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  #81  
Old Posted Aug 26, 2007, 12:54 PM
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http://www.nydailynews.com/news/gall...ey_island.html




1916: Nathan's of Coney Island.




1932: Thousands crowd police lines as they watch fire at Coney Island.




1932: Page one of the July 14, 1932 edition of the New York Daily News.




1936: The boardwalk and beaches at Coney Island were thronged with a million people who sought to escape the city's muggy heat.




1937: Mary Dolan, a beauty contest winner at Coney Island.




1938: Daddy patiently smokes a cigarette as his daughter makes him a partner in her game.




1946: Time stood still for this couple at Coney Island as a neighbor turns a completely indifferent back on the scene.




1947: A couple looked down on part of the record crowd at Coney Island from the Ferris wheel.




1947: The beach filled with people at Coney Island.




1950: The freak show at Coney Island held the fascination of the crowds. Even folks who don't care to go inside often pause a moment to listen to the barker's spiel.




1959: Children from P.S. 80 are among the first to see the 80-foot Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missile at W. Eighth St. and Surf Ave., Coney Island.




1960: Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Cabot Lodge and New York Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz gulp hot dogs at a Coney Island hotdog stand.
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  #82  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2007, 8:11 PM
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http://www.observer.com/2007/bloombe...joe-sitts-land

Bloomberg Wants Joe Sitt's Coney Island Land



by Matthew Schuerman
November 8, 2007

Mayor Bloomberg is proposing to acquire the property that Joe Sitt has been buying up at Coney Island, throwing a wrench into one of the most aggressively marketed real estate ideas in recent history and putting the city into the unusual role of playing carnival barker.

In a speech today before the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Bloomberg said that he wanted to turn the central amusement area into city-owned parkland that would “preserve the world’s most famous urban amusement park in perpetuity,” according to his prepared remarks.

The Bloomberg administration and Mr. Sitt, the chairman of Thor Equities, have been battling over just what should go in the 15 acres stretching from the Cyclone to Keyspan Park, a minor league baseball stadium. Mr. Sitt has wanted to rezone it to permit a phantasmagoria of rides, entertainment, retail, restaurants, hotels—and, most infamously, condos.

“The city will work with existing landowners to acquire many of the properties in Coney East," the mayor said. "We hope to achieve a win-win outcome with each of them. That’s what we want for all the people of Coney Island, and Brooklyn.”

Fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen. You are in for a ride.
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  #83  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2007, 8:44 PM
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Coney Details: Amusements in Middle, Tall on Edges


Thursday, November 8, 2007, by Robert



After more than a year of speculation, the city weighed in with its own vision of Coney Island redevelopment today. It boils down to a new 15-acre city-owned amusement area that would be surrounded by land rezoned for high density developments. Mayor Bloomberg delivered the news himself, but put a positive spin on things, saying "We hope to achieve a win-win outcome for all." He said that the city will "work with existing land owners to acquire land." Developer Joe Sitt, who owns a significant amount of land the city wants to rezone as parkland and lease to a "world-class" developer of amusements, released a statement saying he was "disappointed" in the plan, but "optimistic" a deal can be cut.



A spokesperson for Wonder Wheel Park, which still owns most of its land said, "leave the Wonder Wheel out of this." The other major landowner that owns a big empty parcel next to KeySpan Park has been involved with on-and-off litigation with the city for years.

A post-speech press conference was full of jabs at Mr. Sitt, who has feuded publicly with city officials. Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff said Mr. Sitt "doesn't have the expertise" to build an amusement park. He said he expects Mr. Sitt "to play a major part" in the redevelopment "but not in the amusement area." The Mayor refused to use the eminent domain word, saying "We think we will not need eminent domain. We think we will be able to structure deals."

The city also looks like it's rejecting the idea of having a number of small operators in the amusement area. The Mayor said the city is "seeking to have one overall expert in managing and running the whole thing" because "you can't have a bunch of little things and have them survive." As for Mr. Sitt, the city appears that it will make an offer that he can't refuse. "One assumes that Mr. Sitt is rational and trying to do what's best for his bottom line," the Mayor said.

Whereas Mr. Sitt has had bulldozers parked on his land since last winter, the new plan--after a long land use review process--is to have development start before the Mayor's term ends. The new amusement operator will probably get a subsidy in the "tens of millions" of dollars.


