The silent treatment: LICH talks at standstill nine months after DeBlasio tries to resuscitate

Freshman 15: LICH developer threatens to add student dorms to high-rises if rezoning stalls
FXFOWLE / Fortis Property Group


Negotiations have flatlined between Cobble Hill residents, local pols, the city, and the developer of the controversial plan to erect luxury housing towers on the former Long Island College Hospital site, and they aren’t any closer to reaching a compromise the community can support since they all last met nine months ago, according to a local civic group leader.

“We haven’t spoken to Fortis [Property Group] directly since January at City Hall other than to discuss with them the maintenance and upkeep of the parks and playgrounds and the sites,” said Amy Breedlove, president of the Cobble Hill Association, which was representing residents in the discussions.

The various parties began peace talks after Fortis unveiled its designs for glassy high-rises on the site — bounded by Atlantic Avenue and Hicks, Henry, and Amity streets — in May last year, horrifying residents who think it will stick out like a sore thumb in the low-rise historic ’hood and overload local infrastructure with too many people.

Fortis’s honchos could just go ahead and erect towers without the community’s blessing, but they want to rezone the land to allow for bulkier buildings. That will require Council’s approval, and local Councilman Brad Lander (D–Cobble Hill) — whose position will set the tone for most other reps — has pledged that he won’t support a rezoning until the community does.

If they can’t secure the Lander’s or locals’ backing soon, they may just erect what they’re able to without Council’s okay — which would still include two housing towers of up to 35 stories — a Fortis spokesman told Politico last month.

Lander said he hasn’t heard from Fortis in weeks and has no updates on where the talks stand.

In return for locals’ support on the bulkier building, Fortis has been offering to include below-market housing, space for a school, and more parkland on the properties — while threatening to use a building loophole to add an 800-bed college dorm to the property if they can’t rezone — but that hasn’t been enough to win the residents over.

The developer presented Lander with a revised plan in July, according to Breedlove, but the proposal was still too large, out of place, and didn’t include enough sweeteners to secure her group’s endorsement.

“There are issues regarding where things are placed and how much bulk and mass are next to the historic district,” she said.

Cobble Hill Association members want space for underground deliveries, more parkland, more open pedestrian corridors, and street plazas, she said.

Mayor DeBlasio had been trying to keep the discussions alive last year, fearing the loss of below-market housing in the project, and City Hall is still meeting regularly with the civic group — though Breedlove said their conversations aren’t really making any headway.

“There is a feeling that we’re being heard at this point, but I wouldn’t say they’re very productive because we’re not really getting anywhere,” she said.

The delays come amid a federal probe into the mayor’s involvement into the sale of the hospital. DeBlasio — who staunchly opposed the sale prior to taking office — is close pals with Fortis’s lobbyist James Capalino, and rival developer Don Peebles claims DeBlasio asked him to donate $20,000 to his private Campaign for One New York promotional fund when he was bidding for the site.

A City Hall rep said it is meeting with all of the players regularly, but refused to say how often or clarify the content of the conversations.

“We continue to work to bring together the community, officials and the developer to reach a plan that serves Cobble Hill’s needs,” said mayoral spokeswoman Melissa Grace. “There are regular conversations underway.”

Fortis declined to comment.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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