“You have an association with a long history,” City Council Member Stephen Levin told a crowd of frustrated Cobble Hill residents outside City Hall Wednesday morning, “Keep on fighting the good fight.”
The community group Cobble Hill Association and its supporters are demanding Mayor de Blasio help hammer out a new and better plan for the controversial redevelopment of the former Long Island College Hospital campus in Cobble Hill.
They don’t like either of the proposals from developer Fortis and met with Levin and other local pols Wednesday to submit a petition with 2,017 signatures to Mayor de Blasio demanding a restart. The event was part of the group’s continued protest of the controversial closure of the hospital and the sale and redevelopment of the property.
Although 2,342 signatures were received in total, the number 2017 was felt to hold particular significance as it is the year of the next mayoral election.
The petition, titled Say It Ain’t So, Mayor de Blasio! informs the mayor that preservation and ensuring long-term community benefit are his duties. Directly, the petition asks only that the Mayor stand with “us – We, the People – and not with Developers,” while also referencing the city’s tendency to “rampantly” develop certain areas.
The petition asks for the mayor’s support but does not lay out a specific plan, renderings, or vision for what the group would like to see in place of Fortis’ two proposals.
A crowd gathered outside City Hall at 9:15 a.m., many carrying signs declaring, “No towers, save Cobble Hill.” The group then entered the building, where City Councilman Brad Lander, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, Levin, and CHA’s First Vice President Buzz Doherty presented five stacks of ribbon-wrapped petitions to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen’s Senior Advisor Peter Wertheim.
The entire process was very amicable, especially considering the strife the redevelopment brouhaha has has caused within CHA.
“I’m glad I wore a red tie,” Wertheim joked as the representatives piled the petitions into his open arms — it matched the red ribbons.
Afterwards, as supporters milled about, everyone seemed pleased, but some expressed anxiety. “We’re all waiting on pins and needles at CHA for how de Blasio reacts to Brad Lander coming out against ULURP,” CHA member Rebecca Johnson said.
She and other CHA members went on to express already well articulated thoughts: that they feel ignored by Fortis, that the proposed development is far too dense, and that the height of the proposed towers is also a major issue.
“We thought of calling this project, ‘The Towers Are Too Damn High,’ ” Johnson joked.
Brad Lander further clarified the group’s demands on the steps of City Hall and said Fortis may face legal problems if it doesn’t offer a compromise.
“We’re hoping the mayor will figure out an alternative agreement,” he said. “They [Fortis] may well face a lawsuit from the community if they build as-of-right.”
In all, the petition may or may not draw the attention and intervention of the mayor, but CHA has not deviated from its consistent complaints.
In an excellent summation of what those complaints are, CHA President and decades-long Cobble Hill resident Laurel Burr sent Brownstoner the following statement:
At the basic level, we are asking the Mayor, through his administration, to help craft a development plan for the former LICH site that works for the community rather than have to react to the problems created by the development after the fact. Of course, a lower-rise, less-dense proposal would interest us but we don’t have an unrealistic vision of four-story row houses on the entire site. We have raised issues for months about basic human safety and livability — how would the people come and go from their homes, from the NYU facility, from a possible school — and we have not received answers. Whatever the size and shape of the final plan, and we care deeply about those factors, we want a neighborhood that FUNCTIONS for both new and existing residents. We think NYC can do a better job of urban planning; the LICH site and the surrounding area is a prime example.
When we asked for clarification regarding the type of alternative development CHA is hoping for, Burr responded:
We are looking for a development that works, and that is respectful of the surrounding historic districts of Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights. We have not set a building height or population limit, as appealing as that might be; we are looking for a plan that functions in context with the surrounding area.
[Photos by Hannah Frishberg]
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