Breaking news out of Coney Island: The Bloomberg Administration has backtracked towards allowing would-be Vegas-by-the-Boardwalk builder Joe Sitt, the amusement area’s principal landowner, to create a world-class, 24-7-365 attraction that will revive the fabled “People’s Playground” — within the parameters of the city-crafted “Coney Island Strategic Development Plan” that has broad support in the community.
Typically, people say they hate to say “We told you so,” but in this case, we’re happy to do so.
For months, this page has been calling for the city to fix the non-starter of a plan that Mayor Bloomberg unveiled back in November.
That absurdly over-ambitious scheme called for the city to buy Sitt’s land — at a cost of close to $200 million! — and hire a different theme park developer to double the size of the existing amusement zone.
At the time, we argued that Sitt, who would need a city zoning change to realize his $1.5-billion Vegasized Xanadu, should be allowed to send his plan through the city’s rigorous land-use review process — where the public, elected officials and bona-fide city planners could hack away at it until it was honed to perfection.
It’s this very public-review process that the borough’s other mega-project, Atlantic Yards, was allowed to skirt — to that project’s, and the public’s, great disservice.
For months, the city clung to its own vision for Coney Island, one that deliberately excluded Sitt. In the press, city officials bad-mouthed Sitt and his vision, even though their own development plan — which called for a movie theater, hotels, a new roller coaster and an indoor water park — proposed many of the same things that Sitt was promising.
Finally, the city offered up a compromise this week that would still enlarge the existing amusement zone and create a glitzy attraction that lives up to Coney Island’s honky-tonk past — but allow it to be built by the area’s existing landowners, including Sitt.
We still have some concerns — including that Sitt could flip his land once the area is rezoned or, worse, restrict his amusement zone to paying customers only — but the current plan is certainly a big step forward for Coney Island.