The self-proclaimed “mayor” of Coney Island has handed in his resignation from partnering with the city to rezone the area.
Dick Zigun, artistic director of the non-profit Coney Island USA, will step down as one of the Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) board of directors effective 6 p.m., June 24.
The time and date coincides with a public scoping hearing for a revised rezoning of Coney Island.
“The CIDC plan promised a world-class tourist attraction with an entertainment core: lots of rides complemented by year-round nightclubs and enclosed water parks,” wrote Zigun in his resignation letter to Mayor Bloomberg and City Councilmember Domenic Recchia.
“Instead, the core will now be rezoned for a shopping mall full of Niketowns, Toys R Us and four 30-story hotels,” he added.
Zigun, along with many other Coney Island ride advocates, is particularly vexed with the city’s recent reversal on its decision to turn 15 acres of the amusement district into city-owned property.
Under the new plan, the city will allow current property owners, including developer Thor Equities, to develop six of the acres privately, while the city will keep nine acres for parkland, for which they will look for entertainment professionals to develop and lease an amusement park.
Zigun and ride advocates fear that Thor and its principal, Joe Sitt, will turn his acreage into hotels and shopping malls.
“I beg you to return to the balance and consensus that is the CIDC plan or else I will have to speak out against the new plan at the hearing June 24,” wrote Zigun.
CIDC President Lynn Kelly responded that Zigun’s letter was very disappointing on a number of levels and the CIDC has been very public that he stay on the board.
“Whether you love or hate the plan, you have to recognize it’s a really unique moment in time where the mayor, borough president and local city councilman all want real change in Coney Island,” said Kelly.
“Knowing that, you have to take the plan or recognize a plan and capitalize on it now. Simply stated, to say we want nothing or this doesn’t make sense to me,” she added.
Recchia responded that everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but the city is trying to look at the big picture and create a place that works for everybody in Coney Island.
“Unfortunately, that means that people with a more narrowly focused agenda don’t agree. The main goal is to make Coney Island a year-round destination so it doesn’t become a ghost town in the winter months,” said Recchia.
“This is going to be an amusement district, but entertainment has changed over the years. Kids today like modern entertainment and rides,” he added.
Both Recchia and Kelly also pointed out that the city allocated about $5 million to Zigun’s organization to purchase the building at 12th Street and Surf Avenue that currently houses an amusement museum and the seasonal ‘Sideshow by the Seashore.’
This showed a real commitment on the city’s part to keep the amusement district and make it even better, said Recchia.
Meanwhile, Thor Equities spokesperson Stefan Friedman said the company remains firmly committed to a revitalized and year-round Coney Island.
“We are further committed to getting a shovel in the ground as soon as possible, so that residents and visitors can quickly start reaping the benefits, including jobs, economic development and a world-class, year-round amusement destination,” he said.