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Thread: Coney Island "Renaissance"

  1. #391

    Smile new ideas and existing issues for development

    I would like to thank the other members for posting news items - its hard to find good local news - but I am always especially interested to hear about Coney Island. We need to get News 12 - brooklyn to hang around the hood more.

    Over time I have kept track of the revitalization plans for Coney Island, and enjoyed the interest from multiple groups in the hopes that the neighborhood would be improved upon, and perhaps even restored to its former glory. Seeing yellow school buses parked on beach front property was an embarrassment and led many residents to believe nothing would ever be done. However, I am glad to see that someone is taking initiative to change things for the better.

    As an engineer in the design and construction industry, I have spent some time considering options, plans, and schemes for the larger context- a Coney Island Master Plan. This would fit within the guidelines as set forth by Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC2030. This is part of the opening to a letter I am writing to planners and the CIDC in the hopes I can contribute to the 'renaissance'. The major issues with the area will be addressed in detail, and these are summarized:

    *ENVIRONMENTAL - flooding, erosion, pollution(CI creek), preservation**
    *TRANSPORTATION - traffic is a nightmare and limits all kinds of positive growth, needs major attention before any new development is added. There are plenty of options available for improvements - some are long term some are far out there...
    *ECONOMIC DIVERSITY - why is this a ghetto(duh)? can we focus on the middle class...
    *ENERGY - in a nutshell this coastal community has access to all 4 elements - 3 of which can be used to harvest renewable energy. Enough potential exists to replace annual electrical usage for the entire community. New developments can and should exhibit this.

    Some new innovations that I would like to bring to the table - Environmental Guidelines for all New Development. How would we like all new buildings to be 'green', or environmentally sustainable and naturally attractive? I would! This is very simple - Joe Sitt (if he is still serious) should jump on board.

    Basic problems with current development plan:
    -buildings are too high compared to parachute jump
    -buildings do not have boardwalk frontage, but this is essential for cafes/restaurants/lounges
    -needs to show facility and infrastructure info(pre-schematic engineering)
    -how is this going to draw people here in the winter?
    -does not address any transportation issues, CIDC needs to be more thorough here (please dont refer to the DOT - get a private consultant who has a clue)

    I have to admit - I think what Thor is working on can benefit the community - amusements, hotels and retail are the key - even commercial. But it must be carefully considered in the big picture - ie what is the future of all of coney island? its more than the few acres that make up the amusement district. If we rebuild the central amusement district, how do we preserve the identity and the assets (people, environment etc), and provide new facilities for entertainment and hospitality. Were doing some work for Wyndham on a hotel with timeshares in Port Imperial NJ - this is one possibility, and we know that the only reason people go to NJ is to sleep and get a nice view of NYC.

    Eugenious has some very interesting and good points. Economics and environment are key issues - and Sitt is no slouch. I would prefer that anyone stating facts should indicate their source - Eugenious is full of opinions - please dont confuse this with facts. If they think they make an annual ROI better than 10% for the next fifty years they will do it. Whether the neighborhood is underwater or struck with major hurricanes - they want to make money. I think the sale of some of these properties was totally over-priced/inflated, and if Thor can flip for a profit they will. If thats the case - I would recommend the NYC-EDC use the laws of Eminent Domain to strip the land from Thor. Theres nothing easier for the Feds to make headlines by protecting a community filled with public housing from a real-estate developer who caters to the rich.

    I have many interesting ideas for the community - from housing to energy to commercial development. We also have many opportunities to preserve our natural assets, and enhance them as well. This will make the place much more pleasant.

