After Coney Island Deal, Sitt Also Holds Red Hook Cards
I don’t know their names or how many there are, but one can bet that there were some city employees who unexpectedly spent last weekend getting ready for a trip.
This happened because the city and Coney Island landowner Joe Sitt have finally cut a deal. Part of that deal is that the city will now shop around for a developer to create a year-round amusement complex on Coney Island.
And guess what group is meeting this week in Las Vegas? The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Whether this timely trade show was the reason an agreement was reached, we don’t know, but it’s a good thing that it happened late last week.
The deal — that the city will pay $95.6 million for seven critically situated acres in the heart of a city site in order to build a whole new Coney Island show-business scene — clears the deck for that effort to go forward.
Pushing and shoving took place during the past several months between City Hall and Sitt because Sitt had cleverly bought up about 12 acres of prime-sited land right in the middle of things.
Since the city’s concept is to also build a new residential and commercial Coney Island around the amusement center, it wasn’t a matter of who would create a better amusement center. The city, for various reasons, needs to be in charge of the whole shooting match. But Sitt still owns more than five acres near everything, which, when matters financially improve, he can either sell for more than he can now, or he can actually build something for a change.
That last comment is not intended as a snide remark about Joe Sitt, a delightful person to be around and also one of the smartest or luckiest guys in town.
I first met Sitt in 2001 when he plunked down $25 million for the former Albee Square Mall site in Downtown Brooklyn. He had heard about the downtown rezoning plan and gambled that it would go through, making the site much more valuable.
Well, guess what! The zoning went through, and Sitt sold the place for $125 million. By anyone’s standard, that’s a nifty return on investment.
Down in Coney Island he bought another parcel for $13 million. Then, 14 months later, he sold it for $90 million — another super return on investment.
He didn’t make a comparable killing when the city bought his land last week, but one can bet he’s not shedding tears about the whole thing.
He probably is bemused by the one-liner that he’s the developer who hasn’t developed a thing. Well, there’s one more conundrum Sitt is involved in. He owns the former Revere Sugar site in Red Hook, about as valuable a place as anything else in the city.
This site is across an inlet from Greg O’Connell’s showplace Beard Street warehouse. It is also between two retail giants — Fairway and IKEA. So what is he going to do there, and when?
In one scenario, he doesn’t have to do a thing except answer his phone. People with all kind of different interests, have got to be fascinated about that property, and what happens there could determine the kind of future Red Hook will have.
A residential development will tilt future development in that direction. If there is another retail center, that will set the course for that amazing peninsula.
And now, in Coney Island, we can watch the pushes and pulls, the arguments and acrimony, and all the pros and cons of the saga sure to follow. Take notes.
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By Denis Holt