LICHing their wounds: Cobble Hill leaders now say development could be worse, hope ‘hideous’ designs just a bluff

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Bring it on!

Many Cobble Hill residents are actually happy that the developer of the old Long Island College Hospital has abandoned community negotiations for its planned residential complex on the site — ditching below-market-rate housing and a school from the project in the process — because the builder will have to settle for smaller towers and fewer tenants without their support, according to local leaders.

Sure, the alternative designs builder Fortis Property Group has released in the past were ugly as sin, but one pol says they’re hoping the developer was just bluffing to bully them into accepting bulkier buildings.

“I don’t think the fact that they showed us the drawings that they showed us is any reason to believe that they would build what they would build,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Cobble Hill) at civic group the Cobble Hill Association’s annual meeting on Monday night. “They want to build a project that’s going to attract top dollar. Building a hideous project isn’t going to help you sell your condos.”

Fortis’s honchos shocked residents and pols earlier this month when they quit their year-long effort to secure the Cobble Hill Association’s and Lander’s endorsement to rezone the sprawling Atlantic Avenue infirmary for more units, announcing they’ll just go ahead with a slightly smaller design that doesn’t require anyone’s okay.

But that’s just dandy by many residents, who would rather a smaller influx of newcomers to the nabe than the perks Fortis was hoping would win them over to the rezoning plan — so-called “affordable” housing, space for a school, and less “hideous” buildings set back farther from historic brownstones — according to the leader of the civic group.

“It does mean lower population density because it will have less apartments, and I know that was one of the major contributing factors to so many of you not wanting the [rezoning],” said Cobble Hill Association president Amy Breedlove at the meeting.

And even those who supported the rezoning did so because the proposed buildings were more attractive and didn’t tower quite so much over the neighborhood’s pricey historic district, Breedlove said — not because of the below-market housing, which did not rate a single mention at the meeting.

Mayor DeBlasio and his administration, however, are pretty bummed about losing the affordable housing — they’ve promised to oversee construction of 80,000 new below-market units across the city by 2024, and were trying to keep the rezoning negotiations between the various parties alive.

The most recent public version of Fortis’s shovel-ready plan — the one Lander and Breedlove are hoping is a bluff — features four glassy towers of 25, 28, 16, and 14 stories, the latter jutting into the historic district on Henry Street.

Fortis has also threatened to build an 800-bed dormitory if residents didn’t let it go forward with the rezoning, but the pair also hope that was a fake-out.

Breedlove says she hasn’t heard from Fortis’s brass since the developer abandoned the rezoning, but is still holding out hope they’ll discuss their next steps with the community. But given the builders’ previous disregard for locals’ opinions, at least one resident said he’s not holding his breath.

“We’ve done all that we’ve done and they’re still the same a------- they’ve been from day one,” said resident Paul Neidenberg. “What’s important is to continue to stick a collective fork in their eye every time they file a piece of paper.”

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

Franco from Cobble Hill says:
This would be an ideal spot for an 800 bed shelter for the homeless,
Nov. 16, 2016, 2:34 pm
Paula from Cobble Hill says:
Yes, Brad Lander and Amy Breedlove, and what if it isn't a bluff? Where are you then? Have you protected the neighborhood from hideous development? (No) The false premise of density is ridiculous...have you not seen what is going up on Pier 6, and will soon on Piers 7-12? 80 story towers in the plans circulated this summer. They are coming so why not help shape that eventuality vs. keeping your heads in the sand? Also, how does this square with the obligation of all communities to do what we can for affordability (which many, many people in Cobble Hill desire and actually need)? And why haven't you had any meetings to discuss this until now? This is a rather pathetic showing and proves that the Cobble Hill Association and Brad Lander's office have all been totally disingenuous with the community.
Nov. 16, 2016, 2:51 pm
sue from cobble hisll says:
never.. trust.. Brad.. he is running for mayor
right after DeBlasio
Nov. 16, 2016, 7:14 pm
George Fiala from Red Hook says:
My hope is that they build something completely inappropriate and the repercussion would be a brand new look at the concept of As-Of-Right. Much as the destruction of Penn Station brought forth landmarks legislation.
Nov. 16, 2016, 7:58 pm
Mike from Slope says:
I'm assuming there's as little chance of blocking this as there was of stopping the nightmare that is the Barclay's Center.
Nov. 17, 2016, 11:27 am
David Weinkrantz from Downtown Brooklyn says:
Is the goal of critics of the development to maximize the number of "affordable housing units" to be built?

Or to have a more visually attractive development?

Do they perceive that there is tension between the two goals?

Left out of the calculus is the future tax assessment of the property and the resulting tax revenue that would enable the City to provide requisite services.
Nov. 17, 2016, 11:57 am
ujh from downtown Brooklyn says:
1. What Fortis has shown are renderings, not architectural plans, so whatever gets built will look different from what you've seen.
2. Hope is cheap, actually "priceless."
Nov. 17, 2016, 12:46 pm
NN from Boerum Hill says:
I never understood why the Cobble Hill Association and others opposed the rezoning plan. That would have resulted in a much nicer development, and affordable housing, and more public space.

I hope Brad Lander will try to bring back the rezoning plan if that is still possible.
Nov. 17, 2016, 12:57 pm
Juniper from Boerum Hill says:
Cobble Hill is a Jane Jacobs ideal and those protecting deserve our gratitude.
Nov. 19, 2016, 8:32 pm
RME from Red Hook says:
Bring back real strategic urban planning. Self-interested reaction to developer-driven neighborhood modification is not in anyone's best interest.
Nov. 25, 2016, 10:18 am
Joe from Cobble Hill says:
Cobble Hill Association = Working Families Party
WFP = deBlasio Lander
deBlasio Lander WFP = no regard for communities, for Landmark District.
That is the only calculus you need to know to understand why Cobble Hill is the loser in this equation. And Fortis is not the bad guy, this "crew" is.
Nov. 30, 2016, 8:41 am

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