Posted: September 17th, 2008
Coney Island at the Crossroads

The City of New York’s Comprehensive Development and Rezoning Plan for Coney Island would reduce to 9 acres from 15 a city-owned open-air amusement park north of the Boardwalk between KeySpan Park and the New York Aquarium. It would transform the area into a year-round entertainment district, with abundant retail and as many as 5,000 apartments along Surf Ave. Following the presentation of the plan, a panel with varied perspectives responds to the city’s proposal. Moderators include Kent Barwick, president, Municipal Art Society; and Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for an Urban Future. Participants include Dick Zigun, found of Coney Island USA; Purnima Kapur, director, NYC Department of City Planning, Brooklyn Office; Lynn Kelly, president, Coney Island Development Corporation; Carol Hall Albert, owner, Astroland; Sheryl Robertson, director, South Brooklyn Youth Consortium. This event was held at the Municipal Arts Society.

  • Harold Kramer

    I was there that night. It is really great that MAS is holding these panels.
    I think CIDC president Lynn Kelly was giving mixed messages. On the one hand she was saying that we need to be very frightened for the future of Coney Island. That Coney Island needs to be rezoned or it will perish. Yet in the Daily News she speaks out against Thor Equities, who bought up much of the land in Coney and refuses to build amusements on land zoned only for just that.

    When I asked her why the current C7 zoning (which allows only for amusement and rides)of Coney Island was not sufficient to protect Coney Island she wasn’t very clear. She tried to make the point that C7 was inadequate to protect Coney. At that she showed slides of Russian furniture stores on Surf Ave and empty lots. Yet the truth is that the city allows this. If the city had strictly enforced it’s own zoning laws over the years Coney Island would not be in the state it is in today.

    People love Coney all over the world. Not for malls or condos but for it’s magic, it’s rides, it’s attractions and it’s legend.
    Coney Island should be redeveloped. But as the world class amusement park it once was and always should be.


  • Lynn Kowalewski

    I was also in attendance that night & welcome MAS’s involvement in Coney Island’s redevelopment. I don’t believe the city’s revised plan (from 15 acres of amusements down to 9, some of which would be parkland, so even further diminished) allows for the preservation or development of Coney Island’s unique character or history. Too much has been ceded to allow for the construction of massive 30 story towers surrounding a very small amusement zone, no matter how much the CIDC likes to play around with the acreage numbers. And the base floors of these towers could be filled with mall-like retail found in any suburban strip in America. We owe it to ourselves to get involved & save the places that keep New York,..New York. I’m in complete agreement with Mr. Kramer above – people travel from home & abroad to visit Coney Island for it’s rides, carnival charm, beach and history – over 100 years as an amusement park.

    Put the towers outside of the C7 amusement zone – we don’t need “Strip Mall By The Seashore” – we need Wonder… Thrills… Chills – new fantastic rides & attractions. Much has been taken away over the years, it’s time to give back. Save Coney Island!

  • Brian Lockwood

    After reading the Coney Island Development Corporation’s final plan I am aghast. Is there a way the tax payer can get a refund? How could someone spend six years to come up with such a moronic plan?

    Lets look at the problem. The city created the Coney Island Development Corporation to come up with a strategic plan to redevelop the world famous Coney Island beach and resort. But instead of meeting with residents in the community and the existing amusement businesses that gave Coney island it’s name the Corporation took the bias assumption that both the amusement parks and the neighborhood were responsible for the resorts current condition. They immediately reached out to outside developers and let them dictate the parameters of the plan.

    Instead of preserving and extending the one thing that works at Coney Island, the amusement parks, the Corporation has instead listened to the call of developers and has decided to reduce and most likely do away with these treasures altogether. The new plan under the guise of protecting 9 acres for “future amusements” will allow 20 -30 acres of luxury condos, a further 20 acres for hotels, and another 10 – 20 acres for what will amount to another urban mall. The 9 acres preserved for amusements will not be traditional amusements but will include movie theaters, bowling alleys, and a private indoor water park reserved for the guests of one of the proposed luxury hotels.

    This is all pie in the sky development which assumes that the Hampton’s crowd can be lured instead to Coney Island beach. The designers of this plan fail to realize that the attraction of the Hampton’s is it’s distance from the city which allows the rich and famous to vacation among their own. In this respect the new Coney Island will fail. The first to close will be the hotels followed by the retail. Hotels and retail have purposely avoided South Brooklyn and would only be lured there with promises that a higher tax bracket is being attracted to the neighborhood. Once this turns out not to be true then they will leave. Coney Island will end up with shuttered stores and abandoned buildings much like has happened in other failed resort town redevelopment projects on the east coast.

    Worst of all the tax payers of this city will be subsidizing the building of luxury condos. Why in this financial atmosphere would the common worker want to hear that his tax money is going to be used to dismantle on of the few places left in the city he can afford to take his family to and used to build residents for the rich? This is an outrage and should be stopped. The developers only care about making the fast buck at the tax payers expense. They will destroy a neighborhood that has been around for the better part of 100 years just so they can stick the city wil failed hotels and retail malls at our expense. The Corporation should have listened to the amusement parks instead of listening and buying in to stupidity.

    Brian Lockwood