Ride advocates urge city to go big in Coney Island

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With the City Planning Commission set to render its verdict on the Coney Island development and rezoning proposal in just a few short days, ride advocates returned to the steps of City Hall on Wednesday afternoon with a last−ditch plea: “Don’t shrink Coney Island.”

The advocates, a coalition from several different groups including Save Coney Island, the Coney Island History Project, the Coney Island Hysterical Society and others, want city planners to allocate more land for big−time outdoor rides than the nine acres currently outlined in the comprehensive development and rezoning plan.

They also want new hotels slated to rise inside the amusement district moved to the north side of Surf Avenue and iconic structures like Nathan’s protected.

“The plan does have merit, but it needs modificati­on,” Coney Island USA founder Dick Zigun said.

Just last month, Zigun told this newspaper that the mission of protests like the one staged this week to get city planners to listen to their concerns, had been accomplished.

“I was trying to moderate myself and see if the city was taking us seriously,” Zigun explained. “Before it goes to the City Council, the last chance for the city to make modifications is a week from today −− the [City] Planning Commission. There have been back channel discussions and they are not taking our concerns seriously.”

Ride advocates say that if city planners want their support in getting the plan through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, as well as the state legislature, they need to give them “a thing or two.”

“If they make a couple of reasonable compromises to make this plan better, we will endorse them, we will work with them, and we will fight for them when it comes before the City Council,” Zigun said.

“Miss Cyclone” Angie Pontani urged the city to “think big.”

“Think ambitious −− think the way the [original] people who built Coney Island thought,” Pontani said. “We owe it to the world. We don’t need a replica of Coney Island on top of the true Coney Island.”

Lynn Kelly, president of the Coney Island Development Corporation, however, argued that squabbling at this point in the process is a little bit like “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

“What we should be concerned about is if we don’t support the plan to rezone Coney Island, we’ll have no more acreage to fight over, period,” Kelly said. “The amusements will be lost full stop.”

Lola Staar entrepreneur Dianna Carlin said that Coney Island should be “extraordin­ary” and called it “ridiculous” to have to “settle for a compromise.”

“It isn’t too late,” Carlin said. “They can go make revisions to their plan. It’s not impossible. That’s the thing that they can never justify.”

The CIDC president said “anything that they’re looking for really has to be directed, in terms of their requests, to the elected officials. The City Council has the final say.”

Regardless, the Bloomberg administration still needs to acquire land now owned by developer Joe Sitt and Thor Equities in order to realize its rezoning goals.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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