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Soaring Towers Proposed for LICH Site Enrage Cobble Hill Neighbors

By Nikhita Venugopal | May 19, 2015 1:33pm | Updated on May 19, 2015 7:33pm
 Renderings that were presented to the Cobble Hill community on May 18, 2015. 
RENDERINGS: Fortis Property Group's Plans for LICH Site
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COBBLE HILL — A pair of proposed plans for the former Long Island College Hospital would see soaring towers rise at the site — amounting to “the kiss of death for the neighborhood," local residents said Monday.

Fortis Property Group presented its plans for the embattled property during a standing-room only meeting Monday packed with residents keen to hear about the future of the site.

The two options both include at least one tower of 40 stories or more alongside lower towers within the land parcel bound by Atlantic Avenue, Henry and Congress streets and the BQE.

Fortis’s plans involve building hundreds of new residential units in partnership with NYU Langone Medical Center, which is operating an emergency room and medical facility after a long, contentious battle that resulted in LICH’s closure.

 Fortis Property Group's proposal for the LICH site would bring tall towers to the neighborhood. 
LICH Development Proposals
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The developer's as-of-right proposal — in which Fortis would comply with existing zoning limitations and would not need community input — calls for the construction of a 44-story tower tower between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue, according to the presentation from FXFOWLE architect and senior partner Dan Kaplan.  

The plan would create 542,000 square feet zoned for residential use along with 19-, 14- and 11-story towers. The site's current H-shaped building and the Polhemus building would be converted into residential units.

Under the second proposal, which would require further approvals under the ULURP process, Fortis would construct a 40-story residential building at Atlantic Avenue and Hicks Street, as well as a 30- and a 20-story building.

That plan would create 892,000 square feet of market-rate residential space — significantly more than the as-of-right proposal — with up to 5 percent retail and some affordable housing.

About 454 parking spaces would be built to accommodate the residential units and the medical facility in the ULURP proposal. 

Fortis is also planning to build a public school within the property and redevelop Pacific Street into a pedestrian path with street-level retail.

Residents at the meeting strongly opposed both plans, given the prospect of having towers looming over the neighborhood.

The Cobble Hill Association, which organized the meeting, laid out a list of “LICH development guidelines” in the hope of giving Fortis an idea of what the community wants.

The most crucial element of the guidlines was that the plans comply with the landmarked neighborhood’s 50-foot height limit that exists in Cobble Hill, but does not extend to the LICH property. 

“We’re not naïve. We knew we were not going to have tiny little houses with picket fences,” said Laurie Maurer, a longtime resident and architect who presented the guidelines at the meeting. 

But the height restriction was “extremely important,” she said.

Ron Moelis, a representative from L+M Development Partners, said the second plan puts the highest tower in a place that would be least intrusive to the neighborhood.

“I realize for most people in this room that means Lower Manhattan, not Cobble Hill,” he said.

Fortis said it in its presentation that it agreed to some guidelines listed by the association, such as “improving and enhancing the residential character and quality of the Cobble Hill community,” converting the Polhemus building into residential units without increasing the height, and removing the aerial skywalks between buildings, the developer's presentation said. 

The association also recommended maintaining the four existing parks within the LICH site, but Fortis instead proposed consolidating and expanding the green spaces while revitalizing a part of Van Voorhees Park.

It’s also likely that the towers will have glass façades, despite the association’s desire to avoid the material.

“Really, the height is the problem,” said Julie Schwartzman, co-op president of a building near the LICH site in Cobble Hill. “It’s the kiss of death for the neighborhood.”

Other residents echoed that sentiment, with many threatening legal action to stop the developer's plan, which they said would inundate the neighborhood with hundreds of new residents.

"There’s going to be a war," one local said during the heated meeting.

Fortis did not offer an alternative to the tower plans, instead favoring the second plan, which it felt was more in line with the community’s desires.

“Please work with us,” said local resident Judi Frances, “and don’t make assumptions of what we want and what we don’t want.” 

Fortis said in a statement Tuesday that its second proposal better reflects the "needs we've heard expressed through local stakeholders: affordable housing, more public park space, potential for a public school, and continuous street walls.

"The former LICH site is, quite understandably, the source of much frustration among local residents. We’re eager to continue working with them to make our plan as good as it can be for the site and the neighborhood."