Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Coney Island #1: Sitt Frustrated With Opposition to Coney Plan

Cyclone Late on Opening Day

The new edition of the New York Observer contains an illuminating story about developer Joe Sitt of Thor Equities in which he expresses significant frustration that his plans for Coney Island--specifically the plans to build housing on the boardwalk--have run into opposition and suggests that skeptics are at the "junior-most levels of government." He tells the Observer that "We're stuck in the bureaucracy of government...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." Among others, City Planning Director Amanda Burden has said that housing should not be next to amusements. Sitt says:
"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. 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?’"...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...“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.”
Kinetic Carnival notes that it "seems the [residential] units have jumped another 275 more than last reported by Thor. And they are open about the obvious diminished amusement area which now would consist of only 14 percent."

In any case, you can read all the details, but it would certainly seem that Mr. Sitt has adopted a strategy of public confrontation with city officials in order to try to push for a fast decision in favor of his plans. It will be interesting to see who blinks first.

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