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Thread: Coney Island "Renaissance"

  1. #31

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    New York Newsday
    April 12, 2004

    Looking to a new seaside attraction

    Consultants have been hired to bring music and laughter back to the oceanfront destination that has seen its full share of revitalization plans

    BY ROSE FRENCH

    Slide Show: Coney Island

    On a recent chilly afternoon, the silence on the Coney Island boardwalk was punctuated by the calls of a few scattered seagulls and the hushed conversations of strolling couples.

    Beyond the silence is a memory of the sounds of a Coney Island summer, a time when it was hard to hear the birds over carnival music, children's laughter and roller coaster-induced shrieks.

    New York City wants that music, noise and laughter to continue all year round.

    City economic development officials recently hired consultants to devise a plan to inject new verve into Coney Island.

    The plan won't be completed for another six months, but suggestions being discussed include building a covered water park, creating a marine-themed spa, opening a convention center, or even reviving the idea of the Elephant Hotel, an actual hotel shaped like an elephant that existed on Coney Island more than 100 years ago.

    The city hopes to turn the trash-strewn lots, souvenir shops and greasy-spoon eateries that dot the iconic waterfront into a destination that attracts visitors throughout the year. It hopes to keep alive the neighborhood that was the birthplace of both the hot dog on a bun and the 77-year-old Cyclone roller coaster.

    The Coney Island Development Corp. has selected Ernst & Young and the architectural design firm Davis Brody Bond. They've been given a $200,000 budget and asked to come up with a plan, including a real estate development analysis, for the area bordered by 18th Street on the east, 37th Street on the west, Neptune Avenue on the north and the water on the south.

    "A lot of businesses out here are not making it," said Maria Gonzalez, manager of the 10-year-old Maria's Cuchifrito restaurant on Mermaid Avenue, who worries about businesses dying off. Two of her restaurant's neighbors, a Chinese eatery and a clothing shop, recently closed, she said.

    "We don't have a lot of customers" in the winter, she said. "If we were year-round, business would do better, I think. What we make in the winter, we make double in the summer."

    Officials say they plan to have the proposals completed in six months.

    "The plan is not something I see collecting dust on a shelf," said Josh Sirefman, president of the Coney Island Development Corp., a 13-member board of city officials, Brooklyn business leaders and real estate executives. "We're going to try to build on what's there, the aquarium, a number of amusement business and destinations now, KeySpan Park." The new proposals follow a July 2003 plan commissioned by the nonprofit Coney Island-based Astella Development Corp., which included a ferry terminal to Manhattan, a water park and a hotel.

    But Coney Island has been the subject of many plans since it first became a seaside destination in the early 1800s. Even the Astella plan said that a history of failed proposals "provide[s] little optimism that successful cooperation among the owners will occur to produce a viable large-scale amusement project." The Astella plan urges the city to buy much of the property.

    Private sector interest?

    "I think we have to wait to see what the [new] study brings," said Judi Orlando, executive director of the Astella agency and a board member of the Coney Island Development Corp. "If there are enough incentives, I think the private sector will be interested in this."

    Getting property owners, however, to either sell or develop their property likely will prove to be the city's biggest challenge to rejuvenating the 30 or so trash-filled vacant lots.

    Orlando said she believed property owners would work with the city if it offered attractive tax and other incentives. The city owns some of the vacant lots, while the majority are privately held.

    Charles Denson, 50, a Coney Island native and author of "Coney Island: Lost and Found," said that in the past, New York City has used the power of eminent domain for "public use" to acquire land there - to rather devastating effect - and could do that again.

    In fact, private investment in Coney Island collapsed after World War II when city Parks Commissioner Robert Moses declared the area a candidate for urban renewal. He built public housing high-rises which stand in sharp contrast to the bright oranges, blues and reds of the Wonder Wheel and other amusement rides.

    "The housing projects have kept a lot of developers away," Denson said.

    "Nobody was going to invest when they thought he [Moses] was going to take the land for eminent domain," he said. "Moses broke the cycle of private investment."

