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NYguy Sep 19, 2005 12:21 PM

NEW YORK | Coney Island Redevelopment
 
NEW YORK MAGAZINE
http://newyorkmagazine.com/nymetro/r...eatures/14498/

The Incredibly Bold, Audaciously Cheesy, Jaw-Droppingly Vegasified, Billion-Dollar Glam-Rock Makeover of Coney Island

A first look at its not-preposterous future.



http://newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/real...0919_3_400.jpg

An early sketch of Sitt's Coney Island resort, complete with landing pad for blimps.


http://newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/real...0919_1_400.jpg

An early conceptual rendering of the shopping, entertainment, and hotel complex real-estate mogul Joe Sitt wants to build in Coney Island. (Photo credit: Joshua Lutz)


By Greg Sargent

Joe Sitt is pacing the Coney Island Boardwalk.

“Imagine something like the Bellagio hotel right now—just stop and see it,” he says, sweeping his hand in a long, slow arc over his head. “The lights. The action. The vitality. The people. We wanna evoke the same feeling you get when you’re in Vegas. It’s exciting. It’s illuminated. It’s sexy.”

Behind him is an aggressively down-market stretch of fast-food stands, dingy arcades, and cheap souvenir shops that have as much in common with the Bellagio as does a three-card-monte table. But when this wiry, frenetic 41-year-old looks at the seediness, he sees an opportunity to do something big. And he can—because all those ramshackle properties belong to him.

Over the past few years, Sitt’s real-estate company, Thor Equities, has quietly spent nearly $100 million buying up a huge swath of Coney Island from multiple owners, painstakingly overtaking perhaps twelve acres of land along the boardwalk, mostly between KeySpan Park, home of the Cyclones, and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. Sitt, a little-known Manhattan mogul who’s made his fortune building inner-city shopping malls across the country, now lays claim to Coney’s prime turf, its real-estate trophy. It’s no surprise, then, that Sitt’s mysterious plans have stirred plenty of rumors among Coney locals, who worry he’s plotting to develop a shopping mall or a Wal-Mart on their hallowed grounds.

But Sitt’s scheme for reviving the world’s once-premier amusement park is far more ambitious than the whispers suggest. He plans to build a glittering resort paradise right next to the Coney Island boardwalk—a retail and entertainment colossus every bit as outrageous and flamboyant as the Bahamas’ Atlantis.

The plan includes megaplexes. An indoor water park. A 500-room, four-star hotel—four stars, in Coney Island!—and, at the center of it all, an enormous, psychedelic carousel laced with visual cues to a Coney Island that Timothy Leary could have dreamed up. Equally spectacular, Sitt hopes, will be a blimp that will take off from the complex’s roof, carrying tourists on joyrides over the city as it flashes the resort’s name in giant technicolor letters: THE BOARDWALK AT CONEY ISLAND.


“The dirigible will leave every ten minutes,” Sitt says, jabbing his finger excitedly toward the sky. “On an ongoing basis. Another. Another. Another. Lifting off and taking people on a tour, spreading the message that this is the place to be.” The total price tag: $1 billion, which Sitt hopes to raise from private investors. Sitt has seen Coney Island’s future, and it looks like Vegas—turned up a few notches.

As we talk, Sitt’s cell phone repeatedly interrupts his reverie. He takes the calls, standing not far from a wooden sign advertising a game called SHOOT THE FREAK, a glaring reminder of the enormous gap between Coney’s present state and Sitt’s decadent vision. He’s in the middle of closing a $230 million deal to buy the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, an old, underperforming property he hopes to turn around. This is how Sitt has gotten rich—by pouncing on real-estate and retail opportunities others have overlooked, either because they were decrepit or in undesirable neighborhoods. The son of a Brooklyn textiles merchant, Sitt had his first big financial success in 1990, when, at the age of 26, he took a then-unusual gamble and founded Ashley Stewart, a chain of shops for plus-size, upward-aspiring African-American women.

Sitt was among the first to sense the vast untapped purchasing power of urban ethnic customers, then being ignored by national retail chains. As Alan Barocas, senior vice-president of real estate for the Gap, puts it, “When national retailers were concentrating on suburbs and exurbs, Joe saw a void. Instead of running, he saw opportunity.”

Not long after founding Ashley Stewart, Sitt had a second revelation: The inner-city landlords renting to his stores were asking for far less rent than he—and other retailers, he suspected—would willingly pay. So Sitt began buying up cheap properties in decaying urban areas and opening malls on them. Thor Equities eventually amassed an empire of about 14 million square feet in a dozen cities.


http://newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/real...0919_2_175.jpg

Behold the Freakenspiel, a merry-go-round and water fountain topped by a pyrotechnic elephant


Though Sitt’s scheme for Coney Island is also a massive gamble on a down-on-its-luck part of the city that many have written off, this deal has another element: personal nostalgia.

Sitt grew up in nearby Gravesend, and trips to Coney were an integral part of his childhood in the late sixties and early seventies, when memories of Coney’s glorious early-twentieth-century heyday were already fading. He still lives near Coney (albeit in a much bigger house) and jogs on the boardwalk. “I love Coney Island,” he says, frequently—giving in to a gushing sentimentality about the project that worries some of his Thor executives. To them, the scheme seems fraught with frightening unknowns: Will the right mix of businesses agree to take a chance on a neighborhood that remains something of a dump? Can a high-end hotel survive so far from midtown? Would a Vegas-style entertainment complex shatter the patchwork quality that gives Coney its mystique?

No one knows the answers, which gives rise to even bigger questions: Is Sitt’s Coney scheme the product of the same business acumen that created Ashley Stewart and his real-estate empire? Or is it merely a hugely expensive sentimental journey for Sitt, a nostalgia-fueled boondoggle-in-the-making?

To realize his vision, Sitt needs the support of another New Yorker who hopes Coney’s best days are ahead: Michael Bloomberg. City officials say they’re not prepared to publicly comment on Sitt’s plan until they review it in detail, but they’re generally supportive. “Although we haven’t gotten into specifics of his plan, I’m confident we’ll be able to get together on a project that helps achieve our vision for Coney Island,” says Josh Sirefman, City Hall’s point man on Coney redevelopment. While city officials have worked successfully with Sitt before—such as on an office tower he’s building in downtown Brooklyn—and are encouraged by his ideas for a water park, carousel, and music venues, there are still potential sticking points. For instance, they don’t want to see Coney Island become “a huge mall gussied up with a bit of entertainment,” one Bloomberg aide says. “We want a large entertainment component, because that will preserve Coney’s heritage and protect its authenticity and uniqueness.”

Another potential cause of friction, they say, could arise over the project’s scale. To be economically viable, Sitt says, the complex has to be at least 2 million square feet, a size that could overwhelm the low-rise neighborhood. “We have a lot of work to do—we have to figure out the appropriate scale for Coney,” the aide says.

Mindful of the powerful symbolism of reviving Coney, the Bloomberg administration has invested tons of capital, political and otherwise, in the area. Last spring, officials unveiled a new $240 million subway terminal at Surf and Stillwell Avenues, Coney’s main intersection. And last Wednesday, Bloomberg journeyed out to Coney’s boardwalk to announce that the government was committing a total of $83 million for neighborhood improvements such as new parking and a community center. He also said the city had completed a master plan for the area, a general set of guidelines meant to encourage private developers—like Sitt—to try to turn Coney into a revitalized, year-round destination.

But the dream of a reborn Coney has proved elusive since the sixties, when Mayor John Lindsay built the low-income housing that hastened the neighborhood’s decline. Since then, a string of failed revival schemes have come and gone. Ed Koch’s plan for casinos tanked when the State Legislature failed to legalize gambling. A subsequent plot by Horace Bullard, the flamboyant founder of the Kansas Fried Chicken chain, to rebuild Coney Island’s historic Steeplechase Park died amid a bitter squabble with the city.

Coney’s historical resonance as the birthplace of the beach-based amusement resort—not to mention the hot dog—has made its decline all the more dispiriting. Unlike other historically significant neighborhoods—places like Times Square and 125th Street, whose heydays, declines, and subsequent rebirths have embodied the larger story of New York—Coney hasn’t rebounded. The 2001 opening of KeySpan Park has given only a modest boost to local merchants because fans largely disappear after games. Come autumn, everyone disappears. Six months of the year, Coney Island is desolate—or, as Gregory Bitetzakis, who owns two restaurants there, puts it, “cold. Very cold. Not a soul around.”

Who in their right mind would travel to Coney Island in February? Sitt’s biggest problem, so far, is that his plan conspicuously lacks a single economic engine, the way Atlantic City has casinos. He’s got his blimps, his carousel, the fireworks he wants to launch from a new pier jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. He also hopes to entice Cirque du Soleil, the House of Blues, and other name-brand draws. Another idea is turning Coney’s major winter liability—proximity to the wind-whipped beach—into a visual asset. “Imagine kids going down a 100-foot-tall waterslide in an indoor water park on a frigid day in January, staring at the ocean outside,” Sitt says. But he says he needs 13 million people a year to spend money in his complex. That’s going to have to be some waterslide.

Another big challenge for Sitt is attracting the right retailers. Sitt says he’s currently in talks with movie-theater companies Loews and UA/Regal, the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum chain, and Cold Stone Creamery ice cream. Done right, the complex could entice New Yorkers who now drive to Atlantic City or Great Adventure. But well-heeled retailers may yet conclude that the neighborhood’s traffic is too shallow-pocketed to support them, and Sitt could find himself stuck with down-market chains (Foot Locker, Tad’s Steaks). Think Rye Playland in the middle of a freezing, forbidding urban landscape.

Experts say that for the project to work, its stores need to command about $400 or $500 per square foot in sales. (By way of comparison, Times Square retailers net up to $1,000 per square foot, experts say.) Those are ambitious numbers, but they’re in the realm of what other big retailers, including Banana Republic, the Gap, and Express, make in places like the Kings Plaza mall or Brooklyn Heights, according to Gene Spiegelman, executive director of Cushman & Wakefield real estate and the company’s expert on Brooklyn retail.

“That’s a sign that the Brooklyn market remains very underserved by retail—which suggests that this project can move those numbers,” says Spiegelman. “Across the country, there’s typically an average of twenty square feet of retail to each person. In Brooklyn, the ratio is six to one, and that’s in a community—Brooklyn—with 2.5 million people.”

Then there’s the problem of getting a big hotel operator. Sitt’s own analysts say it would have to charge from $250 to $300 per night and have at least 70 percent occupancy year-round. “To achieve that, we’ll need to figure out how to position the hotel—whether as a meeting place for conventions or more as a resort-type tourist attraction,” says David Malmuth, managing director of Robert Charles Lesser & Co., which Sitt has hired to crunch the plan’s numbers.

