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The comprehensive development and rezoning plan for Coney Island has already cleared several hurdles in the mandated Uniform Land Use Review Procedure [ULURP], but this week the chairman of the New York City Council’s Zoning and Franchises subcommission recommended that the entire application be shelved − at least temporarily.
City Councilmember Tony Avella − who is also a candidate for mayor − urged New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky to consider pulling the ULURP application at a public hearing held at City Hall on Wednesday.
“I don’t see how this gets done in the time frame to be perfectly honest,” Avella said. “I believe that the best thing for you to basically do is temporarily pull out the application from the ULURP process.”
Avella’s comments followed often heated and contentious cross−examination of Pinsky by members of the subcommittee.
Brooklyn Councilmembers Domenic Recchia and Simcha Felder led the charge relentlessly pursuing Pinsky in an effort to pin down the EDC chief on key aspects of the application.
Critics of the plan maintain that longtime institutions like Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and Gargiulo’s Restaurant will be adversely affected unless changes are made.
They also contend that the possibility of the city using eminent domain to acquire needed land is very real.
Without modifications to the application Recchia said, “I am recommending to turn this down.”
Parkland designation remains perhaps the biggest stumbling block for the city.
Bloomberg administration officials maintain that the City Council can go ahead and approve the rezoning plan before the state actually decides to alienate two car lots in the western end of Coney Island presently classified as parkland.
Under existing rules, parkland cannot be demapped unless new parkland is designated in its place.
The city wants to map almost 10 acres along the boardwalk as new parkland but doesn’t currently own the property.
Critics like Recchia charge that the city has had ample opportunity to assemble all the pieces of its rezoning puzzle.
Without that, they insist, rezoning is futile because there is no support for the plan in Albany until it happens.
“Isn’t it a fact the state legislators said to you that we are not going to demap this parkland until you own the parkland that you want to shift it to,” Recchia boomed.
“What we have proposed to the state legislature is that we would be given the power to demap parkland in Coney West as we map the parkland in Coney East,” Pinsky said.
The city is currently negotiating with about four property holders inside the amusement district − the largest being Joe Sitt and Thor Equities − to acquire the parcels it needs to create new parkland dedicated to outdoor amusements.
The City Council’s deadline to modify the Coney Island plan is July 13 with final approval coming no later that July 29.
But Bloomberg administration officials say that the process can legally be extended to as late as August 20.
Regardless, they don’t appear to be willing to pull the application at this point.
“That’s not going to happen,” EDC spokesperson David Lombino told this paper. “We’re confident that the councilmembers will come around and approve the plan.”
Outspoken Coney Island entrepreneur Dianna Carlin said that there is still enough time to make the changes that she and other ride advocates believe are necessary to create a bigger and better amusement district.
Union leader Anthony Williamson said that he wants to see the ULURP application certified as long as job guarantees for Coney Island residents and truly affordable housing are part of the mix.
“Give us a little more time,” Avella said. “This is not an attempt to let anybody down.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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