    Sirefman said he believes landowners will work with the city. "There's a number of landowners and developers who have reached out to us and expressed enthusiasm for the planning process," he said.

    Peter Agrapides, owner of Williams Candy, next to Nathan's Famous hot dogs, the original, off Surf Avenue, said he has seen an upswing in business since the 2001 arrival of the minor-league Brooklyn Cyclones and the team's $39-million KeySpan Park on the eastern border of the redevelopment zone.

    Baseball a big help

    Heralded by public officials as an economic boost, the stadium has helped some businesses, but not everyone, said Agrapides, whose business near the stadium is one of the few that stays open year-round.

    During the slower winter months, he says he survives on his wholesale accounts and some sales from individual customers, who spill over from Nathan's.

    "Before the baseball field, we were struggling," Agrapides said. "Now retail sales have improved 20 percent."

    Besides the stadium, public officials point to other economic improvements, such as the $240-million reconstruction of the New York City Transit Stillwell Avenue subway station, projected to reopen around Memorial Day. The New York Aquarium is also planning $45million in improvements. Officials also say that if New York City is selected for the 2012 Olympic Games, Coney Island would benefit economically as the primary spectator location for sailing contests.

    Chuck Reichenthal, district manager for Community Board 13, said despite heavy rains last summer, Coney Island had a record-breaking 1.5 million visitors for July 4.

    "That's a beautiful number, and we only had one transit terminal running," Reichenthal said. "At least this summer we'll have three lines running in. So Coney Island has not been forgotten."

    But to re-establish Coney Island as New York's pre-eminent oceanfront playground and make it a year-round draw, planners need to think big and dramatic, Denson said.

    "I think you need to put something really fantastic there," Denson said. "I think if they did something like the famous elephant hotel, which was shaped like an elephant, something unique, hearkening back to the past. I think that would do a lot to bring it back. The elephant hotel is what started Coney Island's reputation for the unusual. I don't think retail would be good. Putting a mall or a big box there doesn't take advantage of the site," he added.

    The Astella plan calls for a hotel, to be built over the aquarium's existing parking area, that would include restaurants, banquet facilities, meeting rooms and a spa.

    The plan also proposes a water park on the vacant land west of Stillwell Avenue and east of KeySpan Park; it would have a lightweight filament roof to help extend its use after the summer season.

    "We're very committed to making sure there's a lot of public input," said Sirefman of the Coney Island Development Corp. "Coney Island is this great resource for all of the city. It has been before, and it should be again."

    Copyright 2004 Newsday, Inc.

  2. #32

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    August 1, 2004

    A Carnival in Suspended Animation

    By LYDIA POLGREEN

    Slide Show: Coney Island Still Waiting for a Rebirth

    It was the bottom of the ninth of a scoreless game under a canopy of threatening black clouds, but the thousands of fans who had traveled from throughout New York City to Coney Island to watch the Brooklyn Cyclones play the Williamsport Crosscutters did not seem to mind. The 7,500-seat stadium was about three-quarters full, and when outfielder Ambiorix Concepcion sneaked in a run, stealing two bases and making it home on a wild pitch, the crowd erupted.

    When the game was over, most fans filed to their cars, in a vast parking lot west of the stadium, though some stopped at Nathan's for a hot dog on the way to the subway.

    "People come here for the ballgame, and then they leave," said Heshy Wiederman, who lives in Seagate, a gated community at the western end of Coney Island. "It's like Yankee Stadium. You go to a game, and then you go home."

    From a sports perspective, the Cyclones are clearly a huge success. By the middle of this season, its fourth, the team had sold a million tickets, making it one of the most successful teams in minor league baseball. And psychologically, the stadium has given a flagging neighborhood a big boost, prompting talk of a Coney Island revival and drawing thousands of new visitors who not long ago might have written off the fabled resort as a crime-ridden, filthy place, which for many years it was.

