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Coney Islanders attack Joe Sitt and Thor Equities

Empty lots create huge, debris-strewn crater in amusement district

Worn out welcome: Most of the bulbs in the highly visible “Welcome to Coney Island” sign have blown.
Brooklyn Daily

Denizens of the People’s Playground complain that Thor Equities — the real estate giant owned by controversial land baron Joe Sitt is giving Coney Island a bad image, and dread another summer of vacant, trash-filled lots at the heart of the amusement district.

A symbol of the blight, they say, is the firm’s neglected “Welcome to Coney Island” sign at the corner of Stillwell and Surf avenues, with most of the bulbs dead.

“There are so many bulbs missing from the sign, it’s shameful at this point. It’s the first thing visitors see when they get off the train,” said Coney’s self-declared mayor Dick Zigun, founder of Sideshows by the Seashore.

Zigun also railed against the lack of upkeep of Thor’s properties along Bowery Street.

“The problem with the lots is that they’re dirty, they have garbage. I really wish they would clean them up, cover them, bring in rides, bring in anything that contributes to the neighborhood,” he said.

Thor bought the plots during its early 2000s spending spree, when it acquired 13 acres of the amusement district, including the now-defunct park Astroland — where Luna Park stands today.

The parcels were home to McCullough’s Kiddie Park for more than three decades, but Sitt whittled McCullough’s footprint to a fraction of its former size by refusing to renew leases on the various lots as they expired. When the final contract came up in 2012, the last remnant of the funzone got the boot — leaving the space totally deserted.

Sitt briefly rented the space between Stillwell Avenue and W. 15th Street to Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Fun Park, but the theme park was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy and has since sat vacant, steadily accumulating rubbish.

Business leaders said they have begged Thor to remove the gathering garbage, and were successful in getting the firm to do a cursory clean-up two months ago. But more trash soon accumulated, again making the heart of the famous amusement area look blighted as the summer season approaches.

With Thor seeming to take little responsibility for the property, neighbors think the only remedy would be a new tenant.

“We are hoping some development will come to those lots sooner rather than later, and they’ll be cleaned up, and spruced up like the rest of Coney Island,” said Dennis Vourderis, co-owner of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and president of the Alliance for Coney Island business group.

But given Sitt’s track record, few expect the lots to see any development while he owns them.

Sitt kicked out Astroland and nearly all of his other tenants in 2008, turning Coney Island — which the Bloomberg Administration had hoped to revitalize — into a ghost town. After former Councilman Domenic Recchia helped block the use of eminent domain to seize the fallow land, the city agreed in 2009 to cough up more than $95.6 million to buy less than seven acres of Sitt’s property so that development could go forward. That left Sitt with a tidy $50 million taxpayer-funded profit, while retaining sizable holdings in the center of the renewed amusement area.

Real estate experts suggest that Sitt may be holding his remaining properties hostage from development in the hope of another payday from a frustrated city.

“I would guess he’s holding onto them waiting for the city to buy him out again,” said leading People’s Playground real estate broker Joe Vitacco. “He’s a flipper. He holds onto it a little longer than the average flipper.”

Vitacco pointed that the lots lie between the larger part of Luna Park and the funzone’s newest and biggest attractions — the new Thunderbolt roller coaster due to open this summer, and the recently-restored B&B Carousell. Luna Park also operates the lighting system of the Parachute Jump, and hopes to build a water park next door to the new Thunderbolt. The broker said it would make sense for Luna Park to expand into Sitt’s parcels in between.

Curiously, a document on Thor Equities’ website from about 2012 — which appears to be promoting its storefront spaces on Surf Avenue — labels the vacant lots as “Luna Park Extension.”

But the bigs at Luna Park said they have never even been able to get Thor on the phone to talk about possible real estate deals.

“Four years we’ve been in Coney Island, and we have not been able to talk to Joe Sitt,” said Valerio Ferrari, president of Central Amusements International, which runs Luna Park.

Thor did not respond to repeated calls for comment.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.

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Reader Feedback

Bruce from Coney Island says:
Joe must go
May 7, 5:59 pm
Bogframe from Coney says:
Pay no attention to the Joe Sitt MUSCLE LOVER above!

NYC needs to take the flippers property and donate to the citizens of Coney Island.

