Rally against Coney Island condos
From sultry burlesque dancers to towering stilt walkers, the denizens of Coney Island’s boardwalk will rally in Manhattan today to draw attention to their escalating fight against a plan to build condominiums in place of some of the seaside community’s amusements.
“People who love the history of Coney Island don’t want to see the amusements and rides diminished,” said Omar Robau, editor of the blog Kinetic Carnival, which covers Coney Island. “It’s obvious now the main issue is the residential buildings, the condos.”
Robau has been tracking the conflict between real estate developer Joseph Sitt’s $2-billion plan for Coney Island and residents who think that vision will steal the area’s historic soul. Sitt, who now owns most of the core real estate along the boardwalk, has been pushing the city to rezone it for residential use. So far the city has refused, saying condos are not compatible with the rides and games that made Coney Island famous.
But Thor Equities, Sitt’s development company, said it needs to include condos in any Coney Island development plan to make it profitable. “The greater the amount of residential [space] allowed, the larger the scope of the amusement component,” said spokesman Tom Corsillo in an e-mail statement.
The battle is coming to a head as the boardwalk’s historic Astroland Park reopens Sunday for its final summer before it is torn down as part of the development plans.
“Coney Island is broken and it needs to be redeveloped, but it doesn’t need condos in the core. It needs rides,” said Dick Zigun, founder of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. “What you need here is an amusement park worthy of the brand name Coney Island. It’s got to be loud, urban and very New York. It’s got to be spectacular.”
Starting at 11 a.m. today, marchers will gather at City Hall and then march up Broadway, chanting “No condos for Coney!” while wearing costumes that display “the creativity that signifies Coney Island,” according to the Web site of organizer Save Coney Island, myspace.com/saveconeyisland.
Thor’s critics say the company has forced local merchants to sign gag orders as a condition of renewing their leases. Others say they are concerned that the company is bulldozing large swaths of land with the intention of creating urban blight and forcing the city’s hand to approve the rezoning.
BY JUSTIN ROCKET SILVERMAN
March 30, 2007NEWSDAY
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