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Affordable Housing Off the Table in LICH Redevelopment, Developer Says

By Nikhita Venugopal | November 4, 2016 4:33pm | Updated on November 7, 2016 8:44am
 Bill de Blasio as public advocate spoke at a rally to save the hospital on July 29, 2013.
Bill de Blasio as public advocate spoke at a rally to save the hospital on July 29, 2013.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

COBBLE HILL — After promising affordable housing and a new school in exchange for permission to build taller towers, the developer of the former Long Island College Hospital site is walking away from negotiations with City Hall and surging ahead with what's expected to be a luxury condo high rise.

“We have decided to move forward with an as-of-right redevelopment plan for the LICH site. Based on the high demand for community facility space at this premier location, timing and other development factors, an as-of-right redevelopment is the most profitable," Joel Kestenbaum, president of Fortis Property Group, said in a statement Friday.

"We will provide additional details in the near future as we finalize our plans.”

Politico New York first reported the news. 

Fortis Property Group had been weighing two options for the redevelopment of the former Cobble Hill hospital for more than a year. The developer had been pushing to rezone the property through a lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) that would require City Council approval.

But local Councilman Brad Lander refused to back Fortis's potential rezoning — an endorsement that the developer would have needed to secure the City Council's vote.

Fortis's announcement to move forward with an as-of-right development plan, which does not require public approval, comes after months of silence and much speculation from the community.

Under the as-of-right plan, Fortis can build 528,935 zoned square feet of market residential space. There will be no affordable housing included in the development, the developer said Friday.

If the developer had moved forward with a rezoning, that number would have increased to 900,000 zoned square-feet as well as 225,000 square-feet of affordable housing, a school, and local retail, according to earlier plans. Fortis's website lichproject.com, which detailed both the as-of-right and ULURP plans, was no longer available as of Friday afternoon.

The loss of below-market housing is a big blow to Mayor Bill de Blasio's efforts to build thousands of affordable units throughout New York City.

City Hall was directly involved in LICH negotiations late last year, but de Blasio's history with LICH stretches back to his campaign for mayor when he was arrested at a rally to save the hospital from closure.

“We engaged in a fight to save health care at this site, and locked in more than most thought possible. We’ve continued to work to achieve more, like a school and affordable housing," mayoral spokeswoman Melissa Grace said via email Friday. 

"This is not the plan we wanted, and nobody won here. We will keep fighting to build a fairer, more just and inclusive New York."

Lander tweeted Friday afternoon that the developer showed "no concern" for the community and had not engaged in "real conversations" so far this year. 

The Cobble Hill Association's leaders recently told DNAinfo New York that Fortis had failed to answer their repeated requests for a sit-down meeting. 

NYU Langone Cobble Hill currently runs a 24-hour emergency room in one of the former LICH buildings as others are dismantled nearby.