Mike’s Coney Island Baby Riding High On His Plans For A Mega Fun Park
New York Post 11/9/2007
By Rich Calder
Coney Island’s fabled beachfront would become home to America’s largest urban amusement park, about 4,500 new apartments and many major stores under a grand redevelopment plan unveiled yesterday by Mayor Bloomberg.
Hizzoner said his 47-acre rezoning plan “builds on Coney Island’s fabulous location and historic legacy and preserves and invigorates its iconic landmarks,” such as the Parachute Jump and Cyclone roller coaster, without totally compromising its famous freakishness.
City renderings show a glittering new 15-acre amusement park incorporating the landmark Cyclone and Wonder Wheel with new indoor and outdoor attractions – including a new looping roller coaster winding around the park and a ride rivaling the size and shape of the 262-foot-high Parachute Jump.
Property at the base of the Wonder Wheel would be set aside for an ice and roller rink.
The mayor’s plan for a new, 21st century Coney Island is a death knell for developer Joe Sitt’s controversial, $1.5 billion proposal to build a glitzy, Vegas-style entertainment complex in the heart of the amusement district.
Sitt wouldn’t get the zoning changes needed for that project to break ground, but Bloomberg left the door open for Sitt to take part in the redevelopment.
Bloomberg’s proposed rezoning sets aside 15 acres for an amusement park running from Stillwell Avenue east to the New York Aquarium on West Eighth Street – much of which is part of the existing Astroland Park site and other Sitt-owned land.
Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff said the city believes Sitt isn’t qualified to create a park, and he expected the developer to make a substantial profit by either selling his land to the city or agreeing to a potential land swap.
The swap, first reported by The Post in August, calls for Sitt trading his 11 acres for city-owned land west of KeySpan Park. That would pave the way for Sitt to strike it rich by building high-rise housing.
Sitt – who bought a table’s worth of tickets to yesterday’s Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce event but gave them away – issued a statement saying his company is “disappointed by the mayor’s presentation,” but is “optimistic that a deal can be reached.”
Bloomberg said he envisioned Coney Island having a “year-round water park and hotel with slides, rides and awesome year-round aquatic attractions, or an open-air performance area for live music and theater, flowing onto the boardwalk and Coney Island’s magnificent beach.”
The city also would need to acquire other privately owned parcels, including Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, before choosing a partner to develop the urban amusement park.
“I feel like I no longer live in a democracy; we might be victims of eminent domain” after hearing the mayor’s remarks, said Dennis Vourderis, Deno’s co-owner. But city officials said eminent domain isn’t an option.
Bloomberg’s long-anticipated plan calls for rezoning 19 blocks of prime real estate running along the boardwalk from West 24th Street east to the Aquarium on West 8th Street, and roughly north to Mermaid Avenue – with the exception of KeySpan Park.
Land near Surf Avenue directly above the proposed amusement park – some of which is also owned by Sitt – is expected someday to house hotels totaling 500 to 600 units, indoor and outdoor performance venues, retail space, restaurants and a movie theater.
About 20 percent – or 900 – of the 4,500 units of new housing expected to be built would be set aside for low- and middle-income families. The entire plan must go through the city’s land-use review process.
City officials said that they hope to break ground in 2009 and that the overall project would take at least 10 years to complete.