In Sitt’s conviction that retailers and hotel operators will come, it’s easy to hear echoes of his softheaded side. “Quality purveyors will fit right in here,” he insists. “It’s got the beach, the boardwalk, the brand—Coney Island! It’s got sooo much potential!”

Sitt, of course, is hardly the only person enamored of Coney Island’s “brand,” and his billion-dollar vision is stirring some worry among locals who harbor their own deep nostalgia for the place. Take Dick Zigun, the unofficial “mayor” of Coney and founder of Coney Island USA, which runs the Mermaid Parade and the Coney Island Museum. He hopes Sitt’s cosmopolis will help the community, but as the self-appointed guardian of Coney Island kitsch, Zigun feels protective of the neighborhood’s heritage. His museum is housed on a property not owned by Sitt, and he worries about eviction. What better way for Sitt to prove good intentions toward Coney, Zigun asks, than to rent the museum a home in the new complex?

“We’d like him to rise to the occasion and earn us as his partner,” Zigun says. “He hasn’t said no, but he hasn’t said yes, either.”

Zigun also wonders about the fate of locals operating food shacks and souvenir stands on Sitt’s property. “There are businesses here I love very much, like Ruby’s Bar [on the boardwalk],” he says. “Let’s be realistic—some of them won’t be able to afford the new rents, thanks to what’s unofficially called ‘progress.’ ”

Sitt is working to win over the locals. Mindful that an isolated monolith could be unpalatable to the community, his chief designer, Stan Eckstut, is working on a plan to weave the complex seamlessly into the neighborhood beyond. “This can’t be self-contained, like something in downtown Stamford,” says Eckstut, who also designed the MGM Mirage City Center in Vegas. “It has to be accessible to everyone—kind of the town center of Coney Island.”

Or, as Sitt puts it: “Our vision is lights, camera, action, entertainment. But it can’t be too cleaned up. It has to have that special Coney flavor.”


He’s promised local merchants whom the project will displace that they will get first crack at renting space in the new project. And as Sitt well knows, his local-boy-made-good bio is a big help in selling his scheme. He often makes the rounds among Coney locals, always calling himself “Joey.”

These efforts have slowly made Coney denizens warm up to Sitt—perhaps partly because they’re all desperate for a cash infusion into the area. “Joe is a Brooklyn guy that wants to do right by Coney Island,” says Dennis Vourderis, who’s owned Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park with his brother for almost 25 years. “The general consensus here is, we would love him to succeed. If he succeeds, so does Coney Island.”

Though such hopes have proved vain for nearly half a century, the moment may be ripe for Coney’s big comeback as the next step in Brooklyn’s astonishing resurgence over the past two decades. The irony is that until now, big builders have played little role in Brooklyn’s bounce-back, achieved largely by gradual gentrification, through entrepreneurship and the rehabbing of neighborhoods one warehouse at a time. The result has been an enormous boost of disposable income that’s made Brooklyn safe for big-time investment. In other words, after all the hard work by small businesspeople and fixer-upper homeowners, the cashing-in stage has arrived for the big developers: Witness plans for high-rises on the Williamsburg waterfront; Bruce Ratner’s planned arena on the Atlantic rail yards; and now, Sitt’s plan for Coney Island.

"The Incredibly Bold, Audaciously Cheesy, Jaw-Droppingly Vegasified, Billion-Dollar Glam-Rock Makeover of Coney Island"

It’s tempting to see Sitt as a kind of Coney Island Bugsy Siegel (sans the wiseguy ties), the notorious gangster who reimagined a grubby little town in the Nevada desert as the gambling mecca of the United States. “I feel like him,” Sitt says. “Bugsy Siegel went into a town and there were a couple of small gambling casinos. His dream was to take the inspiration from what was there before and magnify it. Give it more variety. Give it choices . . . That’s exactly the turnaround opportunity that we see here in Coney Island!”

Sitt starts jabbing at the air again. “People said I was nuts for opening upscale stores in the middle of some of the toughest African-American neighborhoods in the United States,” he practically yells. “You know what? They were wrong.”

NYguy Sep 23, 2005 9:42 PM

BROOKLYN PAPERS

VEGAS BY THE SEA
Developer shows new vision of Coney

http://brooklynpapers.com/html/issue...vegasconey.jpg

Artist renderings of an indoor mall envisioned by developer Joseph Sitt, of Thor Equities, for constuction along the Coney Island boardwalk. The plan could transform Coney Island into a year-round destination.


By Ariella Cohen
The Brooklyn Papers

Over the next few weeks, the city Department of Parks and Recreation will decide who gets to operate Brooklyn’s favorite rickety ride — the Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster.

But while the Cyclone is obviously an icon of Coney Island, it may soon become a remnant of its past.

Joseph Sitt, owner of Thor Equities, the development company that operates the Gallery at Fulton Mall in Downtown Brooklyn and owns over 12 acres of seaside property in the faded amusement mecca, has visions of a glitzy boardwalk entertainment strip that looks more Vegas than Astroland.

In digital renderings sent to The Brooklyn Papers this week, a Nike-sponsored climbing wall takes up one region of a sweeping indoor amusement zone. A fiberglass elephant gleams upon a double-tiered carousel.

The House of Blues plays ground-floor anchor to another glassy, indoor-entertainment zone, much like the national chain does at its boardwalk location on the ground floor of the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City or at Barefoot Landing on Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.

In describing his vision for the amusement complex to a New York magazine reporter, Sitt also talked about a 100-foot-tall waterslide in an indoor water park and reported that he is currently in talks with movie theater companies Loews and UA/Regal.

So far, Sitt’s vision has generated enthusiasm, albeit that of the guarded and slightly ambivalent breed, among those whose properties would be affected.

“I have spoken with Sitt and other interested developers and I am sure they know that no matter the grandeur of their designs they will have to retain the feeling — I don’t know how to describe it — that will allow it to blend to Coney island as it is now,” said Horace Bullard, a Coney Island property owner and founder of the Kansas Fried Chicken chain, who at one time planned to rebuild Coney’s historic Steeplechase Park.

“I’ve read a lot of things, but I guess I am like a lot of people — I’ll wait and see what happens,” said Cyclone roller coaster manager Mark Blumenthal, an employee of Astroland for the past 24 years.

Bullard sold the former Washington Baths on West 21st Street and Surf Avenue, where Sitt plans a condo development, but still owns a vacant, 4-acre tract where a roller coaster once stood. He agrees with Sitt that all-season attractions like the climbing wall or a giant indoor water slide would keep true to the resort’s pleasure-zone heritage and of course, make Coney Island a year-round draw for the city.

“It is an exciting plan, as I am sure many that will be proposed will be,” he told The Brooklyn Papers.

While Sitt did not offer comment on his company’s plans or wishes for the Astroland property, he has made no promises to the current operators.

Adding tension to the Cyclone negotiations, a misaligned piece of track on the 85-foot-tall, wood-and-steel roller coaster sent four riders to the hospital with whiplash two weeks ago, an accident attributed by the Astroland operators to old age. The famous ride was shut down during the Labor Day weekend as a result of the accident.

The low-tech attraction, which is 78 years old, is owned by the Parks Department and, as stipulated by law, bid out every 10 years. Two weeks ago, the city closed its bidding period.

The bidding yielded proposals from a number of interested parties — the number of bids and their content are under wraps until the city makes its decision — a parks spokesperson said.

Aside from Astroland’s owner, the Albert family which currently operates the roller coaster, none of the bidders have publicly come forward.

Blumenthal said he had not heard of rival bidders.

“We are getting ready for next year,” he said. “At this time, there is no indication we are not going to be here.”

Yet, as change wafts, as sure as the scent of a Nathan’s hot dog, over the boardwalk there are questions about who will take over area leases.

“Landlords are only giving one-year extensions on leases now,” said Dick Zigun, president of Coney Island USA, the nonprofit community arts organization that organizes the annual Mermaid Parade on the boardwalk and Surf Avenue.

This November, the 10-year lease Zigun holds on Coney Island USA’s current Surf Avenue location will expire and he wants to move to a derelict bank building at Surf Avenue and West 12th Street that was recently bought up by Thor Equities.

Coney Island USA has already sent a letter of intent to Sitt and is now awaiting a response.

“He appreciates what we do,” said Zigun. “He hasn’t said, yes, but he hasn’t said, no.”

NYguy Sep 24, 2005 1:30 PM

The Coney Island of the past...


http://history.amusement-parks.com/L...t/aerswing.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/L...ght/dragon.jpg


http://www.ultimaterollercoaster.com...lunapark2.jpg?


http://www.vintageviews.org/vv-3/amu...amp02_005.JPG?


http://www.vintageviews.org/vv-3/amu.../amp02_006.JPG


http://www.vintageviews.org/vv-3/amu.../amp02_001.JPG


[img]http://rds.yahoo.com/S=96062883/K=coney+island+park/v=2/SID=e/TID=I049_75/l=IVI/SIG=1232f911k/EXP=1127652524/*-http%3A//timefreezephotos.com/postcards/coney.jpg?[/img]


http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/pa...una-prom1.jpg?


http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/pa...gyroplane1.jpg


[img]http://rds.yahoo.com/S=96062883/K=coney+island+park/v=2/SID=e/TID=I049_75/l=IVI/SIG=123vqqrck/EXP=1127652808/*-http%3A//www.ualr.edu/~jxbriton/prof/lunaview.jpg?[/img]


http://history.amusement-parks.com/S...achuteday.jpg?


http://history.amusement-parks.com/S...echaseride.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/S...chaseride4.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/S...owerynight.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/L...estandhelt.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/L...gonsgorge2.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/L...agonsgorge.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/L...000leagues.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/L...s/elephant.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/D...towernight.jpg

craeg Oct 3, 2005 10:58 PM

I'm sorry... The "freakenspiel" ?
That is too funny.

NYguy Dec 5, 2005 2:05 PM

DAILY NEWS

Boardwalk Bahamas?


Call it Club Med meets Coney Island.

Banana boat rides and parasailing could soon join the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel as favorite Coney Island activities, the Daily News has learned.

The two Caribbean vacation staples are highlighted in a draft proposal for a "beach adventure concession" quietly circulated by the Parks Department last month.

"It's about time that our beaches have activities like they have in Aruba, the Bahamas and Florida," said City Councilman Domenic Recchia (D-Coney Island).

The Parks Department wants operators to bring in rock climbing walls, trampolines and trapeze courses on the beach in front of KeySpan Park.

Tropical resort vacation activities such as banana boat rides or parasailing are also a possibility, officials said. "We'd love to see it. We think it would be very popular in Coney Island," said Liam Kavanagh, first deputy parks commissioner. "But we're not quite sure that it is going to work."

