. Ms. McKinney is also active in the Fellowship Covenant Church, serving as a board member and President of the church missionary, which works to provide a wide array of supportive services, including the provision of food, for disadvantaged members of the community.
We are honored to present the Felix A. Fishman Award to Mary McKinney for her outstanding leadership in seeking justice for her community.