Coney Island Plan Debated

Coney Island rezoning debated at City Planning Commission. Image: Coney Island Development Corporation.

Public comments focus on affordable housing and concerns over likelihood of development in the area. On May 6, 2009, the City Planning Commission heard extensive testimony regarding the comprehensive rezoning proposal for Coney Island. The proposal would establish a new Special Coney Island District to guide redevelopment and revitalization of 19 blocks bounded by Mermaid Avenue to the north, the Riegelmann Boardwalk to the south, West 24th Street to the west, and the New York Aquarium to the east.

The plan would create a new 27- acre urban amusement and entertainment zoning district east of KeySpan Park, including a 12-acre amusement park and nine acres of newly mapped park land. It would also facilitate approximately 500,000 sq.ft. of new retail and neighborhood services, and 4,500 units of residential housing, 20 percent of which will be affordable. To accomplish these goals, the City would demap park land west of KeySpan Park, demap portions of seven streets, map six new streets, and rezone the existing R6 and C1districts to R5, R7, R7A, and R7X districts.

Based on community concerns raised during the land use review process, the City modified the proposal in April 2009 to reduce the proposed base height of buildings along a portion of Surf Avenue and decrease the maximum capacity for arenas and auditoriums, among other changes.

There was significant turnout at the Commission’s public hearing, and opposition to the plan remained. Some of the concerns raised by residents included calls for more affordable housing, and concerns that the plan failed to address the neighborhood’s deteriorating infrastructure.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz commended the City for its efforts, but recommended approval subject to several modifications. Markowitz stated that Coney Island must remain an amusement park, and it should not be a place for big-box retail. Markowitz proposed that the City create a Coney Island Design Committee to ensure that the area’s architecture, signage, lighting, and historic structures remain unique, creative, and iconic. He also recommended that the Commission increase the plan’s affordable housing component from 20 to 35 percent of total units through the disposition of City-owned properties.

An aide for State Senator Carl Kruger, whose district includes Coney Island, read Kruger’s statement opposing the plan. Kruger said that the City had no commitment from a developer to build the proposed “fantasyland,” and questioned whether it was a good decision for the City to spend $100 million “on a piece of dirt in Coney Island.” He also said that the City was relying on developing market-rate units to make the plan feasible, and that it was not providing enough affordable housing.

Representatives of Thor Equities, the largest private property owner in the eastern portion of Coney Island, also testified in opposition. Thor’s land use counsel, Raymond Levin of Wachtel Masyr, LLC, stated that while the plan would appropriately increase density and permitted uses in the area, the proposed street grid pattern “slices and dices” economically viable zoning lots. This would hinder the ability to assemble multiple properties and would make development less realistic.

The Commission has until June 26, 2009 to vote on the proposal.

CPC: Hearing on Coney Island Plan (C 090272 ZMK – rezoning); (N 090273 ZRK – text amend.); (N 090273(A) ZRK – alternative text amend.); (C 090274 PQK – acq. of property); (C 090275 PQK –acq. of property); (C 090276 HAK – design. of property UDAAP); (C 090277 PPK – dispo. of city-owned property); (C 090107 MMK – street map amend.)(May 6, 2009).

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