Bloomy to the rescue?

The Brooklyn Paper
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Mayor Bloomberg put the city squarely in the center of the debate over the future of Coney Island on Thursday, seizing the heart of Joe Sitt’s vision of a glamourous, glitzy and expensive sea-front development while pushing the Brooklyn-based developer aside.

At first glance, the city’s vision doesn’t appear all that different from that of Sitt, who invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the last few years assembling prime Coney Island real-estate from outside the gate of the famous Cyclone roller coaster all the way to West 15th Street.

Some Coney Island stalwarts, including most of the area’s civic and elected leaders, were lining up against Sitt, who would have required city zoning changes to proceed with his hotel, entertainment, theme park and retail complex. They were fearful that Sitt would turn their “people’s playground” into a playground for the rich and famous.

Sitt will be well paid for his work, as the city would now buy his land with hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money — or with city-owned land further down Surf Avenue.

So the question remains: why would the city spend all that money to end up with something that it could have gotten from Sitt with a simple zoning change?

One glimpse into city’s rationale may come from Bloomberg’s take-no-prisoners Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff.

To Doctoroff, Sitt was simply not up to the job of building his $1.5-billion Xanadu.

“It’s a very different business building a shopping center than building an amusement area,” Doctoroff said.

Where this leaves the Coney freak show and the ricky rides of Astroland is anyone’s guess. But clearly, a Disneyeque vision is in play.

“We’ve talked to some leading amusement developers around the world, there’s definitely some interest,” Doctoroff said.

In fact, the city has already been negotiating with the “Danish Disney,” Tivoli.

Those who opposed Sitt’s vision from the outset pleaded with the city to get rid of him — and apparently they got their wish.

It just goes to show that the old adage holds true:

Be careful what you wish for, ’cause you just might get it.

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Reader Feedback

Oldmark says:
"So the question remains: Why would the city spend all that money to end up with something that it could have gotten from Sitt with a simple zoning change?"

That question doesn't remain at all. The answer is: once you make a "simple" zoning change to residential, then Sitt can do whatever he wants, regardless of whatever smokescreen plans he may have unveiled before hand. He's screwed the city in exactly the same way before.
Nov. 9, 2007, 12:17 pm
David Gratt says:
To the editors,

Your editorial "Bloomy to the Rescue?" asks where the Mayor's proposal for Coney Island leaves the freak show. This proposal leaves the freak show in the middle of the entertainment district of Coney Island. In late August of this year, Coney Island USA, parent organization of the freak show, pruchased it's building on the corner of Surf and West 12th Street with funding supplied by the city. The Freak Show, Mermaid Parade, Burlesque at the Beach and Coney Island Museum, are, because of the city's largess, safe in perpetuity.

At the same time, Coney island USA has also attempted to purchase a building owned by Thor Equities numerous times, only to have Thor derail negotiations late in the process.

Our experiences with the City and with Thor lead us to believe that the City has the best interests of Coney Island at heart, while Thor does not. While the plan that the city proposes is not perfectt, we believe that it is a better solution to the many issues that beset Coney Island than the vision promoted by Thor.

We look forward to working with the City to continue to improve their plan; and should Thor decide to work within the bounds of the City's proposal we look forward to working with them as well.


David Gratt
Managing Director
Coney Island USA
Nov. 9, 2007, 1:15 pm

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