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Developer Weighs Rezoning Property for LICH Site, Local Group Says

By Nikhita Venugopal | February 24, 2016 6:56pm
 The renderings released last year for the LICH site if a rezoning were to take place, according to Fortis Property Group. It is unclear whether the proposal has drastically changed since this plan was presented.
The renderings released last year for the LICH site if a rezoning were to take place, according to Fortis Property Group. It is unclear whether the proposal has drastically changed since this plan was presented.
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COBBLE HILL — As demolition moves forward on two Long Island College Hospital buildings, the developer may soon take an important step toward planning the proposed condo project, a community group said Wednesday.

Despite resistance from local residents and elected officials, Fortis Property Group is expected to go ahead with a plan that would involve a property rezoning through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), according to the Cobble Hill Association. ULURP rezoning requires public input and approval from the City Council.

"Last week representatives of City Hall informed the Cobble Hill Association that Fortis was likely to begin the process of certifying a rezoning of the LICH site via a ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) rather than going ahead with an 'as of right' plan," the association announced via email Wednesday morning.  

However, both Fortis and Mayor Bill de Blasio's office declined to confirm the move. 

A spokesman for the mayor Wednesday said "there's no update on the land use process here."

"We have continued to have extensive conversations with stakeholders from across the community to find the best path forward for this site," spokesman Wiley Norvell said. "We continue to believe that pursuing a ULURP would deliver the maximum benefits to the people of Cobble Hill."

Fortis spokesman James Yolles said the developer seeks "to work with the community to find a path forward for the former LICH site that makes the most sense for everyone. We look forward to discussing our proposed redevelopment plans once they're solidified."

The private developer has repeatedly sought community support for its rezoning plan over a proposal that can be built "as of right," with no special permissions from the city.

Fortis has previously presented an ULURP plan that would include market-rate and below market-rate housing, a public school, local retail, and a medical facility with a freestanding emergency room operated by NYU Langone on Atlantic Avenue at Hicks Street.

The proposal's tallest building, as currently shown on the developer's website for the project, would include a 37-story tower built near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

After City Hall representatives became directly involved in negotiations with Fortis, local elected officials and the Cobble Hill Association late last year, some modifications to the original proposal were revealed. 

A bigger, 8-story school would be built at Henry Street and Atlantic Avenue. There would also be a reduction in square footage for market-rate and affordable units.

It was unclear if any additional changes had been made to the plan since it was last presented to the public.

"We eagerly await the filing of this new ULURP as it will determine how closely Fortis has been listening to arguments from the community against height and density levels that are inconsistent with the surrounding neighborhoods," Cobble Hill Association said. 

Councilman Brad Lander has said he would oppose a rezoning application for the former hospital site — a decision that could topple the ULURP process since the City Council generally defers to the local council member's stance on an issue.

Lander's office did not respond to calls seeking comment Wednesday.

De Blasio has continued to push for a rezoning that would create more affordable housing in the city.

The Cobble Hill Association told residents in the email that "all legal avenues remain open to both the Cobble Hill Association and residents of Cobble Hill and there could be a time in the near future when a more robust legal effort is required."

"In that event, we will be looking to the community to help secure resources through fundraising to fight that battle."