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NY1 reports that the City Planning Commission approved its proposed Coney Island rezoning this morning in an almost unanimous vote (one new Commissioner abstained).   The plan calls for development of hotels and housing (4,500 market-rate units and 900 affordable units), “entertainment retail,” and more City control of the amusement area, as part of the boardwalk would become mapped parkland.

Issues remain with the City’s development plans, however.  Developer Thor Equities still owns much of the land within the proposed rezoning area, and the City needs State approval to alienate parkland before it can arrange the land-swap deal it hopes to use to purchase Thor’s land.

The rezoning will go before City Council for final approval within 50 days.

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on perpetually controversial Brooklyn projects Atlantic Yards and Coney Island.  Here’s where we play catch-up with a compilation of recent news:

Atlantic Yards:

When  the Architect’s newspaper recently asked starchitect Frank Gehry about the mega-development, he responded, “I don’t think it’s going to happen.” This was followed immediately by much backpedaling and an insistence from developer Bruce Ratner that the project “will get built.” Doth he protest too much?  Project opponents Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn announced earlier this week that they have filed a motion to the Appellate Division seeking the right to appeal a Febuary 26 ruling against them in their legal case challenging the project’s environmental impact statement (EIS).  At issue is whether the state had a “rational basis” for declaring the development site blighted.

In the meantime, delays are costly for Ratner’s New Jersey Nets, who would play at the Atlantic Yards arena, and rumors are flying that Turner Construction is off the project.  yet The Real Deal reports today that Ratner has purchased a property within the footprint, 467 Dean Street, his first such purchase in over two years.

Coney Island:

At this very moment the City Council is holding an oversight hearing on Coney Island development, which is sure to make tomorrow’s headlines.  On the eve of this hearing, the NY Times reports, the City offered Coney landowner/developer Joel Sitt $105 million for approximately 10 acres, which the City hopes to develop according to its own plan.  Will he accept? The Times article makes it seem unlikely.


The Department of City Planning’s controversial rezoning plan for Coney Island moved forward today, as the City officially began the ULURP process for the plan.  Despite recommendations from organizations such as the Municipal Art Society that the City expand its proposed “amusement area,” the plan as certified calls for 9 acres of mapped parkland for amusement park use and 15 acres of a new zoning designation that calls for enclosed amusements, restaurants, “entertainment retail,” and in some areas, hotels.

The plan also calls for the creation of between 4,000 and 5,000 new units of housing, including 900 units of affordable housing, outside this “amusement area,” and development of new local and destination retail options.  In order for this new development to occur, the City must get State approval to demap the parkland currently used as parking lots for KeySpan Park.

Public review begins with a hearing at the local community board.  We will do our best to keep you updated on hearing dates/times!

Tonight, the Municipal Art Society begins a two-program examination of past and future planning at Coney Island:

Coney Island: A Ride Though History
Wednesday, September 10, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Charles Denson, author of Coney Island: Lost and Found, will offer an insider’s vivid history of the Coney Island that was his neighborhood. He described the predominant theme of his book as “urban planning gone awry,” a Coney Island that “never had a blueprint or anything resembling a master plan.” That is about to change. Charles Denson will provide a valuable look back in preparation for the program on Coney Island’s future on September 17. $12, MAS members/students, $15 non-members.

They continue next week with a look at the current redevelopment plan:

Coney Island at the Crossroads
Wednesday, September 17, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
The City of New York’s Comprehensive Development and Rezoning Plan for Coney Island calls for the creation of a year-round entertainment district, along with new housing and retail. Purnima Kapur, director of city planning for the Brooklyn office, and Lynn Kelly, president of the Coney Island Development Corporation, will present the city’s plan; a panel comprising sympathetic and critical voices will discuss its merits. $12, MAS members/students, $15 non-members

Both events will be held at MAS’s Urban Center, 457 Madison Avenue. Visit MAS’s new website for more information and links for online ticket sales.

After 46 years, Astroland amusement park at Coney Island will close permanently this Sunday, according to a statement released by co-owner Carol Hill Albert today. After spending the summer attempting to negotiate with landowner Thor Equities, Albert said time has run out, as disassembling the park could take six months.

She said, “Coney Island’s future as a tourism and amusement destination is clearly in peril. Thor equities, which now owns most of Coney Island, came onto the development scene showing beautiful renderings of this great 21st century amusement park they were promising to build. All indications however, are that their real priority is retail and high end housing.”

The saddest press release we’ve ever read, in full, after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

Today’s Gotham Gazette has an in-depth article explaining the controversy surrounding the City’s redevelopment plan for Coney Island. The article is a must-read for anyone who wants to get up-to-speed on the ongoing debate.

Perhaps the most interesting part, though, is a bit of historical context. How did Coney Island change from one of the world’s most popular amusement areas to the much smaller and grittier place we know today?

“In 1964, developer Fred C. Trump (the father of Donald Trump) ordered the destruction of Steeplechase Park in order to construct luxury housing in the area formerly occupied by the decades-old amusement park. Although Trump could not get the area zoned for housing, he is notorious for personally throwing a brick through the glass façade of the park’s beaux-arts Pavilion of Fun, leading a festive demolition of the building before it could be designated a historic landmark.

The loss of Steeplechase initiated decades of decline for an area that was once one of the country’s premier amusement destinations—decades that would shrink the amusement area to 5 percent of its original size and see the demolition of other major Coney landmarks, such as the Thunderbolt roller coaster in 2000.”

Interesting!

Back in February, when decided to follow the public process for the City’s Coney Island Rezoning, explaining each phase in detail, we didn’t know just how complicated things would get. Now, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development has scheduled a second public scoping hearing for June 24.

February’s post explains the public scoping process in detail, and we encourage you to revisit that in preparation for the upcoming hearing. The reason for the second hearing is that the City has modified its plan so dramatically since February that it required a revised Environmental Assessment, and a revised Draft Scope of Work for the Environmental Impact Statement. (Both documents are available for download here).

According to the Department of City Planning, the major changes to the plan include reducing the amount of mapped parkland from 15 to 9 acres, and increasing the area of Coney East from 9 to 15 acres, which will be zoned for enclosed amusements, entertainment retail, and hotels.

The process for this scoping hearing remains the same as February’s, but comments must be made on the updated documents.

The public Scoping Meeting will be held on Tuesday February 24, 2008 at 6:00 PM at Abraham Lincoln High School, 2800 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY. The public may also respond in writing, to:

New York City Economic Development Corporation
110 William Street
New York, New York 10038
Attention: Rachel Belsky, Vice-President
rbelsky@nycedc.com

The City’s proposed rezoning of Coney Island has caused ongoing controversy on many fronts since its proposal. Because this is the first major City project to start the process from the beginning since we started this blog late last year, and because Coney Island is beloved by so many people from all over the City, we thought it would make for an informative case study to follow, to help the non-planners in the audience navigate the public input process.

First off, we have to hand it to the Coney Island Development Corporation, a group formed 2003 by the Mayor, the City Council and the Brooklyn Borough President, for holding a series of public information sessions in January to inform the community about the City’s plans. If you missed these meetings, the PowerPoint presentation is available in PDF form here.

Now, the next step in the public process is the Public Scoping Meeting, taking place on Wednesday evening. Read more after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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