LICH developer abandons rezoning, will go ahead with ‘hideous’ high-rises

Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

The developer who controls the old Long Island College Hospital site in Cobble Hill shocked local residents and pols on Friday when it announced it has given up trying to secure their support to rezone the land so it can build a massive luxury housing complex there, and will instead just build a slightly less massive one that doesn’t require the city’s approval.

To add insult to injury, local leaders and Councilman Brad Lander (D–Cobble Hill) — who had been trying to negotiate with the developer and City Hall for a mutually agreeable design before discussions flatlined this year — learned the news via a Politico article published that afternoon, a fact they say proves developer Fortis Property Group was never really taking their concerns seriously anyway.

“To release this to the press as the way to inform your negotiating partners, I think it goes to show they don’t act in good faith when they come to the table,” said Amy Breedlove, the president of civic group the Cobble Hill Association.

Fortis, which bought the old Atlantic Avenue infirmary for $240 million in 2014, had put forward two plans for the property — one shovel-ready “as-of-right” design that includes several high-rises of up to 35 stories towering over the historic low-rise neighborhood, and a rezoning plan that has more units but placed the towers a bit farther away from local brownstones, and included some below-market-rate apartments, space for a school, and more parkland.

Cobble Hill Association members and many other residents balked at both designs — while Lander declared that he wouldn’t give his crucial support for the rezoning without theirs — and the various parties tried to work out a compromise in meetings organized by City Hall, which was keen to secure the below-market housing in order to hit Mayor DeBlasio’s goal of building 80,000 new units by 2024.

But Breedlove says the talks never really went anywhere, and she hadn’t heard a peep from Fortis this year. The developer presented a revised rezoning plan to Lander in July, but neither he nor the civic group was happy with it.

City Hall also only learned about Fortis’s decision to give up on the talks entirely from a reporter, a rep said, and the mayor is bummed about the loss of so-called affordable housing and the school space, a spokeswoman said in a statement.

“This is not the plan we wanted, and nobody won here,” said deputy press secretary Melissa Grace.

Breedlove agrees that everybody is losing out, but says she doesn’t think the community would have been any better off by accepting the most-recent rezone plan just to get the below-market housing or school space.

“Nothing we saw was going to be great for the community,” she said.

The Cobble Hill Association will now try to come up with a way to block the development through legal action, Breedlove says, and Lander likewise told Politico that he will look into litigation.

A Fortis spokesman refused to say whether the developer would go ahead with its previously released as-of-right design — described separately by both Lander and Breedlove as “hideous” — or come up with something new, but issued a statement saying it would announce more details soon.

Reach deputy editor Ruth Brown at or by calling (718) 260–8309. Follow her at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated with more from City Hall.
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
Is it that the Cobble Hill Association is really bad at negotiating? Or is it that they got what they wanted all along?
Nov. 4, 2016, 6:38 pm
Not Goish from Prospect Heights says:
You mean this this was an operation that didn't get the Bill de Blasio sleazy real estate developer pay-to-play?
Nov. 4, 2016, 7:40 pm
Patrice from Red Hook says:
Cretin DeBlasio just had a triple-orgasm-- it's what he and scumbag-in-arms Cuomo wanted from the start.
Nov. 4, 2016, 8:54 pm
Ian from Williamsburg says:
Private property, as of right development. Clearly Amy Breedlove had no idea how to reach for modest gains. She only tried to take from Fortis and offered nothing in return. If I were Fortis I would also drop negotiations with that hard headed neighborhood groups
Nov. 4, 2016, 9:05 pm
Attorneys 'R U.S. from Eastern District says:
Wait until Preet reveals how FIXED this deal was from the start. Anyone who thinks DeBalasio did not abet this is being naive.
Nov. 4, 2016, 11:15 pm
Attorney Who gets It from Sunset Park says:
The developer can build 35 stories "as of right".

Why does the developer need to talk?
Nov. 5, 2016, 2:46 am
Lange from Greenpoint says:
Turns out Bob Fox was the one with design sense. Developers who don't know how to build mystify.
Nov. 5, 2016, 9:26 am
suny fra diavlo from Red Hook says:
'As of right' my ass! Fortis gir a shady deal on previously PUBLIC land. That goddamn well merits scrutiny and negotiation-- or do you think they just came to these parcels 'naturally'?
Nov. 5, 2016, 5:42 pm
Bob Scott from Brooklyn Heights says:
Cobble Hill Association got what it deserved. It was always hostile to LICH the hospital. Now the hospital is gone. With foresight, CHA might have bargained in better faith with LICH, when LICH was still a viable hospital, and gotten the LICH-site's landmark exemption made contingent on it being an actual hospital.
Nov. 6, 2016, 9:28 pm
Michael from Bay Ridge says:
People thought the Eiffel Tower was a hideous eyesore when it was proposed. I personally prefer taller to shorter. I'm not for new construction in general, but if it's going to happen make it big and bold. Something special. No matter what is built, the professional complainers will be out in force. They don't like anything, so it will be impossible to please them.
Nov. 7, 2016, 10:01 am
everyone from Cobble Hill says:
Suspend any permits pending a revision to rezone to include into the surrounding historic district with a 50' height limitation.

Now that it's down, let's not let it go up.