It's not yet clear if the ocean is too choppy or there is too much boat traffic for banana boats or parasailing, Kavanagh said.

Rich Welter, a former Long Islander who owns Sunset Watersports in Key West, Fla., said he thought the city's plan could work.

"It can't be too choppy for a banana boat. It makes it more fun," said Welter, adding that banana boat rides and parasailing are among his most popular offerings.

The proposal comes in the midst of a development boom in the faded seaside resort.

Developer Thor Equities is pushing to build a $1 billion entertainment and retail complex along Stillwell Ave., between Surf Ave. and the Boardwalk.

Most Coney Island regulars also said they can't wait.

"That sounds hot," said Justin Green, a college student who grew up nearby. "This is the best thing I've heard that's coming here."

"I like it," said Nathan's customer Shelby Dawson, who lives in Brighton Beach.

"I've never been to the Caribbean ... so this would give a lot of us down here a chance to experience something like that."

But Everett Keller, a construction company owner from Dyker Heights, said he didn't want Coney Island to turn into a Caribbean-style resort.

"Does this look like the Bahamas to you?" he said over lunch at Nathan's. "You ask most people and they'll say they like Coney Island the way it is."

GFSNYC Dec 5, 2005 3:26 PM

This is a long time comming. I think it is a bit unfair to say that Joe Sitt's proposal is over-the-top and cheesy. Look at the coney island of the past, those buildings, colors, the pagentry would've been considered the Vegas of the time. Coney island is all about a circus-like atmosphere. Its a shame they never took astro-land a ran with it-maybe even turning it over to six-flags at some point in history. I think the trade off in identity loss would be offset by a spill-over of other businesses to capitalize on its cachet as a destination. Six Flags Astroland @ Coney Island featuring the world's tallest, fastest roller coaster? Sounds pretty good to me. ;)

NYguy Dec 6, 2005 1:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by GFSNYC
This is a long time comming. I think it is a bit unfair to say that Joe Sitt's proposal is over-the-top and cheesy. Look at the coney island of the past, those buildings, colors, the pagentry would've been considered the Vegas of the time.


True. Ironically, the same people who say they don't want a "tame" Coney Island are the same people preaching for just that.

MolsonExport Dec 7, 2005 2:53 PM

Hey with global warming, Coney Island may yet become the next bahamas.

NYguy Jan 25, 2006 12:50 AM

NY POST

BEACH VOLLEYBALL TO HIT B'KLYN

By TIM ARANGO
January 24, 2006

The AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour and its mix of bikinis, surf and sand will descend on New York City for the first time this summer.

AVP is joining forces with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment — an affiliate of Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner's New Jersey Nets ownership group Nets Sports and Entertainment — to bring the tour to Brooklyn next August and will build a 4,000 seat stadium on Coney Island.

Pro beach volleyball has grown from a fledgling player's association in the 1980s to a big business today — with top players able to rake in almost a half million dollars a year from prize money and endorsements.

Under former sports agent Leonard Armato, CEO of the AVP, the tour has increased revenue from about $1 million in 2001 to just under $15 million last year and has attracted numerous corporate sponsors, such as Bud Light, Gatorade, McDonald's and Xbox.

In 2006, the tour will host 16 events and hand out a combined $3.5 million in prize money.

NYguy Nov 1, 2006 12:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NYguy
NEW YORK MAGAZINE

http://newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/real...0919_3_400.jpg

An early sketch of Sitt's Coney Island resort, complete with landing pad for blimps.


http://newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/real...0919_1_400.jpg

An early conceptual rendering of the shopping, entertainment, and hotel complex real-estate mogul Joe Sitt wants to build in Coney Island. (Photo credit: Joshua Lutz)

____________________________________________

And the visions change again....(NY Post)

NEW-WAVE CONEY
BEACH BUM TO SURF CITY


By RICH CALDER
October 31, 2006

Here's a sneak peek at Coney Island's glamorous future.

Architectural renderings obtained by The Post show a grand vision of the famed summer amusement area's rundown streets being transformed into a glitzy year-round playground and public attraction.

In one image, Stillwell Avenue becomes a fantasy-filled boulevard marked by larger-than-life street furniture, such as a mermaid swimming in a martini glass and a gigantic tattooed elephant.

The landmark Cyclone roller coaster can still be seen from down Bowery Street - which itself is reinvented as a permanent festival and sideshow area.

Thor Equities has purchased 10 acres of boardwalk land in the hope of building a $1.5 billion entertainment destination.

The project is awaiting city approval, but the company hopes to break ground in 18 months and wrap up in about five years.

http://www.nypost.com/seven/10312006/photos/news028.jpg

____________________________________________

CITY BOOST FOR A 'GLITZY' CONEY

By RICH CALDER
November 1, 2006

City officials who control the future of Coney Island say the latest renderings for a $1.5 billion, Vegas-glitz amusement area around the boardwalk are right on track.

Joshua Sirefman, interim president of the city's Economic Development Corp., said developer Thor Equities' latest proposal shows "the right kind of energy that we've always talked about for Coney Island."

____________________________________________

curbed.com

The Coney Island Vision We Couldn't Make Up

http://www.curbed.com/2006_10_coney.jpg


Now that mall-builder Thor Equities is making some moves on its Coney Island properties, we'd really love to know what the latest plans for the area look like. We've been through so many renderings and announcements, we have no clue what the thing will actually look like in 10 years, besides being some sort of dystopian pleasuredome. And did somebody say dystopian pleasuredome?! Because the Post got their hands on a couple of the latest images, and if they are to be believed, we will all soon be entertained by giant phalluses of light beamed into the cosmos and, uh, "a fantasy-filled boulevard marked by larger-than-life street furniture, such as a mermaid swimming in a martini glass and a gigantic tattooed elephant." Oh, and dudes dressed as Batman and paintings of witches with pumpkins for asses. Get into it

Tom In Chicago Nov 7, 2006 2:44 PM

holy shit!!!

JACKinBeantown Nov 7, 2006 4:25 PM

I love the old steeplechase ride. I wonder how many people got injured on that.

Jularc Nov 7, 2006 4:28 PM

Here is a (old?) proposal...


This is from http://www.eekarchitects.com


http://63.240.68.122/FirmFiles/8/ima...te-Plan-lg.jpg

http://63.240.68.122/FirmFiles/8/ima...al-View-lg.jpg

http://63.240.68.122/FirmFiles/8/ima...k-Night-lg.jpg

http://63.240.68.122/FirmFiles/8/ima...illwell-lg.jpg


Coney Island Redevelopment

Brooklyn, New York Redevelopment of 10-acre site into a mixed-use entertainment complex which will include residential, hotel, retail and a new waterpark. This redevelopment fits into the master plan as developed by the Coney Island Development Corporation.

Jularc Nov 7, 2006 4:35 PM

Proposal for the Coney Island Aquarium...


More Coney Island Aquarium Redo Renderings


http://ruiz-geli.com/media/11%20Comp...aquarium01.jpg


Wednesday, November 1, 2006

After yesterday's publication of a couple of more "visions" of the future Coney Island in all of its odd dystopian glory, the additional renderings and models from one of the finalists vying to redesign the butt ugly utilitarian New York Aquarium are almost a breath of fresh air. (At least, there are no mermaids with pumpkins on their asses.) It may or may not win and get built, but they're pretty cool. This is the propsal from WRT and Cloud9. More images after the jump if you click through.

Aquarium Design Proposal

BONUS: The city digs the Thor Coney vision. Coney Island Development Corp. interim president Joshua Sirefman tells the Post their latest renderings "show the right kind of energy that we've always talked about for Coney Island." But, Coney blogger Kinetic Carnival says they look like "lesser quality rejects" of drawings mistakenly released this summer and a "rehash."


Copyright © 2006 Curbed

NYguy Nov 8, 2006 1:00 AM

Yeah, that aquarium proposal has a life of its own...

NYguy Nov 13, 2006 3:08 PM

NY Sun

A $1.5 Billion Vision For Coney Island

By DAVID LOMBINO
November 13, 2006


http://www.nysun.com/pics/43372_main_large.jpg

A developer, Thor Equities, says it wants to spend $1.5 billion to rebuild Coney Island and reinvigorate its amusement zone. New plans include building a roller coaster that the developer says would be the first built since the Cyclone opened in 1927.


Even on a bright fall day, the streets that make up Coney Island's amusement district seem worn and tired, more tumbleweeds than tourists. While the area boasts an original circus-like charm, born of colorful characters who congregate there, even old-timers agree it needs a major facelift.

The founder of the nonprofit Coney Island USA, Richard Zigun, blames the area's decay on a handful of property owners who "were wealthy enough to sit on their property for 20 or 30 years and wait."

"They did not give a damn about the amusement industry," Mr. Zigun said.

But the city's prolonged real estate boom is reaching Brooklyn's southern edge, and over the past two or three years, dozens of parcels in the amusement district have changed hands, opening up the possibility for new development.

"This is the best shot Coney Island has had in 50 years," he said. "Hopefully, we will get something fantastic, something world-class."

The biggest buyer is developer Joseph Sitt of Thor Equities. He has spent more than $100 million to assemble more than a dozen balkanized parcels along the boardwalk, close to the subway station.

Thor wants to spend $1.5 billion to restore the amusement district to its former glory, transforming it from a place to spend a summer afternoon into a year-round destination, and giving it the feel of Las Vegas, Orlando, or Atlantic City.

New designs drawn up by the architectural firm Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn depict Thor's futuristic vision. A new roller coaster would dart in and out of new buildings along Stillwell Avenue, the first roller coaster in New York City since the Cyclone opened in 1927, according to the developer. Opposite the subway station, Thor is planning a vertical ride to the top of a 150-foot-high water tower that would be decorated with flickering holograms of whales and mermaids.

Where Stillwell Avenue meets the boardwalk, the developer wants to build a giant indoor water park and a three-story, glass-enclosed carousel. All the rides would be winterized. They would also be integrated with a movie theater, arcades, retail stores, and with existing attractions, like the Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel, and the Parachute Drop. Thor Equities would lease out the rides or find an operating partner to run the amusements.


The plan has a catch. Thor says it needs the city to enact a zoning change to allow residential and hotel development in the amusement district.

Thor wants to build as many as four towers on its site, comprising two hotels, a time-share, and an apartment building that could rise up to 40 stories.

In the early 1970s, in an attempt to save the amusements, the city rezoned the area to forbid residential development, which it said threatened to chase the rides, games, and shows out of town. Now the developer is arguing that the profit from the residential development is the way to fund the area's regeneration.

A spokesman for Thor Equities, Lee Silberstein, said, "The problem with amusements is that they don't make money. There is a reason why people stopped building them. They are too expensive and too seasonal. That is part of the reason why we want to do residential."

