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Community That Lost Hospital Pushes Back Against Proposed Towers

By Nikhita Venugopal | May 22, 2015 10:30am | Updated on May 26, 2015 8:54am
 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 community still dealing with the disappointment of losing Long Island College Hospital now faces the prospect of giving up its charming low-rise neighborhood to soaring towers.   

Earlier this week, Fortis Property Group presented two possible plans for the former LICH site, both of which include at least one tower of 40 stories or more and shorter towers that will replace the former hospital buildings, on the land parcel bound by Atlantic Avenue, Henry and Congress streets and the BQE.

The proposed towers angered many residents during a public meeting Monday night at the Cobble Hill Health Center, where roughly 100 people came to hear Fortis’ plans and cringed at the thought of glassy towers in their brownstone neighborhood. 

“Essentially [for] the LICH opponents, part of their argument was that [LICH] is being closed to generate a profit for developers who are already wealthy,” said Roy Sloane, a local resident and CHA member who strongly advocated for the hospital.

“In these huge out-of-scale high-rises, they see vindication in what their concern has been all along. And it’s hard not to agree with them.”

Less than a year ago, LICH officially shuttered after NYU Langone Medical Center took over the facility and began running a 24-hour emergency room.

Fortis partnered with NYU Langone to purchase the LICH land parcel for $240 million from the State University of New York following several months of community advocacy from locals, nurses, physicians and elected officials to keep the hospital open.

“I think the fight has never gone away,” said Dave Paco Abraham, president of the Cobble Hill Association, describing the potential redevelopment as the “next chapter” of the saga.

“The community wanted a hospital and didn’t want out-of-scale development,” he said.

The Cobble Hill Association, one of the groups that sued SUNY in the LICH fight, said members began preemptively speaking to block associations surrounding the embattled property almost a year ago to prepare them for potential dramatic redevelopment.

The group presented Fortis with a draft set of “LICH development guidelines” last Friday to give the developer an idea of what the community wants. For its next step, the association is seeking feedback from neighbors and through an online survey, which they will use to finalize the guidelines. 

But some locals at the meeting Monday were already considering their next steps and turned to City Councilman Brad Lander for advice on keeping Cobble Hill from drastically changing.

While Lander said he hoped the locals and the developer would find a way to build consensus on the issue, he still echoed a sentiment that mirrored that of others at the meeting.

“Don’t get me wrong. What I’d like is our full-service hospital back,” he said, “and to keep low-rise Cobble Hill.”