The Fortis Property Group announced in November 2016 that it would build the As-Of-Right (AOR) Plan rather than the substantially larger ULURP Plan. Since the AOR Plan complies with existing zoning, Fortis is able to undertake it without any City approvals. When Fortis presented the two options in May 2015, the AOR plan consisted of nearly 900,000 square feet of development with four towers rising 35, 28, 16 and 14 floors in addition to 4-story rowhouses.
In its 2015 presentation, Fortis informed the community that the four towers included approximately 530 units of market-rate housing, a substantial community facility that could be a college dormitory, and the NYU Langone Ambulatory Care Center. There would be no affordable housing, public school or retail facilities, all of which would only be part of a ULURP Plan. However, until Fortis releases its AOR plans, it is not known what the design or exact configuration of the AOR project will be.
In preparation for the start of construction, Fortis will demolish the garage at 352 Hicks Street, the pharmacy/nurses’ residence at 349 Henry Street and the Dog Lab at 112 Pacific Street. Permits for interior demolition of the latter two buildings have already been obtained. The pedestrian bridge over Amity Street is also being removed to convert the Polhemus Building into apartments.
The demolition of the hospital buildings on Atlantic Avenue and Hicks Street has been on-going throughout much of 2016. The new NYU Langone facility will have about 160,000 square feet served by a 400 person staff, including more than 70 doctors, and a surgical suite for outpatient procedures. Its stand-alone emergency department will serve 75-90 patients daily using 22 beds. Emergency patients requiring more advanced care will be transferred to a hospital with in-patient services.
An investigation begun in July 2016 by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is looking onto Mayor de Blasio’s role in the sale of Long Island College Hospital to Fortis. Despite the Mayor’s promise to keep LICH open during his campaign, de Blasio subsequently supported the sale after his election and after soliciting contributions to his Campaign for One New York from developers bidding to acquire LICH from SUNY Downstate.
Following the announcement of the investigation, the BHA released a statement that it “is gratified that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating potential wrongdoing by Mayor de Blasio in the sale of the Long Island College Hospital. We would urge the U.S. Attorney’s office to also investigate what the BHA and six other community organizations alleged, in a letter sent to the U.S. Attorney in September 2014, to be serious misconduct and violation of law by SUNY during its acquisition, operation and closing of LICH. To our knowledge, those allegations were not investigated at that time.”
Background on the closure of LICH and the investigation can be found here.
About This Issue
The Long Island College Hospital (LICH) served residents of downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods for over 150 years. The State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center operated LICH after buying it from Continuum Health Partners on May 27, 2011. Citing ongoing operating deficits, SUNY closed LICH on May 22, 2014, despite intensive local opposition and lengthy litigation.
Following a contentious bidding process, SUNY then sold the 4.8-acre LICH site for $240 million to the Fortis Property Group. Fortis selected NYU Langone to operate a medical center and freestanding emergency facility, but not a full-service hospital, and proposed a massive redevelopment of the remaining LICH site.
In seeking bids for the LICH site, SUNY set no restrictions on the scale of the development proposals. By ignoring the 50-foot height limitation of the adjacent Brooklyn Heights’ and Cobble Hills’ historic districts, the State sought to maximize revenue from the sale at the expense of the communities.
In May 2015, Fortis shocked neighborhood residents when it released two alternate development schemes: an As-of-Right Plan (AOR) and ULURP Plan.
“As-of-Right” Plan Does NOT Require Approval
As-of-Right Plan (AOR)
The AOR plan would not be subject to the City’s approval process since it complies with existing zoning requirements. Within its 896,490 total square feet (SF), there would be 528,935 SF of market-rate housing, a 262,555 SF community facility, for which Fortis proposed a college dormitory, and a 105,000 SF NYU Medical Center. Four towers of 35, 28, 16 and 14 floors would rise adjacent to 4-story rowhouses. The AOR plan would have no affordable housing.
ULURP Plan Significantly Larger
In exchange for a mix of “community benefits,” Fortis’ ULURP Plan, so-called because it would require City approval through the Uniform Land Use Review Process, would be significantly larger at 1.28 million SF. In addition to about 900 market-rate housing units in 900,000 SF, it would also include 225,000 SF of affordable housing, a 40,000 SF public school, and 10,000 SF of retail, as well as the NYU Medical Center.
The ULURP plan includes 120-180 units of senior housing above the school, and converts the popular “tot lot” on Hicks Street into a public school playground. The ULURP Plan would be subject to a 6-month public review with final approval by the City Council.
Broad Opposition by Elected Officials and Coalition of Community Group
Fortis has claimed that the ULURP Plan would be more sensitive to Cobble Hill because the bulk of the development is located in the northwest corner of Cobble Hill, away from the heart of its historic district, closer to Brooklyn Heights. However, Fortis has been unwilling to engage in meaningful discussion with the community and its elected officials to devise a smaller ULURP plan that might gain local support. For that reason, Councilman Brad Lander, Senator Daniel Squadron, and Assemblywoman Jo Ann Simon publicly announced their opposition to the Fortis ULURP Plan at the Cobble Hill Association’s (CHA) November 18, 2015 Annual Meeting. Their positions reflected the input that CHA obtained from 20 block association meetings, Lander’s online survey, and public meetings. In December 2015, the community presented the Mayor’s Office with 2,400 signatures on a petition opposing the ULURP Plan.
BHA Fully Engaged in Planning of New Medical Center
The BHA has been a full participant in the public engagement process over the summer and fall of 2015 that sought to broker a compromise over the shape and dimension of the Fortis redevelopment of LICH. In addition to supporting CHA’s position, the BHA is a participant in the LICH Transformational Planning Group that is reviewing and commenting on plans for NYU Langone Medical Center, an ambulatory care center that is replacing LICH’s Othmer Building.
NYU has proposed a 160,000 SF facility at 70 Atlantic Avenue, off Hicks Street, that is scheduled to open in 2018. It will provide outpatients with such services as multispecialty ambulatory surgery, a cancer center, a diagnostic imaging center, a laboratory, clinical pharmacy, and physicians’ offices. The freestanding emergency department will have 10 patient bays, 12 private flex-patient spaces and two inpatient beds. Patients requiring services that cannot be accommodated at the Cobble Hill facility will be transported to the NYU Medical Center in Manhattan or to NYU Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park.
The BHA and CHA have jointly submitted this letter to NYU articulating our concerns regarding traffic, parking and accessibility issues arising from the Medical Center, and seeking to be more directly involved in the planning study being performed by NYU’s traffic consultant, Sam Schwartz, the former NYC Commissioner of Transportation. NYU’s response can be found here.
For more detail on the Fortis/LICH project, view the developer’s website here.