De Blasio: 'Nobody won here'
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Fortis Property Group has decided to move forward with an as-of-right development plan for the former Long Island College Hospital (LICH) that does not include affordable housing and will not require rezoning.
This was bad news for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had backed an alternate plan which would have included affordable housing, a priority of his administration.
Fortis President Joel Kestenbaum said in a statement on Friday, “We have decided to move forward with an as-of-right redevelopment plan for the LICH site. Based on the high demand for community facility space at this premier location, timing and other development factors, an as-of-right redevelopment is the most profitable.”
He added, “We will provide additional details in the near future as we finalize our plans.”
Both plans floated by Fortis over the past year include soaring towers ill-suited for the historically low-rise Cobble Hill neighborhood. But the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) version, which would have required community review, entailed 43 percent more development in total than the as-of-right plan.
To sweeten the higher-density plan for residents and officials, Fortis included a school, affordable and senior housing and more parkland. Fortis also laid out the design to push the out-of-context skyscrapers closer to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
Under the as-of-right plan, the former hospital campus will now likely be transformed into luxury housing. Fortis spoke last year about including dormitory facilities as well.
De Blasio: ‘Nobody won’
While de Blasio opposed the closure of the hospital during his run for mayor, after the election he backed a development deal which allowed the hospital to be replaced by a smaller health care facility. The facility, operated by NYU-Langone, is written into both versions of the plan.
“We engaged in a fight to save health care at this site, and locked in more than most thought possible. We’ve continued to work to achieve more, like a school and affordable housing,” said de Blasio spokesperson Melissa Grace.
She added, “This is not the plan we wanted, and nobody won here. We will keep fighting to build a fairer, more just and inclusive New York.”
The sale of LICH is one of several real estate transactions under scrutiny in a federal investigation looking into questionable donations to the mayor’s former nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York.
Lander: ‘A hideous plan’
Fortis had originally been heavily promoting the ULURP version of the plan..
After numerous meetings organized by the Cobble Hill Association (CHA), however, Councilmember Brad Lander said in November that he would work against the ULURP option and support some version of the smaller as-of-right plan.
Perhaps to make the as-of-right plan less palatable to low density Cobble Hill, the height and density were placed next to the historic district in this version of the plan. The as-of-right plan was altered in October to include student housing that could hold as many as 800 students. This could increase Cobble Hill’s population by almost 30 percent, opponents said.
In November, Lander warned the CHA, “The community needs to get ready. Fortis may go ahead and build its as-of-right option, and Cobble Hill may have to begin ‘suiting up.’”
On Friday, Lander tweeted, “Fortis Development shows again that they are bad-faith actors, with no concern for what's best for community.”
In another tweet he said, “Fortis has not had any real conversations with community or electeds about their plans in 10 months. This decision is on them, and no one else.”
He added, “It is Fortis option to build as-of-right, with a hideous plan. But their failures of communication confirm we were correct to mistrust them.”
In an online statement on Friday, the CHA said, “Fortis, which months ago stopped discussions with our community and our elected officials, has announced it is going as-of-right in developing the LICH property. We must, and will, fight this.”
Fortis purchased the LICH campus from the State University of New York for $240 million after a long and bitter legal battle with the community.