    "This was one of the biggest July Fourths we have seen in a long time" said Carol Hill-Albert, who along with her husband owns Astroland, one of two amusement parks that are the legacy of the 1920's and 30's, when such parks dominated the peninsula and thrilled 15 million visitors a season. "The Boardwalk was literally jammed, you could barely walk on it. Something is changing, something is happening. There is an excitement I haven't seen in a long time."

    But from an economic development point of view, the return on the city's $39 million investment in the Cyclones is less clear. When the stadium was being built, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani predicted that the team would "serve as a catalyst to the revitalization of Coney Island, much as Disney's investment on 42nd Street helped turn Times Square around."

    That has not happened. The Cyclones have given the existing amusements at Coney Island a leg up - the number of riders on the Cyclone roller coaster shoots up by about 30 percent after a win by the Cyclones, but by only about 15 percent when they lose, Ms. Hill-Albert said, and the hot-dog lines at Nathan's can be daunting.

    But one look at the empty buildings and vacant lots along Surf Avenue reveals that the stadium has yet to spark a wholesale revitalization of Coney Island or to create a significant number of jobs.

    Indeed, much of Coney Island, the ragged thumb to Brooklyn's patchwork mitten for half a century, remains in the same state of suspended animation it has been stuck in since the 1970's, when the bottom dropped so far that part of Coney Island's bombed-out streetscape became a set for "The Warriors,'' a violent film tale of a bloodthirsty New York street gang ruling ruthlessly over an urban wasteland. Those days are long gone - crime is down more than 70 percent from a decade ago, a drop mirrored throughout the city. But the barren streetscape remains, owing at least in part to a handful of property owners who have held vacant land and buildings in the neighborhood for decades.

    "There are a lot of obstacles to development in Coney Island," said Charles Denson, whose book, "Coney Island: Lost and Found,'' chronicles the rise, fall and nascent rebirth of the neighborhood where he grew up. "There is a lot of unused land, but it is very tightly controlled by a few property owners, some of whom are rational and others who are not. Some have good intentions and others are just waiting for a big payday."

    Peter Agrapides, the 68-year-old owner of Pete's Clam Stop, a local institution, gestured at the empty Shore Theater opposite his store, part of a row of derelict structures on the north side of Surf Avenue. "They have been empty for many, many years," he said. "I hope I'll live long enough to see it all rebuilt again like it used to be." In the old days, Kister's Carousel whirled, the towers of Luna Park glittered, and mile-long roller coasters climbed to the heavens, a spectacle that prompted one visitor to write in 1904, "Verily this is Dreamland, and one rubs one's eyes and pinches one's arm to see if one be really awake."

    Public investment has flooded the neighborhood. The grim portal that was the Stillwell Avenue subway terminal will become, when it is completed next year, one of the grandest subway stations in the city, with a price tag of about a quarter-billion dollars. It will be the first major new building on the north side of Surf Avenue, giving the street a much needed face-lift. The Boardwalk has new bathrooms from the Parks Department, and the New York Aquarium is working on an expansion with a shark exhibit.

    But private investment in the neighborhood has been harder to come by. Despite whispers that Disney is looking at one vacant lot, or that a hotel might rise on another, no shovels are close to hitting the dirt.

    "We read in the newspaper that Coney Island has a big future," said Vladimir Zats, who has been selling antiques and bric-a-brac on Surf Avenue for more then 20 years and hears each new plan to revitalize Coney Island with a little more skepticism. "But it isn't here yet."

    In September 2003, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg formed the Coney Island Development Corporation, to spark ideas and attract investment to the neighborhood, and he put one of the city's top economic development officials at its helm. The corporation is now meeting with residents, businesses and community groups to come up with a master plan for the neighborhood.

    It is not the first time city officials have set their sights on remaking this corner of Brooklyn. In the 1930's, New York's controversial master builder, Robert Moses, who hated Coney Island's honky-tonk atmosphere, set his sights on making it more like his beloved Jones Beach, a tranquil resort on Long Island that he had completed the decade before. He tore down ornate restaurants and bathhouses to make room for more beach, and over the next two decades the city rezoned much of the vast amusement district for low-income housing and erected glowering towers of drab brick that still dominate. With few jobs to support the huge influx of poor people, the neighborhood that had once amused millions quickly descended into despair, becoming a place of violent drug gangs and prostitution.