    I just wanted to get some feedback from my neighbors and Coney Island enthusiasts what they think about a 'Green Coney Island' and if they agree with some of the current issues. What else is there? The CIDC has left many holes with their strategic plan including all of the issues I mentioned - were going to have to help them along by voicing these concerns. I like the strategic plans they currently have on their website but they are not very thorough - and that leaves too many questions unanswered, as well as potential options limited.
    Last edited by mosesnbklyn; July 8th, 2007 at 03:58 AM. Reason: changes in audience from CIDC letter

  2. #392

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    Quote Originally Posted by mosesnbklyn View Post
    Eugenious has some very interesting and good points. Economics and environment are key issues - and Sitt is no slouch. I would prefer that anyone stating facts should indicate their source - Eugenious is full of opinions - please dont confuse this with facts. If they think they make an annual ROI better than 10% for the next fifty years they will do it. Whether the neighborhood is underwater or struck with major hurricanes - they want to make money. I think the sale of some of these properties was totally over-priced/inflated, and if Thor can flip for a profit they will. If thats the case - I would recommend the NYC-EDC use the laws of Eminent Domain to strip the land from Thor. Theres nothing easier for the Feds to make headlines by protecting a community filled with public housing from a real-estate developer who caters to the rich.
    I respect his opinions. It's just that the way he puts it makes it sound almost like Coney's the only one that should worry about hurricanes. The Jersey shore survived as well with the hurricanes and they're still rolling like it's nothing. Although, yes, I agree with his concerns about the environmental issues just like yours about the project. As well as how it's going to cater to who exactly... And money's no surprise.

    I hope Sitt takes the environment really into aspect of his project. I want to see Coney Island thrive much better than its current condition and to become something that really makes me want to go there. ^__^

  3. #393

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    I really don't think transportation is much of a problem. There's a plethora of subways. Yes, getting there from, Jersey or even Queens is a bit of a pain. For Jersey, run a ferry. Sitts original plan called for a ferry terminal anyway. Have a ferry running between Coney Island and the new water park on Randalls Island. For Queens, I guess a bus will have to do.

    And when you say commercial development, you mean like offices, or retail? While I think accessibility wise, Coney Island is PERFECT for high rise offices, I'm not so sure how compatible the two(amusements and offices) are.

  4. #394
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    A Sea Change at Coney Island?

    Plan to Redevelop Aging Resort Pits Kitsch vs. Cash

    By Anthony Faiola
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, July 11, 2007; Page A01


    NEW YORK -- The rumors waft along the boardwalk, floating from the lips of gossipy locals, strong as the scent of ketchup and sauerkraut on frankfurters under the scorching Brooklyn sun. Didyahear? The rides may soon be closing. See, the go-karts, they're already gone. What's that you say? They're going to knock down the place and rebuild? Whadayatalk. This can't be the last summer of Coney Island. No. By most accounts, it is not. But it could be the last summer of Coney Island as we know it.

    The birthplace of the roller coaster and the American hot dog is set to fall into the same powerful grip of New York City gentrification that cleaned up Times Square and brought luxury lofts to Hell's Kitchen. Thor Equities, a mall and commercial real estate developer, has amassed much of Coney Island's six-block-long amusement area, with public hearings expected later this summer on a $1.5 billion redesign of the area into an upscale techno theme park with retail space, high-rise timeshare towers and hotels.

    True, Coney Island has seen better days. From its glittering start as a pioneer of American amusement -- a turn-of-the-last-century menagerie of racetracks, novelty rides and vice -- the magical sandbar on the edge of Brooklyn has morphed into a shrunken husk of kitsch.
    It nevertheless hung on as a bastion of old-time New York shtick and a refuge in this hyper-priced city for families and lovers seeking shoestring laughs. Chuy the Mexican Wolf Man still performs his high-wire act at Sideshow by the Sea. A ride on the storied wood-and-steel Cyclone costs $6. Add a greasy lunch on the boardwalk and you're out just 10 bucks.

    Change is already afoot. Landlord disputes and squabbles with the eager developers, who hope to break ground within 18 months, caused the operators of Coney's Island's miniature golf course, boat ride and go-karts to close this year, leaving parts of the area boarded up. More plan to hit the road by summer's end.

    Talk now is of luring the likes of Starbucks and T.G.I. Friday's to a district long famous for independent food stalls with hand-painted signs. A modern "Coney Island Park" with a vertical roller coaster and digital hall of mirrors would replace the cheap carny rides and decidedly low-tech game arcades that dot Astroland, Coney Island's largest surviving amusement park.

    Supporters of the snazzy redevelopment say the run-down place needs a new look -- "a Coney Island for the 21st century," better suited to New York's evolution into a city that is safer, cleaner and richer than at any point in its modern history. But other New Yorkers are aghast, seeing it as the symbolic last nail in the coffin of the rough-edged fun that once made New York New York.

