Friday, March 30, 2007

Trying to Enliven the New Stillwell Ave. Corridor of Blight

Coney Demolition Ten

We were a little cheered to see a report that the Coney Island Development Corporation discussed ways to revive Stillwell Avenue between the Bowery and the Boardwalk. Of course, the strip didn't need any reviving or revitalization until Thor Equities demolished everything, but now that it's been turned into a potentially dangerous wasteland, attention turns to how keep it safe and how to prevent it from turning into a blighted strip for the next three-five years. It's a legitimate concern and gains more immediacy on Sunday when Coney Island's season starts again and significant numbers of people return. Thor recently obtained permits to put up those blue plywood construction walls around its property.

Kinetic Carnival reported on discussion of ideas to:
keep Stillwell Avenue (behind Nathan's to the boardwalk) active and safe during the season, which is where most of the demolition is taking place. Ideas thrown about were arts and crafts booths, kiosks of food concessions and souvenir stands. Dick Zigun wanted to make sure that careful consideration be taken for the kind of competition it would create for the souvenir shops already in business along Stillwell.
Our favorite idea is the one floated by Diana Carlin, AKA Lola Staar, which is to set up temporary carnival rides on Stillwell. It strikes our (admittedly simply) minds as the ideal solution. The CIDC Board discussed setting up arts & craft or souvenir on the street or creating some sort of activity that help sustain traffic and interest on this very long block. It's also a very sensible idea even though there's concern that new business don't compete with existing ones.

If CIDC does not act to undo the blight that Thor is creating with its early, total demolition strategy, we are willing to wager that something awful will happen on Stillwell this summer. We are not wishing for this, but big urban strips devoid of activity are magnets for bad things. Allowing the creation of a walled-off urban dead zone and expecting it to be functional as a public space violates every planning principle there is.

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