Copyright © 2007 Curbed
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  #84  
Old Posted Nov 9, 2007, 11:52 AM
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Some pics taken last month:

OCTOBER 21, 2007

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  #85  
Old Posted Nov 9, 2007, 12:02 PM
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http://www.nysun.com/article/66158

Coney Island Rezoning Sought To Add Amusement

By SARAH PORTLOCK
November 9, 2007


The city will seek to rezone 47 acres at Coney Island with the idea of creating a modern, year-round amusement district surrounded by thousands of units of new housing, Mayor Bloomberg announced yesterday.

"When people around the nation hear the words 'Coney Island,' they think of fun in the sun, of beaches, boardwalks, and bumper cars on the Brooklyn shoreline," Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday morning in front of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

"But we all recognize that Coney Island just isn't what it could be," he added.


The mayor's plan, which he said could bring in $2.5 billion in private investment over the next decade, includes rezoning the area for 4,500 residential units, some slated to be "affordable" housing, and 460,000 square feet of retail space.

Mr. Bloomberg said the city would remap 15 acres to create new city parkland along Coney East, which would expand the amusement area and allow new rides, restaurants, and attractions, with the goal of bringing visitors to the area year-round. The management of the amusement park would be leased to an outside developer, Mr. Bloomberg said.

The city will begin the public review and approval process of the rezoning plan early next year.

Mr. Bloomberg's plan could stymie the ambitions of developer Joseph Sitt, who had planned to erect a hotel and retail stores on land now designated as an amusement district.

Mr. Sitt, the chairman of Thor Equities, said in a statement that he was disappointed by the mayor's announcement but would continue to work with the city and community to do what they agree would be best for the neighborhood.

"We're disappointed by the mayor's presentation, but are optimistic that a deal can be reached between the city, the landowners, and the community to make Coney Island an even greater place to live and visit," Mr. Sitt said.

Mr. Sitt spent $100 million to acquire 10 acres of Coney Island property, and aims to develop hotel, amusement, and retail spaces.
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  #86  
Old Posted Nov 9, 2007, 12:09 PM
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http://www.nypost.com/seven/11092007...aby_700167.htm

MIKE'S CONEY ISLAND BABY
RIDING HIGH ON HIS PLANS FOR A MEGA FUN PARK


By RICH CALDER
November 9, 2007

Coney Island's fabled beachfront would become home to America's largest urban amusement park, about 4,500 new apartments and many major stores under a grand redevelopment plan unveiled yesterday by Mayor Bloomberg.

Hizzoner said his 47-acre rezoning plan "builds on Coney Island's fabulous location and historic legacy and preserves and invigorates its iconic landmarks," such as the Parachute Jump and Cyclone roller coaster, without totally compromising its famous freakishness.

City renderings show a glittering new 15-acre amusement park incorporating the landmark Cyclone and Wonder Wheel with new indoor and outdoor attractions - including a new looping roller coaster winding around the park and a ride rivaling the size and shape of the 262-foot-high Parachute Jump.

Property at the base of the Wonder Wheel would be set aside for an ice and roller rink.


The mayor's plan for a new, 21st century Coney Island is a death knell for developer Joe Sitt's controversial, $1.5 billion proposal to build a glitzy, Vegas-style entertainment complex in the heart of the amusement district.

Sitt wouldn't get the zoning changes needed for that project to break ground, but Bloomberg left the door open for Sitt to take part in the redevelopment.

Bloomberg's proposed rezoning sets aside 15 acres for an amusement park running from Stillwell Avenue east to the New York Aquarium on West Eighth Street - much of which is part of the existing Astroland Park site and other Sitt-owned land.

Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff said the city believes Sitt isn't qualified to create a park, and he expected the developer to make a substantial profit by either selling his land to the city or agreeing to a potential land swap.

The swap, first reported by The Post in August, calls for Sitt trading his 11 acres for city-owned land west of KeySpan Park. That would pave the way for Sitt to strike it rich by building high-rise housing.

Sitt - who bought a table's worth of tickets to yesterday's Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce event but gave them away - issued a statement saying his company is "disappointed by the mayor's presentation," but is "optimistic that a deal can be reached."

