Friday, July 13, 2007

Bizarre Astroland Saga Continues


If we were to find a way to musically tell the Astroland story, we would find a tenor to stand on a stage and sing some opera about it. Seriously. The bizarre Astroland saga--the sale of the property to Thor Equities for $30 million, intimations by the owner that she had no choice other than to sell and the recent effort to find a way to keep the park open, all while putting the rides up for sale--continues.

The same story in the Bay News that conveys that news that Thor is purchasing part of Wonder Wheel Park passes on more detail about what became clear after the Post first reported that Thor would give Astroland a one-year stay of execution until 2008: There is no agreement to keep Astroland open.

The Bay News reports:
“Contrary to reports in the media, we have not been offered a lease extension and there has been no contact made with Joe Sitt,” Albert said.

Albert did say she spoke with City Councilmember Domenic Recchia about the extension and he said he would see what he could do, but nothing came from it.

“The last time I spoke to Sitt was a couple of weeks ago. I told him of my interest in a lease for another year and he said he wasn’t ready to do that,” said Albert.

“The city is trying very hard to find us another place, but it’s difficult for them to find a place in Coney Island. If there’s no place to move the rides, I’ll have to sell them,” she added.

Sitt spokesperson Tom Corsillo confirmed there was no deal to announce right now regarding Astroland.

“Joe is working to ensure that next year the amusement district will still continue to be a lively and active place,” Corsillo said.
GL Analysis
During his presentation in Coney Island, Mr. Sitt noted that Ms. Albert had sold the business. While the apparent struggle to subsequently keep Astroland open has been rather odd, everyone should be bending over backwards to keep it open as long as possible. If Mr. Sitt is unwilling to extend the lease without getting zoning changes first, it is indicative of disinterest in taking most basic steps to keep Coney Island alive while the redevelopment process moves forward.

Mr. Sitt insists that he has the best intentions for Coney Island and is not trying to damage this long suffering place. Yet, actions generally speak louder than words. If Mr. Sitt had any concern for Coney Island, he would be doing everything in his power to keep it healthy, alive and vital for the duration of the redevelopment process. A thorough public process with real public input--not a mockery of public participation like Atlantic Yards--is vital for Coney Island. If it takes an extra 12 or 24 months, so be it. Too much of Brooklyn's future has already been sold off to the highest bidder and too many projects that will profoundly impact the borough for generations to come have gone forward with little real public input.

If Mr. Sitt unconditionally allows Astroland to stay open as long as the land is truly not at a point at which it can be redeveloped, then he will show good faith. To do otherwise will be an act of disrespect for every Brooklynite and to every New Yorker--of all incomes and ethnicities--that spend some time at Coney Island during the summer.

Regardless of the weirdness surrounding the Astroland transaction, Mr. Sitt should act immediately to guarantee the park another year. There should be no conditions. He should just do it. He clearly has every right not to, but he would earn a lot of good will by doing so. If he is sincere about building public support for his project, acting now to keep Astroland open would be a very smart tactic.

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Blogger JakeGould said...

Joe Sitt and Thor Equities does not act in good faith and have lied and screwed over communities in Brooklyn for years. Just look at the Albee Square Mall (aka: the Gallery on Fulton Street). Thor Equities owned it—and they have sold it—but they still manage the place and they basically culled it out, cleaned it up just enough to make it attractive to a buyer and flipped it.

They are just land investment bullies. And at this rate it truly looks like 2007 will be the last vital season for Coney Island.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heh...they've lied and screwed over communities? And your evidence for this is that they "cleaned [the Albee Square Mall] up just enough to make it attractive to a buyer and flipped it"? What cruel and brazen land-investment-bullying! They must be stopped from cleaning up properties enough to make them attractive!!!

12:36 PM  
Blogger JakeGould said...

To the anonymous troll,

Maybe I should have been clearer. The Albee Square Mall was once FILLED with tons of local and small vendors in shops and in stalls on the mall floor.

Not anymore.

The way they "cleaned up" the place was to evict or price out people, and those that remain are left to do business in a shell of a mall that once was a tad more vibrant and alive. And many people who are business owners there were promised that the place would be remade into a shining new mall that will welcome new tenants.

That's partially right. They cleared out enough tenants so that when they flipped the property, it was an easy sell beause they could claim, "Look, most of the tenants are gone so it's eay to get rid of the rest..."

Thor buys property, clears it out, trumps up amazing fantasy ideas of what will be put in it's place and then flips it to the highest bidder.

And in the case of Albee Square, the land is slated to be condos. With no mall.

Look at what has happened there and then look at Coney Island. The same song and dance. But on a different scale.

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's important to note Thor has not purchased the Astroland business...Thor has purchased the land on which the business sits. The Albert Family still owns the name, the rides and the potential to reconstitute the business in a smaller form on a different spot elsewhere in Coney Island should the opportunity arise.

3:50 PM  
Blogger JakeGould said...

What what Aaron is basically saying is ignore the fact that rides are already up for auction and that the land is slated to be cleaned out by the end of this season.

Ignore the fact that Thor has done nothing but demolish lands and rides.

The reality is that Coney Island USA is an organization focused on preserving itself and not much else. And what's sad is that in the media, you guys are seen as the "mouthpiece" of the amusement district so therefore you're gettingan unfair amount of creedence to the statements you're making.

I have tremendouse respect for what Coney Island USA has done to keep the carny spirit alive in Coney Island. But nowdays, I don't think Coney Island USA is being as helpful in being a mouthpiece for the neighborhood and should really do more to truly help those in the neighborhood.

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although all this is generally confusing for the riding public, the fact is we need more housing in Bklyn as far as my humble opinion is concerned. Thats how starett city got its start, and its been up-up-up ever since. Something for us all to really think about, as well as the proximity to the worlds best frankfurter. A potentially beneficial arrangement for Bklyn, like Mr Ratners exciting 'big idea' downtowm I would think.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, after living in coney island for a long time i have to say that any improvement is a good improvement.
from hearing shots at all hours (years ago) coney island has improved to - family's going for a walk - and new stores being opened. i don't know how people could enjoy buying from those little dirty corner stores with guys hanging out at all hours. while there always was a mixed population in coney island and people got along very nice, i don't like to share my living space with drug dealers and people that have nothing to do but hang out and try to get girls pregnant.
i just hope whatever they built in coney island is clean and usable for us the working class that worked so hard to keep that neighborhood going..

11:46 AM  

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