From the now defunct Brooklyn Skyline -
Big Plans For Coney Island?
May 26, 2003
By Jesse Serwer
A major announcement about Coney Island is just weeks away, Councilman Domenic Recchia revealed last week.
“In the weeks to come there will be a major announcement of how [the mayor], along with the City Council, plans to bring back Coney Island in such a way never seen before,” Recchia said at the annual Coney Island Beach opening on Wednesday.
The councilman did not elaborate, and repeated calls to his office were not returned. Recchia and Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff are currently in the process of creating a local development corporation for Coney Island.
Recchia’s “announcement” comes on the heels of a plan unveiled earlier this year by the Coney Island-based Astella Development Corporation. After gathering input from community groups, elected *and city officials, local residents and property owners and the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce over several years, the corporation released a plan on its website that includes an indoor sportsplex next to KeySpan Park and a water park and hotel to the east of the amusement park area.
“We wanted to give the city some type of incentive to build these things,” Astella Executive Director Judy Orlando said of the “Coney Island: A Vision Plan.”
Speaking on the Brooklyn cable access show “That’s Brooklyn” earlier this month, Recchia said a Coney Island sportsplex could make New York City more attractive to the Olympic selection committee. The councilman said he would also like to see an indoor pool built.
The sportsplex, as envisioned in the plan, would be an all-purpose arena that could host professional basketball games, amateur and school sports events. The arena would likely be constructed on a platform above the Abe Stark ice rink’s parking lot.
“That makes good sense,” said Orlando. “You could have the arena without taking away from needed parking.”
“This is what we hope to see — now we have to work with the property owners, the city and developers to see what could be implemented and go from there,” Orlando said.
The sportsplex could be the start of a Times Square-like renaissance for Coney Island. Developer Bruce Ratner, who was influential in the revitalization of both downtown Brooklyn and Times Square and whose plan to bring a sportsplex to Coney Island was nixed in the late ’90s in favor of KeySpan Park, still owns property nearby.
An unnamed source said Ratner, who helped bring Disney to Times Square, could be looking once again to attract Disney to Brooklyn’s shores.
The same source said the groundwork for re-development of the entire area is currently being laid down by the city — just look at the renovation of Stillwell Avenue and other area subway stations, the new sand brought in by Army engineers, and even the new, clean bathrooms at Nathan’s.
Astella is currently printing up copies of its plan and hopes to hold a formal announcement and celebration in the near future, saying it wants to market the area and work with the city to implement this.
Coney Island Assemblywoman Adele Cohen said she liked what she saw in the Astella plans but was unsure whether they were feasible amidst the current climate of economic hardship and budget cuts.
“It is hard to say what would be a reality — if anything will come to fruition. There is no money for anything right now,” she said. “But I am delighted to hear about anything that would revitalize Coney Island.”
“A hotel and water park would be just fine - they go along with Coney Island’s mission as a fun place,” Cohen said. “I support anything that would enhance the amusement area, and provide jobs for local residents but the most important thing is to make sure schools have roofs, our people have jobs, and public transportation is affordable.”