In what must be called a surprising development, City Councilman Brad Lander announced his opposition to the plan by real estate developer Fortis to rezone Cobble Hill, which would have enabled it to build an extra 400,000 square feet of housing on what was once the Long Island College Hospital. The announcement was made at the annual meeting of the Cobble Hill Association (CHA), held on November 18 at PS 29.
Lander said that he respected community wishes in going against Fortis’ plan, a plan that is supported by Mayor de Blasio. Fortis, who bought the hospital property from the state of New York in a very contested action, had given the community an ultimatum at previous CHA meetings. They are able to build around 800,000 square feet of luxury housing at LICH under current zoning. They presented an unpalatable as-of-right plan featuring a 44 story tower on Henry Street, which they said they would build unless the community agreed to a rezoning plan (ULURP) that would allow more density. Their ULURP proposal packaged smaller towers away from Henry Street along with some park enhancements, a new school, and making 20% of the housing “affordable.” This second proposal requires approval of the City Council, and they employed an ex de Blasio staffer and a public relations agency connected with the mayor to try and win over the community.
However, Lander reached out to community groups and residents, and found that despite the Fortis public relations campaign, the community opposed the zoning changes. So, flanked by Assembly member Jo Ann Simon, and State Senator Daniel Squadron, Lander announced his opposition to the rezoning, which effectively kills the proposal.
It remains to be seen how Fortis will respond to this setback. They may go back to the drawing board, if indeed they were bluffing, as some suspect, they may come back to the community with a more palatable ULURP, or, less likely, abandon their plan entirely and try to sell the properties to another developer. Other possibilities include a community lawsuit against the as-of-right plan, and perhaps an annulment of the sale by NY State.