Thursday, April 24, 2008

Council Member Dominic Recchia & the Future of Coney Island

The Future of Coney Island Car

Last week, the city announced a huge change in its Coney Island plan, shrinking the core of the Coney Island amusement district from 15 acres to 9 and, in turn, leaving a significant amount of land the city would have purchased from developer Joe Sitt potentially in his hands to develop (or sell with changed zoning). The property could end up with high rise hotels, which has always been one of Thor's goals, and with more Times Square-style, shopping mallesque retailing. What has happened, of course, is that intense political jockeying by City Council Member Dominic Recchia, whose support is important because of the way the rezoning and land use process works in the city, seems to have resulted in a something of an about face by the city. In any case, this week's Observer offers a look into some of Mr. Recchia's machinations:
Mr. Recchia’s support for the city’s latest proposal—which allows for more privately owned hotel rooms and entertainment-related retail while cutting down on the city-owned amusement area—is crucial. City officials, who have indicated the newest plan is their final offer, said they are looking to Mr. Recchia to help broker a deal with Mr. Sitt; without such a deal, the whole redevelopment initiative of the amusement hub could collapse..."Joe Sitt was the only developer that put these parcels together. If Joe Sitt didn’t do the accumulation, the city would be having to do that, and that would be very difficult,” he said. “So when people say, 'Joe Sitt this,' 'Joe Sitt that,' and they just want to knock Joe Sitt, I’m just telling you no other developer wanted to do this, and I think people have to recognize that."...

Robert Lieber, the deputy mayor, said the city could proceed without reaching a deal on the amusement area, as its plan to rezone the areas to the west and the north for dense residential are far less controversial. "We’re still going to do the rezoning—we’re still going to do what we’re doing whether we buy Joe or leave him in there," he said. Getting Mr. Sitt to agree to a deal is clearly Mr. Lieber’s end goal, and in that, he credited Mr. Recchia with being effective, saying he is "optimistic that Domenic can help us make a deal."

Was it only November when Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff were expressing a strong belief that Mr. Sitt would cut a deal and remove himself from the entire amusement district? Yes, it was.

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