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Intense wheeling and dealing behind the scenes in Coney Island could soon produce an end to the long stalemate between the Bloomberg administration and Thor Equities principal Joe Sitt, this paper has learned.
Only a few short weeks remain before the New York City Council is supposed to deliver its verdict on the strategic plan to develop and rezone Coney Island.
Significant problems involving existing Coney Island landowners still remain, not the least of which is control over 10-and-a-half acres of Thor Equities property inside the amusement district that the city needs in order to make its plan work.
But on Monday, the councilmember representing Coney Island said that the two sides were communicating.
“The good news is that both sides are back talking,” Councilmember Domenic Recchia said.
Efforts to acquire the property have languished every since Thor Equities rebuffed the Bloomberg administration’s $105 million offer to buy it.
In April, Mayor Bloomberg was in Coney Island to welcome the circus when he indicated that his administration had reached its limit on just how much it was willing to shell out for Sitt’s land.
The city’s strategic plan to develop and rezone Coney Island, however, appears to be in serious jeopardy without acquisition of the property.
Last week, the chair of the City Council’s Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee recommended that the city shelve its Uniform Land Use Review Procedure application until modifications to the plan could be made.
Recchia remains strongly opposed to the application as it is currently outlined but says changes can still be made and he doesn’t want the whole thing pulled.
At last week’s public hearing, Recchia blasted New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky for advocating a plan that he says threatens existing landowners like Sitt with eminent domain, requires restaurants like Gargiulo’s to scramble for off-site parking and undermines the success of the iconic Wonder Wheel by running a new street through Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.
“We’ve just about reached a deal to increase parking,”Recchia said.
If that’s so, that still leaves Wonder Wheel co-owner Dennis Vourderis and Joe Sitt with objections.
“The Vourderis family has to be made happy,” Recchia said. “We don’t want them to leave Coney Island. We want them to stay.”
As for Sitt, Recchia said he is confident the city can find a way to “work with Thor Equities or purchase their property for a reasonable price.”
Contrary to the way Sitt is often portrayed as an opportunistic speculator more interested in cashing in than building a new 21st century amusement park, Recchia says that he has a strong commitment from Sitt to develop a new park.
Failing a resolution with the city, Recchia said that he supports an alternative solution calling for the creation of a special Coney Island amusement district that could be established “without hurting anybody.”
“If I was the city, I’d try to get the whole ball of wax,” Recchia said. “They’re going back to the table. Hopefully, the administration heard [the City Council].”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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