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De Blasio May Save Cobble Hill From LICH Towers' Design Flaws, Group Says

By Nikhita Venugopal | January 20, 2016 9:30pm
 A poster that reads
A poster that reads "No Towers Save Cobble Hill" stuck onto a door near the former hospital on Atlantic Avenue.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

COBBLE HILL — Problems with traffic, overcrowding and affordable housing at the LICH site may soon be resolved now that City Hall is directly involved in negotiations, leaders of a neighborhood group said Wednesday.

Since December, aides for Mayor Bill de Blasio — who was arrested protesting the hospital's closure during his campaign for mayor but has since been accused of doing little to help with the project — have been meeting with elected officials, the private developer Fortis Property Group and the Cobble Hill Association [CHA], a group that seeks to represent the community in these negotiations. 

Fortis' plans for the Long Island College Hospital site, which currently includes luxury condo towers, would bring thousands of new residents to the neighborhood, causing vehicle and pedestrian congestion in the area, CHA leaders said in an interview with DNAinfo on Wednesday morning. 

But with de Blasio's involvement, CHA is hoping that city agencies will play a bigger role in addressing these basic urban planning concerns.

"We see it as a positive," CHA's first vice-president Adrian "Buzz" Doherty said. "It offers some promise to understand the level of city planning [needed]."

"We've insisted that it's [the city's] problem," he added. 

Recent negotiations between City Hall and Fortis have yielded a proposal with modifications of the developer's original plans. 

The newer plan would involve a bigger, eight-story school on Henry Street near Atlantic Avenue.

"We’ve heard from the community that additional public school seats are critically needed in the Cobble Hill area, and a larger public school that helps address that need is one option we’re looking at as part of a redevelopment proposal," James Yolles, a spokesman for Fortis, said Wednesday evening.

CHA president Laurel Burr said Wednesday that, while they were not opposed to having a new school in the district, she worried that it would lead to undue crowding.

"That's not going to work for the current residents or the future residents," she said. 

The modified plan also includes some units of affordable housing and a reduction in total market-rate and low-income residential square footage.

Further details of the latest proposal, which would require a property rezoning, were not immediately known. 

De Blasio, a strong advocate for affordable housing, has expressed support for Fortis's plan to rezone the property. 

Without a rezoning, Fortis would only build luxury condo towers with no affordable housing or school.

“We’re going to continue engaging local officials, community stakeholders, and the developer to find the best path forward for this site," Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for the mayor told DNAinfo in an email.

A second meeting was held after the holidays, and a third will take place in the near future, Doherty said. 

NYU Langone's proposed medical facility will be built regardless of the final plan for residential units or a school. Exterior demolition of LICH buildings to make way for the new healthcare center is slated to begin soon.

City Councilman Brad Lander, who said he would not support Fortis's rezoning application, displayed cautious optimism for the negotiations.

"The idea is to see if we can find a proposal for the LICH site that everyone can live with, that would reflect the benefits associated with the rezoning proposal — better urban design, affordable housing, and school seats — but without such massive increases in density, and in a way that could work for the community," he said in a statement.

"We're not there yet, and I don't know if we'll get there. But it's worth trying."