Friday, November 9, 2007

"Coney Island rebirth"

from - by amy zimmer / metro new york

Coney Island rebirth

Thor Equities hammered as city unveils new plan

CONEY ISLAND. Thor Equities' $2 billion Las Vegas-style plans for Coney Island were shoved aside by the Bloomberg administration Thursday as the mayor unveiled a new vision to transform 19 blocks with apartments, retail space, hotels and a year-round amusement park.

Thor had wanted to develop condos on the boardwalk near Astroland, which it owns. The city wants Thor to build in the Keyspan Park parking lot so another developer can ensure the "world's most famous urban amusement park" remains so "in perpetuity." To do so, the city wants to negotiate either a land swap or to buy out Thor and other property owners.

Thor's Joe Sitt was "disappointed" by the decision, but said he'll continue to work with the city to do "what's best for the people of Coney Island."

Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff said the city would seek "a developer who has real world-class experience in developing a one-in-a-kind, completely unique [attraction] that pays homage to the history of Coney Island." He added, "It's a very different business than developing a shopping center," which is Sitt's background.

Rezoning the amusement area could bring "a high-speed roller coaster that would wind through the district," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. Other "thrilling new icons" to join the Cyclone could include a skating rink, performance spaces and "a year-round water park and hotel with slides, rides and awesome year-round aquatic attractions." The approval process for the plan will begin next year.

Residents and business owners at a Coney Island Development Corporation meeting last night were cautiously optimistic.

Dick Zigun, president of Coney Island USA, praised the city for stepping in and preserving the amusements, but he also said the plan needs some "fine tuning" regarding the type of retail the city hopes to attract and whether new buildings would be taller than the parachute jump. "Can we do what Paris does, where nothing goes higher than its national monument?" he asked.

"I think it's better than any plan we've seen," said Astroland worker Ruth Magwood. "It looks like a great plan now, but you never know what they can sneak in."

Three new zones

"Coney East" (West 8th to West 19th streets between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk): the amusement district.

"Coney North" (bounded by Stillwell Avenue, West 20th Street and Mermaid and Surf avenues): up to 1,800 apartments and 100,000 square feet of retail.

"Coney West" (between West 19th and West 24th streets and south of Surf Avenue): 2,700 apartments and 360,000 square feet of retail space.

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