Save Coney Island on This Week’s Court Decision

On Tuesday May 11 State Supreme Court Judge Eileen Rakower issued a decision rejecting grassroots activist group Save Coney Island’s lawsuit seeking to overturn the rezoning of Coney Island. In response to this decision, Save Coney Island issued the following statement:

Save Coney Island is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization dedicated to restoring Coney Island as a world-class amusement destination — the Playground of the World.

Last November, we filed a lawsuit to prevent the implementation of a rezoning plan that would make this goal impossible to achieve by permanently shrinking Coney Island’s outdoor amusement area and blocking it off with a wall of high-rise buildings.

We are disappointed with Judge Rakower’s decision rejecting our claim. We continue to believe that the environmental review failed to adequately explore the impact of 27-story high-rise buildings along the South Side of Surf Avenue, among other issues.

However, our lawsuit was a means to an end: to prevent Coney Island’s extraordinary potential from being lost so that a truly successful revitalization can occur. We will continue to aggressively fight for this goal through every mechanism possible.

Over the last few weeks Save Coney Island volunteers, working with other groups, have pushed for the preservation of several historic buildings now threatened with demolition by Thor Equities; written a paper titled “Completing Coney’s Comeback” published by a leading New York think-tank that listed the short-term steps the city and other stakeholders can take to ensure a successful summer of 2010; and much more.

While this week’s court decision was a setback, our committed team of volunteers and supporters from across the city will continue these and other efforts to push for the successful revitalization of Coney Island — and keep the dream of its return as a 21st century “Playground of the World” alive.

The attorney representing Save Coney Island in this case, Albert K. Butzel, issued the following statement:

Needless to say, my clients and I are disappointed by the Judge’s decision.  We appreciate the fact that she struggled with the issues and did not treat the case lightly.   However, I believe the Judge was mistaken in her conclusion that the City was not required to consider the very specific alternative originally developed by the Municipal Art Society which concluded that 24 acres of dedicated amusement area were required to reestablish and make economically feasible a Coney Island approaching its past glory.  If the City is not required to evaluate the only alternative that was put forward by experts in the field, but rather has the discretion to ignore it, then the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act regarding the study of alternatives are now meaningless.

I also believe the Judge was mistaken in her conclusions regarding the visual impacts of new hotels that will block views into the amusement area and to the ocean.  Unfortunately, the decision makes it possible for an EIS to offer any explanation it wants, with no expert backing, and the courts are prepared, or even required, to take the explanations at face value.

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