City owns up to Coney Island project potentially requiring eminent domain
The city’s Coney Island plan suffered a major setback Wednesday as officials admitted they had not ruled out the use of eminent domain to acquire land for the project.
The admission, which threatens property owned by developer Thor Equities, came as some City Council members strongly indicated they would vote against the zoning plan this month when it goes before the full Council.
“I’m not saying we will use eminent domain, but in fairness to your question, I’m not saying we won’t,” said flustered Economic Development Corp. President Seth Pinsky following repeated inquiries about land seizure from Council members.
Although the proposed 47-acre plan has always allowed for eminent domain, until now, city officials had repeatedly insisted seizing private property would not be necessary.
But during the tense hearing, Pinsky buckled under repeated inquiries about the possibility of seizing 10.5 acres of property owned by Thor Equities.
City officials have been in stalled negotiations with Thor to buy property standing in the way of the city’s vision for a revamped Coney, which would include rides, shops and hotels.
Thor Equities President Joe Sitt has repeatedly suggested all deals would be off unless the city decides to offer at least $165 million for the property.
However, city officials have insisted a longstanding offer of $105 million remains final – while saying they would not resort to eminent domain.
A lawyer for Thor Equities said during the public hearing he was not surprised by the admission by Pinsky yesterday, suggesting officials had said as much in private meetings.
“Despite stating on record that the city will not use eminent domain, we actually have been put on official notice by the city of their potential use of eminent domain to take Thor’s property, said Thor lawyer Jesse Masyr.
Meanwhile, several Council members – including mayoral hopeful Tony Avella, Simcha Felder and Helen Sears – suggested they would vote against the plan at a July 29 City Council session.
“I’m recommending to turn this down,” said Councilman Domenic Recchia (D-Coney Island), echoing others.
BY Jotham Sederstrom