Monday, April 02, 2007

Dick Zigun Speaks at Length About Coney Island Redevelopment

Dick Zigun, the head of Coney Island USA and a member of the Coney Island Development Corp. board has posted a very long and thoughtful statement on the Coney Island Message Board laying out his position on redevelopment of Coney Island. In it, he says that he supports redevelopment of Coney Island (as does virtually everyone--the controversy is about the details) as "Coney Island as it currently stands is 'broken.'" Mr. Zigun, who has been called the unofficial "Mayor of Coney Island" and whose group received city funding to buy the building in which it is housed, writes in the message posted on the Coney Island Message Board:
I too love the seedy charm but I do not wish to maintain the empty lots and furniture stores. Throughout Coney Island’s history it has been “the world’s playground”… it has been the amusement park of large, loud, urban New York City. The current Coney Island is neither. It wants to be bigger and it needs major new attractions.

The city’s intentions are good. Mayor Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz and City Councilman Reccia combine into a trifecta of elected officials more pro-Coney Island, more pro-amusement park then any other NYC administration since the 1920’s (pre-Robert Moses).
Of Thor Equities he writes:
Joe Sitt, founder and owner of Thor is a successful capitalist and is good at his job. Thor has assembled enough property within Coney to create a development package with enough impact to transform the neighborhood and attract investors, that is Joe Sitt’s job. Many of you fear Thor, but if you think Coney Island is “broken”, like me, then you have to think future, not past, and try and work with and influence Joe Sitt.

Joe is not such a bad guy… but he has never developed an amusement park and he is a little “out of his league” IMO. Joe Sitt began his career as founder of the Ashley Stuart chain of woman’s clothing stores marketing to women of color in inner city neighborhoods. Most of his employees were African-American women and his stores were welcome for providing quality service to an underserved audience. As a developer he is known for not being afraid of the urban market and he has pioneered expensive development in risky neighborhoods. So far, so good for Joe Sitt. However, he is not an amusement park guy. Not yet.

The rides Thor has suggested for Coney Island are indeed good rides: steel looping rollercoasters and double decker carousel, etc. We need these rides and we want these rides but there need to be EVEN MORE rides in his plan. Hotels and time shares will bring tourists who will party and spend money for a week and then leave making room for more tourists.

Condo residents will complain about noise and late hours and parking and schools. The residents of Luna Park apartments already complain about the amusements. The CIDC in its wisdom has already voted that condos belong but belong on the outer edges. Trust that when and if CIDC votes, I will always vote against condos within the core, but I am just one vote out of thirteen. Aside from voting against condos, if Thor does go ahead and builds whatever it builds, I will remain on the CIDC and sit down with Joe Sitt to advocate for quality rides, innovative architecture, and historic preservation.
We suggest a complete read of Mr. Zigun's statement to anyone with an interest in Coney Island redevelopment.



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