Currently, Coney Island attracts visitors for about five months a year, from April to mid-September. To be profitable, the amusements would need to operate year-round. The developer hopes the apartments and hotels will enliven the area and make it safer with a permanent human presence.

The city is working on rezoning and design recommendations. Following additional public outreach, it hopes to put a plan through the land use review process next year. The developer is planning to prepare the 10-acre site for construction and they hope to open in 2010 or 2011. Some of the amusement operators in the Thor development footprint were forced to close up shop this year, and others will stay open for one more summer season.

Mr. Zigun, who also sits on the board of the city's Coney Island Development Corporation, said hotels would be a welcome addition, but said he is dead set against condominiums in the heart of the amusement district. He said he's not looking for a fight, but "a polite, intelligent discussion."

Mr. Zigun, who has tattoos poking out from under his jacket sleeves, said Coney Island is best preserved for "those with money who want to get drunk, stay out late," tendencies, he said, that only a non-resident would have.

"Put the loud places here, the things that don't belong in other neighborhoods," Mr. Zigun said.

While some critics have said Thor's designs are too glitzy, Mr. Zigun envisions something like Las Vegas, Miami Beach, Orlando, Fla., and Atlantic City, N.J., jazzy, modern, and fantastical, as opposed to a "suburban glass façade," or an area dominated by mall-like retail stores. Thor changed earlier plans for a mall after residents and city officials complained.

The project architect, Stanton Eckstut, said the design would not be a replica of old-fashioned Coney Island style.

"We don't want to do something based on a frozen moment in time," he said. "We want to make it feel like part of the evolution of Coney's past, but we are not doing a historic reproduction."


Mr. Eckstut helped create plans for Battery Park City and Brooklyn's Metrotech.

Mr. Zigun said any specific plans for Thor's site are likely to change over the next year, as the rezoning evolves and the developer negotiates with the community about preserving certain landmarks, and the height and makeup of the new buildings.

"I'm not one of the people who says no-go on Vegas. You can build Brooklyn's Times Square at the beach," he said. "Before you know it, you will be able to have a Starbucks latte at the beach, and hopefully a giant roller coaster you can throw up on."

Jularc Nov 13, 2006 5:44 PM

More renderings...


http://www.curbed.com/2006_11_Coney%20Three.jpg

http://www.curbed.com/2006_11_Coney%20Five.jpg

http://www.curbed.com/2006_11_Coney%20Four.jpg

http://www.curbed.com/2006_11_Coney%20One.jpg


http://www.curbed.com/archives/2006/..._v_21.php#more

NYguy Nov 14, 2006 4:09 AM

This is going to be amazing. Will there ever be a reason to leave the City again?

Those renderings seem to go in line with what was stated in the article:

Quote:

New designs drawn up by the architectural firm Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn depict Thor's futuristic vision. A new roller coaster would dart in and out of new buildings along Stillwell Avenue, the first roller coaster in New York City since the Cyclone opened in 1927, according to the developer. Opposite the subway station, Thor is planning a vertical ride to the top of a 150-foot-high water tower that would be decorated with flickering holograms of whales and mermaids.

Where Stillwell Avenue meets the boardwalk, the developer wants to build a giant indoor water park and a three-story, glass-enclosed carousel. All the rides would be winterized.


NYguy Nov 15, 2006 1:43 AM

Daily News

Hopes soar for Coney coaster

http://www.nydailynews.com/ips_rich_...31-coney14.jpg

Futuristic plan for Coney Island's redevelopment envisions new roller coaster twisting over Boardwalk.


Hold on to your hats, Coney Island fans.

A new state-of-the-art roller coaster could someday be weaving between buildings and bulleting along Coney's famed Boardwalk.

With more than 4,000 feet of swirling steel tracks, the yet-unnamed coaster would soar above Stillwell Ave. and spiral along the Boardwalk at breakneck speeds.


The coaster, which would be an instant rival to Coney's classic Cyclone, is part of a massive redevelopment plan by Thor Equities, which has bought property in the Brooklyn amusement mecca.

"In its heyday, Coney Island always had the biggest, best, most futuristic attractions in the world," said Thor Equities spokesman Lee Silberstein.

"As envisioned, the new coaster will be the ride of a lifetime and will propel Coney Island into the next phase of its life," Silberstein said.

Thor's $1.5 billion vision for Coney would add residential, retail, entertainment and other amusement components, including an indoor water park and a glassed-in carousel. The proposal still needs city approval.

Designers at the Switzerland-based amusement firm Intamin AG are devising a plan that would allow the tracks to be extended if it's decided later that the coaster should be bigger.

Folks walking along the Boardwalk yesterday mostly praised the idea for a new coaster, though some said they feared the high-tech ride would ruin the area's honky-tonk feel.

"This will surpass any roller coaster out now," said retiree Tyrone Scott, 67. "I haven't been on a roller coaster in five years, but I'd try it if it goes slow."

Mike Alvarado, 50, said no to slow: He wants to see a coaster that hangs upside down, swirls and soars high above the Boardwalk.

"They should build it," said Alvarado, 50, a counselor who lives in Marine Park, Brooklyn. "It would bring more business and people. It should be like the kind at Great Adventure."


Denise Romano and Jotham Sederstrom

JBoston Nov 21, 2006 10:18 AM

wow... brooklyn is changing so quickly. The Atlantic Yards proposal by Gehry and now this ridiculous explosion of whatever the fuck it is. Brooklyn doesn't need a Time's Square knock off; leave that up to cities like Toronto. (haha)

NYguy Nov 28, 2006 4:58 PM

NY Post

DEVELOPER'S IDEA HAS CONEY ISLANDERS SAYING: BRING IT ON

By RICH CALDER
November 27, 2006

If Coney Islanders have their way, City Hall won't block a developer's $1.5 billion bid to transform the rundown summer amusement area into a year-round public attraction.

The results of a recent survey, exclusively obtained by The Post, reveal that nearly 76 percent of area residents do not want city officials to block "a $1.5 billion investment in Coney Island to expand amusement attractions and bring new restaurants and retail outlets to the community."

While the 42-question poll never mentions Thor Equities by name, that question and many others deal with the kind of project that the developer wants to build along 10 acres of boardwalk property between West 12th and West 15th streets.

The city's Economic Development Corp. declined to comment. The project would require various zoning changes.

Other results of the poll also bode well for Thor, which commissioned the phone survey of 400 Coney Island-vicinity residents by the Alexandria, Va.-based firm Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates.

The survey found most residents in favor of every type of amenity that Thor wants to bring to Coney Island. New construction "on or near the boardwalk," for example, should feature restaurants - according to 81.8 percent of those polled.

The survey also found overwhelming support for hotels (80.5 percent), movie theaters (78.7 percent), more amusements/rides (76.3 percent), retail stores (74.8 percent), and a "limited amount" of residential housing (62.2 percent).

NYguy Nov 28, 2006 5:01 PM

NY Post

CONEY I. CARNIVAL BARKER

By RICH CALDER
November 28, 2006

The developer looking to build a Las Vegas-glitz entertainment complex in Coney Island kicked off a massive ad blitz yesterday aimed at swaying public opinion toward supporting the $1.5 billion project, The Post has learned.

Thor Equities began mailing Brooklyn residents the first of five newsletters pitching its vision for transforming the rundown summer amusement area into a year-round public attraction.

Spokesman Lee Silberstein said the developer also planned to launch a Web site and to advertise in newspapers.

"Coney Island has a glorious past but fell onto hard times," the mailer reads. "It's our goal to bring it back."

Thor wants to erect a hotel, stores, housing, new rides, an indoor water park, a multilevel carousel, and a 4,000-foot-long roller coaster that would weave around the 10 acres of boardwalk property that the developer purchased between West 12th and West 15th streets.

The project would require various city zoning changes and would have to pass public review.

NYguy Nov 29, 2006 1:46 AM

amny

Coney Island's Astroland sold to developer

By LARRY McSHANE
November 28, 2006

NEW YORK -- The vintage Astroland Amusement Park, one of the anchors of Coney Island since its 1962 opening, was purchased Tuesday by a developer intent on restoring the Brooklyn beachfront as a $1.5 billion year-round resort.

The Albert family, owners of the well-known park, will close the 3.1-acre attraction at the end of the 2007 summer season under the deal reached with Thor Equities.
The Alberts will continue to operate the landmark Cyclone roller-coaster, which turns 80 next year, under an existing agreement with the city.

The decision to sell was "very difficult and made only after months of extensive discussion," said Carol Hill Albert, co-owner of Astroland with husband Jerome. The park was launched by her late father-in-law, Dewey Albert.

In the end, the cost of converting Astroland to a year-round operation was too steep. The family had turned down larger bids last year "in the hope of finding an alternative that would enable us to keep our current location," Albert said _ but it didn't pan out.

Thor Equities plans a $1.5 billion, year-round facility in Coney Island. Although no price was given for the Astroland purchase, Thor had already spent $100 million snapping up properties along the venerable boardwalk.

Thor's plans include a mix of amusements and attractions, including a new roller coaster and a new hotel to accommodate the anticipated arrival of new tourists.


The site of the amusement park is renowned for another reason. Local legend has it that restaurateur Charles Feltman invented the hot dog there in 1874.

The Alberts, although they sold their property to Thor, retained ownership of attractions like the water flume and the Astrotower in hopes of adding some new rides and relocating to another section of the neighborhood.

The amusement park employs about 300 workers every summer, and Albert was hopeful that city and Brooklyn officials could help with relocation costs.

"The Albert family is proud to have provided so many wonderful memories for so many generations and to have been such an important part of New York's world famous Coney Island," Albert said.

NYguy Nov 29, 2006 6:03 PM

Daily News

Astroland's swan song
Coney landmark sold, will close in '07


BY ELIZABETH HAYS, RACHEL MONAHAN and JOTHAM SEDERSTROM

It's the last ride for Astroland as New Yorkers know it.

A big-bucks developer bought up the gritty Brooklyn amusement park yesterday in its bid to turn Coney Island into a sparkling new $1.5 billion year-round resort.

The 2007 summer season will be Astroland's last under the plan, which would leave the historic landmark Cyclone roller coaster intact.

Astroland owner Carol Hill Albert sold the 3-acre Astroland site to developer Joseph Sitt's Thor Equities for an unspecified amount.

"It's not something we're happy about; it's sad," said Albert, whose family has owned the legendary park since 1962. "It was the only logical alternative to going out of business altogether."

The park purchase is the latest land grab by Thor for its plan to add residential, retail, entertainment and other all-weather amusement components to Coney Island. Brooklyn-born Sitt has reportedly laid out more than $100 million so far.

