Cobble Hill’s LICH site construction projects kick off with ‘essential’ designations

LICH site
Construction at the former LICH site will continue as “essential” business during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Two major construction projects at the former Long Island College Hospital site in Cobble Hill were recently deemed “essential” allowing them to begin building during the COVID-19 outbreak — making locals fearful that noise and other disturbances could become unbearable as residents shelter in place in the brownstone nabe.

“Now they start work, when people are locked in their homes, it’s a very unfortunate chain of events,” said Amy Breedlove, the head of the Cobble Hill Association.

New York University Langone got a special permit to start excavation work for a planned medical center at Atlantic Avenue near Hicks Street on April 3, because the planned healthcare building is an “essential facility,” according to the Department of Buildings.

Governor Andrew Cuomo called off all “non-essential” construction on March 27 to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, but left open exceptions for certain projects — such as healthcare facilities, emergency repairs to secure construction sites, transportation and other infrastructure projects, and buildings that included below-market-rate housing. 

But to the horror of residents in the area, the college hospital group’s contractors allegedly plan to bang piles into the ground using the excavator bucket later this week, according to Breedlove, who said that she and her fellow Cobble Hill neighbors have pled with the builders to use a more quiet method of construction.

“I think almost anything would be less intrusive than that,” Breedlove said.

In conversation with NYU reps, the builders were apparently open to mitigating the racket, such as by putting a rubber cover on the bucket, or using pile driving cranes, according to Breedlove.

NYU Langone has since halted construction at the site, according to spokesperson Colin DeVries, who declined to elaborate on why they stopped building, when they plan to resume activity, or what precautions builders plan to take to mitigate noise and health risks.

Adjacent to the building, Dumbo-based developer Fortis Property Group got a DOB certificate for “emergency construction” to safely close their sites on April 2, according to Buildings Department spokesman Andrew Rudansky.

The certificates for its two Hicks Street projects only allow the firm to continue to build to the point that would make it safe to suspend work, according to DOB records.

Fortis Property Group did not respond to a request for comment as to what safety precautions its contractors will take due to the viral outbreak.

When they are allowed to resume uninterrupted construction, the developer plans to erect two 15- and 36-story towers on opposing sides of Hicks Street, between Atlantic Avenue and Amity Street.

NYU’s health center will live in front of the taller tower, all of which comes as part of the five-building project now dubbed River Park. The project is on the site of the former hospital, which the state sold to developers after years of financial troubles and despite vocal local opposition in 2013.

Update Wednesday, April 22, 9:45 am: This article has been changed to include comment from an NYU Langone spokesperson.