    This time the city hopes to get it right. It has hired a battery of consultants to develop a master plan that they hope will transform a still seedy, seasonal destination that relies on nostalgia to draw visitors to a small set of attractions, into a shining year-round entertainment mecca.

    "Coney Island is an extraordinary resource that frankly can be doing much more than it is," said Joshua Sirefman, chairman of the development corporation and chief operating officer of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. "We are trying to figure out what the right kind of development is, how to increase economic activity and make it a year-round destination by enhancing what's there and making a place that can both serve as regional attraction but also work well with the neighborhood around it."

    The corporation hopes to build on the baseball stadium's popularity and find ways to link it to the slow but steady revival already taking place here - among the hordes of magenta-haired hipsters who came for a recent alternative rock festival, dozens of sets of twins who came for what was billed as the world's largest gathering of twins, and thousands of families from across the city wanting to taste a little bit of that old carnival magic.

    For these visitors, Coney Island has slowly become what it once was - a wonderland by the sea, just a subway ride from the stifling heat of the city, packed with whimsy that can be found nowhere else but on this oddball peninsula.

    "To me, Coney Island is magical," said Roman Macia, a preschool teacher from Dallas who rode the subway from the Upper West Side to eat a Nathan's hot dog and stroll on the Boardwalk on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon. When he was a little boy growing up in Camaguey, Cuba, he said, his grandmother would regale him with tales of visiting the Boardwalk in the 1930's. He never forgot the stories, and comes back whenever he can. "I always come here when I am in New York, no matter what."

    Some people credit the Cyclones for putting for Coney Island back on the map. But many in the neighborhood say that other factors also played a role, including the drastic drop in crime and the overall improvement in the economy, which gave the working-class families that are the mainstay of Coney Island's amusement industry the cash to spend on a day at the beach and on the Boardwalk.

    "I'm glad that they are here because they forced the city to pay attention to Coney Island," said Dick Zigun, artistic director of Coney Island USA, a nonprofit arts group that runs Sideshows by the Seashore and a museum and organizes the annual Mermaid Parade. "With their short season, they draw about 300,000 people, which is hardly a drop in the bucket. We get that many people in a day at the Mermaid Parade.''

    And Coney Island's rebirth will have to contend with the social ills that cling to its seashore. Public housing still dominates the neighborhood and crime has not disappeared entirely. Last month, a notorious drug dealer was gunned down at the corner of Mermaid Avenue and 24th Street. Standing at the desolate corner near a street tribute to the dealer, who was known as Dada, Verzon Fonville, a 35-year-old former drug dealer and felon turned community activist, said change had come slowly to the western, most populated end of Coney Island.

    "They talk about rebuilding, but west of Stillwell it is a very different story," Mr. Fonville said, gesturing at the knots of teenagers congregated on Mermaid Avenue's litter-strewn corners. "The kids around here have nowhere to go. There are no jobs for the people who live here. The revival hasn't gotten here yet."

    Still, longtime Coney Island residents and business people say the neighborhood's current upswing differs from the nostalgia-fueled hope that opens each sunshiny season, only to be dashed when Labor Day rolls around and the receipts are counted.

    "Right now there is a lot of optimism," said Judi Orlando, director of Astella Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization that has built low cost single-family houses in Coney Island for 25 years. "People believe that this could be it, the moment they have been waiting for."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  3. #33

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    Went to the CIDC meeting last week. Lots of great ideas but very little focus. I think a ferry from Manhattan to Coney's aquarium is in the works. They would like to make Surf Avenue like Times Square with big billboards. They are definitely looking beyond just summer season looking to make Coney year round. You guys should join us at the meetings. Plan should be out sometime in the fall.

