Fortis ups ante with student housing plan for LICH site

Developer floats 260K sf dorm it can build as-of-right

A rendering of Fortis' as-of-rights plan for the former LICH site in Cobble Hill
A rendering of Fortis' as-of-rights plan for the former LICH site in Cobble Hill

Fortis Property Group is increasing pressure on Cobble Hill residents to accept its rezoning proposal, floating the idea that it could construct a massive new student dormitory on the former Long Island College Hospital site.

The developer has proposed building a 260,000 square foot university housing facility on Amity and Hicks streets.

The idea comes amid a raging dispute between Fortis and community representatives, who have resisting the developer’s plans for the site, which it bought for $240 million from SUNY last year.Fortis originally proposed a 44-story tower at the former hospital site, at 339 Hicks Street. While that plan wouldn’t require additional city approval, opposition to the proposal from residents prompted Fortis to propose a second plan, calling for a rezoning of the area that would allow the developer to build more market rate units in total. In exchange, Fortis would shift the location of its large luxury condo buildings to the edge of the neighborhood, and provide other amenities like park improvements and a school.

The new dorm, if built, would be a part of the first, as-of-rights plan, Politico reported. A number of universities are nearby — Pratt, the NYU School of Engineering, and Long Island University, and several have struggled to keep up with the demand for student housing.

“The site’s as of right zoning permits community facility space in addition to residential,” said James Yolles, a spokesman for Fortis. “Student housing, for which there is strong demand, is one of the community facility uses we are exploring. However, 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.”

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The new suggestion, brought up for the first time last week, met with fresh outrage from residents.

“We were completely shocked to learn these guys changed so materially the as-of-right plan they had displayed twice in public meetings,” said Buzz Doherty, first vice president of the Cobble Hill Association. “It’s all pretty horrifying.”

City Council member Brad Lander, who had joined the negotiations as a mediator, also expressed contempt for the proposal.

“A ‘mega-dorm’ is a horrible use for Cobble Hill,” he told Politico. “Especially combined with 40-story, market-rate towers in a 5-story, low-rise neighborhood. No one with the community’s best interest at heart would propose it.”

Earlier this month, Fortis filed plans for seven townhouses on Amity Street, which were originally part of the rezoning plan. [Politico] Ariel Stulberg