Albert said she hopes to relocate some of the rides like the Tilt-A-Whirl and Tea Cups elsewhere along the Boardwalk.

Even if Albert is able to relocate rides like the Pirate Ship, Top Spin and the Scrambler, one of the most popular, the Astrotower, will have to leave Coney Island for good.

"That I can't move," said Albert, who noted it would cost as much as $400,000 to move the 200-foot, World's Fair era attraction. "You can put it on eBay for me."

Thor spokesman Lee Silberstein said the famed Cyclone roller coaster, which sits on city land, would not change hands and would continue to be operated by Albert. The rest of Astroland would be cleared for new rides and an indoor entertainment complex, but Silberstein declined to reveal specific plans.

Thor also envisions luxury condos, and turning Stillwell Ave. into a tree-lined pedestrian mall filled with cafes and shops. "We're thinking totally outside of the box," said Silberstein. "We're thinking something spectacular that would be really great for New York City."


Reaction was mixed in Coney Island yesterday, although Brooklyn politicos have generally supported Thor's plans.

"I can't believe they're going to close this place down," said Will Paraison, 28, of Canarsie. "When you say Brooklyn, everyone knows Coney Island and Astroland. It's one of Brooklyn's symbols."

"It's not going to be Coney Island the way I know Coney Island," said Florence Yorrie, 42, who lives nearby. "They're going to make it nice."

ArchWatcher Dec 1, 2006 9:06 PM

too gawdy:(
i like the old postcards a lot

ArchWatcher Dec 1, 2006 9:09 PM

the aquarium is neat
wtf is the whale building?

roner Dec 5, 2006 7:58 AM

Whoa! When did developers start dropping acid and following the Dr. Seuss guide to entertainment? Party On Coney Island!:banana:

NYguy Dec 28, 2006 12:37 PM

NY Post

EATERY MAY BE CONEY HOUSING

By RICH CALDER
December 28, 2006

The developer planning a $2 billion face lift for Coney Island's amusement area is close to a deal to buy a well-known local Italian restaurant - so he can use the site for luxury housing, sources told The Post yesterday.

Gargiulo's Restaurant, a Coney Island institution since 1903, could be relocated a few blocks away to the proposed larger boardwalk project, a Vegas-style entertainment area between West 12th and West 15th streets.

Developer Thor Equities last month bought the Astroland amusement park and hopes to replace it with a theme hotel and spectacular new rides.

The overall project would include other hotels, stores, housing, an indoor water park, a multilevel carousel, and a 4,000-foot-long roller coaster.

The company is awaiting city approval, but hopes to break ground in 18 months and wrap up in about five years.

NYguy Dec 28, 2006 1:05 PM

Brooklyn Papers

Circus may parade into Coney Island

http://www.brooklynpapers.com/html/i...50bigapple.jpg

Zaïda (upside down) and Aumor of the Big Apple Circus may soon be showing off their skills in Coney Island.


By Dana Rubinstein

Running away to the circus might soon be as easy as taking the D train to Stillwell Avenue if Coney Island real-estate magnate Joseph Sitt has his way.

The Big Apple Circus has confirmed that it met recently with Sitt’s Thor Equities to discuss incorporating the circus into the $2-billion condo-and-amusement neighborhood Sitt has proposed for the dozen-odd acres of Boardwalk-front property he owns in the neighborhood.

“There was one very preliminary exploratory meeting a couple of months ago,” said Joel Dein, a Big Apple spokesman.

Dein emphasized that a potential relationship with Thor would not undermine Lincoln Center’s status as the circus’s home base.

Thor has also reportedly been talking to Nickelodeon and Disney about collaborating on the beachfront development, although those reports could not be confirmed.

Coney Island insiders this week applauded the idea of the Big Apple on the Boardwalk, saying the circus would fit as nicely into the community as a sword down a freak-show performer’s throat.


“As long as you’re bringing in amusement operators, rather than shopping malls and condos, bring it on!” said Dick Zigun, who runs Coney Island’s legendary Sideshow.

“There traditionally were circuses at Steeplechase, Dreamland and Luna Park,” added Zigun. “The circuses scattered when the amusement parks closed.”

Michael Immerso, the author of the authoritative history of the entertainment community, agreed —though he warned that Coney Island’s entertainment diversity must be preserved.

“One would hope that Thor would also reach out to more cutting-edge local entertainment visionaries,” said Immerso, author of “Coney Island, the People’s Playground.”

“If you [relocate] the same things you could find at Times Square, then you don’t have Coney Island, you just have American pop culture transplanted in Coney Island.”

As The Brooklyn Papers has reported, Sitt has been snapping up land in Coney Island for more than a year. With his purchase of the famed, but dilapidated, Astroland last month, he now owns 13 acres of prime real estate between West 10 and 15th streets on which to build his restaurant, hotel, amusement, condo and retail complex.

Even if Coney Island doesn’t end up with the circus, circus-goers can still get a taste of Coney Island.

This season, the Big Apple Circus is featuring a show called “Amusement Resort by the Sea,” which focuses on Coney Island in the early 20th century and promises “rollicking rides and awesome arcades, the boisterous barker and surprising sideshows.”

Dein called the show’s timing “coincidental.”

NYguy Jan 3, 2007 8:08 AM

Courier-Life Publications

Q & A with Coney Island mega-developer

By Stephen Witt
12/29/2006


With much of the Coney Island amusement park area now in control of Joseph J. Sitt, the principal of Thor Equities, his company has become a major player in the redevelopment of the entire borough.

Among the firm’s other holdings are the former Revere Sugar factory site in Red Hook, the Albee Square Mall on Fulton Street, and the garage building on Bond and Livingston streets.

Sitt is originally from South Brooklyn and continues to have many ties in the borough.

Recently, Courier-Life Publications sat down with Sitt in his Manhattan office to talk about his plans for Brooklyn, and Coney Island and Red Hook in particular.

Also present was Lee Silberstein of the public relations firm the Marino Organization.

During the course of the interview, Silberstein made several points as a clarification.

____________________________________________

People in the borough are on pins and needles regarding your submission of a project plan for Coney Island. When is that coming and can you offer any more details regarding height, density and the amount of residential housing you will incorporate in the plan? What type of zoning changes are you looking for?

Sitt: We’re in the process right now of a mixed-use plan. Our goals will be a combination of retail/ amusement/entertainment. It will include a hotel component and a residential component.

The mix is driven by several factors. One of the largest problems Coney Island has right now is it’s dead most of the year and it’s a scary neighborhood late at night almost all year long because of the lack of people present there.

In our plan, one of our goals is to include a residential and hotel component that will create that 24/7 activity 365 days a year so that there’ll be constant activity which is what creates the vitality for areas and developments like this cause you have people there, and in the case of the hotel, transient activity — people coming and going.


So the goal is to have a mixed-use project of all three of those components and we think by having all three of these components we’ll make this into a really important destination location where people want to be, people want to sleep, people want to vacation, people want to visit, people want to own a second location.

So when are we going to see an actual plan and not art renderings?

Silberstein: We’ve been doing that the last few years. We’ve been meeting with the city officials and the CIDC [Coney Island Development Corporation]. And in fact there is a plan that we’ve been sharing with the city officials and we’ve been getting feedback on and we continue to wait for them to take it to the next level.

Sitt: We have to wait for the government. It’s not in our hands [to rezone].

Silberstein: To be clear, we have a plan. We have a book with all the specifics and the city is doing a larger rezoning and so our plan is now becoming a component of their overall plan.

So when are we going to see your plan?

Sitt: As soon as the city decides on what they’re willing to live with.

So you’re saying you have a plan and the city has it, but it’s not in public review yet until the city rezones the area?

Silberstein: The time the public gets to review a plan like that is in the ULURP [Uniform Land Use Review Procedure] process. We want it to be in the ULURP process already. We were hoping that we would have been certified with the ULURP already. We were hoping they would have finished a year ago already.

So it’s not a question of which comes first, the chicken or the egg? In other words, the plan or the zoning change?

Sitt: I don’t know who you’re hearing what from. The city has a plan. We submitted a plan. The city knows exactly what we’re looking for and we’re waiting for them.

Taconic [Developers] owns nearly as much as we have in Coney Island and they haven’t even begun thinking about putting a pencil to paper, because they are saying they don’t want to spend that energy until they see the city go ahead and do the rezoning.

So it’s not the chicken or the egg. It’s the city or the city. The city’s in control. We then fill in the blanks. We’ve done our master plan work, but we’ll have to modify to fit in with what the city does.

Many preservationists in Coney Island are wondering about the amusement part. Among the question on their lips is will the amusement area be modeled after a Disneyland or Six Flags where people pay one price to get in or will it remain a free-flowing amusement park as it always has been?

Sitt: So far the plan is the free-flowing [amusement area] and we really don’t have a choice. I don’t know how to enclose all that to have a Disney-type theme park with one control point or access point. We’re more urban and Coney Island, so we’re more free-flowing.

Others in Coney Island question whether the residential component will include some affordable housing?

In terms of residential, our goal is not necessarily just year-round residents.

A lot of our residential we hope are going to be folks on time share, folks that come and buy like two weeks out of the year and/or some second homeowners like they do at a lot of resort and vacation spots, but the biggest part that make up where people sleep is going to be the transient folks — people who sleep in the hotels and/or the time shares, as an example.

There’s no rule that says sorry, you are too wealthy to come visit Coney Island and sleep in a hotel. Part of democracy is you want anybody at any income level to welcome them to be able to sleep in Coney Island.

Moving to Red Hook, what are your plans for the former Revere Sugar Factory, which you are in the process of having demolished?

Sitt: Unlike Coney Island where for two years we’ve been submitting to the city plans, we’ve not submitted any plans so we’re still on the ground floor but we’re working on getting there.

Silberstein: When we went through the process of removing it from the business zone, we made a promise to the community that we were going to come back and work with them in developing a plan. We’re in the process of doing that.

The former Sugar factory site is in the mouth of the Erie Basin where several businesses for maritime use are located. How do you expect residents to live with that and will it force business out?

Sitt: Nothing has been there [on the Revere Sugar site] to move out for 30 years. It’s been vacant. It was owned by Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.

Silberstein: The opportunity for the waterfront, as the mayor said the other day, is to reopen it. Recreate public access to it and introduce new uses. The other side to that coin is to make sure it’s done in a way that allows the mix of uses — some of the maritime stuff that’s there now and some of the new uses.

Sitt: Particularly there in Red Hook. In fact, people keep forgetting in that in the Fairway development, he [developer Greg O’Connell] included lots and lots of residential that have already taken up occupancy and from what I hear none of the residents have been complaining…so it’s a really good test for the future.

So do you anticipate some retail there?