Joe Sitt is a LIAR and needs to get out of Coney!!
May 7, 7:58 pm
Jack from Bensonhurst says:
Muscle13 speaks for his own pleasure, not the peoples pleasure. He also doesn't know anything about zoning and has proved it over and over again.
May 7, 8:02 pm
Mary from Queens says:
Long live Coney Island amusements. Its worth a 90 minute train ride just to ride the Cyclone.
May 7, 8:04 pm
George from Fort Greene says:
I hate what Joe Sitt did to the people's playground, I agree... Joe must go.
May 7, 8:07 pm
Joan from Bay Ridge says:
Everyone in the know, knows the rezoning failed. It made Joe the flipper blight and turn off the lights in Coney Island. The city wants more rides, everyone wants more rides in coney. The only hotel being built is north of the creek. That is how much people want to build hotels in coney.
May 7, 8:15 pm
Tilyous from the past says:
Tear down the waste of space stadium and build a new Steeplechase Pavilion.

JOE MUST GO!!
May 7, 8:21 pm
Jorge from Coney Island says:
Joe 'blight for spite' Sitt. If it was anyone but him in any other neighborhood, the city would have stepped in and done something.

Sanitation Department will ticket a home owner if someone drops a cup in front of their house. Thor Equities dirties up a whole neighborhood, and gets away with it. How?
May 7, 8:27 pm
Joe Sitt from Bensonhurst says:
For some people, piles of garbage IS year round amusements.
May 7, 8:29 pm
Sal from Coney says:
Coney Island has a long tradition of political corruption and this mess is the result of an unholy alliance between Dominic Recchia and his master Joe Sitt. Sitt and his family and his employees are now donating to Dom's congressional race and Dom is reaping the big payoff. Grimm is going to jail and big Dom will be next to go behind bars. Dom gave little Joey Sitt a $95 million gift of taxpayer money and now little Joey is paying him back big time. Some things never change. Your tax dollars at work.
May 7, 10:25 pm
Carl Kruger from Brighton Beach says:
I am still in jail.
May 7, 11:23 pm
Jerry from brighton beach says:
Domenic Recchia & Joe Sitt.......perfect together.

Poster boys for " Pay to Play" politics in NYC.

What Domenic Recchia did for Coney Island West( Or lack of) & his alliance with Joe Sitt.....blight, blight & more blight.

If Recchia becomes the Congressman ...watch out Staten Island. It's all downhill from there...to be continued.
May 8, 10:56 am
Hillary from Bensonhurst says:
Before Joe bought the property, Coney hadn't seen any positive redevelopment in decades. Now Coney is alive and booming. Joe saw this before anyone and that's why he started investing there and now everyone else is following. Instead of villainizing him, we should be thanking him for helping bring Coney back from the dead.
May 9, 9:21 am
jerry from brighton beach says:
@ Hillary .......

If you call bringing in Rainbow Shops into Coney Island across from NATHAN'S booming , you must be in denial of what really is happenning in Coney Island.
Wake up & smell the Salt Water Taffey...
May 9, 9:38 am
Kevin from Coney Island says:
Hillary from Bensonhurst is right. Joe's investments are helping the neighborhood. We should thank him, not attack him.
May 9, 10:46 am
Bruce from Coney says:
Anyone who thinks Joe blight for spite Sitt has done anything good, has been visiting the wrong Coney island
May 9, 1 pm
Amelia from Coney Island says:
Joe Sitt has revitalized Coney Island. There had been ZERO growth in our neighborhood for longer than I care to remember. He has been a huge help and done tremendous work. Anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves.
May 9, 1:38 pm
Bruce from Coney says:
Joe Sitt has revitalized by keeping whole blocks empty, keeping the only thing he ever built about 75% empty. Thank the city by publicizing Coney Island to get business interests to set up shop in Coney. So the Joe Sitt supporter can post as much as he wants, the truth is in the article, blight for spite. The truth does hurt the Joe Sitt supporter that he is solely responsible for the negative growth that occurred by shutting down businesses in Coney Island, starting with Astroland and finishing with McCulloughs (sp?) Kiddie park.
May 9, 7:56 pm
Friend of Luke Skywalker from Tatooine says:
REVENGE OF THE SITT!
Now guess what pol is his apprentice?
May 10, 4:26 am
Bruce from Coney says:
Rumor has it Sitt was shamed into doing something with his land. Talk is a traveling amusement ride show is coming to his empty lots. The poorly maintained lots, empty since Hurricane Sandy shifted the sand under the black top, is causing the blacktop to collapse in several locations on the lot behind the Beach Shop.
May 10, 7:37 pm
roach from building four says:
i crawl through the trash of your gutters
paving the way of my filth
look below Stauch's Baths
and you will see the way
into my mind of deep
water above
tides below
garbage
May 13, 12:32 am
Joe Sitt from Bensonhurt says:
I am proud to announce that Rheithoffer will be bringing their rides to my property this summer. I can hardly wait to paddlock their rides half way through the summer because they could not afford my sudden rent increase, or to presonally blow up the inflatable rides that will replace Rheithoffer.
May 13, 12:49 am

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