    This city's once-serendipitous streets, they say, have gradually devolved into a bland collection of chain stores, over-conceptualized restaurants and upscale retail spaces that, while larger and higher-priced, increasingly have little else to separate them from similar fare elsewhere in America. They point to redeveloped Times Square, now kid-safe and complete with the world's largest Toys "R" Us, but bereft of urban vibe. They look at SoHo, once an edgy artists district with affordable lofts now fully transformed into multimillion-dollar spaces for Wall Street executives and the stores that love them, including Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Chanel.

    The cheap thrills at Coney Island stood apart from the ubiquity.

    "It's all a chain of sad events," said Fran Lebowitz, the noted New York denizen and author. "Manhattan has become psychotically expensive, turning Brooklyn, where no one used to go, into the home of the $8 million condo. Now they've set their eyes on Coney Island and we'll lose that, too. . . . What we are losing -- no, have already lost -- is the authenticity of New York."


    Not fair, say some on Coney Island, who look to the unabashed wealth elsewhere in the new New York with envy and desire.

    "Look, I think Coney Island needs to be more ritzy; you know, do something that's gonna bring in the people with the money," said Anthony Berlingieri, operator of Shoot the Freak, a boardwalk game where paying customers shoot paintball guns at a live human target. He is an outspoken supporter of the redevelopment proposal presented by New York-based Thor Equities.

    "You got some people out here, they're just opposed to change, ya see," he continued in his heavy Brooklyn accent. "But I say, look at the rest of New York. Look at the progress and all these affluent people everywhere. Hey, why shouldn't Coney Island get a piece of that?"

    In fact, they argue, Coney Island would merely be going back to its roots as a place to amaze the masses with the latest entertainment technology.

    That is the way it started. When the 19th-century rich of New York were retreating to the grand hotels of nearby Manhattan Beach, the working class found refuge from lives of hard labor at Coney Island's beaches, vaudeville houses, music halls and revolutionary amusement parks. Decades into the 20th century, they gaped at Luna Park, a fantasy city of brilliantly lighted minarets, domes, globes and spires. They rode the mechanical horses at Steeplechase Park and delighted in esplanades filled with exotic Middle Eastern dancers, snake charmers and fire eaters.

    That Coney Island later went downhill is not in dispute. Luna Park burned down in 1944. The cult classic film "The Warriors" captured the gang violence that engulfed Coney Island and much of New York during the 1970s. A small collection of rides built next to the Wonder Wheel in the 1980s was the major upgrade to the area.

    "Everyone's fear is that I'm going to turn this thing into Fairyland Parkland or something, with lots of trees and grass with some la-la idealistic vision," said Joseph J. Sitt, the Brooklyn-born chief executive of Thor Equities. "But that's not what I'm going to do. I'm not going to take away that urban feel of Coney Island. I want to bring it back."

    Sitt's initial plan also called for high-rise condominiums. It sparked immediate fears that his real aim was to reduce the attraction component of Coney Island, given that residential real estate is unlikely to coexist well with a loud amusement zone.

    He has since turned those condos into plans for high-rise timeshares and hotels instead. But many critics -- including city officials who must pass judgment on the project -- remain skeptical. His sharpest critics have said he may simply be seeking zoning changes to flip the land at a higher price. Others insist he will make Coney Island too upscale, rendering it unaffordable for the working-class citizens who now frequent the boardwalk. Sitt, however, insists neither will happen.

    Some attractions -- including the Cyclone roller coaster and the old Parachute Jump -- are historic landmarks protected by the city and cannot be torn down. But preservationists have criticized Sitt for what appear to be plans to tear down two other, unprotected spots -- including the Grasshorn Building, the oldest standing structure on Coney Island.

    The biggest controversy, however, remains Sitt's contention that he needs hotels and timeshares as high as 40 stories to make his redeveloped Coney Island financially viable. They would, he says, help him turn Coney Island -- now open only during the summer months -- into a year-round destination.