Cobble Hill is a historic neighborhood and there were 4 to 5 story row houses there before it hospital replaced them.

Call 311 daily to stop work till rezoning occurs.
Nov. 7, 2016, 12:25 pm
Terrance from Greenpoint says:
If only it were an Eiffle Tower, able to gracefully succumb to the elements over time.
Nov. 7, 2016, 3:10 pm
Eloise says:
Eiffle Tower, haha! More like the Montparnasse Tower.
Nov. 7, 2016, 3:22 pm
J.B.E. from Brooklyn Heights says:
An awkward, inflated, multiplying, poorly situated parody of the Lever House.
Nov. 7, 2016, 3:42 pm
Hunter from Cobble Hill says:
Nov. 7, 2016, 3:45 pm
Tyler from pps says:
The only thing particularly objectionable about these proposed buildings is that they are utterly boring. A lot like the new World Trade Center building... it would be totally fine as a bland, designed-by-committee building if it weren't for the fact that it's the tallest and one of the most prominent buildings in the whole city.
Nov. 7, 2016, 5:05 pm
blimblam says:
Given the bureaucratic nightmare that defined the rebuilding of 1 World Trade Center, it's a unique and eloquent design. Thank goodness Gehry didn't get yet another opportunity to barf all over the place.

Tyler you're missing out on the humble interesting subtleties. Look again, compare it to something nearby.

As for the obvious Calatrava failure, cough cough
Nov. 7, 2016, 5:24 pm
or was it says:
A good example of playful, but not barfy would be Toyo Ito.
Nov. 7, 2016, 5:39 pm
Rabbit says:
And none of that Bjarke Ingels. That —— is half as5.
Nov. 7, 2016, 5:54 pm
Sid from Boreum hill says:
Now most people see why fortest walked away from negotiations. If you oppose anything but townhouses you are out of step with a city that is growing by a million people. They have to live somewhere even the mayor and governor who hate each other understand that. The mayor controls hpd buildings and landmarks so a moratorium is a pipe dream.
Nov. 7, 2016, 9:02 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Don't bring up the story on the WTC site, blimblam, because I was at many of those hearings and I knew what really happened there. Most of the people didn't even want what wound up getting built, they wanted the Twin Towers rebuilt as I did. The only reason we wound up getting what is there now is mainly because most of the decisions were made in a backroom behind close doors. More importantly, then-Governor George Pataki even overrode the contest from his own appointed LMDC (Lower Manhattan Development Corporation) when he heard that the plan by Daniel Liebeskind, which he personally liked, didn't win. For the record, I was at the Winter Garden over at the WFC when he was announcing Libeskind the winner and holding up a copy of the LMDC's official poll to show that he didn't win, though neither did Rafael Vinloy, who was the other finalist, but when Pataki walked by me, he refused to talk about it, which shows how elitist it really was. The same goes for the Atlantic Yards, though now it's called Pacific Park, in that it to was made in a backroom behind closed doors, and only got around thanks to special connections. One other thing, when the WTC was first built in the 1960's, there wasn't any rezoning, it was allowed a special rezoning by the state in that city zoning laws either. Meanwhile, Pacific Park didn't involve changing city zoning laws either, because it to used the state to bypass them, so the comparison of these projects is apples and oranges to LICH unless this was given something special by the state as well.
Nov. 8, 2016, 4:54 pm
Dothan & Netsam says:
Liebeskind would have built a nightmare zone. The original towers anchored the island in a clear balanced manner. Had they been rebuilt we would not have the Tribute in Light, which is articulate, beautiful.
Nov. 8, 2016, 5:09 pm
Brynie says:
Sid, 'maximum capacity', 'quality of life'. Eventually this pattern of growth with which we've grown so comfortable will breach limits, even with our own local low population growth rate.

And to Mike, high density growth is only environmentally sustainable if a deliberate effort to return the suburbs to nature is made. Otherwise it's just continued expansion, per our dumb understanding of economics.
Nov. 8, 2016, 6:17 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Dothan & Netsam, you can still have the Tribute in Light with rebuilt Twin Towers, and the site never had to be mutually exclusive, which is what those in charge tried to make it despite being 16 acres and can hold a lot.
Nov. 8, 2016, 6:40 pm
DAN says:
Tal, it's true the politics are beyond me. Interesting, will read up. PS I think blimblam was responding to Tyler.
Nov. 8, 2016, 7:15 pm
Sid from Boerum hill says:
If you really want to get sick the Health and hospital corp which runs the city's hospitals is in serious financial problem to the tune if several billion dollars and with the resignation of the current head the city has appointed as interim president Stanley Brezkof. The former head of Continuum.
Nov. 9, 2016, 2:40 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
DAN, developers are pretty much in bed with developers, which is how a good number of them get built. That pretty much explains how Ratner got the Atlantic Yards (now Pacific Park) built and even got it on life support despite his company having financial troubles. I feel that LICH could have been saved, but the need for new development seemed to outweigh all of this. Ironically, de Blasio was against this when he was running for mayor, but now supports this as he became mayor.
Nov. 9, 2016, 4:31 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I meant to say that developers are in bed with politicians in the first sentence, not other developers, but I'm sure most knew from that mistake.
Nov. 9, 2016, 5:53 pm

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: