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Brooklyn lawmakers in Albany are just waiting for the city to button up its land acquisition deal with Joe Sitt and Thor Equities before they introduce bills that would allow the new zoning plan to move ahead — but don’t count on powerful State Senator Carl Kruger, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, to reach for his rubber stamp just yet.
At the time of this writing, Bloomberg administration officials were still hammering out a “conceptual agreement” with Sitt that would leave the Coney Island landlord with at least part of his 10-and-a-half acre holdings intact.
Once that happens, the city is expected to send State Senator Diane Savino and Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny bills that the pair can introduce in their respective houses that would call for parkland alienation, the state-initiated process by which an area’s parkland designation can be removed and applied elsewhere. The city needs to demap the KeySpan parking lot in order for the Taconic development group to build new housing and parking facilities on the site.
At the same time, the city also needs the state to designate new parkland inside the Coney Island amusement district for rides.
Kruger, however, has derided the development and rezoning plan as “nothing more than an exorbitantly expensive phantom.”
“For the last half-century, Coney Island has gotten a roller coaster ride that has gone nowhere,” Kruger said back in March. “We’ve torn down buildings to create model cities, and ended up with some housing and vacant lots. This is another plan that’s headed for the file cabinet.”
This week, Kruger showed little sign of softening his opposition.
“I do not believe the park alienation legislation should be voted out of committee until we have a developer,” Kruger told this newspaper.
In addition, Kruger also complained that the city’s plan fails to provide Coney Island and Brighton Beach with the “proper mix of affordable and work force housing and luxury housing to attract a new generation of professionals.”
City Councilmember Domenic Recchia, once a vocal critic of the city’s parkland swap himself, nevertheless spearheaded the rezoning plan’s approval in the Council after securing agreements beneficial to Coney Island Hospital, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Gargiulo’s Restaurant and labor groups.
Ultimately, the Coney Island councilman saidthat he believes Kruger will “do what’s best for the community.”
“We’ll work with him,” Recchia said. “I think he’ll be an advocate and work with us.”
Savino expressed confidence in the city’s ability to attract an amusement park operator and said that when the time comes, she expects her fellow senators will follow her lead and support the parkland alienation.
“Carl is certainly entitled to his concerns and his opinions,” Savino said. “This is a very well-thought-out plan and will result in the entire area of Coney Island stepping forward into modern times.”
Brook-Krasny did not respond to requests for comment at press time.
The city’s rezoning plan still faces strong opposition from ride advocates like Save Coney Island and others who maintain that the Bloomberg administration’s plan does not provide enough room for big-time outdoor amusements and threatens the iconic playground’s character with the addition of up to four high-rise hotels south of Surf Avenue.
“This is where they [City Planning] thought was the best place,’ Recchia said. “You had to make it worthwhile. If you would have lowered the height, you would not get a nice hotel.”
Thor Equities has reportedly been in talks with major hotel chains about coming to Coney Island.
A spokesperson for the development company refused to comment.
According to Recchia, all four hotels might not ever get built.
“If I could get one hotel before I’m out of office, it would be a victory,” Recchia said.
Efforts to rezone historic buildings like the Shore Theater have been “going back and forth,” he added.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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