    But critics say such structures would dwarf the island's landmarks, ruining its quaint appeal. Meanwhile, his plans to spruce up the joint -- "you know, like bring in a bookstore with a Starbucks in it," he said -- have many crying foul.

    "He wants to bling it up; he wants to bring in all this retail and create a kind of enclosed mall with high-rise towers," said Robert Lieber, president of the New York City Economic Development Corp. "That isn't consistent with the historic nature of Coney Island."

    If he fails to win approval for his vision, many still fear for Coney Island's fate. Will the land just sit vacant and unused? Will another developer come in? If so, with what designs?

    "We all want a revitalized Coney Island, but what they're proposing would change the nature of a place that touched the hearts of millions of people," said Charles Denson, executive director of the Coney Island History Project. "We all want to see improvements, but all those high-rises? That's not Coney Island."

    © 2007 The Washington Post Company
    Last edited by fioco; July 11th, 2007 at 03:00 PM.

  5. #395

    Default Possible trade

    (cut-n-paste from the Post)

    CONEY LAND SWAP EYED TO END SAND-STILL

    By RICH CALDER


    August 7, 2007 -- A boardwalk land swap is on the table that could salvage the fast-fading dream of returning Coney Island to its glory days, The Post has learned.

    With the Bloomberg administration and developer Joe Sitt at loggerheads over whether housing should be included in his $1.5 billion glitzy makeover plan, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff has offered an olive branch, sources said.

    Under Doctoroff's compromise, Sitt would give the city the 10 acres of boardwalk land he owns along both sides of Stillwell Avenue so that the city could sell or lease it to amusement operators.

    In return, the city would give Sitt about 350,000 square feet of land a few blocks west - the parking lot at KeySpan Park and the Abe Stark Rink.

    Such a deal would ensure the amusement district can be revived without the luxury condos or time-share homes that Sitt has said he needs to make the plan financially viable.

    A source at Sitt's Thor Equities company said, "Joe is up for anything that will get this project going." Doctoroff declined comment.

  6. #396

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    I'd make this trade in a heart beat. Couple of questions to think about tho...

    1) Why would Sitt sell his 10 acres (it's actually 13 acres and it cost his company about $1.5B) for "only" 350,000 square feet?

    Keep in mind that Sitt sold another 350,000 square acres (located just west of the stadium's parking lot which is now being offered) last year for "only" $90M.

    2) The ice rink is on the city/park land, but so is the Parachute Jump. What would become of that?

    3) How will this effect KeySpan Park itself? The 7,000 seat stadium often sells out, but without a parking lot, could the Mets/Cyclones opt out of Coney?

  7. #397
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    Anything that involves Sitt is a losing deal for the city. He's a first-rate scumbag and is an established property flipper - on EVERY property he owns or has owned.

    No deal.

  8. #398
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    350k square feet is equal to about 8 acres.

  9. #399

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    Quote Originally Posted by SuddenImpact View Post
    1) Why would Sitt sell his 10 acres (it's actually 13 acres and it cost his company about $1.5B) for "only" 350,000 square feet?
    It seems to me that Sitt wants to build luxury housing on the Boardwalk (or at least own the rights, which he can sell), and the entertainment component is just to get him access. Losing a few acres in a swap to avoid a drawn out fight may be worth it.
    The ice rink is on the city/park land, but so is the Parachute Jump. What would become of that?
    Parachute Jump is a city landmark and on the National Register.

    How will this effect KeySpan Park itself? The 7,000 seat stadium often sells out, but without a parking lot, could the Mets/Cyclones opt out of Coney?
    A surface parking lot is a waste anywhere, but especially off the Boardwalk. Don't know who owns them, but there are two vacant lots across Surf Ave from Keyspan. A multilevel garage could replace the lot.

    One possible problem: a big building close to the Parachute Jump.

  10. #400
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    Default Thor Updates from Gowanus Lounge

    More Departures from Thor's Coney Island Team

    Friday, September 07, 2007

    Yesterday, we noted in a post on Curbed that Thor Equities and developer Joe Sitt had parted company with spokesperson Lee Silberstein and the Marino Organization. It was unclear who had initiated the split. This morning we can report, based on a tip from another reliable source, that Thor has also parted ways with Kramer Levin, the firm acting as its land use attorney. In fact, our source reports that the lawyers "abandoned ship," which would seem to indicate that they jumped rather than were pushed. However, the cause of the abandonment is unclear.