Sitt: Absolutely. Jobs in that community are as important as jobs in Coney Island.

You were among the first of the entrepreneurs to reinvest in inner city America through strip malls and your Ashley Stewart clothing chain. Along with being a developer comes the responsibility of reshaping the borough of Brooklyn. What moral and ethical responsibilities do you feel you have toward the borough and its people in a broader sense?

Sitt: The reason why I’m doing developments in Brooklyn is because I care about my own neighborhood. This is the place I grew up. This is the place I moved back to live.

And though probably 90 percent of the work we do is outside New York, for us Brooklyn is very, very close to our heart and close to our passion.

I feel that Brooklyn is dramatically underserved and I want to see my town get the nice quality stuff that the rest of the United States has.

You go to small communities all over the United States and they’ve got good retail and good office buildings. They’ve got good residential buildings, rental buildings, condominiums, good places for families to go and be entertained and our servings in all these categories are pretty slim.

Silberstein: As of January 1, Joe will have a person who will focus on job development and job programs for the Coney Island project. That is earlier than any developer that I know of. We don’t even have a defined project yet. We certainly don’t have zoning yet and Joe is willing to invest and start creating and developing a jobs program so that the jobs created by the Coney Island project stay in the community.

That is an enormous commitment to the community early on.


©Courier-Life Publications 2007

JManc Jan 4, 2007 11:05 AM

i'm sorry but i'd hate to see coney island transformed into some corporate cheesy vegas knock-off. it's coney island for crying out loud...it's not supposed to be glitzy. :no:

NYguy Jan 7, 2007 7:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jmancuso (Post 2545411)
i'm sorry but i'd hate to see coney island
transformed into some corporate cheesy vegas knock-off. it's coney island
for crying out loud...it's not supposed to be glitzy. :no:

New doesn't mean "glitzy". Coney Island was much, much more than what it
is today. So if we're going to go with the history of what it is, or what
it should be, then that means building the types of developments that this
developer is proposing. People often say they don't want it to turn into
a "Vegas" or "Disney", but its those places that are the knockoffs...


(old Coney)

http://claweb.cla.unipd.it/home/ptho...una%20park.jpg


http://www.ultimaterollercoaster.com...lunapark2.jpg?


http://www.ultimaterollercoaster.com...i_lunapark.jpg


http://timefreezephotos.com/postcards/coney.jpg


http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/ny...rds/lunapk.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/L...t/aerswing.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/L...ght/dragon.jpg


http://www.vintageviews.org/vv-3/amu...amp02_005.JPG?


http://history.amusement-parks.com/S...achuteday.jpg?


http://history.amusement-parks.com/S...echaseride.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/L...gonsgorge2.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/L...agonsgorge.jpg


http://history.amusement-parks.com/L...000leagues.jpg


http://www.brooklyn.net/img/dreamland_at_night.jpg


http://www.lib.umd.edu/NTL/lunapark-front.jpg


http://www.mcny.org/images/content/0/4/048.jpg

KCtoBrooklyn Jan 17, 2007 9:36 AM

Quote:

i'm sorry but i'd hate to see coney island transformed into some corporate cheesy vegas knock-off. it's coney island for crying out loud...it's not supposed to be glitzy.
I agree completely. I wouldn't mind them building that glitzy vegas crap on anyother beach in the area, but not Coney. Come on. Have some respect for history.

Coney is one of my favorite spots. I don't think I would ever go that proposed monstrosity.

NYguy Jan 18, 2007 1:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KCtoBrooklyn (Post 2569031)
I agree completely. I wouldn't mind them building that glitzy vegas crap on anyother beach in the area, but not Coney. Come on. Have some respect for history.

Maybe you didn't uderstand the post above...

NYguy Jan 18, 2007 1:10 PM

Daily News

Floating visions of new Coney I.
Developers imagine a Vegas-like entertainment destination


BY JOTHAM SEDERSTROM

http://www.nydailynews.com/ips_rich_...7-BOROS450.jpg

A rendering of Thor Equities plans for a Coney Island hub. The firm calls it Stillwell Park.


Hotels, amusement rides, water parks, night clubs, light shows and residential and retail towers as far as the eye can see.

That's the new Coney Island that may begin to emerge this year.

In addition to hundreds of upscale housing units, big-name franchises like Nickelodeon, W Hotel and the House of Blues are being floated as possible components of the revitalization plan, sources familiar with some of the proposals have said.

Add to that a slew of entertainment attractions - including a state-of-the-art roller coaster designed to wind around buildings on Stillwell Ave. - and Coney Island could begin to resemble a Las Vegas on the Atlantic Ocean.

But until the 13-member Coney Island Development Corp. releases its long-awaited master plan, nothing but sand and water is certain for the neighborhood.

"You should have a big question mark over the whole thing," said Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal. "One doesn't know from day to day."

That hasn't stopped two developers from sinking big bucks into their plans.

Taconic Investment Partners, known for residential and office towers in Manhattan and other cities, has scooped up roughly 350,000 square feet of real estate since Coney Island revitalization plans were announced in 2003. Beside hopes of turning the famed Child's Restaurant into a restaurant and catering hall, Taconic has plans for residential and retail buildings on portions of at least six blocks between W. 22nd St. and W. 15th St.

"We've made what we feel is a valid presentation and proposal and we'll be very interested to see how the city responds," said Taconic founder Charles Bendit. "It's kind of like wanting to see how you did on your test in school."

More publicly than Taconic, mega-developer Thor Equities has submitted a $2 billion plan. Thor's proposal could include two hotels, an indoor water park, music venues and loads of glitz.

"Thor Equities is confident that its vision for the future of Coney Island will bring positive change to the neighborhood," said Thor spokesman Lee Silberstein. "Thor looks forward to integrating its strategic plan with that of the city and other real estate developers who are committed to redeveloping Coney."

A third party - longtime Coney Island developer Horace Bullard - also still owns property in the area, but has so far refused to say how he plans to develop it.

"Coney Island's economy really has to be a year-round one to be sustainable," Mayor Bloomberg said in announcing the formation of the Coney Island Development Corp. in 2003. "It can't be just tied to the baseball season or to warm weather."



http://www.nydailynews.com/images/gr...yislandmap.jpg

1. New York-based Taconic Investment Partners hopes to build residential and retail on 100,000 square feet of land on four parcels between W. 16th and 20th Sts. between Mermaid and Surf Aves. Taconic also plans:

* Residential and retail space on 180,000 square feet of land between Surf Ave. and the Boardwalk at W. 21st St.

* Child's Restaurant site is being eyed for a high-end catering hall between Surf Ave. and the Boardwalk at W. 21st St.

* Residential and retail space on 18,000 square feet between Surf Ave. and the Boardwalk at W. 22nd St.

2. A proposed new street, tentatively called Front St., to be built from the Parachute Jump to the Cyclone, spanning roughly 2,400 feet and used primarily as a pedestrian throughway.

3. Bowery St., currently composed of penny arcades, fast food restaurants and small rides, could turn into five blocks of retail and restaurants. Along W. 15th and 16th Sts., however, developer Horace Bullard still owns property and hasn't said publicly what he plans to do with it.

4. Stillwell Ave. south of Surf Ave. would become "Stillwell Walk" and serve as the main thoroughfare of Coney Island, with open-air cafes and retail along a cobblestone street. A 4,000-foot rollercoaster designed by Switzerland-based Intamin AG is also in the works.

5. Called "Splash," this 150-foot observation deck with holographic displays, light shows and water mist, would be the first thing people see upon exiting the Stillwell Ave. subway station. A rooftop beer garden, with views of Brooklyn and the Atlantic Ocean, is also in the works.


6. Anchored by one of two planned hotels, this 75,000- square-foot glass-encased water park would soar eight stories and sit atop a parking garage.

W Hotel and Nickelodeon, among other hoteliers, are in talks, sources said.

7. The second of two hotels planned for Coney Island would sit above an entertainment attraction, which sources said could be a live music venue.

A source close to House of Blues said the franchise was looking seriously at expanding to New York.

8. The former Astroland amusement park would be reimagined as another park, this one glass-enclosed and potentially three stories tall. The Burbank-based Thinkwell Design and Production is currently designing amusement rides.

9. Developer Thor Equities plans to build residential near the Boardwalk between W. 15th St. and Stillwell Walk.

NYguy Jan 25, 2007 2:22 PM

Daily News

B'klyn fun park, by power of Thor
Behold, the future of Coney Island! Soaring gondolas, manmade canals & a mega-coaster part of $250M plan.

http://www.nydailynews.com/images/editors/rope0125.jpg


http://www.nydailynews.com/ips_rich_...ConeyPark1.JPG

Artist renderings for the proposed Coney Park, which is expected to be completed by 2011. The $250 million park will be double the size of Astroland.


BY JOTHAM SEDERSTROM

Good-bye, Astroland, hello "Coney Island Park."

The big-bucks developer who bought Coney Island's oldest amusement park plans to replace it with a glitzy $250 million playground anchored by a roller coaster that dips under the Boardwalk, the Daily News has learned.

Double the size of Astroland, the multitiered park will include 21 rides, a hotel, a manmade canal for boat rides, a glass-encased atrium and commercial space.

"We're trying to deliver on the promise of what Coney Island is," said Chris Durmick, creative director of Thinkwell Design & Production, the California group that is drawing up the 6-acre plan. "Whatever you come looking for at Coney Island, it's all going to be there."

Astroland owner Carol Hill Albert, whose family had owned the gritty but storied park since 1962, sold the site to developer Thor Equities in November for an unspecified amount.

Coney Island Park, slated to open in 2011, would be one component of a 13-acre, $1.5 billion plan by Thor that includes an indoor water park and residential, retail and entertainment components.

The flagship ride is the "Leviathan," a 100-foot-tall coaster with loop-de-loops that dips under the Boardwalk before flying back aboveground.


Including the Cyclone and another coaster planned for Stillwell Ave., it would be the third for the area.

Another marquee ride, the Aviator, would soar 120 feet, with gondolas guided individually by hand-held joysticks.

kenratboy Jan 26, 2007 6:00 AM

Wow, that just HAS to be built! It needs to be Corny, stupid, and wasteful - something totally off the wall that people will grow to love.

I approve.

NYguy Feb 1, 2007 1:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kenratboy (Post 2590489)
Wow, that just HAS to be built! It needs to be Corny, stupid, and wasteful - something totally off the wall that people will grow to love.

I approve.

It NEEDS to be is something that will draw people there the entire year, not just the few months anyone goes there now.

Glad you approve.

NYguy Feb 1, 2007 1:02 PM

Daily News

CONCERTED EFFORT IN CONEY IS.

