Lively Coney Island hearing
Reverend Billy and others react at last night's Coney Island public hearing. (Photo by Getty)
Government public hearings are usually snore fests. Not so at Tuesday nights Coney Island meeting, the first opportunity for New Yorkers to sound off on the citys revised plan for the area.
Colorful Coney Island regulars turned the public comments portion of the evening into a rock concert of sorts. There was Reverend Billy standing on a first-row chair screaming Coney-lujah to the audience at Lincoln High School. Then there was songwriter Amos Wengler strumming on his acoustic guitar while singing Save Coney Island as though he were at an open-mic night.
Dick Zigun, founder of the arts organization Coney Island USA and the unofficial mayor of Coney Island, resigned from the Coney Island Development Corp., accusing the CIDC of scrapping an earlier plan that the community largely favored.
Two months ago, the process broke down, he said. I didnt change my mind on the plan; the city gutted our plan. I didnt leave the CIDC; the CIDC left me.Who is this plan for? asked Savitri D., the Memaid Parade queen who had been on a hunger strike since Saturday to protest the proposal. Is it for a developer? Is it for an electeds legacy? Is it for an electeds pocket? Because I dont see the people of Coney Island in very many of these drawings.
In an effort to protect Coney Islands historic amusement district and create a year-round destination, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a plan last November to designate 15 acres as parkland. In April, the city announced a modified proposal that reduced the protected area to 9 acres to allow existing property owners the opportunity to retain some of their land and create a larger footprint for enclosed amusements.
A single operator would be brought into run a glitzy new amusement park within the designated parkland.
Critics oppose the plan because it reduces the protected amusement area and allows for three high-rise hotels and entertainment retail, such as a Dave & Busters and a Niketown.
Of course, there were some supporters for the citys proposal among the 100 or so people who signed up to speak some of whom had left before their names were called.
We need economic development now, said Kevin Davis Jr., 14, who graduated from P.S. 209 earlier in the day. Do not put my future and the future of Coney Island on hold.
Purnima Kapur, director of the Brooklyn office of City Planning, started the meeting by responding to some misconceptions that city officials had heard about the project, namely that existing public housing would be threatened and that the city would invoke eminent domain. Neither is true, she said.