Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sitt Speaks: Give Me Luxury Housing in Coney Island, Or Else

Tilt a Whirl

Developer Joe Sitt is turning up the heat on the city in his attempt to have Coney Island rezoned to allow luxury highrise housing on the boardwalk. While Mr. Sitt's publicly-released plans have stressed retail development and amusements such as a new roller coaster, the New York Post reports that Mr. Sitt is suggesting he might pull out of Coney Island if he can't build housing. A story quotes Thor Equities spokesman Lee Silberstein as saying the planned $1.5 billion Coney development "isn't a financially feasible investment" without luxury highrises. Says Mr. Silberstein: "Everybody wants Coney Island to be revitalized, and housing has got to be part of it." The story continues that "the city faces losing its biggest private investment in Coney Island's future if it doesn't meet Thor's request."

It looks like some in Coney aren't taking the bait, however, or pushing the panic button in response to Mr. Sitt's ultimatum. The story continues:

Chuck Reichental, a member of the agency that will determine how Coney Island is rezoned, said a majority of residents opposes housing in the amusement district as well as any new development exceeding the height of the 262-foot landmark Parachute Jump.

Sources familiar with informal talks between the city and Thor say these are the two biggest obstacles to the developer's plan.

A city Economic Development Corporation spokesman said, "Our priorities remain to preserve and enhance Coney Island's historic amusement area, make sure it stays open to the public and create economic opportunities for local residents - and we have serious concerns that a predominance of residential towers . . . would work against those goals."

Clearly, Mr. Sitt and Thor have begun the process of trying to create pressure for the significant zoning changes they want, partly through calculated public statements.

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