  4. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by muscle1313
    Went to the CIDC meeting last week. Lots of great ideas but very little focus. I think a ferry from Manhattan to Coney's aquarium is in the works. They would like to make Surf Avenue like Times Square with big billboards. They are definitely looking beyond just summer season looking to make Coney year round. You guys should join us at the meetings. Plan should be out sometime in the fall.
    I actually like the idea of it becoming like times square...that would bring a big surge to the area! Sounds good!

  5. #35
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    Coney Island tracks success to trains
    After abysmal 2003, crowds are flocking through reopened Stillwell Ave. station



    By Anita Jain
    Published on August 02, 2004

    It's Friday, it's summer, and by all accounts, hungry customers should be shoving each other to place orders at the counter of Gyro Corner, one of Coney Island's most popular food stands.

    Instead, it's raining, there are no customers and manager Mike Leledakas is contemplating shutting down for the day. "I'll wait a couple of hours until it really starts coming down," he says, squinting into the mid-morning drizzle. "Last year, the weather was like this all the time."

    Thankfully, the rainy day is unusual for what has been a generally sunny summer. For Coney Island's amusement park owners and concession-stand operators, food sales and receipts have been up as much as 50% across the board. The rain is an unwelcome reminder of last summer, when wet weather and a shutdown in subway service kept the crowds at home.

    "We took two strikes, one from the weather and one from the trains," says Dennis Vourderis, co-owner of Deno's Wonder Wheel, one of the two major amusement parks on the boardwalk.


    MTA keeps its word

    Coney Island's business operators cheered when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority kept its word and reopened the Stillwell Avenue subway station--a few minutes' walk from the beach--in late May, after it had been under renovations for nearly two years. "That's what we've been missing for the last year and a half," says Mr. Vourderis.

    Last summer, beachgoing subway riders had to take shuttle buses from other stations to get to Coney Island. The situation wasn't ideal, and people usually came late or left early because of the uncertainty regarding the buses. "From 10:00 to 2:00, no one would be here," says Mr. Vourderis. "Now they're banging down my doors to open in the morning."

    The poor 2003 season caused a gap in the renaissance of Coney Island, which began to fall into disrepair after its heyday in the 1930s. Its comeback began in the 1990s, after a cleanup and restoration, and accelerated with the rebuilt boardwalk.

    Stanley Fox, head of the transportation committee at the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce, estimates that 75% of people traveling to Coney Island arrive through the Stillwell Avenue station or the adjacent West 8th Street station, which was also closed last summer.

    The $280 million renovation of the Stillwell Avenue station overhauled what is believed to be the world's largest subway station, where three of New York City's major subway lines terminate. The airy, European-style station now features a 400-foot glass-block mural bearing carnival and beach-related etchings, such as a turtle and a hot dog.


    All-time highs

    Michael Finley, who manages three carnival games--a mechanized horse race and two water races--attributes this summer's 40% increase in his business to the reopening of the Stillwell Avenue station. "The only thing that I can see is the trains being brought back," he says.

    This summer, the dual blessing of sunshine and running trains drove traffic to all-time highs on the Fourth of July weekend and for the Siren Music Festival, a one-day event sponsored by the Village Voice in mid-July. Mr. Fox estimates that 1.1 million people came that day, compared with half of that last year.

    Carol Albert, co-owner of Astroland, home of the famous Cyclone roller coaster, says she saw record crowds of as many as 60,000 during the July Fourth weekend.

    Any summer weekend makes up a huge chunk of annual income for Coney Island businesses, which is why 2003 was such a disappointment. Last August's blackout wiped out one weekend. "This is a strictly seasonal business," says Ms. Albert. "All of it is in a 12-week season."

    At Gyro Corner, Mr. Leledakas is generally finding lots of takers for his lamb gyros, corn dogs, Italian sausages and cotton candy. "Business is much better," he says.


    Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc

  6. #36

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    I was there in July, and the baordwalk,beach,pier, and amusement park were crowded, and you shouldve seen the people pouring off the trains as we walked into Stillwell Ave. station... I didnt know it was going to be the worlds largest... I thought Times Sq. maybe? with all the corridors to every train imaginable it seemed huge! I bet it would be eerie at say 3 a.m.!! :lol:

  7. #37
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    World's largest outdoor, I think.

