City Council OKs Coney Island redevelopment
The thrill isn’t gone at Coney Island.After six years of studies, negotiations and public hearings, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to convert the long neglected neighborhood into a revitalized, year-round destination has been given the green light. “Now we move forward with a plan that will return Coney Island to its former glory,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. The City Council approved the 27-acre rezoning proposal yesterday by a vote of 44-2. The measure would allow for enclosed amusements, sit-down dining and hotels in the storied amusement district. Further away from the waterfront, the project, which is expected to create 6,000 permanent jobs and 25,000 construction jobs, will also bring mixed-income housing, retail and infrastructure improvements to Coney Island, city officials said. The city’s biggest goal, however, has been to protect the area’s dwindling amusements and add new thrill rides. The Bloomberg administration will seek a private operator for a new amusement park on city-controlled parkland. Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr., who represents Coney Island and voted for the rezoning, said: “Hopefully we can make amusements better than what they are today, increase them and make it a year-round destination. This is not three months out of the year. During those other months, it gets awfully cold and awfully lonely in Coney Island.” Before the city can move forward, it must acquire more than 10 acres of land owned by developer Thor Equities, which had been planning its own redevelopment project. At a news conference before the Council voted yesterday, Recchia and Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the city and Thor had reached an agreement to sell the land. However, Bloomberg and Thor spokesman Stefan Friedman said later in the day that the two sides were still negotiating. “We are hopeful that these negotiations will result in a timely resolution and a brighter day for Coney,” Friedman said in an e-mail. City officials admitted that the rezoning would not make everyone happy. But even those who objected to aspects of the plan said they believed city officials listened to their concerns in making concessions. Dick Zigun, founder of the arts group Coney Island USA, said he was not happy about the possibility of four high-rise hotels along Surf Avenue, but appreciated that the Bloomberg administration promised more acreage for outdoor amusements than earlier proposals and will schedule the Shore Theater to be reviewed as a possible city landmark. Dennis Vourderis, co-owner of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, applauded the city for allowing him to retain ownership of his park. An earlier draft of the plan had Vourderis giving up about half of his park, including the Wonder Wheel, a city landmark. “It’s a good thing for all of Coney Island, and certainly good for us,” Vourderis said. “We’re happy to be a part of someday the new Coney Island.” Jason Fink contributed to this story.