Cobble Hill

‘Hi-rise crusher?’ Will Cobble Hill Association’s new attorney help temper Fortis?

LICH lawyer Jim Walden hired to advise community

August 5, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Jim Walden, the attorney who worked to save Long Island College Hospital, has been hired by the Cobble Hill Association to advise the community on its options in the LICH development process. Photo courtesy of Walden Macht & Haran LLP
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Jim Walden, the high-powered attorney who worked pro bono to save Long Island College Hospital (LICH), has been hired by the Cobble Hill Association to advise the community on its legal options as a developer prepares to build on the hospital site.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Cobble Hill Association (CHA) confirmed the hiring, first reported in Capital New York.

Walden represented six Brooklyn community groups, including the CHA, in the two-year legal battle to prevent the state from closing the historic hospital.

The community’s legal battle proved unsuccessful as the state threw its weight behind the sale. The property was sold by the State University of New York (SUNY) to Fortis Development Group for $240 million.

Fortis plans to develop the property as co-ops. The negotiated settlement maintains emergency medical services, provided by NYU Langone, at the site.

LICH served a fast-growing area stretching from Red Hook to Williamsburg, including Downtown Brooklyn.

During the LICH fight, Walden was a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where he served as co-chair of the White Collar Defense and Investigations practice prior to co-founding the Walden Macht & Haran law firm.

In 2013, CHA declared Walden and attorney Adam Cohen, a senior associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, to be “Cobble Hill Heroes” for their heroic efforts fighting the sale.

Cobble Hill, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features homes and churches dating back to the early 1800s. The Landmarks Preservation Commission, in its 1969 designation report, found that the neighborhood “retains an aura of the past with its many tree-lined streets,” and that it “has the pleasing quality of relatively low uniform building height.”

Now, unhappy Cobble Hill residents are facing the possibility of massive development in the middle of the low-rise neighborhood. Fortis can build a tower of 40-plus stories as-of-right, since the LICH campus had been excluded from the Cobble Hill Historic District to provide the hospital with flexibility to expand.

In 2013, Brooklyn elected officials called on the Bloomberg Administration to extend Cobble Hill’s 50-foot height limit to cover the LICH campus. Their request fell on deaf ears.

In February, Walden told the Brooklyn Eagle that he will continue to advance the community’s interest.

“Brooklyn has been a critical part of my professional development since I began in the U.S. Attorney’s office,” Walden said.


Fortis’ Development Plans

Fortis has presented two options for the redevelopment of the LICH site. The first is an “as-of-right” option, which does not require public approvals. This would include about 400 market-rate units, including a 44-story condo in the middle of the brownstone neighborhood.

The second option would require rezoning and the ULURP process. This would roughly double the number of residential units and include affordable housing units, space for a public school, increased park space and more small retail. A rezoning would require review by the Community Board, Borough President, and City Planning Commission and approval by the City Council.

In late July, officials representing the area issued a statement calling both options “dramatically out-of-scale with the adjacent Cobble Hill Historic District, which has a height limit of 50 feet (in each case, the tallest building Fortis proposes would be over 40 stories).”

 In either scenario, NYU Langone would also build an approximately 108,000 square-foot health center at the corner of Atlantic and Hicks.

CHA is hosting a public meeting on the redevelopment of the LICH site on Thursday August 6 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Brooklyn Montessori School at 185 Court Street, at Bergen Street, in Cobble Hill. The meeting will include a brief presentation of the options put forth by Fortis, followed by opportunities for community feedback and discussion.

Check back for a statement from the Cobble Hill Association.

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