Coney Island waits for the word
Expect some real amusements come January 7 and 8 when the Coney Island Development Corporation holds three public information sessions on the city’s proposed Coney Island rezoning framework.
The meeting comes about a month and a half after the CIDC’s initial informational meeting on Nov. 19 at Coney Island Hospital was abruptly aborted due to an overwhelming attendance.
The city’s rezoning plan area includes 47 acres and 19 blocks, and involves the de-mapping of about 31 acres of property and turning it into city-owned parkland.
Meanwhile, one property owner confirmed a published report that the city did begin to talk money with him.
Horace Bullard, said he had a meeting with city officials last week, in which they indicated their desire to buy about an acre of the property he owns just east of KeySpan Park between Surf Avenue and the boardwalk currently zoned C7.
The city wants the acre on the boardwalk, he said.
“No figure was mentioned. We want to be a team player. We’re certainly not going to be in the way of the city and proposing what they are going to do there,” said Bullard.
Bullard, who also owns the old Shore Theatre on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues, speculated the city could raise money to buy out such developers a Joe Sitt.
Sitt’s company, Thor Equities, owns much of the amusement area between Stillwell Avenue and West 8th Street, and Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk.
The city could do this through the sale of city-owned land just west of KeySpan Park, said Bullard.
Bullard said there are a number of developers who would buy that property for residential development and the city could use the money to at least offset the cost of buying amusement area property.
Also supporting the city’s plan is Taconic Investment Partners, who own the old Washington Bath House, which is zoned residential, but still has no FAR set.
The site is located on West 21st Street between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk.
“Taconic Investment Partners will continue to work with the City, local elected officials and the community-at-large to create a broad range of residential and retail opportunities for Coney Island,” said Charles Bendit, CEO of Taconic Investment Partners.
“The development we envision will bring thousands of new construction and permanent jobs to Coney Island as well as enhanced access to the waterfront, and will turn vacant and underutilized space to productive use,” he added.
Other property owners in the way of the city’s plan have not had as much luck with the city.
“The city hasn’t reached out to anybody here yet,” said Gargiulo’s Restaurant owner Nino Russo, whose family has owned the 100-year-old restaurant since 1965.
Russo was referring to the parking lot for the restaurant across the street, which the family also owns, between West 15th and West 16th Street, and Surf and Mermaids Avenues, which the city plans on taking and making into a street.
Kenneth Hochman, spokesperson for the Vourderis family, which for three generations has been the owners and operators of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, also on land slated for de-mapping into parkland, said there have been no substantial discussions.
All the conversations with the city have been most cordial, cooperative and of a happy holiday nature, said Hochman.
“There’s a tremendous interest into how this city will roll out their plan. We don’t have enough detail to even know if ‘concern’ is the right word,” said Hochman.
“We have tremendous interest and look forward to learning more. The family is already hard at work preparing for opening day on March 23,” he added.
Thor Equity spokesperson Stefan Friedman said meetings between Sitt and the city are continuing and that more are upcoming.
Turning back to the upcoming meetings, State Senator Carl Kruger called the CIDC a “kangaroo court” and dismissed the rescheduled meetings as the “same old product wrapped up in new paper.”
Kruger was largely responsible with flooding the Nov. 19 meeting with protestors.
“They formulate a plan and come to you to sell it – and that’s not planning,” the senator said.
Kruger refused to comment about what actions he might take when the new meetings roll around in January saying that “everything was fluid.”
“Now it’s going to be for us in an organized fashion to move forward with an agenda,” he said.
New York City Council hopeful Brian Gotlieb, who opposes the city’s rezoning plan, welcomed the new round of meetings but said that residents of Coney Island should be given preferred speaking time.
“People should not be shut out from speaking about the plan,” he said. “But people from Coney Island should be given the first opportunity. They are the people who are going to be affected the most.”
Sister Connie Hulla, is pastor of the 50-year-old Coney Island Gospel Assembly at 2828 Neptune Avenue. From her perspective neither Joe Sitt’s billion dollar plan or the Bloomberg administration’s bold rezoning proposal offers anything to the thousands of families living in deplorable, crime-ridden conditions inside Coney Island’s high rise housing projects.
“This is where we live so to embrace the new Coney Island, it’s like a foreign country to us,” Pastor Hulla said. “We are not in the percentile of people that will be able to facilitate the new Coney Island. We really don’t fit.”
The schedule for the information sessions are:
From 6:30-9 p.m., Monday January 7 at the Lincoln High School Auditorium, 2800 Ocean Parkway.
The two Tuesday January 8 sessions are slated for between 3-5 p.m. at the Coney Island Hospital Auditorium, 2601 Ocean Parkway; and between 7-9 p.m., at the Lincoln High School Auditorium, 2800 Ocean Parkway.
By Stephen Witt & Joe Maniscalco