Cobble Hill

Landmarks Preservation Commission approves condo plan for LICH jewel Polhemus Memorial Clinic

Commission says no balconies allowed

September 8, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On Tuesday, Fortis Property Group received the Landmarks Preservation Commission's approval — with some modifications — for its condo-conversion plan for the Polhemus Memorial Clinic, a former LICH building. Rendering by BKSK Architects via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
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The ink is barely dry on LICH sale-closing documents — but condo-construction planning is already moving forward.

Fortis Property Group, which just purchased Long Island College Hospital’s Cobble Hill complex for $240 million, showed off its residential-conversion plans for a prime former LICH building on Tuesday.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), to which the plans were presented, unanimously approved Fortis’ proposed changes to the exterior of the Polhemus Memorial Clinic at a public hearing at the agency’s Lower Manhattan headquarters.

Concerned community residents did win one victory in relation to the Polhemus condo plan. Commissioners said No Way, José to metal balconies that architect of record Stephen Byrns of BKSK Architects wanted to add to the windows on two secondary façades of the French Renaissance Revival-style building at 350 Henry St.

“They should be gone,” Landmarks Preservation Commissioner John Gustafsson said of the proposed balconies.

In testimony, Cobble Hill resident Laurel Burr called the proposed balconies “inappropriate” and said they could become “eyesores” when crammed with condo owners’ belongings.

There’s no precedent for balconies in the historic neighborhood, testified Franklin Stone, former president of the Cobble Hill Association, who called the planned balconies “ugly, cheap appendages.”

The Polhemus building is one of the finest architectural jewels in the LICH property portfolio that Fortis just acquired.

The eye-catching red-brick and limestone building, constructed in 1896-1897, originally housed a free clinic for poor people and laboratories and lecture rooms for medical education. Caroline Herriman Polhemus founded the facility as a tribute to her late husband, Henry Ditmas Polhemus.

Fortis plans to create just 17 apartments in the eight-story, 43,187-square-foot building, according to plans filed with the city Buildings Department. They will be condos, an architect for the project said at a Community Board 6 meeting in July.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center — the final hospital operator to own 150-year-old LICH — sold shut-down LICH to Fortis following a two-year legal battle with community groups and health-care professionals.

BKSK plans to make other changes to Polhemus Memorial, as the architecture firm calls the proposed condo project:

* The removal of a mid-20th-Century third-floor pedestrian bridge over Amity Street that connects the Polhemus building to another former LICH building

* The enlargement of small windows on the Amity Street side of the building — the LPC said some of them should only be slightly enlarged

* The construction of new bulkheads on the roof and the removal of skylights to flatten the roof so condo owners would be able to use it for outdoor amenity space

Because the building is located in the Cobble Hill Historic District Extension, its exterior cannot be changed without the LPC’s blessing.

SUNY Downstate bought the Polhemus building for $29.91 million in 2011, city Finance Department records indicate.

When the Polhemus clinic was built near the end of the 19th Century, it had one of the first X-ray machines in existence, according to the LPC’s 1988 designation report for the Cobble Hill Historic District Extension.


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