The 'Mix-Use' of Rides and Condos
The debate of whether amusements can coexist with living spaces is one part of the problem that Thor Equities is proposing for Coney Island - the other is their argument that the amusements can not thrive on their own.
Lee Silberstein, spokesman for Thor Equities, said financial experts hired by the company have so far found that the amusement park as a stand-alone concept would operate at a loss over its lifetime. He said the preliminary numbers, which haven’t been released, were predicated on 1.4 million visitors coming to the $250 million park that would replace Astroland, a ‘huge leap of faith’ considering that currently, Astroland only has 350,000 annual visitors, according to its owner, Carol Hill Albert. Albert said her family, which has operated the park for 45 years, originally wanted to be part of the new, year-round Coney Island.
“But the problem was, I don’t think that anyone really got into the nuts and bolts of how we were going to make this place year-round,” she said. “It’s a mind-blowing expense that could only be supported by probably a hotel. Certainly no amusement park could afford that.
One of the reasons the Alberts of Astroland were forced to sell was because they worried they would take a heavy blow in the next couple of years with a drop in attendance due to big construction going on at either sides of their park. They also had tried to work out with the city a plan to move a dozen rides from Astroland, which is about half of all their rides to W.10th street - and even offered the city to pay the quarter of a million dollars to move the AstroTower. All this while construction were to be taking place. But the city did not find it feasible nor timely possible.
Sitt will also have to contend with a growing “Save Coney Island” movement. People like Captain Bob, burlesque dancers and freak show performers plan to literally show up at the company’s doorstep in the coming weeks to demand it scrap the condo plan. Charles Denson, author of “Coney Island: Lost and Found” (ironically, the book Sitt passes out to
his investors), said he is also against the project. “If he would have been more imaginative [with the Stillwell Plan], maybe I would have supported it,” said Denson. “But what he showed is so generic and ugly that there would be no choice but to oppose it.”
In a limited way, her newly formed group is Coney Island’s version of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the more established group that has recently offered Carlin its expertise from years of fighting the approved Atlantic Yards project.
Horace Bullard who some blame for Coney being undeveloped for so long, since he has been sitting on his parcels of land and letting them rot, has in the past, displayed a huge interest in amusements. However, he does feel that amusements alone can not be feasible for the large area of land that Thor has purchased.
“Corporations are not going to be able to go in there and justify [investing in amusements] to their shareholders. That’s what the public is going to have to digest. If it were true [that amusements are profitable], Coney Island would be filled with rides. People would be fighting over land to make money.” Of course, Bullard also has a stake in the city’s rezoning. He said he’ll wait until the city approves its rezoning before deciding what to do with his six parcels, sell them to Sitt or another developer, go into some kind of partnership, or build something there himself, and would prefer a ‘mixed use’ zoning.
Can Condos and Rides Coexist? by Sarah Ryley [Brooklyn Daily Eagle]
The full article can be viewed at the CIUSA bulletin board (posted with permission)