Report From Coney Island Development Corp. Public Meeting May 10th, 2005
The Coney Island Development Corp (CDIC) held the second of two public meetings on their Draft Plan to revive Coney Island on Tuesday May 10th. The Meeting was held at The United Community Baptist Church, 2701 Mermaid Ave at West 27th Street.
Pastor Mobley was the first to address the meeting. He told us that "we are going to get real informed tonight." He then introduced the members of the CDIC and members of the clergy of his church...void(0)
After all the member were seated Pastor Mobley gave the podium over to CDIC President Joshua Sirefman.
Sireman explained that the CDIC was formed in 2003 by the Mayor, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (funny, when I asked Gifford Miller about what was going on in Coney Island at the February DFNYC meeting at Ravenhe said he didn't know anything about plans for revitalizing Coney) and Brooklyn Borough President
Marty Markowitz. The CDIC's goal is to come up with a strategic plan for revitalization of Coney Island. CDIC consists of 13 members who are active in the Coney Island community.
They plan on having five large public meetings on their plans for Coney as they progress. The CDIC has been working with consultants and the city in order to draft their plan.
At this point the meeting was turned over Sirefman's assistant who presented the CDIC's power point presentation for it's plan for Coney Island. She stressed to us that this was only a draft plan and that it is still being worked on. The CDIC is taking a "district by district" approach to it's plan.
The main points of the plan will address these issues.
-How can we make the private market make it happen.
-More and better retail so spending stays in area.
-Recreation and culture available year round.
-Amusements must remain part of Coney Island.
-Housing, more employment.
-Parking problems in peak summer season.
-Filling in vacant lots and unutilized land.
-Making Coney a year round destination.
-Enhancing the beach and seaside.
-Working with the unique environment of Coney Island.
-Must incorporate residents.
-Restoring assets like the Parachute Jump, Childs Restaurant, The Aquarium, B&B Carousel, and the Shore Theatre.
-Creation of gateways to Coney.
-Ferry Access, transportation loops, and additional parking in variety of locations.
-Activating vacant lands and businesses.
A more detailed plan for each district of Coney Island was then shown.
First was Western Coney Island. CDIC's plan calls for making a welcoming residential neighborhood. This includes a "Multi-Cultural Community Center." Restoring Mermaid Ave. with street improvements.
The CDIC want to improve the gateways into Coney Island including Cropsey Ave, Ocean Parkway, and the Belt Parkway. These gateways must tell people that they are coming into a special area.
Surf Ave. The plan is to make this a year round strip. It will be
entertainment oriented which includes "reactivating"
The Shore Theater. Design and implement street scapes to go with Coney Island History. When the slide of the artists conception of Surf Ave was shown it drew gasps from the audience.
Eastern Area: Aquarium and Asser Levy Park. Year round entertainment. Aquarium presence on Surf Ave and the Boardwalk. Revisiting the Aquarium master plan. Improve crossing from 8th Street station.
Seaside Gateway, western anchor. Activate entertainment of Surf Ave. Relaxed hotel/beach club/spa toward the Boardwalk. Reactivate Childs Restaurant. Create even more summer destinations.
Steeplechase Plaza. Active open space between Key Span Stadium and Surf Ave. This will include the Parachute Pavilion .
Midway. Active Amusements. New year round entertainment. Sustain and grow active amusements. Extend seasonal entertainment.
New entertainment. Outreach to entertainment community.
Stillwell Midway. This is the crossroads of Coney Island. Make this a spectacular public space. Connection between active amusements and new entertainment. Transportation Hub.
Stillwell Midway today.
Stillwell Midway maybe someday.
This looks like a great plan. The CDIC stressed that all the pieces need to come to together in order for this plan to succeed.
The overall vision won't happen all at once. Zoning questions will be finalized within the year. But we will see the lighting of the Parachute Jump this year! The street scape improvements will go in next year.
Missing from any discussion of this plan tonight was a mention of Thor Equities. Thor is a company that opens shopping malls around the country. They have been buying up much land in Coney Island this year including the Bank building, the old Washington Baths Property, and businesses along the boardwalk. So when it came time to ask questions I submitted this;
How do Thor Equities plans coincide with the CDIC's and what can you tell us about Thor Equities?
The answer was that Thor's plans are conceptual at this point. CDIC must finish plans before discussion with Thor.
That may very well be but then why were the owners of a boardwalk souvenir stand and clam bar ordered to leave because Thor bought up their properties. How is this in keeping with preserving the history of Coney Island?
If CDIC wants to have an honest discussion with the public then these questions must be addressed.
At this point the meeting was opened up questions. One attendee asked how CDIC expects to attract tourists to Coney Island when crime is out of control. "People are getting shot every week around here. There's drug dealing and gang violence."
I must say that this question took me by surprise. I have always thought that while Coney is run down it is pretty safe because of the amount of cops. But my perception of Coney is from West 8th Street to West 19th Street. Basically the Amusement Area. It didn't occur to me that crime was out of control at Coney. But Coney is much more than the Amusement Area. Many of the attendees to this meeting were actually members of the congregation United Community Baptist Church, the host of this meeting.
Many of them are poor and unemployed. They see a different side to Coney than we see down by Nathans. I got the feeling that up here on West 27th Street, the amusement area was a world away for most of these people. Many of these people really couldn't care less about whether Coney's history will be maintained. Most of their questions were about whether minorities from the area will get a job in the reconstruction. The tone started to turn hostile to the point that one woman had to ask, "Why are you attacking these people? They are here to show you their plans. This is not a job fair." She was shouted down by others who were not so enthused.
In the end it was a good thing that members of the CDIC heard these people because no plan to revive Coney cannot ignore these concerns. What is important to remember though, that after nearly 40 years of neglect, Coney Island is finally getting the attention it deserves, that is no small thing.
Let's wish God's speed to the CDIC.