Mayor Bloomberg put the city squarely in the center of the debate over the future of Coney Island on Thursday, seizing the heart of Joe Sitt’s vision of a glamourous, glitzy and expensive sea-front development while pushing the Brooklyn-based developer aside.
At first glance, the city’s vision doesn’t appear all that different from that of Sitt, who invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the last few years assembling prime Coney Island real-estate from outside the gate of the famous Cyclone roller coaster all the way to West 15th Street.
Some Coney Island stalwarts, including most of the area’s civic and elected leaders, were lining up against Sitt, who would have required city zoning changes to proceed with his hotel, entertainment, theme park and retail complex. They were fearful that Sitt would turn their “people’s playground” into a playground for the rich and famous.
Sitt will be well paid for his work, as the city would now buy his land with hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money — or with city-owned land further down Surf Avenue.
So the question remains: why would the city spend all that money to end up with something that it could have gotten from Sitt with a simple zoning change?
One glimpse into city’s rationale may come from Bloomberg’s take-no-prisoners Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff.
To Doctoroff, Sitt was simply not up to the job of building his $1.5-billion Xanadu.
“It’s a very different business building a shopping center than building an amusement area,” Doctoroff said.
Where this leaves the Coney freak show and the ricky rides of Astroland is anyone’s guess. But clearly, a Disneyeque vision is in play.
“We’ve talked to some leading amusement developers around the world, there’s definitely some interest,” Doctoroff said.
In fact, the city has already been negotiating with the “Danish Disney,” Tivoli.
Those who opposed Sitt’s vision from the outset pleaded with the city to get rid of him — and apparently they got their wish.
It just goes to show that the old adage holds true:
Be careful what you wish for, ’cause you just might get it.