Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Coney Crazy #3: Politics Switching Into High Gear

city versus coney

That didn't take long. Barely two weeks after the Bloomberg Administration's announcement of Coney Island zoning recommendations and its intention to undertake a complicated process of land acquisition in the heart of the Coney amusement district, the battle lines are taking shape. Predictably, one of them is likely to be in Albany and one of the loudest of the opponents is State Sen. Carl Kruger.

Sen. Kruger took credit for busing 500 people to the Coney Island Development Corp.'s public information meeting on Monday night. (Others said the total was 100-200.) They were described by the State Senator's office as people interested in attending the meeting, but one observer told us that many of the people that piled off the buses spoke only Russian or almost no English. Meanwhile, Coney's Diana Carlin told the Brooklyn Eagle that the bused-in group, many dressed in identical yellow hats, "seemed confused, resigned to being shuffled around by a woman carrying a clipboard. 'It seemed like they were paid to be there.'"

By yesterday afternoon, there was an entire thread on the Coney Island Message Board devoted to "who paid for the buses," with prime candidates including developer Joe Sitt, Sen. Kruger and Council Member Dominic Recchia. Members of the pro-Atlantic Yards group BUILD, which was received significant funding from developer Bruce Ratner were also in attendance, wearing the yellow hats that Sen. Kruger's bus attendees.

Kinetic Carnival offers up a long post this morning dissecting the "unanswered questions" about Kruger's very prominent new role as the leader of the opposition to the Bloomberg Administration's Coney plan. Sen. Kruger is said to be planning a run for Brooklyn Borough President.

Of Sen. Kruger's opposition, Sarah Ryley writes in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
Kruger could become the Coney Island Development Corporation’s (CIDC) worst enemy. After promising, in an interview with the Eagle Monday to defeat Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s radical proposal to transfer city parkland to the amusement district, which would require state approval, Kruger effectively shut down the agency’s presentation last night. Kruger said the meeting violated the state’s Open Meetings Law because attendance was by invitation and required an RSVP, though he said he wasn’t aware of that requirement prior to being shut out. And he took the trouble to bus in some 500 people from churches and civic organizations (though he declined to tell the Eagle which ones)...

Kruger said they were angry citizens from Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay. “This plan is D-O-A — Dead On Arrival,” he said, noting support from City Councilman Domenic Recchia, Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasney and Senator Diane Savino. For the next meeting, he said he’d organize a boycott.

The flier above is something Sen. Kruger's office prepared that was handed out at the Coney meeting and posted by Kinetic Carnival. He has promised to block the plan to "alienate" parkland next to KeySpan Park so that it can be sold or transfered to developers in exchange for land in the amusement that would become a city-owned park leased to a private operator. The legislature has to approve the parkland changes. The Eagle also reported that the Senator vows to "lobby as effectively as I can to assure that the bill, if there is a bill, would be defeated on the floor."

Sen. Kruger made international news this year with his proposal to ban the use of iPods and MP3 players while walking.

While the city may be able to get complete the land use review and gain City Council approval for any zoning changes, effective opposition in Albany could easily delay action until a new Mayor takes office, perhaps one who is more positively disposed to the original Sitt plan to build condos and hotel rooms in the amusement district.



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