Saturday, March 24, 2007

Coney Island Deathwatch: Lola Staar Moves Out

Lola Staar Sign

The Coney Island demolition and eviction strategy being pursued by Thor Equities long in advance of any development work has officially claimed its most prominent victim so far. Diana Carlin, whose Lola Staar Boutique was a unique boardwalk treasure, has moved out. (We have made no secret of our belief that the loss of a business like Miss Carlin's symbolizes everything that is wrong with the redevelopment plan and is very ominous in terms of what the "new" Coney Island might look like.) Ms. Carlin was evicted because she refused to signed a confidentiality clause in her lease and because, she says, she became a pawn in the ugly game of hardball development politics that is consuming Coney Island. An article in the Bay News offers more details about Ms. Carlin's forced departure and includes a stinging rebuke of community concerns by a Thor spokesperson who say the firm is not focusing "on tenants of the past."

Sadly for Brooklyn, Ms. Carlin is considering a Manhattan location for her boutique. We believe that it would behoove the Coney Island Development Corporation to do backflips, handstands and somersaults to find an affordable, well located space for Ms. Carlin in Coney Island. Their approach to the redevelopment "negotiations" led developer Joe Sitt's firm to have her business taken out into an empty field and symbolically executed as an example of what they can do if their demands are not met. We believe Ms. Carlin's description of the scenario is accurate. She has struck us in numerous conversations as extremely straightforward and very honest.

Of Thor's demolition zone--which on our last visit was full of debris and a few romping rat--Ms. Carlin says:
"I think people are going to be shocked when they see what it looks like...When Coney Island looks like a war zone, I’m afraid that’s going to breed crime. I think that’s what Thor wants."
Ms. Carlin and other Coney watchers believe that Thor is following a deliberate scorched earth strategy in Coney Island and that it will level most of the amusement zone and create a vast new blighted area in order to create pressure on the city for residential zoning so that development can get underway.

Ms. Carlin is helping to organize a group called Save Coney Island that could become the focus of community, citywide and national opposition to the developer's plans and tactics.

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