Bloomberg said he envisioned Coney Island having a "year-round water park and hotel with slides, rides and awesome year-round aquatic attractions, or an open-air performance area for live music and theater, flowing onto the boardwalk and Coney Island's magnificent beach."

The city also would need to acquire other privately owned parcels, including Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, before choosing a partner to develop the urban amusement park.

"I feel like I no longer live in a democracy; we might be victims of eminent domain" after hearing the mayor's remarks, said Dennis Vourderis, Deno's co-owner. But city officials said eminent domain isn't an option.

Bloomberg's long-anticipated plan calls for rezoning 19 blocks of prime real estate running along the boardwalk from West 24th Street east to the Aquarium on West 8th Street, and roughly north to Mermaid Avenue - with the exception of KeySpan Park.

Land near Surf Avenue directly above the proposed amusement park - some of which is also owned by Sitt - is expected someday to house hotels totaling 500 to 600 units, indoor and outdoor performance venues, retail space, restaurants and a movie theater.

About 20 percent - or 900 - of the 4,500 units of new housing expected to be built would be set aside for low- and middle-income families. The entire plan must go through the city's land-use review process.

City officials said that they hope to break ground in 2009 and that the overall project would take at least 10 years to complete.
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  #87  
Old Posted Nov 9, 2007, 12:21 PM
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http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/09/ny...on&oref=slogin

City Offers Coney Island Plan That Conflicts With a Developer’s




By CHARLES V. BAGLI
November 9, 2007

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled his administration’s long-awaited proposal for revitalizing Coney Island yesterday with a zoning plan that he said would create the nation’s largest urban amusement park, promote the development of stores and 4,500 apartments along Surf Avenue and preserve historic attractions like the Parachute Jump.

The proposed rezoning, which covers 19 blocks and 47 acres from the New York Aquarium west along the oceanfront to Highland View Park, would transform an area pockmarked with empty lots and seedy buildings that still manages to attract millions of visitors every summer to the beaches, a ballpark and assorted attractions from roller coasters to sword swallowers.

“It really could be spectacular,” Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday after a speech outlining the plan to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “But it’s fallen on hard times.”

The city’s plan could create a standoff with Joseph J. Sitt, a shopping center developer who said he had spent more than $120 million buying 10 acres in the heart of Coney Island’s frayed amusement district.

Mr. Sitt, chief executive of Thor Equities, has promoted his own $1.5 billion plan for a new amusement district, which bears some similarities to the city’s vision. But it diverges from the city’s plan by including hotels, time-shares and an enormous indoor water park. City officials contend that housing in the proposed 15-acre amusement district would lead to an inevitable clash over noise, late hours and swirling lights.

Mr. Sitt, who has until recently been very vocal about his differences with the city, released a statement yesterday expressing disappointment with the mayor’s presentation. The statement said he was still optimistic that a deal could be reached among landowners, the city and the community.

Mr. Sitt, who has insisted that hotels and time-share units are required to make the project economically viable, vowed to continue working with the Bloomberg administration and other elected officials “to do what’s best for the people of Coney.”

But his conciliatory tone belies the rising tension between him and City Hall. Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff has sought since June to get Mr. Sitt to agree to a land swap, in which he would trade his property for a city-owned parcel on the north side of the nearby baseball stadium, KeySpan Park. Mr. Sitt has refused, saying the properties are not comparable in value.

Mr. Doctoroff said yesterday that the city wanted to find an experienced, world-class amusement park operator to run the district, which is “a very different business than building a shopping center.”

“He doesn’t have the experience to do it,” Mr. Doctoroff said, adding that the city expected Mr. Sitt to play a role in building housing or retail just outside the amusement park.


But some officials and community groups fear that Mr. Sitt could initiate a lawsuit, or let his land sit idle until Mayor Bloomberg leaves office and, presumably, a more amenable replacement succeeds him.

City Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr. said he had been working with city officials and the City Council to resolve the dispute; he has been supportive of Mr. Sitt.

The city’s proposed zoning plan, which was devised in consultation with the Coney Island Development Corporation and community leaders, would ultimately establish a nearly 50-acre park, from the site of the Steeplechase ride to Asser Levy Park.

