The city is moving forward with a controversial plan to spend hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to buy out Coney Island’s principal landowner and end a years-long standoff to control the amusement area’s destiny.
Joe Sitt’s company, Thor Equities, has gobbled up 10-1/2 acres of land since 2005 in the hopes of developing a Vegas-style resort of hotels, rides and shopping — but Sitt’s plan, which would require a rezoning, was blocked by the Bloomberg Administration in favor of a city-owned theme park along the Boardwalk.
The city, of course, couldn’t realize that vision without first acquring Sitt’s land. And now, it appears that the developer will welcome an offer.
“We are having positive discussions with the city,” said Thor’s spokesman Stefan Friedman in a statement.
The New York Post reported on Monday that the city might pay up to $250 million for Sitt’s land, which he bought for about $100 million, but several sources said the city would pay less.
The two camps were at loggerheads over who would control Coney’s destiny, with the city interested in acquiring five acres from Sitt that fell within the area targeted for the city-owned theme park.
But now, the city is willing to also buy the Thor holdings in the area designed for private developers to build hotels, restaurants, arcades and other attractions that the city says would make Coney Island a tourist magnet throughout the year.
These additional acres will cost the city tens of millions extra than it had intended to pay to launch its grand plan.
Still, the city’s plan is held in higher esteem than Thor’s among a vocal group of Coney Island boosters who want to see as many rides and games in the area than high-rise hotels and shopping — though the city plan includes both.
The city has long held Sitt in low esteem, even as he bought up Coney’s core.
Without mentioning Sitt or his company by name, the mayor suggested that his rival had no interest in preserving the beachfront amusement area.
“There are private developers [in Coney Island] who have their own economic interests and … we’re trying to reconcile property values with what’s in the public interest,” he said in September.
The mayor has momentum on his side.
The Coney Island Economic Development Corporation last month purchased an acre of land used by Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park that Sitt had failed to buy for $11 million.