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Finally, a Look at LICH's Hated Residential Conversion

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Rendering of the proposed Long Island College Hospital redevelopment.

Cobble Hill residents fought hard to save Long Island College Hospital, but the long battle over ownership will ultimately end with the complex in the hands of Fortis Property Group. And last night, the developer gave the first look at the hospital's next life as a megaproject with four towers, 820 apartments, new retail, and a medical center. Fortis presented its redevelopment plan to a crowd of very angry Cobble Hill residents, many of whom fought tirelessly to save the hospital before it ultimately sold to Fortis for $240 million. Upon loss of the hospital, the Cobble Hill Association, which organized last night's meeting, came up with a list of development guidelines for the 20-building hospital campus. It included, among other things, contextual design to the neighborhood's brownstones, no glass facades, and a height limit of 50 feet. What they got instead was over 1 million square feet of development that includes 30-story and 40-story towers.

[Schematic for the as of right development that Fortis does not want to use.]

Dan Kaplan of the architecture firm FXFOWLE presented the plans on behalf of Fortis. He first presented the plan that can be built as-of-right on the site, which the developers do not want to move ahead with. As-of-right development allows for a 14-story building, 19-story building, and 44-story building with parks, retail, and community space. (While the majority of Cobble Hill is landmarked with a 50-foot height limit, this particular site is not.)

[Rendering of the development along Hicks Street]

Instead, the developers want to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure to roughly double the amount of allowable square footage for residential development with a 16-story tower, 20-story tower, 30-story, and 40-story tower. The proposal includes building seven new townhouses along the south side of Amity Street, renovating the landmarked Polhemus Building for residential use, and adding a six-story addition to a former H-shaped hospital building, plus building new residential towers. It would also create new parks and retail. The height of the towers will grow denser toward the west end of the site, with the 40-story tower located on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Hicks Street. Kaplan said the developers are considering building out a school on the ground floor.

[Rendering of new park space in front of a hospital building on Henry Street.]

In total, there will be 892,000 square feet of market-rate housing (roughly 600 units), and 223,000 square feet of affordable housing (220 units). There will also be 450 parking spaces, 27,850 square feet of park space, and a new health care center run by NYU Langone. There is no timeline yet for ULURP, but Fortis is expected to close on the property in the near future. Kaplan promised that the development team would work with the community through their concerns.

The community took many issues with the proposal, with one resident calling it "kind of disturbing." Another resident told Fortis, "This is going to break the community." And others seemed ready for a development fight: "This is going to be a war," said one man. "Eighty percent of the people in this room are attorneys and they will be all up in your ass."

Residents did not like the 55-foot height of the Amity Street townhouses (↓), feeling that those properties should adhere to the rest of the neighborhood's 50-foot limit. They also felt like the retail build-out on Pacific Street between Hicks and Henry Streets (↑), a block that's currently closed off to the public, did not fit the neighborhood. Many others were worried about the impact such a large-scale development would have on the neighborhood, especially in regards to parking, schools and infrastructure.

Others asked Council Member Brad Lander if they had any power to keep this development from happening at all. As he pointed out, the as-of-right development already allows for a significant amount of density. But Council Member Lander, who also fought hard to save the hospital, told the crowd, "You'd be fools not to be very angry about what's happened to Cobble Hill."

A spokesperson for Fortis sent out the following statement: "Last night's CHA meeting was a first step to establishing a productive community dialogue about the redevelopment of the former LICH site. Unlike what we're allowed to build as-of-right, our preliminary rezoning proposal includes a contextual design in line with needs we've heard expressed through local stakeholders: affordable housing, more public park space, potential for a public school, and continuous street walls. The former LICH site is, quite understandably, the source of much frustration among local residents. We're eager to continue working with them to make our plan as good as it can be for the site and the neighborhood."

· All LICH coverage [Curbed]