Brooklyn Bridge Park, Cobble Hill, LICH

Cobble Hill to change forever as LICH becomes skyscrapers, by George Fiala

If Cobble Hill thought losing their hospital was bad – they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

The crowd gasped at this rendering, which shows Pacific Street extended from Henry to Hicks.
The crowd gasped at this rendering, which shows Pacific Street extended from Henry to Hicks.

 

A crew of well dressed professionals representing the Fortis Group, presented what seemed like a take it or leave it proposal for residential development of the former Long Island Hospital (LICH) campus at the annual meeting of the Cobble Hill Association (CHA). They presented two plans – both of which include skyscrapers. What they called a Master Plan, which involves zoning changes and the cooperation of the community and the city council, calls for three large towers west of Hicks Street where the parking garage now stands.

If they are unable to get that cooperation, the threat was to build an as-of-right plan. This plan affords them less square footage for residential units. The as-of-right plan that they rolled out places a 44 floor tower on Pacific Street just west of Henry.  Everyone in the room understood that this was meant as a threat – dropping a huge tower in the midst of a historic brownstone neighborhood. The rendering they presented was an eye boggling jaw dropper – a huge building casting a giant shadow over Cobble Hill.

In reality, either plan changes Cobble Hill forever.

The Cobble Hill Association was one of the community groups that was part of the lawsuit trying to prevent New York State from closing LICH.  The hope was to have the sale made to another hospital group in order to maintain the 155 year-old institution. Despite the best efforts of the community, and much political grandstanding, the sale was made to a real estate developer – the Fortis Property Group.

Everybody in the room knew that the big issue was going to be height. Prior to the Fortis presentation, Laurie Maurer, an architect and CHA member, read a set of general guidelines for the LICH development that she called “Basic Principles”

The biggest of these principles, the one called most important, was that any new building adhere to the 50 foot height limit that the rest of the community,  is limited to. This height limit is part of the NYC Landmarks law, which covers most of Cobble Hill, but not the LICH buildings. In 2013, local political representatives, including councilman Brad Lander, requested the Bloomberg Administration extend landmarks designation to LICH, a request that was ignored .

The Fortis team fields questions.
The Fortis team fields questions.

The Fortis people took the podium next. They included architects, consultants and public relations professionals, including Mark O’Luck, once a LICH Regent.

After a pro-forma statement acknowledging the community battle over the LICH closure – Fortis brought out their heavy weapons – a worst case scenario for the community followed by a slightly less worse case.  The audience gasped when a slide of the possible 44 story building was display, but seemed equally dismayed at many of the following artist renderings showing the parkland and open spaces that seemed meant to hide the slightly smaller high rises.

Especially unsettling was the Fortis remark about placing three skyscrapers across from the Fuller Pavilion. “We have to put the bulk somewhere,” referring to the large number of luxury apartments planned.

That statement produced a number of boos and hisses, causing the presenter to look annoyed, snapping ‘I’ve got to finish my presentation.”

A question and answer session followed, and at first the audience seemed dazed by the whole thing. The questioning started off asking about parking, but soon progressed to the larger issues.

“Why are the high towers hiding behind trees in the pretty pictures you’ve shown,” asked one resident.

“If you really knew our neighborhood, you would never propose such a thing,” said another.

This man was not foolish, he was angry.
This man was not foolish, he was angry.

Referring to the parks that Fortis would build if allowed the zoning change, someone shouted out that the neighborhood already has Brooklyn Bridge Park, “we don’t need your park!”

Because the state legislature was in session, neither Daniel Squadron or JoAnne Simon was present. Park Slope resident and city councilman Brad Lander was.

“You’d be fools not to be very angry about this,” he said. “Let’s be clear – two things were taken out of the neighborhood by the state, “he continued. He was referring of course to a full service hospital, “and to the loss of the low rise historic district.”

Again he said that we’d be fools if we weren’t angry. However, pressed for a solution, he really didn’t have one. Someone asked whether the city couldn’t still extend the historic district to cover the LICH campus. He paused for a very long time, before saying yes, the Mayor could do that, but then explained that would open the city up to an extended legal fight – as the terms of the LICH sale didn’t provide for such a thing.

While saying that in the end it will be the community that will decide which way to go – a rezoning that would move the major towers away from the heart of the community – or a huge tower in the middle of it – he seemed to be urging the former, saying that a rezoning would give more power to the community.

This rendering shows Hicks and Pacific Street.
This rendering shows Hicks and Pacific Street.

Either way – it is the end of Cobble Hill as we now know it.

Former CHA president Roy Sloane, threw a huge monkey wrench into the mix, asking Fortis whether they knew about a planned reconstruction of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway scheduled to begin at some point.

