Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sitt Speaks

The Courier-Life papers have a long Q&A with Brooklyn developer and Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt, who is the most prominent and controversial figure on the Brooklyn development scene after Bruce Ratner. (Besides his huge holdings in Coney Island and the Revere Sugar site in Red Hook, Mr. Sitt owns the Albee Square site in downtown Brooklyn, which is said to be under consideration by Wal-Mart.) Among the general points that Mr. Sitt makes is that he is waiting for city action on rezoning in Coney Island and that the Revere Sugar demolition in Red Hook is part of a yet-to-be-developed plan for a mixed use development that will open access to the waterfront. In terms of Coney Island, he expressed frustration that zoning changes haven't yet been made, saying that "The city has a plan. We submitted a plan. The city knows exactly what we’re looking for and we’re waiting for them." The developer also noted that a person is being added to focus on the jobs part of the Coney development. In terms of the city, Mr. Sitt may have to keep waiting. A preliminary comprehensive rezoning may be done in the spring, followed by public review and the land use process in the fall. Assuming no conflict or schedule changes.

On the Sitt Coney Island vision:
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.
On the Coney planning process:
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.
On housing in the current amusement zone:
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.
There's more to this lengthy interview and it makes a fascinating read. You should also check out Kinetic Carnival's take on the interview and the state of things.



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