A room with no view: Coney Creek depot could become a hotel

The city wants to convert this bus depot on Coney Island Creek off of Stillwell Avenue into a hotel, housing or retail space.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

A vacant bus depot on the banks of the muddy Coney Island Creek could become Brooklyn’s next hotel if a city plan to redevelop the site comes to fruition.

The Economic Development Corporation is seeking bids on the city-owned property on the creek off Stillwell Avenue between the Belt Parkway and Neptune, which is zoned for industrial uses, housing, office space, and retail — but the prospect of a hotel is something that has caught some people’s eyes, even though the location seems like a weird fit.

“If a hotel would go in there that would be great,” said Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island). “But builders have told me the location [isn’t ideal].”

Coney Island boosters said the neighborhood needs a hotel, but conceded that the site presents challenges for hotel developers because it’s located in an ugly industrial area four blocks from the historic amusement district.

“Anything that’s going to clean up Coney Island is a positive step,” said Nino Russo, one of the owners of Gargiulo’s Restaurant on W. 15th Street. “But putting something down there by the creek? I don’t see what’s attractive [about that location].”

The 1.6-mile Coney Island Creek is lined on either side with car dealerships and parking lots, as well as a Home Depot store and a Pathmark supermarket. The channel recently underwent a state-led cleanup to remove toxins like coal tar that Brooklyn Borough Gas, a gas plant that operated on its banks from the 1890s to the 1950s, dumped into the waterway.

But it wouldn’t be the first time Brooklyn’s hot hotel market has landed rooms for rent in out-of-way locations.

There is the Brooklyn Motor in across from the sprawling toll plaza at the entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, a Sleep Inn in Sunset Park near Lutheran Medical Center and the Gowanus Expressway, and a La Quinta Inn a stone’s throw from the fetid Gowanus Canal.

City officials said the bus depot is one of several under-utilized sites outside of the amusement district that were singled out for redevelopment but not rezoned with the blocks surrounding the beach and Boardwalk.

“By making another currently under-utilized piece of property available for development, we have an opportunity to build upon the progress we have already witnessed,” said Seth Pinsky, the president of the city development corporation.

In its continued march to make Coney Island a year-round destination with hotels, restaurants and new rides, the city has opened two new amusements parks, is overhauling the businesses on the Boardwalk and plans to reopen the famous B&B Carousell inside of the under-construction Steeplechase Plaza in 2013.

Coney Island boasted countless hotels in its heyday, including the 14-story Half Moon Hotel on the Boardwalk at W. 29th Street, but has not had a place for visitors to stay since Sitt bulldozed the Shore Hotel on Surf Avenue and Henderson’s Walk in 2010.

Responses from developers interested in buying the city-owned site are due by Feb. 13. The property, a space about the size of a football field that’s sits between Stillwell Avenue and W. 15th Street — across the street from the Belt Parkway — can also be converted into a row of stores, offices or an apartment building, city officials said.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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