  8. #38

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    Largest terminal.

  9. #39
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    And happily, the size didn't force them to skimp on design. It is beautiful!

  10. #40
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    It's apparently the largest rapid transit terminal in the world
    http://www.archpaper.com/feature_art...mate_ride.html
    (Many intercity rail terminals are much bigger, of course, especially GCT)

  11. #41
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    Gray Line to launch Coney Island tour


    by Lisa Fickenscher
    August 10, 2004

    Gray Line, the bus operator, is launching a tour package to Coney Island this weekend, its second foray into Brooklyn.

    Last year, Gray Line began a hop-on-and-hop-off trolley tour in Brooklyn, but it didn't go as far out into the borough as Coney Island. The new offering will depart each Saturday and Sunday from Manhattan at 9:30 a.m. and return at 5:00 p.m. It will run until Oct. 31, when the amusement park, Astroland, closes for the winter.

    Gray Line's marketing manager, David Chien, says the company is considering similar tours to Queens and the Bronx.

    The price of the tour, $52 for adults and $39 for children, includes free rides in Astroland and admission to the New York Aquarium.


    Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc

  12. #42

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    Mayor: Coney Sportsplex
    alive despite Olympic snub


    By Jotham Sederstrom
    The Brooklyn Papers
    City officials say that a recent
    reshuffling of Olympics venues
    for the 2012 Summer Games
    will not jeopardize plans for a
    proposed amateur athletics facility
    in Coney Island.
    Aspokeswoman for Mayor Michael
    Bloomberg insisted Thursday that despite
    a revised Olympics bid that shifts
    indoor volleyball from the proposed
    Coney Island Sportsplex to the Continental
    Airlines arena in New Jersey, an
    amateur facility is still on the table.
    Plans to convert the Park Slope
    Armory into an athletic center and
    those by developer Bruce Ratner to

    in Downtown Brooklyn would not
    threaten the proposal either, said Jennifer
    Falk, the spokeswoman.
    "It is unreasonable to expect a
    10,000-seat arena to be built at the
    same time as plans are already underway
    build a professional basketball arena

    in
    Downtown Brooklyn," said Falk. "In
    place of the Sportsplex, the administration
    has committed to developing a
    plan for a multi-use sports facility for
    the youth and residents of Coney Island
    much like the project announced
    for the renovated Park Slope Armory."
    But members of the Brooklyn
    See CONEY on page 4

    Sports Foundation, chief
    boosters of the Coney Island
    Sportsplex, say that its future
    would not be known until October,
    when the Coney Island Development
    Corporation expects
    to release a draft of its redevelopment
    plan.
    "Now the idea is really to
    wait for the results of the Coney
    Island Development Corporation
    to see if planners believe a
    venue for amateur sports and
    events should be part of the redevelopment
    of Coney Island,"
    said Kenneth Adams, president
    of the Brooklyn Chamber of
    Commerce and the Brooklyn
    Sports Foundation.
    "But I wouldn't call it Sportsplex.
    We don't even know
    what to call it anymore."
    Among the most provocative
    of alternatives to the arena are
    plans to build an "extreme
    sports" facility, say members of
    the development corporation.
    The idea was advanced by consultants
    with Davis Brody Bond
    and Ernst & Young, the team selected
    in March to devise a strategy
    for a new Coney Island.
    Chuck Reichenthal, district
    manager of Community Board
    13, said the idea was batted
    around but few details were discussed,
    only that it could be
    built on the city-owned land on
    Surf Avenue between West 19th
    and West 20th street originally
    reserved for the Sportsplex.
    What extreme sports would
    be, I don't know," said Reichenthal.
    Judi Orlando, executive director
    of the Astella Development
    Corporation and a member
    of the CIDC, said that the
    idea would fit nicely with the
    character of Coney Island, now
    home to extreme eating competitions
    and arguably one of the
    world's first extreme sports ride
    — the parachute jump.
    "It's been discussed," said
    Orlando of the extreme sports
    plans, which could include anything
    from a climbing wall to a
    skateboard park. "It's taking the
    Sportsplex and trying to modernize
    it. Everything has to be
    extreme: Extreme eating, extreme
    sports, the ultimate sports
    thing and now skateboard parks
    are all big right now."
    The 12,000-seat amateur
    Sportsplex had originated with
    hopes that it would serve high

