New Coney Island Recreation and Entertainment Project Proposed

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View from the Riegelmann Boardwalk of the former Childs Restaurant Building at 3052-3078 West 21st Street, Brooklyn, a designated landmark and currently vacant. Image Credit: GKV Architects PC.

Project to restore historic Childs Restaurant and build an amphitheater drew overwhelming support. On October 23, 2013, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing for the Seaside Park and Community Arts Center (Seaside Project), located in Coney Island, Brooklyn. The goal of the project is to continue the City’s efforts to reinvigorate Coney Island by introducing a recreational and entertainment destination on the boardwalk. The project, proposed by Coney Island Holdings LLC, includes the construction of a new, publicly accessible open space and amphitheater, and the restoration and adaptive reuse of the former Childs Restaurant building as an indoor entertainment, banquet, and restaurant facility.

The Seaside Project site is generally bounded by Surf Avenue to the north, Riegelmann Boardwalk to the south, West 21st Street to the east, West 23rd Street to the west, and as well as the beds of Highland View Avenue and a portion of West 22nd Street. The Seaside amphitheater would serve as a venue for a variety of concerts, community events, and public gatherings, such as the Seaside Summer Concert Series. The amphitheater would be owned by the City under the jurisdiction of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and operated by a nonprofit entity under a 10 year lease with the City. The adjacent Childs Restaurant located at 3052-3078 West 21st Street would be restored and adaptively reused as an indoor entertainment, banquet, and restaurant facility with outdoor seating for approximately 440 diners. The Childs Restaurant would be open year-round. A publicly accessible open space extending to West 23rd Street would provide passive recreational opportunities.

The proposed project is within close proximity to other Coney Island attractions such as MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team, the Parachute jump, a designated New York City Landmark, the Cyclone Roller Coaster, and the Wonder Wheel. The areas immediately to the west and north of the project site generally consist of low- to mid-rise multifamily apartment buildings, parking lots, and vacant land.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz testified in support of the project. He described the Childs building as a vacant and derelict eyesore. He stated that the reuse and revitalization of the Childs building can “breathe new life into this underutilized section of Reigelmann Park,” and also “continue to focus the City’s attention on the dire needs of Coney Island,” including its “public housing, as well as other amenities and infrastructure that are so vital to the future of Coney Island.”

Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. testified in support of the Seaside amphitheater, stating that the new location of the Summer Concert Series was one of the biggest issues in the revitalization plan of Coney Island. In response to opposing testimony, he stated, “If I were to listen to all the people who were against the revitalization of Coney Island, we would never revitalize Coney Island.” He continued, “Coney Island would not be what it is today.”

Following Council Member Recchia’s testimony, Commissioner Angela Battaglia praised the Council Member. She stated, “A lot of praise went to the Borough President for the revitalization of Coney Island, but in my heart and soul, I believe much if not all of that praise really belongs to you. I’ve seen what you’ve done, I’ve seen you fight for it.”

Brooklyn Community Board 13 voted 14-to-7 against the plan. Shiela Smalls of the People’s Coalition of Coney Island, testified against the application, stating that the Seaside Park project needed to be put on hold in order to get the community involved. She stated that the community has not been informed about this project, and that the community had concerns about jobs, affordable housing, and community facilities that need to be discussed.

Yury Opendik, a representative from Boardwalk Gardeners, located on West 22nd Street, also testified against the application, stating that the applicants have not provided a suitable alternative site for Boardwalk Community Garden, Lot 142, located in the project site. Opendik stated that the proposed alternative site lacked proper amount of sunlight that vegetables would require and was surrounded by tall buildings.  Ray Figueroa from the New York City Community Garden Coalition stated that the Boardwalk Community Garden is “a community cultivated space” that serves as “a communal hub” for diverse cultures to come together. Figueroa claimed that that Lot 142 is currently mapped as parkland and thus  the garden must be treated with “a level of transparency and accountability that is commensurate with the vitally important civic resource this community garden represents.”

Nicholas Molinari, the Chief of Planning & Parklands of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, testified that Lot 142 is not in fact mapped park land. He stated that several community garden members visited and supported relocation to the alternative site on West 29th Street.

If the proposed project is approved, it is anticipated that the amphitheater and other project components would be completed by summer 2015, with the first full year of operation being 2016.

City Planning Commission: Seaside Park and Community Arts Center (C140065ZMK – Zoning Map Amendment); (C140063ZSK – Zoning Special Permits); (N140064ZRK – Zoning Text Amendment); (C140066PPK – Disposition of Non-Residential City-Owned Property); (C140067PQK – Acquisition of Property by the City); (M090107(B)MMK – Change in the City Map)(October 21, 2013).

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