Squabbles over development, leadership, legal issues
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After months of growing tension over the fate of the former Long Island College Hospital (LICH) site, on Wednesday Roy Sloane, the acting head of the Cobble Hill Association, tendered his resignation as first vice-president.
Sloane has served on the Cobble Hill Association’s (CHA) board almost continuously since 1980, but dissidents broke with his strategy of engaging in dialogue with LICH’s likely developer to shape the coming development, rather than taking stronger steps. Some community members also said they felt that Sloane led CHA as “a closed club,” and disagreed with his legal strategy.
Cobble Hill and surrounding neighborhoods fought the state’s sale of LICH for years. Last year, Fortis Property Group won the much-litigated bidding war to buy the hospital complex for $240 million. Since then, at forums hosted by CHA, Fortis has shocked the neighborhood with two versions of possible development, both showing towers of up to 40 stories in the historically low-rise neighborhood.
“The issue is about both who will lead the battle to limit development on the LICH site and how it will be conducted,” the dissidents said in a letter last week demanding Sloane’s replacement. They announced a special meeting to remove Sloane and fill vacancies including president, first vice-president, treasurer and recording secretary.
In his letter of resignation (see below for the full letter) Sloane said the engagement process he backed, developed by local elected officials and led by Councilmember Brad Lander, offers the community the chance “pre-shape both the ULURP and as-of-right options.”
“The Cobble Hill Association Executive Board voted unanimously to support that process and that’s why I have been, and remain, in full agreement with pursuing this course of action,” he wrote.
Sloane said he was stepping aside “to facilitate an orderly change in leadership.”
“It is my sincere hope that the new leadership team will be successful in the fight for the best possible outcome for Cobble Hill and the greater community, too. The danger of an out-of-scale skyscraper district in our low rise, historic community is very real – but, for me, the greatest tragedy would be for the Fortis development to leave a torn and divided community in its wake.”
Sloan’s supporters say the dissention plays right into Fortis’ hands.
“Roy Sloane is Cobble Hill,” said CHA Corresponding Secretary Jeff Strabone. “Like James Stewart in 'It's a Wonderful Life', Roy has saved Cobble Hill from being turned into a Pottersville of overdevelopment and excess. The people who demanded his resignation have strengthened Fortis's hand.”
But other CHA members said it was time for a change.
“We of course recognize what he has done for the past 35 years, and all the great work he has done fighting for the neighborhood,” said Amy Breedlove, one of the 24 signatories to the letter demanding Sloane’s replacement. Breedlove has been active on land use and other issues in the neighborhood.
“We thank him for being so gracious in his resignation and allowing us to move forward with the board,” Breedlove said. “But it’s also time to be more inclusive and open the CHA up to members of the community who have expertise. In the past we were not allowed to participate.”
Breedlove said the CHA would like community members to come out to a meeting planned for Thursday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m., “to elect a new board, get involved, get on committees to work with Fortis in shaping the best possible outcome, and work on other concerns to the neighborhood.
“It’s a new day for the CHA,” she added.
The meeting will be held at the Cobble Hill Health Center, 380 Henry St.
Check back for updates to this story, including information about the slate of CHA members expected to run for positions on the board.
Letter of Resignation from Roy W. Sloane
September 2, 2015
To the Cobble Hill Association Executive Board and Members of the Association:
It has been my pleasure to serve on the Cobble Hill Association’s Board almost continuously since 1980. In that time, Cobble Hill has become one of New York’s premier historic districts through the Association’s preservation efforts. We re-built Cobble Hill Park and Lower Van Voorhees Park, created new playgrounds along Henry Street, expanded the historic district, helped create Brooklyn Bridge Park, battled for Super Fund for the Gowanus Canal and spent many years working to support our hospital. I have been proud to work with my neighbors to accomplish these important goals and have been honored to be the community association’s leader for many of those years.
Working with my neighbors on behalf of our community has been a true inspiration for me. The Halloween Parade, Music in the Park, History Tours, Cobble Hill Park, the Tree Fund and the Cobble Hill Health Center represent the spirit of our community. I am deeply grateful to and want to thank the many people who have been part of these wonderful events and activities.
Today, the LICH site re-development is the greatest challenge Cobble Hill has faced since the hospital expanded in the early 80’s. The engagement process, developed by our local elected officials and led by Council member Brad Lander, offers the community a unique opportunity to pre-shape both the ULURP and as-of-right options. The Cobble Hill Association Executive Board voted unanimously to support that process and that’s why I have been, and remain, in full agreement with pursuing this course of action.
Today, a new group of people would like to take responsibility for this development and have a more direct role in shaping our future. In order to facilitate an orderly change in leadership, I have decided to tender my resignation from the Board.
It is my sincere hope that the new leadership team will be successful in the fight for the best possible outcome for Cobble Hill and the greater community, too. The danger of an out-of-scale skyscraper district in our low rise, historic community is very real – but, for me, the greatest tragedy would be for the Fortis development to leave a torn and divided community in its wake.
Thank you, Roy