    school and college athletes. The
    $70 million project, which was
    first promoted by then-Borough
    President Howard Golden in
    1987, was slated to include a
    NCAA-regulation basketball
    court surrounded by a 200-meter,
    eight-lane track.
    But plans for the arena collapsed
    under the weight of former
    Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's
    interest in bringing professional
    baseball to Brooklyn. Giuliani
    pushed forward the plan to
    build Keyspan Park, home to
    the Brooklyn Cyclones.
    Both the city and state secured
    $30 million for Sportsplex
    and Golden added $7 million
    from his budget, which as
    of April was still on the table,
    according to a spokesman for
    Markowitz.
    Still, some believe that the
    Olympics snub will be costly
    for Coney, which has been reinvigorated
    thanks to Keyspan
    Park and the new Stillwell Avenue
    train station. Coney Island
    Councilman Domenic Recchia,
    for one, said that an Olympics
    venue on the Island would draw
    tourists.
    "It would help the economy
    and the amusement industry
    and it would bring tourists,"
    said Recchia, who sent a letter
    to Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff
    this week panning the decision
    to omit the neighborhood
    from the Olympic bid. "I can
    guarantee they would all go to
    Coney Island and the economic
    impact would be amazing."
    Jennifer Falk, the mayoral
    spokesman, contends that Reccia
    had been privy to the revised
    plans. "It's disingenuous
    for the councilman to allege
    that he was unaware of these
    plans or of the changes to the
    bid," she said.
    Beside the "extreme sports"
    alternative, the 13-member
    CIDC has been discussing
    plans for a ferry on Coney Island
    that would sail to Lower
    Manhattan and a new hotel
    overlooking the ocean, the first
    since the 72-year-old Half
    Moon Hotel was closed three
    years ago.
    Reichenthal said that another
    hope is to extend the amusement
    area to the edge of Sea
    Gate on 37th Street and reimagine
    it as a 365-days-a-year
    destination.
    "People have been expressing
    their viewpoints, their hopes
    and their concerns," said Reichenthal.
    "It's all been taken
    down, it's gone back and forth
    and, well, I guess we're about
    to see what happens."

  13. #43

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    Marbury to lead Coney charge
    Knick star to invest in old `hood


    By Jotham Sederstrom
    The Brooklyn Papers

    Sources say a proposal to build an amateur athletics facility in
    Coney Island will be partially funded by one of the area's native
    sons, Knicks point-guard Stephon Marbury.

    Councilman Domenic Recchia, who represents Coney Island, said that
    he, Council Speaker Gifford Miller, the Stephon Marbury Foundation
    and the Bloomberg administration are in talks for what Recchia called
    a "rec center" in Coney Island.

    "Everyone's in Athens right now and so when they get back we'll
    continue talking," said Recchia, referring to Mayor Michael Bloomberg
    and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, who are in Greece to promote their
    efforts to host the 2012 Olympics, and Marbury, who is on the U.S.
    men's basketball team.

    "Because of the Olympics, everything got pushed back a little bit,"
    he added.

    Asked when he last spoke to Marbury, the councilman said, "I talk to
    Stephon all the time. I talked to him last week."

    Sheryl Robertson, a friend of the Marbury family and director of the
    South Brooklyn Youth Consortium, confirmed that the three-time All-
    Star had expressed interest in sponsoring the project, which is back
    on the drawing board, albeit on a smaller scale than envisioned a
    decade ago, following a commitment from the mayor.

    The project would likely be built after construction on a proposed
    professional basketball arena in Downtown Brooklyn is completed.

