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Controversial Conversion of Cobble Hill Hospital Chugs Along

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The drama of Fortis Property Group's controversial proposal to bring four towers and 820 apartments to the former site of Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill continues. Last night, the Cobble Hill Association held its first public planning meeting with Fortis in regards to the redevelopment. Community Board 6's District Manager Craig Hammerman told the large crowd, "We've really never tried this before—it's an experimental planning process." The idea is to bring the community and the developer together for meetings before Fortis submits the development to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. "We could potentially influence how this project could reflect the community's values," said Hammerman.

A packed house at the meeting last night

The meeting kicked off with statements from several local politicians, including Council Member Brad Lander (who fought to keep LICH open as a hospital and is now working with residents who oppose development), Council Member Steve Levin, and State Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon. "It's no secret that the community is deeply unhappy about how we got here," said Council Member Lander. He told the crowd that this process would include more large public meetings as well as smaller group meetings. Although he ensured there would be a dialogue with the developer, he added, "There are no guarantees."

Dan Kaplan of FXFOWLE then took the stage and presented the same proposal shown to the community this May. He went over both the as-of-right plan, which allows for a 14-story building, 19-story building, and 44-story building with parks, retail, and community space, as well as the plan that would require going through ULURP, which includes a 16-story tower, 20-story tower, 30-story, and 40-story tower. Fortis has yet to decide which plan to move ahead with, and Kaplan said that the firm is "months away from final development."

Kaplan also went through the concerns raised by the community since the May meeting, including those of density and height, retaining the character of the surrounding historic district, parking and traffic, affordable housing, and the type of retail.

Height and density remained the most pressing concern of residents at the meeting. Kaplan said that Fortis is indeed considering combining two of the towers to make one lower, squatter building. Fortis is also considering relocating the proposed public school from the corner of Atlantic to Henry and Pacific Street, a less dangerous intersection. They also may relocate the retail from Pacific Street to different corners of Atlantic Avenue and Henry Street. No renderings were shown of these potential changes.

The Cobble Hill Association spoke out some more about the density of the development, with one member saying that "the association would prefer the as-of-right development over the ULURP plan because it's less dense." However, the association did support the addition of a school, park space, and affordable housing—all features that would be required under the plan that would need city approval.

Council Member Lander then moderated a Q&A session in which audience members first submitted their questions on a card, allowing for a less intense back-and-forth than the May meeting. Questions ranged from the height of the buildings to the infrastructure to the site's zoning. One question asked, "Are there ways elected officials could secure a different zoning for the site?" Council Member Lander's answer: "Nope. I wish there were."

During the Q&A, Fortis revealed that it has yet to close on the LICH site—a lawyer told the community last month that it's a "very long, complicated closing." They also told the audience that they have no say over the NYU Langone Emergency Department site, which will be operated and owned by NYU. This seemed to surprise Council Member Lander, who wondered how the emergency facility would be integrated with the rest of the development.

At one point, when a Fortis developer came to the front to answer a question, an audience member yelled, "Why do you want to do this to our neighborhood? Explain!" That question went unanswered, although Council Member Lander promised more meetings to come. "We're at the kickoff of the project, not the end of it."
· Finally, a Look at LICH's Hated Residential Conversion [Curbed]
· All LICH coverage [Curbed]