The plan divides the 19 blocks into three distinct areas. The first, on the north side of Surf Avenue, from Stillwell Avenue to West 20th Street, would be zoned for up to 1,800 apartments and retail space. A second residential district would be created between West 19th and West 24th Streets, from the south side of Surf Avenue to the Boardwalk. Building heights would step down to the water.

“Coney East,” the third district, would range from the east side of the ballpark to the Cyclone roller coaster and include a 15-acre amusement district. New streets would help improve the flow of traffic and pedestrians from Surf Avenue and the subway to the Boardwalk. The zoning there would allow for a hotel, a water park, enclosed amusements, catering halls, movie theaters, restaurants and bowling alleys along Surf Avenue, in an effort to make the area a year-round destination.

Amanda Burden, the city’s planning director, said the amusement park would be “open, accessible and affordable,” in keeping with Coney Island’s populist history as the country’s first resort.

Charles Reichenthal, the longtime district manager of Community Board 13 in Coney Island, said the city’s plan was “on the right track,” with a few things that have to be straightened out, including the fate of landowners like the Vourderis family, which runs Deno’s Amusement Park and the Wonder Wheel, and Mr. Sitt of Thor Equities.

“If Thor Equities has done everything, it’s put Coney Island back on the map,” he said. “We now get calls from people interested in doing all kinds of things out here. This plan’s certainly on the right track, with some snags that have to be figured out.”
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  #88  
Old Posted Nov 9, 2007, 12:36 PM
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  #89  
Old Posted Nov 9, 2007, 12:43 PM
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Not really all that different from Sitt's proposal...

Quote:
Originally Posted by NYguy View Post
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/18/ny...on&oref=slogin

Coney Island Plan Is Scaled Back, but Critics Are Skeptical



An artist’s rendering of an aerial view of Surf Avenue at Coney Island under a new plan for a renovated amusement complex there.




The developer Joseph J. Sitt’s $1.5 billion plan for Coney Island includes a pulsating amusement area and three hotels, with architecture that invokes the old Luna Park and Dreamland.
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Old Posted Nov 9, 2007, 12:57 PM
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This may one day be as much Bloomberg's legacy as the west side...

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2007...e_coney-2.html

City officals lay out grand 47-acre Coney Island plan

By JOTHAM SEDERSTROM
November 9th 2007, 4:00 AM


The Coney Island of the future will be a kaleidoscope of thrill rides, soaring apartment towers and plenty of places to shop, Mayor Bloomberg said Thursday.

"We all recognize that Coney Island just isn't what it could be," Bloomberg said at a Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday at Gargiulo's restaurant.

"Its amusements haven't kept pace with changing times and tastes, and for much of the year, activity in the area lags badly."

In the most comprehensive look at the Brooklyn beachfront area since 1964, city officials laid out plans for a 15-acre, year-round amusement park, 4,500 new apartments and condos, and blocks of glitzy stores along Surf Ave.

The 47-acre plan also would include a grassy 65,000-square-foot park near W. 23rd St., a refurbished Parachute Jump, the return of the B&B Carousell, water parks, Boardwalk shops and new benches and lighting.









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  #91  
Old Posted Feb 8, 2008, 9:05 PM
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http://www.nypost.com/seven/02082008...lan_236590.htm

CITY TO DO THE LIGHT THING FOR CONEY LANDMARK

By RICH CALDER
February 8, 2008

Coney's Island's iconic Parachute Jump is getting a new lease on light.

Less than dazzled by a lighting system installed on the 262-foot boardwalk landmark two years ago, the city yesterday began soliciting proposals from companies interested in creating a brighter, more dramatic illumination of Brooklyn's version of the Eiffel Tower.

The project is being pushed by Borough President Marty Markowitz, who says the old lighting system needs some "blinging up" and hopes to revive the classic thrill ride.

"Hey, if the Giants can beat the Patriots, there's no reason we can't ride the Parachute Jump in this new century," he said.

Markowitz, according to sources, considered the system installed in 2006 by renowned lighting artist Leni Schwendinger too "artsy," failing to capture Coney Island's flash.

The new $1.5 million project also includes refurbishing the bottom panel of the Parachute Jump, which was moved to Coney Island shortly after the 1939 World's Fair in Queens.

The ride ceased operations in 1968. It was declared a city landmark in 1989 and is part of a revamped Steeplechase Plaza that the city is hoping to create.