The Brooklyn Heights Promenade sits above a cantilevered bridge, built in the late 1940’s. That bridge, called a triple cantilever, has long outlived its lifespan and urgently needs to be rebuilt. Sloane’s comment, indicating some inside knowledge, came as a surprise to the Fortis crew, who said they would look into it. Someone else wondered how the area’s infrastructure could support three towers on one side of the BQE as well as the two proposed towers on Pier 6 that is part of the Brooklyn Bridge Park’s plan.

Tonight’s meeting was the first blast in a war that will seemingly go on for some time.

Roy Sloane asking about the cantilevered roadway
Roy Sloane asking about the cantilevered roadway
Brad Lander says that residents would be fools not to be angry.
Brad Lander says that residents would be fools not to be angry.
The Fortis crew watches as Brad Lander fields questions from the audience.
The Fortis crew watches as Brad Lander fields questions from the audience.
Mark O'Luck runs a consulting firm that guides private corporations through the government process. He has been on the board of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce as well as a Regent at the Long Island College Hospital. He is a hired Fortis gun right now.
Mark O’Luck runs a consulting firm that guides private corporations through the government process. He has been on the board of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce as well as a Regent at the Long Island College Hospital. He is a hired Fortis gun right now.
This rendering shows one of Fortis' open space ideas.
This rendering shows one of Fortis’ open space ideas.

 

 

 

20 Comments

  1. Everybody complains about the cost of housing in New York but the they refuse to allow people to build more.

    The community should negotiate for the best design possible but that includes providing housing for New Yorkers in a great location. I’m sorry the hospital closed but that battle is over. If the city had never changed it would be a Native American fishing village today.

  2. There is no affordable housing. That piece pulled out as soon as the deal was signed even though there had to be affordable housing to win the bid. They got the win & then dumped the affordable housing. It’s all now luxury condos for the elite. How long will it take before people realize cobble hill was played & was sold out for political gain

    • gbrook@pipeline.com

      Not exactly true – like all real estate developers today, they are using the affordable housing strategy to try and make more money for themselves. In this case, 20% (exactly down to the square foot) would be designated for affordable (whatever exactly that means) apartments, if the community and city council were to agree with their upzoning plan. What this means is that for building 223,000 square feet of affordable housing, they would be allowed to build an extra 300,000 square feet of luxury housing (than in what is currently zoned).

  3. The real crime here, is the bankrupting of LICH. Absolute vampires did this. Where is the nearest hospital now? The extra time it takes to get there will kill MANY during their ambulance rides. It’s disgusting. How is it that such crimes are unpunished? MANY should be going to jail for this, for gorging themselves on this hospital and destroying it.

  4. This is why LICH was closed. Because Fortis wanted this. This was all planned before any talk of closing LICH. Hasidic men were outside the hospital in the snow taking measurements in front of the hospital at least a month before any talk of closing LICH. SUNY created a crisi to have an excuse to get LICH out of the way. Wonder how much Fortis is really paying out to the key players as a reward for playing the community & getting the dirty deed done. Now they’re holding a gun to the community’s head – let us do what we want or else. Can’t wait to see how this plays out after the community was already played.

  5. All the YIMBY’s, density proponents, and developers (actually they are all different names but they are the mouthpieces of the developers) will keep talking about building more housing because of the need, yet we are losing affordable housing and getting what will be a glut of “luxury housing”. This deal does not require affordable housing units. They are making a fortune on their speculation, tax breaks and questionable funding. Communities need green space, infrastructure, and hospitals. There is no city planning involved in this development. If they continue to get their way, they will breakdown the character, history and culture of the communities that make this city great. Another argument for development is to increase density in this city to encourage growth. More people should = more hospitals, no? Smart city planning ALWAYS considers necessary services for its residents. This new steroidal development is building and building on a city teetering on an aging infrastructure, burgeoning schools and lack of health care facilities.

  6. Jonathan..... Cobble Hill

    We live in a capitalist country. It is our right to maximize profit as long as we don’t break the laws of the land. Fortis cannot be faulted for wanting this.

    We also live in a democratic coutry. As long as we don”t break the law, we have the right to do anything and everything possible to stop or change this development.

    If there was more active community involvement we would not have lost LICH.

    We cannot repeat this mistake.

    We will lose the COBBLE HILL we all know and love unless we acitvely unite and use our collective intelligence to control our future. We have a treasure chest of well connected, smart, and affluent people in our community.

    Talk to your neighbors.
    Organize
    Start investigating opportunities to control our future.
    Most importantly …………….. GET INVOLVED!!!!!

  7. Bottom line what about the infrastructure – streets, parking, sidewalks, schools, Hospital, police, garbage etc. etc. etc. too many questions not enough answers – Big money talks !

  8. —yes, the law?

    LICH was a publicly held institution, owned by the people of NY, yet this developers claims to have rights over this property far greater that the public rights.

