City Planning Commission’s Vote Threatens Coney Island’s Future

Advocates for a vital Coney Island amusement district blasted the City Planning Commission’s decision today to approve — without meaningful revisions — a rezoning plan that would radically shrink the size of Coney Island’s famed amusement area and insert four soaring high-rises up to 27 stories tall into the heart of the amusement area.

“This plan spells disaster for Coney Island. In refusing to make urgently needed revisions to its Coney Island rezoning plan, the City threatens the very future of a world-renowned amusement destination,” said Juan Rivero, spokesman for Save Coney Island. “The City continues to defy calls from the community and amusement experts to fix its plan.”

The city’s current rezoning plan would destroy Coney Island’s unique character and undermine its historic amusement district: It limits the area reserved for the outdoor rides to a narrow 12-acre strip of land, down from some 60 acres currently zoned for amusements. The four proposed high-rises would ruin Coney Island’s open-air, seaside atmosphere and endanger Coney Island’s historic buildings. The plan also clears the way for chain retail and other generic commercial uses within the amusement district.

Save Coney Island is urging the City to expand the number of acres reserved for open-air amusements and to move the proposed high-rises outside the heart of the amusement district. In these recommendations, Save Coney Island is joined by many important community and city-wide voices.

The New York Times editorial board and the Municipal Art Society both have publicly warned that the area the plan devotes to outdoor amusements is insufficient and urged the City to move the proposed high-rise hotels outside of the core amusement district. Coney Island’s Community Board 13 also recommended that the high-rises be moved.

“Coney Island equals amusements, and we have to make the amusement area bigger, not smaller,” said Dianna Carlin (aka Lola Staar), proprietor of the Lola Staar Souvenir Boutique. “It’s time for the City Council to step in and demand urgently needed revisions to this plan. Unless the City fixes its plan, the birthplace of the American amusement industry and a world-renowned tourist attraction will be irreversibly diminished. Is that the legacy that the mayor wants to leave?”

If it fixes its current rezoning plan, the City can revitalize Coney Island’s historic amusement district — and preserve it as a beloved New York playground, a world-class tourist destination, and an economic engine for the neighborhood and the city as a whole.

To create that win-win situation, Save Coney Island recommends the following:

* Expand the acreage for outdoor rides and amusements. Twelve acres, as proposed by the City’s plan, is not enough. At a minimum, the land between the Boardwalk and the Bowery should be reserved for open-air amusements.

* Keep high-rises out of the heart of the amusement district. Move the proposed hotel towers north of Surf or west of Keyspan Park.

* The rezoning should include a greater mix of maximum footprints to encourage a more diverse and desirable mix of businesses, and to protect local entrepreneurs.

The New York Times has warned that the “hotels could too easily become a wall, blocking public access to the sideshows and the rides, the boardwalk and the ocean. The hotels also squeeze the outdoor rides into a narrow strip of about 12 acres — an area that is simply too small to attract enough rides and attractions to bring back the big crowds.” The Municipal Art Society has warned: “We are concerned that the proposed area set aside for open-air amusements is of insufficient size and that as a result this revitalization effort will not be successful.”

A brand-new rendering was unveiled this week by Save Coney Island and its partners of the soaring hotel towers — rising up to 27 stories — that the Planning Commission vote has cleared for the heart of Coney Island’s historic, low-rise amusement district. The image, which is below, is the first approximate to-scale view made available to the public of the proposed high-rise towers. Shockingly, the City has yet to publicly release a scaled rendering of how its proposed high-rises would actually look.

Earlier this week, Coney Island mermaids led by Miss Cyclone Angie Pontani personally delivered the rendering and other information outlining Save Coney Island’s suggestions on how to fix the City’s flawed rezoning plan to the City Planning Commission.

“If this plan goes through as it is, it’s going to be a tragic loss,” Pontani said. “Twenty years from now, people are just going to say, ‘What was the City thinking?’”

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