Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

GL Analysis: Coney Renderings Are Nice, But Action is Needed

January 14th, 2009 · 2 Comments

We respect our friends at the Municipal Art Society and their ImagineConey effort. They have been one of the most vocal groups insisting that the city come up with a interim plan to keep Coney Island viable. Yet, we’re also concerned that as latecomers to the debate–which has been ongoing now for nearly three years–some of what they are bringing to the table is more of a distraction than a help. Last week, we wrote several angry pieces about Coney Island. We compared what is going on right now to a rape and even after careful consideration still don’t feel that it was an overstatement. We said that it was nice to talk about “vision,” but that Charles Manson was running around the house butchering people. Polite discussions about vision have to be put on hold until the deranged person threatening the community is subdued and removed as a threat. Tonight, MAS will hold a meeting in Coney Island. It will present some ideas that members of the public have submitted. (Curbed featured some of them yesterday and we understand more will be forthcoming this morning.) The meeting will discuss the rest of the process that will involve completion of a design charrette.

As we have said before, everything but discussion about how to (a). acquire land held by Joe Sitt and Horace Bullard that constitutes the heart of Coney’s (reduced) amusement district and (b). how ensure that there will be rides in the former Astroland and on the prematurely demolished Sitt parcel of land on Stillwell Avenue and (c). how to keep local businesses in place without having them pay rents that may be increased by nearly criminal rates in bad econmic times is background noise.

The issue right now is keeping Coney Island from degenerating into a huge–pardon our French–shit hole this summer that people cease to visit or that becomes dangerous. Don’t misunderstand what we’re saying–Coney is already a trash heap of vacant land, rundown buildings and school bus parking lots along the boardwalk. The issue right now isn’t to think about how to build a Tivoli Gardens with the world’s greatest roller coaster. That will come in time. The issue is how to think small and how to ensure that New York City’s most wonderfully diverse gathering place remains a safe and fun place for people to visit.

We are frankly tired of people wanting to brief us about ULURP process and talk about the details of zoning. We are weary of outrageous renderings of things that will never be built. We are sick of people talking as though we’re not in the middle of the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression and that financing for anything major will be available any time soon. Yes, zoning is critical to Coney Island. Vision is important and can be uplifting. But to focus on those at the expense of the present is to make a mistake of tragic proportions. The end result will be that the people trying to “save” Coney Island–we mean those trying to redevelop it–will be the ones that end up killing it and making it an even worse place through the 2020s.

Mayor Bloomberg, Amanda Burden, Purnima Kapur, Lynn Kelly and all the CIDC Board members, Joe Sitt, Kent Barwick–we’re talking to you and about you. Let’s cut out the meaningless twaddle and get down to the real work of making sure the summers of 2009 and 2010 are not the Summers of Horror in Coney Island. And, if that means sacrificing vision and slowing down bureaucratic process, so be it.

Tags: coney island

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