City planners have thrown up a roadblock to an ambitious plan to turn Coney Island’s rundown amusement area into a Vegas-style theme park complete with a hotel, a new roller-coaster, entertainment venues and hundreds of units of housing.
The housing, apparently, is the problem.
The city Economic Development Corporation said this week that the still-vague residential component of Joe Sitt’s $2-billion housing-and-honky tonk plan may not be compatible with an ongoing city redevelopment plan for the neighborhood and its historic amusement area.
“The city’s chief goal is to support the amusement area and we have serious concerns about how residential fits in with an enhanced amusement area,” said an EDC official who did not want to be named.
“[Sitt] wants residential because that’s where he gets the most bang for his buck, but we’re not convinced the housing is necessary.”
Sitt’s Thor Equities would need a zoning change before it could build residential units on the dozen or so acres it owns in Coney Island.
As The Brooklyn Paper reported last year, the housing appears to be the sticking point. Thor’s own surveys show that 80 percent of Coney residents support the mini-Vegas plan, but a sizeable minority — 38 percent — said it did not want the luxury housing that Sitt says he needs to turn the the busy-in-summer, dead-in-winter neighborhood into a year-round attraction.
“We’ve been saying for years that we want to keep the amusements in Coney, not see it get turned into condos,” Chuck Reichenthal, district manager for Community Board 13, told The Paper at the time.
A spokesman for Thor Equities did not return calls from The Paper this week. But on Wednesday, Thor spokesman Lee Silberstein told the New York Post that the company’s plans aren’t “a financially feasible investment” without the high-rise housing along Surf Avenue.
“Everybody wants Coney Island to be revitalized, and housing has got to be a part of it,” he said.
It’s the first time that the quiet negotiations between city planners and Thor Equities have burst into the public realm. But it may not be the last.
“At the end of the day, Thor has to conform to our plan for Coney Island, not the other way around,” said the EDC official.
Thor Equities did release new renderings this week that reveal details of its amusement center that it hopes to build on the land it bought from Astroland last year.
The drawing — which completely de-emphasizes the residential towers that would front Surf Avenue — shows the usual mix of scream machines, carousels and a water ride, plus a bizarre roller coaster that appears to go straight down into the ground only to resurface in the middle of the famed Boardwalk.
Engineers say fitting the coaster below Coney’s historic wooden walkway should be as a slice of funnel cake.
“It’s a totally feasible design,” said Michael Finney, technical design director for Thinkwell Design. “We’ll just dig out the earth and drop it right in there.”
— with Ariella Cohen
©2007 Community News Group
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