    This is the modern American way of marching through neighborhoods, taking them over with a strong army of lawyers. They are marching against the defenseless people knowing they can’t be stopped because those some lawyers have over the year insured that all law firms in this city, which are required to do pro-bono community defense work, can opt out of helping communities due to their “conflict of interest”. Development LLC make sure that they have some bit of business with every law firm to ensure a conflict of interest which would prevent a law firm from coming to a communities aid.

    NY Communities are all sitting ducks for this type of bullying by well lawyered development firms.These large LLC’s and conspired with elected officials to dismantled all community defense systems and eliminate recourse to seek justice.

    “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
    ― Jane Jacobs

    Now why isn’t the developer of a historic public institution like LICH, mandated to work with the community in arriving at a plan? Where are our community leaders, like the mayor who catapulted his way into that job on a promise to save this public institution for the community?

  9. Dirty Money=Dirty Deeds

    Jonathan- you hit the nail on the head with “If there (had been) more active community involvement we would not have lost LICH. Unfortunately, many in the “… treasure chest of well connected, smart, and affluent people in our community” are raking in huge profits from this, as well as many of the other dirty R.E. deals in NYC: Brooklyn Hts. Public Library sell-out, all the other Public Library giveaways, Barclays Center/Atlantic, now Pacific, Yards and so on. O’Luck (and he’s not the only one) was the fox in the hen house all along. Also, wondering how much EB-5 VISA dirty money from China, Russia, Mexico, etc. is part of the LICH Deal.

  10. The take it or leave it message! It’s the way it’s always been. Especially for the people in Red Hook Houses. So Sad that people care so much about there pockets then they do about Humanity. Money Talks. So many people put out of jobs and out of there beloved hospital! Good bye LICH! I want my medical records. What did they do with them.
    I can’t wait for Karma to get them!

  11. Jonathan..... Cobble Hill

    I am not so pessimistic. I have lived in Cobble hill for over 35 years. I know many people in this community. We have the ability to transform this development into one that is more “neighborhood friendly”. In order to do this, we must create the tools to fight the consortium of Real Estate Money and thier political lackies. I have seen creative attorneys representing poor tenants stop or seriously delay big development projects. This is one of may ways this community can have more control of the process.

    This development may not be stoppable………… but it can be changed. If the community is able to come up with methods to seriously delay the project, Fortis will be looking at seriously reduced profits. Time is money here. The community wins and Fortis loses when delays occur. This could force them to come to the table and make concessions.

    The CHA does not have the capital of Fortis to throw at this battle. We only have our willingness to give our time and efforts free of charge to protect our way of life in Cobble Hill.
    Profit does not always trump passion.

    GET INVOLVED!!!

  12. Pingback: HIgh Rise(s) for LICH Site in Cobble Hill? - Voices of NY

  13. The way to hinder Fortis is to discover what they are liable for and then make sure they pay every single cent they owe. NO slippage. For example, can any lawyer tell me whether they are responsible for damage from vibration to nearby homes? A big project like this is going to require blasting and huge cranes. If they shake bricks out of my facade can I make them pay to fix it?

    J.

  14. does not pay for the fact that ALL of our kids of this neighborhood will be in overcrowded elementary schools. This neighborhood is deemed valuable because of its good schools. This plan is completely irresponsible!

  15. It is irresponsible to build a 44 floor tower of more residents in a neighborhood where all adjacent elementary schools are overcrowded. Our area needs another elementary school before they had a huge influx of tenants and kids. A park does not equate to a hospital or school. I know these buildings get a tax wrote off by providing something to the community: a plot of green grass does not pay for the fact that ALL of the kids of this neighborhood will be in overcrowded elementary schools. This neighborhood is deemed valuable because of its good schools. Under Bloomberg buildings that wanted the tax write off had to add something for the community at large. We need to pressure them to create a school.

  16. To J. in CH. They have been driving piles, thousands of them, in the swamp land of the Gowanus which have shaken and cracked houses. Everyone now knows that the Department of Buildings isn’ there to prevent homes from being damaged. You must protect your own, which means getting your own engineering firm to monitor your building to build a solid court case against the developer should your building be damaged from any of their work. It is entirely on the home owner to sue the developer and collect any losses.

    Again the city offers no protection to home owners and if you invite the DOB in to your house to inspect damage, they will put you out onto the street–at your own expense, if they see any concern.

    If the community cares at all for the structural safety of their buildings they need to make themselves heard now.

  17. Realize this: you guys don’t matter, your opinion.. don’t matter. You think you have rights..you dont..you had some privileges..now they are revoked. This is happening with or without you. The oligarchs have the governor the major everyone in their pocket and set this in motion years ago. You think they will budge because some peasants are upset ? This luxury buildings will be sell for over $3mln a piece..apartment next to Brooklyn bridge park overlooking the Mnhtn skyline..wish you luck affording this one. Take my word..that CVS ER that you got there…will be gone, closed by DOH as unsafe..as soon as the cranes come.

  18. Thanks for the reply, JJ. We know there is absolutely no one in any level of government to trust.

    J.