Mayor heralds a new Coney

The Brooklyn Paper
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Coney Island will be restored to its former glory within the next few years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Wednesday.

On the boardwalk at West 15th Street, the mayor announced a plan to turn the seaside neighborhood into a year-round tourist attraction, complete with a revamped amusement park and boardwalk, diverse new businesses and a more developed residential community

He pledged an additional $50 million in city funding on top of $23 million previously promised. Borough President Marty Markowitz has committed $7 million and Rep. Jerrold Nadler committed $3.2 million in federal funds.

Councilman Domenic Recchia, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding Daniel Doctoroff, Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) Chairman Joshua Sirefman, Assemblywoman Adele Cohen, Community Board 13 and CIDC member Sheryl Robinson and Dick Zigun, the unofficial mayor of Coney Island and founder of the non-profit Coney Island USA, which is dedicated to preserving Coney Island’s History, were among the speakers at the event.

The $83.2 million facelift, which officials plan to complete by 2009, will include improved entertainment attractions, development of a multicultural community center with job training and recreational facilities and an increase in the number of affordable housing units on vacant city-owned property in the area.

“Coney Island is an icon in New York City,” said the mayor.

Some of the highlights of the blueprint for Coney Island’s future include:

•The transformation of Stillwell Avenue into Stillwell Midway, a grand public open space connecting existing amusements with new development.

•A redesigned Steeplechase Plaza incorporating new open space around the iconic Parachute Jump between Keyspan Park and the boardwalk. •New entertainment uses and retail amenities east of Keyspan Park intended to support the existing amusement attractions.

•More year-round activity on Surf Avenue including the possible addition of a hotel and spa.

•Improving both Surf and Mermaid avenues.

•Enhanced boardwalk activity with added cultural activities, changing facilities and connections to the beach and boardwalk, which will become Parachute Pavilion.

•Better integration of the New York Aquarium with the adjacent amusement area.

•Improvement of the area’s parking and transit infrastructure.

The CDIC will be working out zoning strategies and guidelines with the Department of City Planning, as part of the next step of the process.

“For future generations of Brooklynites, the best days are yet to come,” said Markowitz, adding that as a boy, Coney Island was his playground.

Among the crowd gathered on the boardwalk were several skeptical Coney Islanders, such as Luz Mejies and Cathy Phillips, who expressed fear that the new development might increase the rents and force out local residents and small businesses that are already there.

“I am concerned with where I live,” said Phillips. “How affordable will the rent be in the new affordable housing?”

“The rents will rise,” said Mejies. “It’s happening already.”

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