City to grab unused Coney Island land

Master of his domain: This shorefront lot between W.15 Street and MCU Park is one of the Coney Island properties Mayor DeBlasio says he will seize through eminent domain for city-backed redevelopment.

A city plan to seize unused shorefront land in Coney Island doesn’t go far enough, say local leaders.

Mayor DeBlasio will use eminent domain to force owners of three seaside lots to sell the land so he can make good on his predecessor’s 2009 proposal to expand the amusement area of the People’s Playground. But the city should claw back even more land for the public benefit, according to the area’s unofficial mayor.

“I think it’s a terrific idea,” said Boardwalk impresario Dick Zigun. “I just wished they would go further and take the Shore Theater.”

Zigun has long called for the city to forcibly take the crumbling, 90-year-old landmark from the heirs to late Coney Island developer Horace Bullard.

The local councilman agreed the city should intervene in the future of the Shore Theater.

“The land that is now being contested by the city is owned by the same landlord who owns the historic Shore Theater, which has been languishing in decrepit condition for many years,” said Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island). “They have not been responsive to numerous attempts to discuss the future of that site. If they had plans or ambitions to fix up their property, then the community would be all for it, but to let the land rot goes against everything that we’re working for to make Coney Island a year-round neighborhood.”

The city has been working for years to try and buy the area’s vacant and crumbling properties outright, but landlords have been holding out, hoping the garbage-filled lots will turn into golden eggs amid the Brooklyn’s development rush, Treyger said.

The councilman isn’t taking the mayor’s exercise of eminent domain powers lightly, but he said in this case, it’s warranted.

“It is always preferable for normal and regular real estate business to take place,” Treyger said. “But they’re just speculating to see how the market shapes up. It is extremely frustrating for residents and myself to walk by and see vacant lots holding back our ability to actualize a common vision for the future of our iconic neighborhood.”

The city will take possession of lots on W. 12, W. 15th, and W. 23rd streets, city officials said. One lot includes the former site of the original Thunderbolt Roller Coaster. It will be at least the second time the city exercised authority over the land — in 2000, then-mayor Rudy Giuliani razed the derelict wooden thrill ride that stood there since 1925.

The parcels are the last ones the city needs to execute a 2009 plan for an expanded entertainment district that includes parkland, additional amusements, and affordable housing, a parks spokesman said. It will be the realization of a major promise the city made to clean up and turn around Coney Island, Zigun said.

“Most neighborhoods that go through rezoning and big projects are lucky to get half of what was promised during the proposal,” Zigun said. “With these projects, Coney will get — in the amusement area — almost everything that was promised.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.

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