Coney Island’s community board called on Wednesday night for Mayor Bloomberg to radically remake his controversial plan for the People’s Playground with concessions to its primary critic: the amusement area’s main landowner, Joe Sitt.
Technically, Community Board 13 voted to approve the mayor’s sweeping rezoning plan that calls for a new city-owned theme park between the Cyclone rollercoaster and the minor league baseball stadium, complemented by 15 acres of privately owned hotels, restaurants and year-round attractions, like an indoor water park.
But the board tacked on 20 amendments, demanding far larger retails stores, a ban on the use of eminent domain, and a rejection of a key part of the mayor’s scheme, the rezoning of some of Coney’s amusement zone to parkland.
The amendments, which are only advisory, are more compatible with Sitt’s vision for the faded amusement area.
Following the heated vote in Coney Island Hospital on Ocean Parkway, the mayor’s office released a mixed statement applauding the “yes” vote on one of Bloomberg’s signature development projects, but indicating the board’s amendments will be ignored.
“While input from the Community Board will no doubt strengthen the plan throughout the process, some of the recommendations made are counter to the plan’s goals, such as doing without the designation of parkland, which would prevent the amusement district from being permanent and reduce the amount of housing, retail and open space we can create outside of it,” Bloomberg said in the statement.
Sitt has alternated between haggling with the city over a price for the 10–1/2 acres he owns between Keyspan Park and the Cyclone, and Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk, and promoting his own $2-billion tourist Xanadu.
He said the outcome of the board’s vote was an improvement, but not a solution to the city’s rezoning.
“The community board’s actions are the beginning of an attempt to make a bad plan better,” said his spokesman, Stefan Friedman. “The recommendations by the community board are helpful, but the city’s plan remains fundamentally flawed and economically unviable.”
Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island), who is an ally of Sitt, lobbied the board heavily to adopt the changes to the city’s proposal. His opinion will probably be influential among his peers in the Council when the plan arrives there for its final vote after Borough President Markowitz and the City Planning Commission review it.
The community board’s other main amendments to the Bloomberg plan included banning construction taller than the landmark Parachute Jump, keeping the Keyspan Park parking lot as it is instead of building housing on it, and giving more help to the ailing Boardwalk and New York Aquarium.