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Borough prez wades into Coney debate

This past week saw Borough President Marty Markowitz finally issue his list of conditions for supporting the city’s controversial Coney Island redevelopment plan.

So when the beep was in Coney Island to help announce the opening of ticket sales for this summer’s Boom A Ring circus at West 21st Street, he spoke with this newspaper exclusively and elaborated on a couple of key points.

“It’s not about profits, it’s about families,” Markowitz said when announcing his recommendations. “And we all agree that now is the time to deliver for the families of this city and beyond and get the job done.”

In addition to urging for things like guaranteed opportunities for Coney Island residents, respecting long−standing businesses like Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and Gargiulo’s Restaurant and creating a new design committee tasked with dreaming up awe−inspiring architecture, Markowitz is also calling for more amusements in the special district and an increase in new affordable housing units.

While the borough president says the Coney Island redevelopment plan does need more amusements – he isn’t saying exactly where those amusements should to be located.

Ride advocates who applaud Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to create dedicated parkland for big−time outdoor rides still say the plan doesn’t offer enough room to facilitate the kind of thrill machines that could once again make Coney Island a world−class destination.

“You’ve got to think about indoor stuff like a water park and things like that if you want to make Coney Island year−round, which we want to make Coney Island,” Markowitz told this newspaper. “You have to have a lot of indoor amusements as well as outdoors. Mine does not specifically say outdoors or indoors it just leaves it open−ended. But it does say over three−and−a−half acres which is about one−hundred−and−fifty thousand square feet of additional amusement area only space, which I hope they adopt.”

To achieve that goal, Markowitz is recommending that required ground floor amusement space on new buildings fronting Surf and Stillwell avenues as well as West 10th Street be increased from zero to a minimum of fifteen percent.

“So, if anything I heeded [Coney Island USA Artistic Director] Dick Zigun’s recommendations – I agree with him there ought to be more, not less amusement area dedicated under the rezoning plan,” the borough president said.

Taconic Investment Partners, meanwhile, is hoping to build some 4500 new units of new housing in Coney West – with only 900 of those units designated as affordable.

That 20 percent figure doesn’t sit well with critics who want the affordability formula bumped up to 50 percent and based on Coney Island’s Average Median Income, instead of the citywide AMI.

Markowitz believes the affordable portion of newly created housing should be increased to 35 percent – but he isn’t talking about the Taconic development.

“Right now this recommendation is not specific to Taconic that are going to offer twenty percent [affordable housing],” Markowitz explained. “We’re really looking beyond Taconic on city−owned property to come up with the 35 percent affordable housing of mixed income.”

The borough president wrapped up by characterizing affordable housing in Coney Island as a “mix of incomes.”

“To me there has to be a mix of incomes,” he said. “There’s not one group only that are hurting in terms of a lack of affordable housing. There are many others that are in all income brackets, and someone making a couple hundred thousand dollars a year, this help they don’t need. But the people that are living on thirty thousand, forty thousand, fifty thousand, sixty thousand, seventy thousand, eighty thousand – family I’m talking about – then that is what I call the affordable housing umbrella.”

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