Much has transpired since then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio got arrested during a protest against the possible closure of Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill in July 2013. "This community needs its hospital. People’s health—not the profits of the real estate industry—needs to be our priority," de Blasio said at the time. While the hospital's fate ultimately rested with the state, de Blasio ran on a platform defending it. Then, in 2014, he voiced support for a developer for the site, Fortis Group, he'd openly opposed the year previous. In October of that year State University of New York sold the 506-bed hospital, founded in 1860, to Fortis Property Group for $240 million.
While community advocates have questioned de Blasio's change of heart, the mayor points to his efforts to incorporate affordable housing and healthcare facilities into the final, mixed-use development. But today, Fortis announced that it will not seek to rezone the former hospital site. Under current zoning, the developer has no obligation to build affordable housing.
"We have decided to move forward with an as-of-right redevelopment plan for the LICH site," said Fortis Property Group President Joel Kestenbaum in a statement Friday. "Based on the high demand for community facility space at this premier location, timing and other development factors, an as-of-right redevelopment is the most profitable. We will provide additional details in the near future as we finalize our plans."
In the past, Fortis as floated the possibility of dorms, parkland, a school, and retail.
"This is not the plan we wanted, and nobody won here," said de Blasio spokeswoman Melissa Grace.
Within the past year, the de Blasio administration has pushed for rezoning at the LIC Hospital site that would allow for greater density in exchange for some affordable housing—the type of project that's typified his affordable housing plan. Two plans presented by Fortis last spring—one in compliance with current zoning, the other not—got a cold response from community members who deemed the development too dense and tall for the neighborhood. The non-compliant plan called for 600 market-rate unions and 220 affordable units: a 60/40 split.
"This is going to be a decade-long battle," one man shouted during the developer's presentation. "This is war! Eighty percent of the people in this room are attorneys and they will be up your ass every step of the way."
Councilmember Brad Lander, who represents the neighborhood, told Politico Friday that he'd been out of touch with Fortis since early in the year, and would consider suing to block the development if final plans are comparable to the most recent ones he's seen.
"To move forward without having talked to anyone in the community in months, it continues a pattern of disrespect that made it difficult to trust them in negotiations from the beginning," he said.
NYU Langone has been operating an emergency care facility on the site since the hospital's closure. Regardless of the final mixed-use design, NYU will build a new small-scale facility on the property. "We engaged in a fight to save health care at this site, and locked in more than most thought possible," Grace stated Friday.
Over the summer, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara reportedly issued a subpoena to SUNY for all communications between the school and City Hall regarding the sale of the hospital site. The inquiry is part of a larger investigation into de Blasio's fundraising methods. De Blasio's since-disbanded political non-profit, Campaign for One New York, got sizable donations from the union SEIU 1199, which supported Fortis's bid.