Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Joe Sitt Seeks Community Approval At Town Hall Meeting

Yesterday's town hall meeting with Thor Equities at the United Community Baptist Church was Joe Sitt and Thor Equities' plea for community approval and support by winning them over with a presentation of their master plan which included a virtual tour through their sprawling and dynamic concept of a new Coney Island.

In a very dapper and confident style, and wearing a sleek pin-striped suit and a pleasing Brooklyn accent, Joe Sitt stressed that this is no fairy land garden they're building, but something that will make the world a little better. Make our community of Coney Island better. Joe, as he preferred to be called by his first name, claimed he would not be interested in rebuilding Coney Island if he isn't proud of it and that will only come if he gets the public support he is seeking.

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The virtual tour presentation by Chris Durmick of Thinkwell Design & Production for the new Coney amusement district received a good round of applause at its conclusion. A grinning Joe seemed tickled and pleased by the response to Thinkwell's designs. The presentation took us through many renderings and video clips of some of the new rides in action. At one of the forefronts, would be an emporium which will house a museum of Coney Island which will actually be a dark ride through the history of Coney Island. The emporium will be a greeting station and pit stop for all your needs from digital media gear and supplies, tickets to shows, strollers, etc. Down Stillwell Avenue will stand high, the Freakenspiele Tower (or Freak & Spiel) which pays homage to the Dreamland tower. The Freakenspiele will be a ride, launching passengers into the air at rocket speeds. Along Stillwell will be added attractions like stunt shows, street performers, and the indoor water park which seem to be a major staple in their plans.

(click image for larger view)
More drawings were displayed for the Bowery, plus upscale bowling, adult arcades, freak shows taking their acts out on the streets, and a virtual funhouse with a mirror maze and a three-floor high slide. Plenty of the new and old mixed together. One upgraded old ride would be the new Steeplechase ride which will be a morph between the Steeplechase horses and motorcylces. This would be a faster speed Steeplechase which would at one point go through the water park and then hover high over visitors.

The fascinating presentation albeit with one point of concern was followed by questions from the community. The questions ranged from assuring programs for students, and safety to emotional questions, from the gathering, to guaranty employment in the project to go to people within the community. At one point Joe had to urge to the group to calm themselves.

Towards the end one emotional question from someone at the gathering asked why build a hotel right in the middle of the amusement area. And Mr. Sitt answered, "Because we feel that people would not want to walk a distance to their hotels". The questioner asked, "Well why can't you build it three blocks away?" And Joe answered with a shrug of the shoulders, "Well, because we don't own that part." And that is the point of concern. After viewing the presentation and all the great ideas from Thinkwell, it would seem feasible to place a hotel but why in the middle of its thoroughfare? One and even more than one hotel would simply take up too much space. This master plan would've gained great support if Thor did not sell the property they had bought at the Washington Bath's site. That would've been an ideal location for the hotel and would have kept it away from the amusement zone. One of Coney Island's great facets is that you can see the sky all around you. With buildings recessed right behind the Stillwell's amusement structures and rising high would cause heavy shadows all along the Avenue.

At the conclusion the panel quickly darted backstage. And later, Joe, in presidential-style, zipped through the gathering outside and into his car surrounded by his crew and hedged in between a couple of beefy body guards.

Joe Sitt has come to town to seek community approval and has moved a good deal in the right direction but the talk outside, after the meeting was adjourned, seemed to echo the concern and disapproval for the high rise hotels along Stillwell Avenue.

More on the meeting and video of the virtual presentation tomorrow.

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