The iconic Nathan’s hot dog stand, which has been in Coney Island since 1916, has emerged as the test case in the city’s quest to spur a renaissance in the People’s Playground by rezoning the limping area.
The frankfurter Mecca, at the corner of Stillwell and Surf avenues, lies within a proposed entertainment district of new hotels, restaurants and attractions like arcades and bowling alleys. A prodigious city study released late last week and first reported by The Brooklyn Paper said that if the rezoning goes through as the city hopes, Nathan’s would likely “be replaced … with a new building, containing hotel, amusement, retail and enhancing uses.”
A news story on BrooklynPaper.com on Monday unleashed a chain reaction — Nathan’s officials affirmed their commitment to their historic location and government authorities expressed their hope that the hot dog king will continue to reign over Coney Island, despite a rezoning plan that encourages the demolition and redevelopment of the site.
Statements by the city and Nathan’s CEO Eric Gatoff on Tuesday did not rule out that the squat building with screaming signage would be replaced by something new when the rezoning raises the value of the land on which Nathan’s sits.
“We remain committed to Coney Island in the long-term and we fully intend to maintain our historic flagship restaurant at 1310 Surf Avenue,” Gatoff said. “We believe the information relating to Nathan’s Famous [being redeveloped] is being misinterpreted.”
Officials from the city meanwhile hope Nathan’s will redevelop its site by adding such elements as a catering hall, sit-down restaurant or even a weiner-related theme-park ride.
“Nathan’s is one of Coney Island’s treasured assets and its continued success in its current location is absolutely a part of the administration’s plan to grow and revitalize the amusement district,” said Andrew Brent, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg.
Yet the Bloomberg Administration and Nathan’s concede that the beachgoers’ haunt would need to undergo a major transformation if it is to take its place in the city’s sweeping vision for massive private investment in Coney Island.
Current zoning rules prevent Nathan’s from building anything but an outdoor amusement, like a merry-go-round, on its lot.
But if the proposed zoning changes take effect, property values would increase because more lucrative uses, such as a hotel, would be permitted on the site.