By RICH CALDER
February 1, 2007

Jones Beach could soon be facing stiff competition from Coney Island in attracting A-list performers.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Councilman Domenic Recchia Jr. are confident they'll convince the city to build a $30 million to $35 million, 5,000-seat amphitheater at Asser Levy Park.

NYguy Feb 1, 2007 1:17 PM

Daily News

Beep sets stage for new venue
Amphitheater push in tonight's speech


BY RACHEL MONAHAN
February 1, 2007

http://www.nydailynews.com/ips_rich_..._markowitz.JPG

Marty Markowitz


Creating a world-class summer amphitheater in Coney Island to rival Jones Beach will be one of Brooklyn's top priorities in 2007, Borough President Marty Markowitz said yesterday.

As he prepared to unveil his plans in his State of the Borough address tonight, Markowitz told the Daily News he wants to create a roofed venue at Asser Levy Park, on the spot where he has sponsored concerts since 1991.

"When the major, major summer tours occur ... I propose that Brooklyn - Coney Island - be an additional seasonal concert venue," Markowitz said a day ahead of his speech to be given at the Brooklyn Navy Yard's Steiner Studios.

"I'm going to be making a major investment - and working closely with the Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York City Economic Development Corporation - to make this proposal a reality."


The borough president - though often relegated to what Markowitz called being the "chief nudge" - has a capital budget of nearly $58 million for this fiscal year.

The amphitheater would fit well with other developments proposed for Coney Island after a rezoning to occur in the next year, he said.

Markowitz also has other ambitious designs for making Brooklyn a concert mecca.

By revamping Flatbush's long-shuttered Loew's Kings Theatre, Markowitz also hopes to bolster the neighborhood's economy.

"What I envision is the Beacon Theater and the Apollo Theater rolled into one," he said.

The Kings Theatre, which opened in 1929, has stood vacant for 30 years.

In its heyday, the theater hosted up to 3,000 people for movies and vaudeville acts.

Markowitz also hopes to get the ball rolling on creating a new high school dedicated to training students for well-paid careers in advertising.

In addition to new commitments, Markowitz's speech is expected to highlight his notable achievements in the last year, including the inauguration of the Brooklyn Book Festival and the docking of the borough's first cruise ships in Red Hook.

NYguy Feb 5, 2007 11:22 PM

Posted on curbed.com

Destructoporn: Thor's Hammer Starts Banging Coney Island

http://www.curbed.com/2007_02_Coney%20Demo%201.jpg


http://www.curbed.com/2007_02_Coney%20Demo%202.jpg


http://www.curbed.com/2007_02_Coney%20Demo%203.jpg


Demolition equipment dispatched by Thor Equities has gotten to work in Coney Island, tearing up go-kart tracks, batting cages and mini-golf courses near the boardwalk. We took the shot above over the weekend when it felt like it was seriously below zero in Southern Brooklyn's future year-round destination. Last week, Thor publicly threatened to walk away from the project if it doesn't get the zoning it wants to build luxury highrises on the boardwalk. There have been some concerns that the early demolition work is intended to increase pressure for quick approval of Thor's plans.

NYguy Feb 10, 2007 2:28 PM

Thor's website for his part of the Coney Island redevelopment...
http://www.thefutureofconeyisland.com/

NYguy Feb 15, 2007 1:18 PM

NY Sun

City Signals No-Go for Coney Island Luxury Tower
Land Use


By ELIOT BROWN
February 15, 2007


Developer Joseph Sitt's plan to revitalize Coney Island with new amusements financed with profits from luxury housing is facing new resistance from the city.

Yesterday, the chairwoman of the Department of City Planning, Amanda Burden, criticized Mr. Sitt's plan to include a luxury tower in the beachfront district that is zoned for amusements.

"Amusements are incompatible with immediate adjacent residential use," Ms. Burden said at a Crain's New York breakfast presentation in Midtown.


Mr. Sitt's Thor Equities has planned a $2 billion complex for the area, which would contain a large amusement component, both indoor and outdoor, and retail. The developer says it must finance the amusements with the inclusion of about 700 luxury condominiums along the boardwalk. Market studies show that they need both the extra people and added revenue from the units to make the development financially viable, Thor Equities has said. Last month, the developer threatened to scuttle its plans for the amusement park if the city disallows the residential apartments.

The city is in the midst of creating a comprehensive plan for the area, which would include rezoning to allow for the amusement complex and nearby residential development. Ms. Burden said rezoning the area for the allowance of residential units in the surrounding area is important for the project, but apartments in the heart of the amusement district would detract from the overall revitalization of Coney Island. Any zoning change would need to pass through the city's uniform land use review process, and requires approvals from the Planning Commission and the City Council.

A spokesman for Thor Equities, Lee Silberstein, said that discussions with the city are ongoing.

"We continue to work with the administration to formulate a plan that can be implemented for Coney Island," Mr. Silberstein said.

As the company dances with the city over the possible inclusion of condominiums, it has been ramping up efforts to sell the project to the community. Thor Equities launched a website for the project last week, which does not mention plans for the residential units, and recently sent out cards to neighbors promoting the potential development.

In her talk yesterday morning, Ms. Burden also said that a plan for a rezoning in the Manhattan's Garment district would soon be revealed. The rezoning would not call for the addition of residential in the area, she said, once a thriving apparel manufacturing district.

NYguy Mar 7, 2007 12:50 PM

Observer

Sitt Buckles Into Coney Rollercoaster
‘We’re stuck in the bureaucracy,’ says the man who plans to develop Coney Island. He wants Planning Director Amanda Burden to get out of his way.


http://www.observer.com/data/article..._schuerman.jpg

Amanda Burden, the city’s Planning Director, has said she isn’t a fan of condos next to any future Coney Island amusement hub.

By Matthew Schuerman

Joe Sitt, a 42-year-old developer who has bought up Coney Island’s core, got stung a few weeks ago. The city’s planning director, Amanda Burden, knocked the economic engine that’s supposed to drive the whole thing—condominiums—months before the official rezoning process had even begun.

Luxury condominiums, Ms. Burden said at a Feb. 14 Crain’s New York Business breakfast, should not be “adjacent” to amusements.

Suddenly, Mr. Sitt finds himself $60 million lighter, his prime strategy to turn nostalgia into profits—two residential towers mixed in among the rides and the retail of a modern-day Coney Island—in disarray. Most recently, he was lambasted in the press because he required some vendors to sign gag orders as a condition for staying beyond their leases.

“We’re stuck in the bureaucracy of government,” Mr. Sitt told The Observer in a March 1 interview. “It’s just crazy that somebody from government would want us to mothball this entire thing for five or 10 years, to leave it to another administration to make it happen.”

Mr. Sitt, a businessman who founded the Ashley Stewart clothing chain at age 26 and climbed the ladder of bigger and bigger deals ever since, doesn’t blame Ms. Burden directly; he hardly knows her. He blames the low-level city planners he has dealt with, who he says resisted—at least at first—his $2 billion vision to reinvigorate Coney Island by bringing back its eclecticism.

“It is not the uniform office tower or residential tower that a lot of these folks at the junior-most levels of government are used to dealing with,” Mr. Sitt said. “This is Coney Island. This is zany. This is different. When somebody says to me, ‘You want to be careful what you want to do with Coney Island; make sure you don’t do anything too freaky here,’ I say, ‘Are you aware of the fact that this was the place where there were people like the Fat Lady and the Skinny Man and the Bearded Lady? What do you mean, you don’t want any restaurants in Coney Island?’”

A PRODUCT OF GRAVESEND, BROOKLYN, MR. SITT was sitting in his lower Fifth Avenue office, wearing an immaculately pressed, cuff-linked blue shirt that belied the chaos around him. Secretaries walked in and out with papers for him to sign. When his publicist interjected an elucidating comment or two, Mr. Sitt would jump up from his ergonomic chair, pick up his desk phone and buy another piece of property somewhere. Then he would plunge back into the conversation.

“It was a little bit of an education process,” Mr. Sitt began, his voice steadily rising in a combination of genuine and manufactured indignation. “‘No, we don’t want any restaurants on Coney Island,’ they said. ‘We want to maintain the spirit of the history of Coney Island.’ And I said, ‘What are you talking about, the history of Coney Island? Coney Island had 232 restaurants at once!’”

(On the other hand, the only people who lived there were in that little shack underneath the Thunderbolt, memorialized in the movie Annie Hall.)

In some ways, Mr. Sitt jumped into the game too late to replicate the way another Brooklyn developer, Bruce Ratner, convinced the city and state to support a sports arena right next to a massive apartment village. Mr. Ratner saw a desolate rail yard in central Brooklyn and used it as a wedge to create an eight-million-square foot development. Mr. Sitt began buying property only four years ago, after the city constructed a minor-league baseball stadium and had already made its mind up to forge a community-led master plan for the neighborhood.

On the other hand, Mr. Sitt—unlike Mr. Ratner—never needs to use eminent domain. He has spent $150 million buying out dozens of landowners, according to reports, prying heirlooms from the families which created Nathan’s Hot Dogs and brought the Ferris wheel to New York City with the promise that he would put them to worthy use. After flipping land west of Keyspan Park to a residential developer for $90 million, Mr. Sitt is left with the four-block area next to the Cyclone roller coaster, the so-called amusement core.

The full-color renderings that he commissioned from architects Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn show a grown-up Disneyland with a giant martini glass, a roller coaster that passes through buildings, a jumble of shapes and extra dimensions that completely obliterates the street grid— even though it would actually add streets.


Mr. Sitt contends that 975 residential units—an unspecified mix of time-shares and condos—would provide the eyes and ears (and pocketbooks) that would make the complex work year round, to say nothing of compensating for the losses he expects from running the amusement area.

On a total square-foot basis, according to figures from Thor Equities, Mr. Sitt’s development firm, the apartments would constitute 34 percent of the square footage of the complex, while amusements would constitute only 14 percent. (Hotels, retail and parking would make up the rest.) The actual land area covered by the footprints of the residential towers would be much smaller, however—in part because one of the towers would rise 50 stories.

Despite Mr. Sitt’s confrontational rhetoric (a mark of desperation, or some sort of Brechtian government-relations strategy?), the Thor plan has a lot in common with the one dreamed up by the Coney Island Development Corporation, an offshoot of the city’s Economic Development Corporation with community members on its board. Hotels, restaurants and music venues would draw people until late at night; indoor amusements would be impervious to the cold; and together they would produce enough revenue to justify the latest gizmos.

“Thor is not necessarily the enemy. A lot of what they are proposing is exactly what we want,” said Dick Zigun, the founder of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow and a member of the Coney Island Development Corporation. “We want affluent people from around the world to come and spend a week here and spend a lot of money. But people who come here for a week want the noise and excitement; people raising families complain. People renting apartments across the street complain on a regular basis as it is.”

