Friday, November 09, 2007

Coney Island: Amusing Park and Deride

The mayor has unveiled his long anticipated plan for the revitalization of Coney Island, and to say that there's a few kinks in the city's plan is probably an understatement, As the NY Times reports this morning, the plan calls for the designation of a fifteen acre parkland area that, "would create the nation’s largest urban amusement park, promote the development of stores and 4,500 apartments along Surf Avenue and preserve historic attractions like the Parachute Jump."

The proposal, if implemented, would be a dagger in the heart of Joe Sitt, the real estate developer who owns around 11 acres of land in and around the designated area. In a prepared statement, cited in the NY Daily News this morning, Sitt's company expressed its disappointment with the city's plan: "We're disappointed by the mayor's presentation, but are optimistic that a deal can be reached between the city, the land owners and the community to make Coney Island an even greater place to live and visit..."

According to Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, Sitt lacks the ability to run the planned amusement facility. As the Times reports: "Mr. Doctoroff said yesterday that the city wanted to find an experienced, world-class amusement park operator to run the district, which is “a very different business than building a shopping center.”

Which sets the stage for a major confrontation, since Sitt has a number of influential political allies that would complicate any eminent domain inspired city action. Given this dynamic, and the fact that the proposal needs to be vetted by the legislature since it calls for the creation of parkland, we can't agree with Rich Calder's assessment in today's Post: "The mayor's plan for a new, 21st century Coney Island is a death knell for developer Joe Sitt's controversial, $1.5 billion proposal to build a glitzy, Vegas-style entertainment complex in the heart of the amusement district."

Hardly. With major zoning and legislative hurdles, the city's grandiosity seems to us much like all the other Coney Island dreams-visions that sit gathering dust in some room down at the Department of City Planning. We're reminded of the dust-up over the city's effort to put a recycling facility at Gansevoort on the West Side-an area that has the same parkland situation as the Coney Island area will. All of the city's huffing and puffing hasn't budged the assembly opponents of that plan, and we envision the same thing happening with the Coney Island dream.

The fact remains that Joe Sitt, and a number of other property owners, will not be sitting around wringing their hands waiting for the municipal Repo man to knock on their door. The city bulldozer will not be coming to Coney Island anytime soon; not unless the property owners are brought into a deal that they can support.