Monday, December 04, 2006

Is Thor Coney Ticking Off City Officials?

Coney Puppy

Lost in the release of renderings of Thor Equities plans for Coney Island, news of its upcoming marketing campaign and the headlines surrounding its purchase of Astroland last week is the fact that all of its plans are subject to public approval. In particular, any Thor projects that would include highrises and residential units will require a massive rezoning of the Coney Island neighborhood where it would build. So it is with intense interest that we read a Courier Life story reporting some irritation by "city officials" that Thor's Coney plans are sounding a little like a fait accompli.

Our working assumption has been that the Coney Island Development Corp. (CIDC) would borrow a page from the Empire State Development Corp. playbook and construct a public process that includes little public input, except to the extent that the law requires the appearance of public participation. (IE, Coney is the New Atlantic Yards and developer Joe Sitt is the New Bruce Ratner.) Might the CIDC actually require the developer to comply with a comprehensive master plan and protect the genuine amusements that have always been a Coney hallmark?

We're more concerned than convinced, nontheless, check out the following quotes, which are part of a that indicates some people may be getting arrogant with what they see as Thor's arrogant approach:
“If Joe Sitt [Thor Equities President] is so keen on redeveloping Coney Island, why doesn’t he break ground on the amusement area part of his plans?” said one city official speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official noted the area is already zoned C-7 for amusements and thus conforms with most of Thor Equities’ $1.5 billion plan to turn the area into a state-of-the-art amusement area.

He should just stop pushing us when it has to be done the right way. It’s a very sensitive issue,” the official said.
The story also says that officials:
including some on the city-created Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC), are skeptical of Sitt and his company...But CIDC President Lynn Kelly said regardless of the current or future ownership what is most important is to stay committed to the Coney Island Strategic Plan.

That plan includes the creation and enhancement of a year-around entertainment district, developing seaside attractions and facilitating economic growth and opportunities for the local residents, Kelly said.

“When you rezone or even consider rezoning, you have to do an extensive amount of analysis. Coney Island is unique in it has big and little picture issues that are very complicated,” Kelly said.

“This is history making. We don’t want to do anything in a vacuum and want to be thorough and transparent in our approach. I can understand why a landowner might want to say go faster, but what is paramount is to stay true to the vision,” she added.
We would love to know who the "city official" quoted earlier is. For now, we will simply say that we hope that Ms. Kelly is geniune in meaning that the CIDC will take its time and craft a plan that is more than rubber stamp of a developer's proposals, as opposed to trying to create the public perception that it is listening in order to grease the skids for Thor's plans.



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