Freshman 15: LICH developer threatens to add student dorms to high-rises if rezoning stalls

The Brooklyn Paper
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Call it a tower play.

The developer of the former Long Island College Hospital campus is now threatening to add a dormitory squeezing in hundreds of college students to the controversial luxury housing complex it plans to build on the site if it is unable to rezone the land so it can erect an even more lucrative high-rise there.

Fortis Property Group unveiled the change to its design this week, which Cobble Hill civic leaders — who have been negotiating with the developer for months to change the design to something neighbors don’t hate — say was totally unexpected and comes as a massive blow.

“We were absolutely shocked and astounded,” said Buzz Doherty, vice president of neighborhood group the Cobble Hill Association. “The community remains very unhappy with their behavior.”

Fortis, which inked a $240-million deal for the property in June last year, first unveiled two plans for the site in May this year. One so-called “as-of-right” design — which means it complied with existing zoning laws and could be built right now — that included several high-rises towering over the historic neighborhood. And a second plan that contained more units and would require rezoning approval from the city, but with towers set back a bit farther away from local brownstones, plus some below-market-rate units, a school, retail stores, and more green space.

The developer indicated at the time that the first plan was not its preference, but that it would go ahead with it — taking all of the goodies with it — if the already lengthy rezoning process turns into a prolonged battle.

But residents didn’t take the bait and continued to rail against both designs, and this week Fortis unveiled a new website showcasing the revised plans, which include additional eight-story and six-story “community facilities” for the as-of-right schema that the developer says it may turn into student housing for an un-named university that could add as many as 800 additional residents to the complex, according to the Cobble Hill Association’s head honcho.

The dorms would be an even bigger burden in a development that will already bring too many new people to the neighborhood, she said.

“The continued opinion of the community is both plans are too high and too dense,” said association president Laurel Burr, who said Fortis sprung the new plans on the group last week. “And now a dorm — that’s an awful lot of density on its own.”

A Fortis rep said the dorms are “one of the community facility uses we are exploring” but that the company remains committed to pushing the rezoning plan.

“We continue to believe our rezoning plan, which would include affordable and senior housing, a new public school and increased park space, is a great alternative for the neighborho­od,” said spokesman James Yolles.

But the civic leaders say the developer’s patience seems to be wearing thin, and it may wash its hands of the rezoning fight altogether if the dorm scheme proves to be more than an idle threat.

Fortis didn’t share its new plans with Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), who had been orchestrating the community consultation process, until last week. And it claims the dorms could generate enough extra cash to make up for the extra housing units it would lose, Doherty said.

“They do not seem as committed to the rezoning as they had before,” said Doherty, “With the addition of that student housing, the difference in financial gain from the as-of-right plan to the [rezoning] plan is much smaller.”

Ultimately, the developer doesn’t need the community’s support for the rezoning, however — it needs to convince the City Planning Commission, Council members, and Mayor DeBlasio. And Hizzoner, at least, is backing the plan that will bring below-market housing, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The Cobble Hill Association says it will host block meetings next week to discuss the latest developments with residents.

Reach reporter Harry MacCormack at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @HMacBKPaper.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated with comment from Fortis.
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
Hahahahaha. Fortis is trolling the NIMBYs.
Oct. 21, 2015, 8:37 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
First, lets thank again the State officials who corrupted the process and allowed a connected developer to buy State land on the cheap for luxury housing the community does not need. Second, let the developer build as of right and have to deal with 800 students for the foreseeable future. Sounds like fun. Such a shame; public land turned over to private hands for luxury housing. You know, they could have given the land to a non-for-profit for housing the poor and disabled. But they didn't. Shame on us.
Oct. 21, 2015, 9:29 am
seriously from mad from Brooklyn says:
Is this there idea of building bridges with the community? An OR ELSE plan!

Even more the reason to fight this developer. Until they want to play with us, they are playing against us. And if we let them, it will be their town, and we're not going to let them have it.

Let's make them bleed $ and only them will they learn to play nice.
Oct. 21, 2015, 9:35 am
Ian from Williamsburg says:
A little refreshing to see a developer not rollover to NIMBYS and flex some muscle. This de blasio administration has no clue how to negotiate because they're singularly focused on their cheap housing quota.
Oct. 21, 2015, 9:40 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
Every luxury tower in Brooklyn is pressure taken OFF the existing housing stock in the borough. Every luxury tower in Brookyn is a tax bonanza that can be converted back to the common good. The housing shortage will never be solved until the city gets out of the way of the housing market.
Oct. 22, 2015, 1:15 pm
Ian from Williamsburg says:
Nailed it Chooch!
Oct. 22, 2015, 10:24 pm
housing BS from Brooklyn says:
We don't need to accommodate a hosuing demand in an overpopulated city just to boost tax revenues that feed an inefficient government.

Less housing means less displacement and a better quality of life for the natives.

Anyone that says otherwise is not the voice of the people but rather an implants for developers.

For those that want to overpopulate, go west my friends, and get out of Dodge to where there's more space to spread your carbon monoxide.
Oct. 24, 2015, 11:36 am
Ian from Williamsburg says:
"Less housing means less displacement"

Idiotic uneducated rant from housing BS. Displacement is the result of a lack of supply. That's the reason people are scouring far flung hoods looking for affordable market rate housing. Supply and demand you moron. Low supply of housing means higher prices.
Oct. 25, 2015, 12:27 am

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