Coney Island street-grade changes approved

Street grade elevation will connect West 21st Street to the boardwalk. On November 3, 2011, the City Council approved the Department of City Planning and Taconic Investment Partners’ proposal to raise the grade of two streets in Coney Island, Brooklyn. The plan will raise the elevation of West 21st Street between Surf Avenue and the Riegelmann Boardwalk. Taconic owns the landmarked Childs Restaurant on the west side of West 21st and a vacant parcel across the street. The proposal would also affect Ocean Way, a new street established by the City’s 2009 Coney Island Rezoning Plan that will run parallel to the boardwalk.

The Coney Island Plan rezoned nineteen blocks to create a new entertainment district, established new streets, and raised the grades of several existing streets to ease access to the boardwalk and to enable the area’s ground floor commercial uses to comply with the federally established base flood elevation level. 6 CityLand 104 (Aug. 15, 2009). West 21st Street, however, was not included in the proposal because Taconic had not finalized plans for the future uses of its properties.

The existing grade of West 21st Street, which sits below the boardwalk, was not ideal for the rehabilitation of the landmarked restaurant, and the City agreed to file a joint proposal with Taconic to request a modification of the street grade. The grade changes will enable pedestrian access from street level to the first floor of the Childs Restaurant building and eliminate the need for the wooden ramps that provide access to the boardwalk from street level. Landmarks’ staff reviewed the grade change proposal and issued a certificate of no effect. Future alterations or renovations of the Childs Restaurant building would still be subject to Landmarks review.

No one opposed the proposal at the City Planning Commission’s public hearing, and the plan was unanimously approved. 

At the Council’s Planning, Dispositions & Concessions Subcommittee hearing, local Council Member Domenic M. Recchia Jr. expressed his support for the application and urged his colleagues to approve the proposal. Taconic’s Christopher Balestra pointed out that Tropical Storm Irene demonstrated the importance of raising Coney Island properties above the flood plain. Balestra testified that raising the street will improve the streetscape and integrate future retail space into the boardwalk. The project’s engineer, Philip Habib, explained that generally the area streets would be raised in conjunction with adjacent construction, noting that West 21st Street is within the Coney Island Plan’s Coney West section and includes several nearby development projects.

The Subcommittee voted unanimously to approve the proposal, as did the Land Use Committee and the full Council.

Council: Coney Island Grade Change (C 100469 MMK – map amend.) (Nov. 3, 2011).

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