He added, “If Thor presented a plan that was 85 percent amusements and 15 percent condos, I would not vote for it—but it would not surprise me if it went through.”

While city officials wouldn’t respond directly to the charges of juvenilia, they did assert that they are following the direction laid out in September 2005, when the Coney Island Development Corporation approved an 18-page “strategic plan” outlining what sort of uses would be permitted where along the entire peninsula. It called for rezoning blocks to the north and west of Keyspan Park to permit apartments, and to increase the density of some other residential areas, adding another 8,000 residents or so.

But the area where Mr. Sitt is focusing would be reserved for “active and historic amusements” and “extended seasonal entertainment.” (Current zoning only permits things like amusement parks, sports facilities, miniature golf and boating facilities—even sit-down restaurants are prohibited.) That said, city planning officials are stressing that residential development wouldn’t be appropriate right next to amusements, but they leave open the question of how the two uses would co-exist if they were a block away from each other.

“There is an inherent land-use conflict when you put a use that we hope would be a 24-hour use, where there would be bright lights and noise and crowds, right next to residential,” said Purnima Kapur, director of the Brooklyn office of the Department of City Planning. “You don’t want somebody’s windows opening up right onto that.”

STILL, MR. SITT SAID THAT HE WAS LED TO BELIEVE that the development corporation approved of residential uses and pointed to a public statement made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg this January calling for “a diverse use of a piece of land if it’s really going to succeed.”

City officials say that the Mayor’s statement referred to the larger Coney Island neighborhood, not the amusement core. Mr. Zigun, the member of the Coney Island Development Corporation, acknowledged that an architecture firm working as a consultant to the city, Arquitectonica, had once suggested a plan that incorporated residential into the core, but the plan was quickly dismissed.

At one point in his interview with The Observer, Mr. Sitt said: “I could care whether it was hotels, condos, time-shares—I want humans.” But a spokesman for Mr. Sitt said later that hotels and time-shares wouldn’t make the project financially viable enough without condos.

To make his argument, Mr. Sitt even commissioned a telephone poll of 400 randomly selected residents of the Coney Island City Council district; it showed that 62.1 percent supported residential housing “in or near the boardwalk.” When asked whether they would change their minds if “a limited amount” was needed in order to make the amusements, restaurants, retail and “hundreds of new jobs,” about half of the opponents ended up supporting the idea.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sitt complains about the city’s slow pace. The Department of City Planning anticipates issuing zoning recommendations by the summer. The Coney Island Development Corporation expects to begin the land-use process by the end of the year, meaning that the area will not be rezoned until mid-2008.

“The city is going to take the time to get it right,” Ms. Kapur said. “The area has been in decline for over 40 years. We need to make sure all the constituencies are on board, and that takes time.”

Mr. Sitt is now pulling down buildings, making it clear that the old Coney Island will enjoy one more summer—but only one. He owns all the property and could try to starve Coney Island until he gets the residential zoning that he wants. It is another matter, though, whether Ms. Burden will give in.

NYguy Mar 7, 2007 1:03 PM

NY Sun

New York Aquarium Chooses New Design

By ELIOT BROWN
March 7, 2007

The New York Aquarium has chosen a design for its new exterior, a giant, wavy, cage-like enclosure with an aquatic theme, sources tell The New York Sun.

The design, created by a Philadelphia-based firm, Wallace, Roberts & Todd, and Barcelona-based Cloud 9, is intended better to blend the aquarium's multiple Robert Moses-era buildings with the nearby beach. The Coney Island-based aquarium sits at the end of string of parking lots and currently has no direct access to the neighboring boardwalk or ocean.

The aquarium, which is owned and operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, selected the design from three finalists about two months ago, though it has withheld a formal announcement, the sources said.

The plans for the site tie into a larger effort to revitalize the bygone amusement hub, which now lies eerily dormant for half the year.

Representatives at WCS did not return calls for comment and a spokeswoman for Wallace, Roberts & Todd declined to comment.

Coney Island natives, who have long viewed the exterior of the aquarium as uninviting, welcomed the decision to revamp the 50-year-old complex.

"The aquarium has always been hidden away and walled in," a Coney Island historian, Charles Denson, said. "You can't see the ocean from the aquarium. It's right on the Atlantic, but there's nothing that connects it to the beach."

WCS, in conjunction with the city's Economic Development Corporation, began a design contest for the new exterior last summer, asking companies to make a design that could serve as a beacon for the area. About 25 companies made submissions, and the winner was to be announced in the fall.

A spokeswoman for the EDC, which is involved in implementing a strategic plan for the Coney Island area, Janel Patterson, said the EDC and WCS are working out details of the project and do not have a specific time line for construction.

"The perimeter design is really quite a large undertaking — it can't be done all at once," she said. "We want to be sure we're scheduling the correct phasing with funding that becomes available."

The city has sought to revitalize Coney Island for years, and the planning department is working on a rezoning for the area that would allow for new development.

A private developer, Thor Equities, has bought several lots in the area, including the Astroland amusement park, and is engaged in a publicity campaign promoting its plans for a giant new entertainment complex complete with an indoor water park, retail stores, and restaurants to the southwest of the aquarium.

However, the company is seeking to build luxury condominiums in the heart of the district, a plan the city opposes.

Until any development can go forward in the amusement district, Mr. Denson said the aquarium will be one of few sites that will draw people to the area, as Thor plans to close Astroland this fall and continue clearing the land on its other properties.

"It's going to be one of the main attractions in Coney Island," he said. "There's not much left."

-GR2NY- Mar 7, 2007 6:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NYguy (Post 1586823)
Equally spectacular, Sitt hopes, will be a blimp that will take off from the complex’s roof, carrying tourists on joyrides over the city as it flashes the resort’s name in giant technicolor letters: THE BOARDWALK AT CONEY ISLAND.

I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I will be one of the first to ride I garantee, this is one of the coolest things I've seen come out of New York other than the skyscraper.

:worship:

Jularc Mar 7, 2007 8:29 PM

:tup: Cool news about the Aquarium! I like this design the most.

Here are a few more renderings...

http://www.curbed.com/2006_10_Aquarium-Plan.JPG

http://www.curbed.com/2006_10_Aquarium-Boardwalk.JPG

http://www.curbed.com/2006_10_Aquarium-Side.JPG

http://www.curbed.com/2006_10_Aquarium-Model.JPG

Thskyscraper Mar 7, 2007 8:30 PM

:previous: That's spectacular!

NYguy Mar 7, 2007 8:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jularc (Post 2672060)
:tup: Cool news about the Aquarium! I like this design the most.

Here are a few more renderings...

http://www.curbed.com/2006_10_Aquarium-Boardwalk.JPG

http://www.curbed.com/2006_10_Aquarium-Model.JPG

Very nice indeed...

Quote:

A spokeswoman for the EDC, which is involved in implementing a strategic plan for the Coney Island area, Janel Patterson, said the EDC and WCS are working out details of the project and do not have a specific time line for construction.

"The perimeter design is really quite a large undertaking — it can't be done all at once," she said. "We want to be sure we're scheduling the correct phasing with funding that becomes available."

The best days of Coney Island may be ahead...

NYguy Mar 7, 2007 9:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NYguy (Post 2671103)
Observer

Sitt Buckles Into Coney Rollercoaster
‘We’re stuck in the bureaucracy,’ says the man who plans to develop Coney Island. He wants Planning Director Amanda Burden to get out of his way.


http://www.observer.com/data/article..._schuerman.jpg

Amanda Burden, the city’s Planning Director, has said she isn’t a fan of condos next to any future Coney Island amusement hub.

Luxury condominiums, Ms. Burden said at a Feb. 14 Crain’s New York Business breakfast, should not be “adjacent” to amusements.

On a total square-foot basis, according to figures from Thor Equities, Mr. Sitt’s development firm, the apartments would constitute 34 percent of the square footage of the complex, while amusements would constitute only 14 percent. (Hotels, retail and parking would make up the rest.) The actual land area covered by the footprints of the residential towers would be much smaller, however—in part because one of the towers would rise 50 stories.

“Thor is not necessarily the enemy. A lot of what they are proposing is exactly what we want,” said Dick Zigun, the founder of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow and a member of the Coney Island Development Corporation. “We want affluent people from around the world to come and spend a week here and spend a lot of money. But people who come here for a week want the noise and excitement; people raising families complain. People renting apartments across the street complain on a regular basis as it is.”

But the area where Mr. Sitt is focusing would be reserved for “active and historic amusements” and “extended seasonal entertainment.” (Current zoning only permits things like amusement parks, sports facilities, miniature golf and boating facilities—even sit-down restaurants are prohibited.) That said, city planning officials are stressing that residential development wouldn’t be appropriate right next to amusements, but they leave open the question of how the two uses would co-exist if they were a block away from each other.

“There is an inherent land-use conflict when you put a use that we hope would be a 24-hour use, where there would be bright lights and noise and crowds, right next to residential,” said Purnima Kapur, director of the Brooklyn office of the Department of City Planning. “You don’t want somebody’s windows opening up right onto that.”

I can see both sides of the story here. While I agree that it may not be completely appropriate for luxury towers in the middle of the amusement zone, is it really gonna make much difference even being just a block away? Wouldn't anyone who moved there be aware in advance that it was the heart of CONEY ISLAND?

It's like someone moving into a building accross the street from the Empire State, then suddenly complaining because they don't like tall buildings.

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More from curbed.com

Coney Island #2: Thor Boss Says Haters Just Don't Get It

http://www.curbed.com/2007_03_burdenvs.jpg

After the city—and planning director Amanda Burden specifically—took some wind out of Thor Equities' sails by saying high-priced condos may not be such a good thing for a redeveloped Coney Island, Thor chief Joseph Sitt tried various approaches. First, he threatened to pull the whole $2 billion plan off the shelf. That made us seriously consider seppuku, so he scaled back the threats and instead tried to show the community how awesome Thor's plan is, while kinda-sorta hiding the housing thing. Now Sitt is on to Phase 3, granting a one-on-one interview with the Observer so he can attack the "bureaucracy" and criticize those who cannot comprehend his vision:

“It is not the uniform office tower or residential tower that a lot of these folks at the junior-most levels of government are used to dealing with,” Mr. Sitt said. “This is Coney Island. This is zany. This is different. When somebody says to me, ‘You want to be careful what you want to do with Coney Island; make sure you don’t do anything too freaky here,’ I say, ‘Are you aware of the fact that this was the place where there were people like the Fat Lady and the Skinny Man and the Bearded Lady? What do you mean, you don’t want any restaurants in Coney Island?’”

Did you ever think Shoot the Freak would be equated with luxury high-rises? Of course you did.


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