Dr. DeBlasio: Mayor attempts to revive LICH development talks

Brooklyn Paper
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Emergency surgery is back at Long Island College Hospital!

Mayor DeBlasio is attempting to resuscitate negotiations between the developer of the former Cobble Hill infirmary and local leaders, as flatlined discussions threaten to pull the plug on any below-market-rate housing inside the massive towers planned for the site. But critics warn that a quick nip and tuck from Hizzoner’s spin doctors may not be enough to save this deal.

“The idea is to see if we can find a proposal for the LICH site that everyone can live with,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Cobble Hill), who declared in November that he will oppose Fortis Property Group’s bid to upzone the land, which would allow it to build more housing there than is currently allowed. “We’re not there yet, and I don’t know if we’ll get there. But it’s worth trying,”

City Hall organized two meetings between Fortis, civic group the Cobble Hill Association, Lander, and several other local pols over the past month, where DeBlasio’s reps presented a revised rezoning proposal offering more space for a new school and less for housing than in previous incarnations, according to the neighborhood group.

In exchange for the zoning change — which will be tough to secure without the local Council member’s support — the firm has previously promised to include several hundred below-market units and the public school space in the development, which will sprawl across more than two blocks and rise at least 35 stories.

Without it, the company says it will still erect tall towers on the site, just with exclusively market-rate units — and potentially a college dormitory — and no school space, which it doesn’t need city approval to do.

The civic association has so far opposed both plans on the grounds that the high-rises are out of scale with the historic neighborhood and will overwhelm the area with people and traffic.

But the mayor, who once fervently opposed the hospital’s closure and sale, is now trying to uphold his campaign promise to create or preserve 200,000 units of so-called “affordable” housing throughout the city over the next decade.

The former Park Sloper also has some friends in common with Fortis — the companies handling the developer’s public relations and lobbying for the project both helped with his election campaign and one is run by a close friend of Hizzoner.

Everyone involved in the recent discussions remains tight-lipped on the specifics of the new pitch, but Cobble Hill Association honchos say it hasn’t won them over yet — plus a larger school raises new questions about the impact it would have on traffic and infrastructure.

“Our concerns remain very much what they were from the beginning, from the first time we were shown any proposals,” said the association’s president Laurel Burr.

All parties say they are willing to continue negotiating, however, and could change their minds on the rezoning if they can hash out an agreeable design that the neighborhood supports.

“We’ve never slammed the door,” said Burr. “We maintained in November that we could not support the rezoning as proposed and we’re listening. We’re listening and asking a lot of questions.”

The various groups will meet with the city again next week to continue discussions.

But the clock is ticking — workers are beginning demolition on the old hospital buildings this week, making way for a new free-standing emergency room that will go up on Atlantic Avenue regardless of which plan the developer pursues.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Joe Finn from Carroll Gardens says:
Yeah, right. Agreement. Not. Mayor wants affordable and the locals want to just say no. Both are ridiculous. Middle School would be the kiss of death for the surrounding community as much, maybe more, than 35 stories would be. The whole mess is deBlasio's to own, and Lander right behind him. Perfect match. Fortis comes out smelling like roses with those two guys "leading" the negotiations. Who placed this puff piece anyway? Lander or Working Family Party, his mouthpiece?
Jan. 20, 2016, 7:31 pm
Skyscraped from Cobble hill says:
Ten years from now, when the mayor is out of office, do you think he will walk by the Brooklyn waterfront and point to the soul sucking skyscrapers and say to his children with pride, that was my doing?
Jan. 20, 2016, 10:13 pm
marsha rimler from brooklyn H says:
Watch their deeds.. Levin. Lander, Deblah Deblah
all phony progressives.. all library destroyers and twitter
dump lander too?? join us
lofty on the policy, dirty on the deals
Jan. 21, 2016, 8:48 am
say no! from in town says:
The mayor abandoned Brooklyn.

Let's not allow him to score brownie points out of the remains of his mess left for the rest of us to pick up the pieces. It's our ball now, let's roll with it and demand what's best for Brooklyn and one of its golden children Cobble Hill.

"Power to the People" as we can no longer depend on government.
Jan. 21, 2016, 10:34 am
V&R from Brklyn says:
Either way, we are fckd when developers build without any respect for or knowledge of design. For crying out loud, this is NYC's other currency, stop devaluing it!
Jan. 22, 2016, 2:32 pm
willowtown rez from willowtown says:
Even brooklyn heights residents with millions to gain voted down more development at Pineapple Walk. Here we have thousands of residents opposing the Mayor and standing firm. When will Lander et al get it that we don't want more development? If "progressive politics" means the arrogant view that the mayor knows better than thousands of locals, then I say it's time to vote the mayor out.
Jan. 24, 2016, 11:58 am
Yauch Park mom from Brooklyn H says:
Marsha weren't you aggressively supporting Mr. Levin last election? Reeping what you sow I guess is the expression?

Jan. 25, 2016, 11:23 am
RRR from Cobble Hill says:
"willowtown rez from willowtown" : Lander has opposed the developers' proposal to re-zone the site, thus limiting the potential scope of development. He does not have the power to halt a private developers's development of private land within existing zoning, however. Cheers for voting away DeBlasio (sadly, who was the better option during the mayorial race, though?).
Feb. 1, 2016, 10:46 am

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