Charles Denson, a Coney Island historian, called the lighting project "symbolic to Coney Island's survival."
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  #92  
Old Posted Feb 8, 2008, 9:17 PM
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Quote:
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http://www.nypost.com/seven/02082008...lan_236590.htm

CITY TO DO THE LIGHT THING FOR CONEY LANDMARK

By RICH CALDER
February 8, 2008

Coney's Island's iconic Parachute Jump is getting a new lease on light.

Less than dazzled by a lighting system installed on the 262-foot boardwalk landmark two years ago, the city yesterday began soliciting proposals from companies interested in creating a brighter, more dramatic illumination of Brooklyn's version of the Eiffel Tower.

The project is being pushed by Borough President Marty Markowitz, who says the old lighting system needs some "blinging up" and hopes to revive the classic thrill ride.

"Hey, if the Giants can beat the Patriots, there's no reason we can't ride the Parachute Jump in this new century," he said.

Markowitz, according to sources, considered the system installed in 2006 by renowned lighting artist Leni Schwendinger too "artsy," failing to capture Coney Island's flash.

The new $1.5 million project also includes refurbishing the bottom panel of the Parachute Jump, which was moved to Coney Island shortly after the 1939 World's Fair in Queens.

The ride ceased operations in 1968. It was declared a city landmark in 1989 and is part of a revamped Steeplechase Plaza that the city is hoping to create.

Charles Denson, a Coney Island historian, called the lighting project "symbolic to Coney Island's survival."

Not the only Coney news of the day...

http://www.nypost.com/seven/02082008...rium_64396.htm

MARTY MAKES WAVES OVER NY AQUARIUM

By RICH CALDER
February 8, 2008

Charging that the New York Aquarium doesn't live up to its potential because it's saddled with a "guppy" budget, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz yesterday called on the city to seize control of the Coney Island site, which has been long run by a nonprofit.

"It always pains me to think that more New Yorkers go to Mystic, Conn., than to our own aquarium in Brooklyn," he said during his annual State of the Borough Address at the Cruise Ship Terminal in Red Hook.

Markowitz added that the city needs to rethink a 1902 deal that put the aquarium under the control of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which also runs the Bronx Zoo.

He said he'd ask Mayor Bloomberg to work with his office on creating an independent Brooklyn-based board of directors to oversee the aquarium.


"Because [the society's] expertise is in the zoo area, the aquarium remains a perennial afterthought in terms of funding upkeep and program- ming," Markowitz said.

"[The aquarium] needs a whale-size investment - not a budget the size of a guppy."

The aquarium has an annual budget of $14.3 million. Its buildings and land are city owned - but its fish and other animals belong to the society.

"We have a written agreement with the city and have no expectations that either side would part ways," a society spokesperson said last night.
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  #93  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2008, 2:46 AM
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Wow I do NOT like that proposal, talk about a tourist trap that would scare away the natives. Its way too six flagsish for me. Just my opinion, never been to Coney Island, for all I know, it may need this development to give it a boost.
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Old Posted Mar 6, 2008, 9:09 AM
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Wow I do NOT like that proposal, talk about a tourist trap that would scare away the natives. Its way too six flagsish for me. Just my opinion, never been to Coney Island, for all I know, it may need this development to give it a boost.
I guess if attracting people from all walks of life to the oceanfront is your idea of a tourist trap, then yeah, Coney Island is the original tourist trap. Coney Island was "Six Flags" and "Disney" before those parks where even thought of.
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Old Posted Mar 10, 2008, 10:06 AM
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Less than dazzled by a lighting system installed on the 262-foot boardwalk landmark two years ago, the city yesterday began soliciting proposals from companies interested in creating a brighter, more dramatic illumination of Brooklyn's version of the Eiffel Tower.
Brooklyn's Eiffel Tower.....*siiiiiggghhhh* That analogy makes me happy.

Can't wait to see how they're gonna light the jump to continue to draw those comparisons.
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Old Posted Mar 11, 2008, 11:37 PM
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http://curbed.com/archives/2008/03/1...kating.php?o=0

Historic Coney Child's Building Going Roller Skating



The Childs Building during last year's Mermaid Ball, the first time it had been open to the public since the 1950s.


