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'Out-of-Scale' LICH Towers Will Overburden Neighborhood, Locals Warn

By Nikhita Venugopal | August 7, 2015 8:31am | Updated on August 9, 2015 10:43pm
 Renderings that were presented to the Cobble Hill community May 18, 2015. 
RENDERINGS: Fortis Property Group's Plans for LICH Site
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COBBLE HILL — The high-rise residential towers that a developer is proposing for the former Long Island College Hospital site would cause a drastic surge in population density and traffic congestion in the quaint neighborhood, residents said.

More than 100 community members attended a Thursday night meeting to hear Fortis Property Group, the developer, present its two options for the LICH land parcel.

Both proposals would include one tower of 40 stories or more alongside lower buildings, bringing hundreds of new residents into the area. These plans for "out-of-scale" towers in Cobble Hill had left locals feeling shocked and angered when first presented in May.

"Almost all the members of the community think that the heights of the tallest structures are at least twice as high as they expected and as they thought it should be," Laurie Maurer, a longtime resident and architect said to applause from the audience.

The meeting was the first public session organized by the community group made up of local leaders and elected officials, which is working with Fortis so local concerns can be heard and considered.

“I genuinely believe we can have a really significant impact,” said Councilman Brad Lander, a member of the coalition.

Locals were particularly anxious over the influx of new residents that the development would bring.

In the first option, an as-of-right scenario that adheres to current zoning restrictions and would not need city approval, a 44-story tower would be built between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue along with 19-, 14- and 11-story buildings. 

Under the second proposal, Fortis is seeking to rezone the property through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process, which would require community input and approvals from the city. That plan would put a 40-story residential building at Hicks Street and Atlantic Avenue closer to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway with 30- and 20-story buildings at the LICH site.

While details of the plans had not changed since the earlier meeting in May, FXFOWLE senior partner Dan Kaplan maintained that Fortis was open to modifying aspects of it.

About 542,000 square feet of market-rate residential space would be constructed in the first plan while the second ULURP plan involved 892,000 square feet — significantly more room for new occupants. 

Those units, in addition to the planned condos in Brooklyn Bride Park at Pier 6 nearby and other parts of the waterfront park, "could increase the total by as many as 5,000 new residents — equivalent to adding a new community the size of Boerum Hill in a small corner of Cobble Hill," said Roy Sloane, a member of the Cobble Hill Association during a presentation from the group.

Locals questioned how Fortis planned to handle the additional strain on the neighborhood, including vehicle and pedestrian traffic and public transportation. 

Fortis executive Akiva Kobre said public infrastructure is provided by the city and financially supported by the developer through taxes. 

"Clearly the city will need to address that as time passes," he said.

But even without the tower developments, the intersections at Atlantic Avenue are already overcrowded, locals said.  

"It's a disaster now so it's just going to get worse," said Paul Nidenberg, who has lived in the neighborhood for 39 years.

Under the rezoning plan, Fortis has committed to building a much-needed public school within the land parcel and affordable housing that would equal 20 percent of the residential floor area.

NYU Langone Medical Center is planning to build a roughly 108,000-square-foot health facility at Atlantic Avenue and Hicks Street — a site NYU will own once Fortis finalizes the $240 million sale of the property with the State University of New York. 

"Tonight was about sharing our preliminary vision, listening to feedback, and approaching this process thoughtfully and with an open mind," a Fortis spokeswoman said in a statement issued after the meeting. 

"Discussions like this will allow us to incorporate ideas into our rezoning plan that respond to local and citywide needs."