Mr Sitt’s Thor Equities has accumulated 11 acres of the 13-acre amusement area in dozens of small-scale acquisitions in recent years, spending an estimated $100m on buying up land from family businesses that in some cases have operated in Coney Island for a century.
His detractors claim he bought the land in order to “flip” it at a profit to the city once the rezoning went through. But the developer defended his record on Friday, telling the Financial Times he was optimistic he “and my friend Mayor Mike” could soon reach a deal that would benefit the depressed area.
The Bloomberg administration says its plan would restore Coney Island’s status as a world-class entertainment destination by providing new year-round indoor attractions and shops. It would also create thousands of jobs in a working-class area where the unemployment rate among its 60,000 inhabitants is more than 3 per cent above the citywide average of 9.6 per cent. The project is on hold, however, until the mayor reaches a deal with Mr Sitt, whose own plans to revitalise the area have been compared with creating a new Las Vegas just a $2 subway ride away from 8m New Yorkers.
Mr Sitt said on Friday his company had done “the heavy lifting” for redevelopment by buying up dozens of stakeholders.
Mr Sitt, in his first interview since the rezoning plan was passed, said he hoped he and Mr Bloomberg were approaching the end of their sometimes abrasive negotiations on Coney Island’s fate, including veiled warnings that the city could compulsorily purchase the land.