Friday, November 10, 2006

Coney Island Death Watch: Is Eviction and Demolition a Bargaining Chip?

Coney from Above

If you read GL, you know one of the things we keep a close eye on is the pending redevelopment of Coney Island. We have watched as developer Thor Equities, which owns large parcels of land in Coney and has big developments up its sleeve, started evicting tenants. Why? Possibly because a more vacant Coney is one that demands faster public action.

Someone going by the name of Coney-Isle-O-Phile on the Coney Island Message Board makes a persuasive case that the evictions are part of a strategy to level as many buildings and attractions as possible on Thor's land to create pressure on the Coney Island Development Corporation. It's not that off-the-wall, especially if the CIDC isn't inclined to go for Thor's plans in their entirety. Have a look at the logic:
The CIDC's plans would depend on the amusements that lined Stillwell Ave. If instead what they ended up with was two massive vacant lots that lined both sides of Stillwell as well as a huge vacant lot on the Southeast corner of Stillwell & Surf, then all their plans would be off. How do you revitalize Coney if what visitors exiting the terminal have to look at is vacant lots? Even if they did develop the land behind Keyspan, would anyone want to walk past vacant lots? And Thor could further devalue the area by tearing down the buildings they own on the boardwalk.

This is Thor's bargaining chip with the Mayor. Either let them build what they want to build or they will simply ruin the area. And as they own the land they can do what they want with it, even if that means fencing it off and allowing grass and rats to grow...Thor has already said that they wanted to build Condos and a resort, something they can't even build on the land they now own without it being rezoned...
We're not convinced that City Hall's economic development operation is going to oppose Thor's plans unless they're utterly objectionable. But it's interesting food for thought if you are trying to understand why a developer would want to create a Coney Island that is even more empty than it is today when, at best, its project is still 1-3 years from breaking ground. (This is New York, after all.) All that emptiness and desolation would definitely work in Thor's favor to apply pressure and speed things up.

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