BREAKING NEWS: City buys out Sitt (mostly) in Coney

Bloomy’s plan is full of holes
Department of City Planning

Mayor Bloomberg has sealed his deal to buy Joe Sitt out of Coney Island, purchasing seven acres of the speculator’s 12.5-acre Coney holdings for a whopping $95.6 million.

City officials will formally announce the deal on Thursday, the New York Times reported. A spokesman for the Economic Development Corporation confirmed the deal, but said more details would be made available tomorrow.

Buying out Sitt is a key component of the Bloomberg administration’s plan to jumpstart the long-stalled renaissance of Coney Island. Sitt had his own vision of a $2-billion, 24-7-365 Xanadu with hotels, malls, new rides and indoor attractions, but city officials refused to talk to him about the zoning change Sitt would need.

Instead, Bloomberg sought his own rezoning and negotiated for more than a year to use taxpayer dollars to buy plots of land that Sitt acquired since 2005. The Times described the purchase price of $300 per square foot as “a huge amount in the current market.”

Until this week’s deal, the two sides remained at a standoff, with the future of Coney Island in the balance.

Like Sitt, Bloomberg’s plan calls for rezoning Coney Island’s derelict lots — some of them part of this week’s purchase — in hopes of creating a gleaming city-owned amusement park surrounded by enclosed attractions like movie theaters, shopping or a water park for year-round visitors and 4,500 units of housing.

In July, the City Council passed the Bloomberg rezoning, even though the city did not yet own the land that it hopes to see redeveloped.

A city source said that the land buy would enhance Coney Island’s historic amusement district because the city now owns more than 92 percent of the land it needs to create a 12-acre outdoor amusement park.

That said, the city still needs to spend more to acquire land for its full 27-acre amusement and entertainment district. Sitt will be able to develop his remaining lots under the new zoning.

For now, though, Sitt opponents were cautiously optimistic.

“The city’s purchase of land for a permanent open-air amusement area is a critical first step towards the revitalization of Coney Island — but it is not enough,” said Juan Rivero, the spokesman for Save Coney Island, an activist group.

“The city’s planned outdoor amusement area remains confined to a narrow 12-acre strip of land, squeezed in by a proposed multi-story entertainment mall and blocked off by a wall of proposed high-rise hotels rising up to 27 stories. Until the outdoor amusement area is expanded and the hotels are removed, the city’s plan would permanently compromise Coney Island’s potential to once again become a world-class amusement destination.”

Rivero called on the city to purchase the rest of Sitt’s land so that the amusement area is no longer “subject to the whims of real estate speculation.”