Monday, March 10, 2008, by Robert

The historic Child's Building in Coney Island will be the site of a roller rink this summer. The 1923 era building, which housed a Childs Restaurant, has only been open to the public a handful of times since it closed in 1950. Taconic Investment, which is a big player in Coney Island development but has kept a much lower profile than the other big Coney developer, holds a long-term lease on the property and eventually plans to turn it into a restaurant and entertainment venue and surround it with highrises.

For now, however, it will be hosting a temporary roller rink operated by boardwalk entrepreneur Lola Staar who got money for the enterprise by Tommy Hilfiger and Glamour magazine after she won a competition that asked entrants to write about their "dream come true." They'll be shooting a reality show about transformation from 1920s terra cotta to 2000s hot pink showcase. They may also be hosting burlesque shows.












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  #97  
Old Posted Mar 26, 2008, 6:30 AM
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http://curbed.com/archives/2008/03/2...r_rink.php?o=0

Coney's Childs Building Rocks Out with New Roller Rink



Monday, March 24, 2008, by Robert


There is good news and bad news in Coney Island. We'll dispense with the bad news first: the flashy redo of the New York Aquarium is officially dead because money is needed for a shark exhibit and because it would "engulf" the facility. The good news: the historic Child's Building hosted its second public event in a half-century this weekend with the opening of the Lola Staar Dreamland Roller Rink. Taconic Investment, which has gotten little of the controversy of its other big would-be developer, is allowing the use of the landmarked building. Money for the enterprise came from Dreaming Tommy Hilfiger and Glamour Magazine after boardwalk entrepreneur Dianna Carlin won a competition.

















Dianna Carlin, aka Lola Staar, who created the new rink.
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  #98  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2008, 9:17 AM
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http://www.nypost.com/seven/03282008...der_103857.htm

DE$PERATE CITY RECONSIDERS CONEY BUILDER

By RICH CALDER
March 28, 2008

With time running out on Mayor Bloomberg's dream of rebuilding Coney Island, the city is now looking to bring a controversial developer back into the plan to put up America's largest amusement park, sources told The Post.

Only six months ago, when the term-limited mayor announced his 47-acre rezoning plan for Coney Island, city officials said developer Joe Sitt and other boardwalk property owners weren't qualified to build the 15-acre park Hizzoner envisions.

But with the economy souring and deals to buy the 15 acres - including the 11 that Sitt controls - far from being reached, city officials are suddenly open to him playing some role in the park, even though the goal remains finding a world-class operator to run it, sources said.

Even if Sitt is involved, the city won't let him build high-rise housing or time-share hotels in the amusement district, Lynn Kelly, president of the Coney Island Development Corp., vowed yesterday.
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2008, 4:15 PM
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Uncontroversial Coney Steeplechase Plaza Project Stirs Up Muck



April 11, 2008


How much is too much for a plaza around an iconic waterfront Parachute Jump? Some people are complaining that the $4 million the city is spending on planning and designing Coney Island's Steeplechase Plaza is way too much and today's Daily News estimates that it's $42 per square foot design cost "triple the cost for the average city project."

A team of eight firms that includes EDAW and the Rockwell Group is working on the plan for the 2.2 acre site of Steeplechase Plaza. One architect compares the design fee to "pigs at the city's trough" but the Coney Island Development Corp. says it's an investment in a key anchor for the boardwalk and new attraction. The team includes landscape artists, preservation experts, water specialists, entertainment-based developers and a lighting designer to overhaul the 2006 Parachute Jump lighting scheme.

The new plaza, which has been relatively controversy-free for Coney Island will include a pavilion, restaurants, "water display," public space and other features the designers will propose.
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Old Posted Apr 17, 2008, 5:47 AM
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City’s Coney Island Design Revised to Break Deadlock

By CHARLES V. BAGLI
April 17, 2008

The Bloomberg administration has revised its redevelopment plan for the Coney Island waterfront in an effort to break a deadlock with some landowners and elected officials while still preserving the area’s historic amusement district, which includes the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone roller coaster.

The proposal, which would turn the area into a year-round attraction, still calls for a lot of stores and as many as 5,000 apartments along Surf Avenue, but it would reduce to 9 acres from 15 a city-owned open-air amusement park north of the Boardwalk between KeySpan Park and the New York Aquarium.

