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‘CLEAR’ way to new Coney

Another Coney Island scoping meeting has come and gone, and neighborhood residents still want to know where they fit into the city’s plans for the future.

Last week’s meeting of Coney Island CLEAR – Community & Labor Empowerment Alliance for Redevelopment – drew a small but passionate group of concerned residents inside a hot and humid United Baptist Community Church on Mermaid Avenue.

Scheduling of the meeting to coincide with the story of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s Seaside Concert Series at Asser Levy Park probably didn’t help the turnout, but those who did attend showed that their biggest concerns aren’t song and dance, but jobs and housing.

“Coney Island residents are strong stakeholders,” local activist and CLEAR member Joe Packer told the assemblage. “This watchdog group is going to keep people accountable. This is not fun and games.”

According to the coalition’s leadership, Coney Island CLEAR was formed about five months ago in an effort to secure current residents of Coney Island a place in the city’s grand new vision of the neighborhood.

To that end, CLEAR is advocating that at least 50 percent of the new housing created under the city’s redevelopment plan should be affordable to residents now living in the community.

CLEAR defines “affordability” as 30 percent of the average median income of existing Coney Island residents.

Housing specialist Sheila Boyd said that affordable housing has always been a problem in Coney Island. The dissolution of Mitchell-Lama housing and Section 8 subsidies, taken with the New York City Housing Authority’s money woes and home foreclosures, only make the future for Coney Island families more uncertain.

Neighbors who turned out for last week’s meeting and who are even now struggling to maintain a roof over their heads realize that family-sustaining jobs are essential to prosper in the new Coney Island.

Labor leader Anthony Williamson stressed that Coney Island redevelopment should and could be a “vehicle for career development” for many young men in the community who find themselves jobless and without direction.

“A lot of people are thinking, ‘can this really work?’ We’re going to make it work,” Williamson said. “We are not aligned with any particular developer. “We want to create career opportunities. People’s lives can be dramatically changed.”

Packer said CLEAR will use “people power” to achieve its goals.

“CLEAR and the community are one and the same,” he said. “We have certain leverage because of the amusement area. The amusement people will work with CLEAR. Our only motive is to make sure the best benefits come to this community.”

CLEAR’s Brian Gotlieb said that the coalition was in it for the long haul.

“Coney Island CLEAR is going nowhere,” he said. “No matter how long the development process takes.”

The next meeting of Coney Island CLEAR has tentatively been set for August 14. Time and place are still to be determined.

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