Coney Island Redevelopment Clears Judicial Hurdle

Community group challenged City’s 47-acre Coney Island rezoning. In 2007, the City unveiled a comprehensive rezoning plan for the redevelopment of a 47-acre portion of Coney Island, Brooklyn. The plan sought to revitalize the iconic beachfront amusement area by transforming it into a year-round amusement and entertainment destination alongside new residential and retail uses. The proposal included rezoning nineteen blocks in order to permit new residential and hotel development around a 27-acre amusement and entertainment district. The plan also called for demapping nine acres of parkland to provide new housing and for creating fifteen acres of newly mapped parkland.

During the plan’s environmental review, the City revised the proposal by reducing the amount of new parkland from fifteen to nine acres. The City Planning Commission approved the plan and a final environmental impact statement in June 2009, and the City Council approved the plan the following month. 6 CityLand 104 (Aug. 15, 2009).

Save Coney Island Inc., a local community group, challenged the City Council’s approval. The group argued that the FEIS failed to meet State and City environmental review standards, and claimed that the plan exceeded the City’s authority to enact zoning ordinances because the plan was irrational and approved to benefit a private developer. The group targeted, among other things, the FEIS’s treatment of park alienation. Since the State legislature had not yet approved the proposed parkland demapping, the group contended that the FEIS improperly took credit for the benefits of new housing slated for the demapped area. The group also claimed that the FEIS had failed to adequately consider the effect that high-rise hotels would have on visual resources.

Justice Eileen A. Rakower dismissed the challenge, ruling that the FEIS complied with City and State environmental review standards. Justice Rakower found that demapping the parkland was not absolutely essential to the project, and that the FEIS had considered an alternative scenario which assumed the parkland would not be demapped. The court also ruled that the FEIS had taken a “hard look” at the potential effects new hotels might have on visual resources. As to whether the City had exceeded its authority, Justice Rakower ruled that the group had failed to prove that the plan catered to special interests.

Save Coney Island Inc. v. City of New York, 2010 N.Y. Slip Op. 50839U (N.Y. Cty. Sup. Ct. May 6, 2010) (Rakower J.).

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