The city would buy the land for a permanent amusement district from local property owners including Thor Equities and the Vourderis family, which owns Deno’s Amusement Park and the Wonder Wheel.


But in a departure from the original plan unveiled in November by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, those owners would be able to develop the remaining parts of their property themselves as long as they followed the city’s master plan, which must still undergo an environmental review and a land-use review.

The city’s plan for the area north of the amusement district calls for a series of buildings that could include a glass-enclosed water park, games and amusements, a bowling alley, restaurants and entertainment-oriented businesses like House of Blues, Dave & Busters, NikeTown and movie theaters. Finally, the new zoning would allow for hotel towers on the south side of Surf Avenue.

“This is a plan that will preserve the iconic nature of Coney Island and enhance the amusement district, while generating economic opportunities and jobs for local residents,” Deputy Mayor Robert C. Lieber said. “We’re trying to bling it up.”

The revised plan is the result of meetings with local property owners and others since November.

“I’m guardedly optimistic,” said Jesse Masyr, a real estate lawyer for Thor Equities, which has been at loggerheads with the Bloomberg administration. “We have to look at the size of sites we have left and what we could build.”

As the largest landowner in the area, Thor was in a position to block the city’s redevelopment plan, and appeared willing to wait out the Bloomberg administration.
Thor’s chairman, Joseph J. Sitt, has spent more than $120 million in recent years buying about 10 acres in the heart of Coney Island’s traditional amusement district and developing his own $1.5 billion proposal for the area.

Mr. Sitt proposed a glitzy amusement park, as well as stores, game rooms and condominium hotels. But the city and some urban planners opposed generic retailing and any housing near the Boardwalk, saying that it would inevitably crush a noisy, late-night amusement district.

In recent months, the two sides have been discussing a mutually acceptable compromise. Mr. Sitt’s recent counterproposal called for a smaller, 6.5-acre amusement area and far more stores and hotels — 2.9 million square feet — spread over 24 acres. The city’s revised plan allows for 1.9 million square feet.

Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr., a critic of the original plan who has supported Thor, said the city was headed in the right direction, as did Dennis Vourderis, of the family that owns the Wonder Wheel.

“We’re optimistic,” Mr. Vourderis said. “We’re hoping that they’re going to let us develop our own properties.”

The glory days of Coney Island’s amusement parks are long gone, and the area is speckled with empty lots and dingy buildings. But the old-fashioned rides, sword swallowers, go-carts, wide-open beaches and cool breezes still attract hundreds of thousands of visitors in the summer months.

The “stars may finally be realigning,” said Brooklyn’s borough president, Marty Markowitz, a longtime advocate of revitalizing Coney Island.

“Coney Island was always a working-class playground,” he said. “We should preserve the amusements for future generations. I welcome a water park, movie theaters, a bowling alley and House of Blues. I do not want to see another generic shopping mall.”

The key issue for all sides is how to attract visitors to Coney Island in the winter, when the area is cold and windswept. Mr. Sitt had insisted on traditional retail space and housing to offset the cost of the amusements. But the redevelopment plan goes beyond the amusement district. There are plans for housing and retail businesses on the north side of Surf Avenue and west of the KeySpan ballpark.

In recent months, the Bloomberg administration has sought to redesign and refurbish the historic 271-foot-tall Coney Island Parachute Jump, which sits on 2.2 acres west of the amusement district. The centerpiece of the new plaza would be the restored Bishoff & Brienstein carousel, and could include a glass pavilion, an observation deck and restaurants.

Mr. Sitt is bringing the Reithoffer Shows traveling carnival to Coney Island from May 22 through June 1. The Astroland amusements, which Mr. Sitt bought and planned to close, will also reopen for one more season.

Both sides need a victory. Many of the city and state’s development plans have been battered by a slowing economy and the credit crisis, which has effectively ended lending for large-scale real estate projects.

So if Mr. Sitt fails to compromise on Coney Island, he risks alienating City Hall and jeopardizing two other projects he would like to build on the Brooklyn waterfront. He has proposed a $100 million shopping center at a former bus depot along Shore Parkway in Bensonhurst, where he lives. In Red Hook, Mr. Sitt bought the long dormant Revere sugar works, and would like to build a marina and luxury apartments there, next to the soon-to-open Ikea furniture store.
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