A state senator who opposes Mayor Bloomberg’s Coney Island redevelopment plan claimed victory at the first public hearing on the proposal Monday night, boasting that he was able to shut down the meeting by bussing in hundreds of people to the event.
“Score one for the good guys,” state Sen. Carl Kruger (D–Bensonhurst) shouted to his supporters after the Coney Island Development Corporation hastily canceled the meeting. “We won the ground war. You made a point tonight, and that is that Bloomberg isn’t going to push his Manhattan plans on Brooklyn without hearing from Brighton Beach, Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay.”
More than 150 people had RSVP’d to attend the scheduled meeting at Coney Island Hospital, where officials from the City Hall-run CIDC planned to show off Bloomberg’s proposal to residents for the first time.
But Kruger was ready. Days before the meeting, he said Bloomberg’s vision was similar to “many failed plans” to revitalize Coney Island considered over the last 50 years and predicted it was “headed for the file cabinet.”
He also raised the central question many are wondering about the mayor’s proposal: How much will it cost to buy out developer Joe Sitt, whose Thor Equities has spent somewhere between $100 and $200 million to buy land in Coney’s amusement zone — land that the mayor now wants to buy, rezone as parkland, and have an outside theme park operator develop as an all-year attraction.
A member of Kruger’s staff boasted that the senator brought almost 500 people from Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay and Gravesend to storm the meeting.
After Coney Island Development Corporation President Lynn Kelly announced that the meeting had been scrubbed, Kruger denied that his goal all along had been to shut it down.
“We brought people from the community to open the meeting up,” Kruger told The Brooklyn Paper. “Not to shut it down.”
Kruger’s “community” included more than a dozen men wearing hats that read, “The Bloomberg Plan: How much $? How long? Who pays.” It is unclear where the men came from or what group they represented.
Kruger suggested that CIDC scheduled the meeting at the hospital to keep the crowd small so they could cherry-pick local residents who were friendly to the mayor’s plan.
“They blocked the first person that came off the elevator that was not one of their people,” Kruger said. “That sends a clear message about whether they were truly planning a public forum.”
But Kelly disagreed: “I’m disappointed that the true members of the community who put their time and effort to come and listen to us who didn’t get to because busloads of unknown people showed up unexpectedly,” she said, adding that the decision to cancel and reschedule the meeting was a judgment call made by her organization based on recommendations from the police and fire departments and hospital officials.
Eliot Wofse, who lives in the area and once worked on the amusements at Coney Island, was one of the people who lost his chance to discuss the plan. He said he had been invited to the meeting by CIDC, but added that he was not friendly to the Bloomberg proposal.
“People aren’t happy with the Bloomberg plan because it was sprung on the community,” Wofse said.