    Even if you are not into personnel moves, the changes are interesting. With the Coney Island process and negotiations seemingly at a critical juncture, the departure of key team members certainly would seem to raise the possibility that things may not be going as well as the developer had hoped. Or that they may, in fact, be going quite badly and that creatures are abandoning the USS Sitt. This is pure conjecture on our part, but it would seem odd that team members would be quitting or being fired if things were going well and the developer was on the verge of announcing that things will be moving forward as planned.


    Weekend Team Thor Update

    Saturday, September 8, 2007

    There is an important update in the still developing story of the roster of the Thor Equities Coney Island team. You might recall that, on Wednesday, Lee Silberstein of the Marino Organization, which has handled public relations for the embattled Coney Island redevelopment plan, let people know that he was no longer on the Thor job. The next day, we found out that the firm working as Thor's land use attorney, Kramer Levin, was also off the Coney job. Yesterday, Crains filled in some important detail on the identity of the new players:

    In a sign that Thor Equities is gearing up for a fight over the Bloomberg administration's proposal for rezoning of Coney Island, the company has hired James Capalino of Capalino & Co. and Knickerbocker SKD to handle its lobbying, public relations and outreach moving forward. Landowner Thor has submitted several designs for remaking the amusement park, but the Department of City Planning has rejected them and is expected to present its own vision this fall. A Bloomberg administration spokesman says, "We remain committed to our objectives for Coney Island and are looking forward to working with stakeholders to achieve them."

    Mr. Capalino is a former commissioner in the Koch Administration. One of our very informed Coney sources confirmed that both the Marino Organization and Kramer Levin were dismissed by developer Joe Sitt. "Joe apparently isn't listening to anyone who isn't telling him what he wants to hear," he observes.

    http://gowanuslounge.blogspot.com/

  11. #401

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrooklynRider View Post
    Anything that involves Sitt is a losing deal for the city. He's a first-rate scumbag and is an established property flipper - on EVERY property he owns or has owned.

    No deal.
    The city has done such a great job on this project I think we all know what will happen if Sitt is forced give up this project. Coney Island's future will be finally dead, as in DEAD.

  12. #402
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    I don't agree with the doom and gloom forecasts of people who have no recognition of the Coney Island name and brand. I would guess that anyone who thinks that C.I. would be dead has not been following development very closely.

  13. #403

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrooklynRider View Post
    I don't agree with the doom and gloom forecasts of people who have no recognition of the Coney Island name and brand. I would guess that anyone who thinks that C.I. would be dead has not been following development very closely.
    Lol. what Coney Island brand? Are you serious? Have you been to the present day Coney Island? I love all you people who sit there with your nice coffee table books with black and white pictures of the Coney Island 100 years ago and crap on everything that doesn't fit in to the way Coney was 100 years ago. Well wake the hell up, Coney Island has been a dump for well over 30 years and as much as everyone loves to talk how it's going to be great again it doesn't change the fact that no respectable developer would touch this area. Where are the alternate proposals? Where is the corporate zeal to restore the area? There is none, corporate America and mainstream companies stay away from politicized minefield that is legacy projects like Coney Island. This is all politics and that's why no one in their right mind will touch this.

    I'm not saying Sitt is right, I'm just saying what city has done to this area is far worse and it does NOT have a game plan should Sitt abscond from the project. Think twice before you rush to judgment.

  14. #404
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    CI is a dump. The aquarium is also. The area could be so much nicer!

    Somethingthat was a major attraction is now rendered to something less than the immitators down the Jersey Shore (not that they are BAD, but they just did not have the same chutzpah).

    And the surrounding area? Beachfront (practically) property next to a boardwalk and it all looks like tenement houses.


    Hell, even Nathans looks like a Roach Motel....

  15. #405
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    Where is the corporate zeal to restore the area? There is none, corporate America and mainstream companies...
    screw corporations. we don't want Disney on the boardwalk

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