So what was so wrong with the condos?
Last year, Coney Island’s self-styled savior, Joe Sitt, presented a stunning plan to transform the area’s rundown amusement area into a $1.5-billion glitzy, Vegas-style, all-year theme park that would put new hotels, movie theaters, rides and attractions, arcades and restaurants — oh, and 900 units of luxury housing — on land in and around the decaying Astroland amusement park.
Funny how the housing — of all things — was the sticking point. City officials said they would never approve the rezoning Sitt needed as long he insisted on the housing units.
So this week, Sitt was back, trotting out his newest plan — which calls for the same carnival mix, but with an extra hotel instead of the housing.
Now we all know that Coney Island can’t support three hotels, least of all the “time-share” inn that Sitt just added to the plan. That’s why pretty much everyone in the neighborhood believes that Sitt will eventually convert at least one of those hotels into the condos he wanted in the first place.
It’s a high-stakes game of chicken:
When one of the 30-story hotels fails to be profitable, the city won’t force Sitt to tear it down, but will begrudgingly allow him to convert the hotel into residential apartments.
So why not let him build those apartments now? Coney Island businesspeople object to the condos because they believe that new tenants will move to the neighborhood for the excitement, but then complain about the noise, trash, late-night theatrics and their tattoo-covered freak-show neighbors.
But we give Sitt’s would-be tenants a bit more credit than that. If they choose to live in Sitt’s vibrant, 24-hour, all-year entertainment attraction, they will know what they’re getting into. Like the thousands of people who have moved into condos along the hardly quiet Las Vegas Strip, we think Sitt could easily find people who want to buy an apartment where the action is — and then won’t complain when that action is loud and in their faces.
But the larger issue is that the city needs to let the market — not some amusement area “leaders” who have been powerless to check Coney’s steady decline — decide what is best for the amusement area.
If people want to move to honky-tonk Coney Island, the city needs to let Joe Sitt build the housing they’re demanding.