Local Brooklyn politicians push developer’s zoning changes for Coney Island

March 16, 2009 at 1:58 pm Leave a comment

Local pols approved dramatic new changes to the city’s plan for Coney Island at a developer’s urging, infuriating city officials, sources said.

Thor Equities officials floated a half-dozen recommendations – and Community Board 13 even adopted some of the wording, city sources said.

“Having a for-profit developer write these zoning amendments is the equivalent of having a Big Tobacco lobbyist write anti-smoking legislation,” a city official said.

The developer’s changes included a controversial provision to allow 10,000 square foot retail of space along Surf Ave., sources said – a dramatic change that favors major retail chains at the expense of mom-and-pop operations, critics charged last week.

Thor Equities or other Joseph Sitt ventures paid more than $190,000 since 2005 to lobby Community Board 13 among other agencies, city records show. The community board’s votes are not binding, but they can affect the borough president and City Council, which must also vote on the plan.

Board District Manager Chuck Reichenthal denied the allegations of Thor Equities’ influence, saying no Coney Island developers or their agents demanded any of the 20 provisions the board approved last Wednesday.

“I was there when the 20 items were written,” Reichenthal said. “The developers were not in the room. They did not stand over us with whips and shovels. Some of the things … they may like; some of they may not.”

The seven-month long process to change Coney Island’s zoning began in January. The plan, which affects a 19-block area, seeks to revive the crumbling amusement parks with rides, hotels, shops and residential towers.

Thor spokesman Stefan Friedman said the board’s changes reflected opposition to the city’s plan.

“Clearly the community has serious problems with the city’s plan,” he said. “In order to get real results for Coney Island, the city, the community and the landowners must work together. Thor is committed to making that happen.”
BY Rachel Monahan With Jotham Sederstrom

Entry filed under: Brooklyn, Dive In, Public Waterfront. Tags: , , , , .

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