Family donates masks to Brooklyn nursing home after father’s death

The children of a COVID-19 victim donated 100 masks to a Cobble Hill nursing home on Wednesday to thank the facility for caring for their father prior to his death. 

“We know that they did everything they could for our dad,” said Daniel Arbeeny, a Cobble Hill resident. “We appreciated it and we want to show our appreciation by donating these masks.”

Norman Arbeeny, a fourth-generation Cobble Hill resident, had been recuperating at the Cobble Hill Health Center on Henry Street from a long hospital stay when he most likely contracted the virus in April, his son said. 

Norman’s children brought him home from the health center out of fear that he would contract the virus, but on April 17, he began showing COVID-19 symptoms, Daniel said. Norman died on April 21, hours before his COVID-19 test came back positive. He was 88 years old.

Members of the Arbeeny family outside the Cobble Hill Health Center. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

The Cobble Hill Health Center, a nursing home and rehabilitation center, has suffered the most coronavirus-related deaths in the state, with 54 deaths since the start of the outbreak, according to state data.

The Arbeenys partially blame the high death toll at the center on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s March 25 mandate ordering nursing homes to accept residents who had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“They were forced to take patients without testing them,” Daniel said. “They were dealt a bad deck of cards.”

Cuomo effectively redacted the rule on Sunday following criticism. 

Daniel added that the outbreak has forced nursing homes to take on the responsibilities of a hospital with a fraction of the staff, supplies, and funding.

“It’s easy to beat them up but the fact is … they tried their best. The hours they were working, it was crazy,” he said.

Prior to Norman’s death, the Arbeeny family orchestrated a series of donations to support frontline workers. Peter Arbeeny, Daniel’s brother who runs an air conditioning company, worked with St. Francis College to donate hundreds of masks and shoe covers to the Cobble Hill Health Center, and the family later donated face masks to the 76th Precinct, Daniel said.

The May 13 donation honored Norman, a neighborhood fixture who Daniel called “larger than life.” 

“This particular time is for our daddy, but we’re always thinking how can we do some greater good,” he said.

The Arbeeny family worked with St. Francis College to donate personal protective equipment to the Cobble Hill Health Center in early April. (Daniel Arbeeny)

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