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A bigger, ‘better’ Coney - Nine acres? Try 25

Nine acres is just not large enough to build a new world-class amusement park in Coney Island.

That’s the message the Municipal Art Society (MAS) is hoping will help convince the City of New York to move beyond the designated nine acres of parkland it is attempting to assemble between KeySpan Park and the New York Aquarium.

The “digital city” that an international team of architects, engineers and designers have dreamed up with the help of ordinary Brooklynites at MAS’s behest would need much more.

According to former Disney Vice-president and design team member David Malmuth, Coney Island needs at least 25 acres of rides and attractions to realize its potential of drawing three to four million new visitors.

“It can’t be done in nine acres,” Malmuth told a MAS gathering at BAMcafe in Fort Greene last week. “There is no possible way you can create the variety and diversity and excitement with only nine acres. Minimally you need 25 acres to support that level of attendance.”

Malmuth, the man credited with helping to revive the New Amsterdam Theater and the rest of Times Square, said that a 25-acre park with wave-powered roller-coasters that shoot through the clouds could become as powerful an economic engine for the city as a revitalized 42nd Street has become.

“Look what happened with Times Square,” he said. “Look what investment in those 13 acres on 42nd Street did. They immediately translated 20 times over the investment that was made by the public sector — and it continues to be a huge economic engine for the city. We believe Coney has that kind of potential.”

City officials say that its rezoning proposal for Coney Island does not preclude MAS’s vision and that if a builder wanted to come in and establish a larger amusement district than the one presently outlined, that would still be possible.

Ride advocates stress that C7 zoning in Coney Island allows for rides on 61 acres or more.

With the recent purchase of a one-acre plot of land previously owned by the Ward family, the city feels it is well on its way to acquiring all the land outlined in its rezoning proposal.

A city Economic Development Corporation (EDC) official who did not want to be identified told the Bay News that the price tag recently quoted in the press for property belonging to Thor Equities was dramatically “inflated.”

After meeting with city officials recently to discuss its vision for Coney Island, MAS President Kent Barwick believes the current administration at least “gets it.”

“I’d say the city was attentive and intelligent and clearly understands the issues — something that could not necessarily have been said of prior administrations,” he said.

City officials the Bay News spoke with said they are looking for partners in Coney Island’s redevelopment and will continue to listen to MAS’s ideas.

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