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Community Board Rejects Balconies in LICH Condo Conversion Plan

By Nikhita Venugopal | July 24, 2015 9:50am | Updated on July 26, 2015 11:13pm
 The Polhemus Building, at the corner of Henry and Amity streets, would be converted to include residential units and the aerial skywalks would be removed in the Fortis proposal.
The Polhemus Building, at the corner of Henry and Amity streets, would be converted to include residential units and the aerial skywalks would be removed in the Fortis proposal.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

COBBLE HILL — A plan to modify and restore Long Island College Hospital's landmarked Polhemus Building met with overall approval from a Community Board 6 committee Thursday night — except a part that would add balconies for each new condo. 

The Polhemus Building, at 350 Henry St., will be converted for residential use with 17 units by developer Fortis Property Group in partnership with BKSK Architects. Fortis is planning to redevelop the entire LICH land parcel and possibly add tall residential towers at the site. 

Since the Polhemus Building is landmarked, BKSK and Fortis must seek approval from the community board and Landmarks Preservation Commission for changes to the building's exterior. 

The team is proposing to rehabilitate Polhemus by cleaning and painting it, removing some additions to the building and the skybridge as well as modifying a number of windows to make them bigger and more orderly, according Stephen Byrns, BKSK's lead architect, who presented these plans at CB6's landmarks and land use committee meeting.

Other plans for the Polhemus Building include turning the roof into a recreational space for residents with one communal area and two private terraces that would connect to downstairs apartments. 

"This is an extremely high quality restoration," said community board member Roy Sloane who met with the architects earlier as part of the Cobble Hill Association. "I personally am delighted to see the skywalk disappear."

Windows facing out from the building's stairwell are narrow, Byrns said. After the conversion, those windows will look into someone's living room or bedroom and need to be widened to allow more natural light to enter, he added.

He also proposed gently modifying other windows, which "are all kind of hodge podge," and making them more uniform, he said.  

But community members feared that the window changes would spoil the historical facade of the building. 

The proposed balconies for each residential unit, which would face a rear courtyard on the west and south sides of the building, also drew derision from neighbors and community members. 

"I find that it is not appropriate to the neighborhood," said Amy Breedlove, who lives across the street from the building. 

She added that residents often keep furniture and other "crap" stored on balconies.

"I don't want to be looking at that," she said.

BKSK had also planned to paint a white rear wall to a brownish-red brick color in keeping with the rest of the block. 

Byrns explained that the wall was originally painted white to reflect more light onto the courtyard in case tall buildings cast a shadow onto it. But since those were never built, the white paint is unnecessary. 

But community board members disagreed and asked that the white brick be retained to prevent a monochromatic look.  

The committee conditionally approved the plan but asked that the balconies be eliminated and the white brick be left as is. They also asked that the Landmarks Preservation Commission take a second look at the window modifications to make sure they don't mar the historic facade.    

The application must be approved by Community Board 6's general board followed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.