    "I heard about it three months ago," said Robertson, who is also a
    member of the Coney Island Development Corporation, which will unveil
    plans in October for the future redevelopment of the neighborhood,
    which over the past two decades has suffered a sharp decline, but has
    recently seen a summer upsurge with the constuction of Keyspan Park
    for the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team.

    Assemblywoman Adele Cohen, who represents Coney Island, said
    philanthropy is nothing new for Marbury, 27, who starred at Lincoln
    High School in Coney Island before being drafted by the Minnesota
    Timberwolves in 1996.

    Cohen said that about four years ago, Marbury teamed up with the Rev.
    Eric Miller to aid in repairing the Beulah Church of Christ on
    Mermaid Avenue.

    "He's been very generous not only with our church, but with all the
    churches in Coney Island," Miller said this week.
    In 2001, said Cohen, she and the ballplayer contributed to a
    basketball league for kids run by one of Marbury's brothers on
    Mermaid Avenue.

    "It shows his roots," Cohen said of his work in the Coney Island
    community.

    Marbury grew up in the Surfside Gardens housing project on West 31st
    Street at Mermaid Avenue. This past season he was traded to the
    Knicks, injecting some life into the otherwise listless team down the
    stretch and playing near home for the first time since he was traded
    by the New Jersey Nets for Jason Kidd three years ago. He led the
    Knicks in scoring.

    Because few details have been revealed about the planned amateur
    athletics facility, which replaces larger plan once called
    Sportsplex, it is unclear how much money the 6-foot-2 athlete will
    invest. Also unclear is how many private investors may be involved.

    Jennifer Falk, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg, would not confirm whether
    Marbury or other investors were involved in the plan, but said that
    the facility would be partially funded from a portion of the money
    once earmarked for Sportsplex.

    Before plans for that facility were dashed, the city and state had
    secured $30 million each for the project and then-Borough President
    Howard Golden added $7 million from his budget. Earlier this year, a
    spokeswoman for Borough President Marty Markowitz confirmed that the
    money was still on the table.

    "I can confirm that any alternate proposal would include partial
    funding from the previously proposed Sportsplex," said Falk.
    Until its demise, the plan for a 12,000-seat amateur Sportsplex rose
    and fell on the fortunes of other development projects and at the
    whims of political fancy.

    First boosted by Golden in 1987, the facility was to include an NCAA-
    regulation basketball court and a 200-meter, eight-lane running
    track.

    But chances that the arena would see the light of day diminished with
    former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's piqued interest in bringing
    professional baseball to Brooklyn, and his feud with Golden over
    which project should be a priority. When Keyspan Park was finally
    built in 2001, many believed plans for the amateur facility had
    finally been dashed.

    But the plan was granted a second life when organizers for the city's
    2012 Olympics bid included it as a venue in their original proposal.
    Earlier this month, however, indoor volleyball, which was slated to
    be held in Coney Island, was shifted to Continental Airlines Arena in
    New Jersey. Gymnastics were shifted to the arena developer Bruce
    Ratner wants to build for his recently purchased Nets.
    Many close to the plans believe an alternative project will serve the
    area all the same.

    "It's clear that the administration realizes that there's still a
    need for sports and recreation for young people in Coney Island,"
    said Kenneth Adams, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and
    the Brooklyn Sports Foundation, which formulated the original
    Sportsplex plan.

    "It's not about Sportsplex anymore, or dog-eared architectural
    plans," said Adams. "It's about meeting the needs of a year-round
    sports and recreational facility."

  14. #44
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    I am all about making CI a mecca again, but a rec center doesn't seem to do it for me. Shouldn't this be somewhere else. It's a great idea, but shouldn't this area have other types of things? I dunno, maybe I'm wrong. Would love to see those horrible projects/buildings torn down, though. It looms over everything over there.

  15. #45

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    Think the sports facility is going to be a small part of a huge plan for Coney. I ran into a couple of members of the development team when my wife and I went to an outdoor concert in Coney Thursday. They were leaving a meeting with the aquarium folks. The CIDC is totally focused on making Coney a year round destination. They told me the plan should be out in November. Next meeting will be around September 30th open to all.

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