Thor Backs Away from Coney Condo Plan

After months of criticism from city officials and community members, Joseph Sitt of Thor Equities submitted a plan that replaces the controversial 40-story condominium tower and hundreds of other rental apartments along the Coney Island boardwalk with a lower-scale mix of hotels and timeshares. Does it represent enough of a change to satisfy critics or is the plan just wolf dressed up as a sheep, as Robert Lieber, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, called it? It’s an important question for Thor, which needs the city on board to complete a rezoning and to cough up financing on the order of $100 million. The key to any plan for the area is finding a way to make Coney Island a year-round destination. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see how to accomplish that while maintaining the old-school vibe for which so many New Yorkers feel nostalgia. If you’re already going to turn it into Disney World, what’s the big deal is about having some condos in the mix?
Coney Island Plan Is Scaled Back [NY Times]
Condos Nixed from Coney Revamp Plan [NY Post]
Coney Developer Drops Condo Plan [NY Sun]

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  • People always forget that Coney Island actually started out as the Disney World of its era…

  • Anything that adds life and revitalizes the Coney Island area is ok in my book. Has anyone seen the area lately? Not exactly a “destination” spot and what kills is that so many people know of the area’s potential. I live only about 10 mins from CI but never go there because, for lack of a better word, it’s gross. I hope Thor gets their approval and transforms the landscape to attract new generations of Brooklynites and travelers from all over!

  • What, tall, brown, boxy housing projects are okay for the Brooklyn oceanfront, but tall, (more) attractive, upscale condos are evil? What the hell is wrong with people? Build the condos!

  • The sticking point is not whether or not it includes a few condos. The sticking point is whether or not it includes a grossly disproportionately sized building to contain said condos.

  • I agree completely with bayridgeperson – Coney Island isn’t the kinda place I wanna go to in the summer, when it’s warm out and the Cyclone is almost appealing. I don’t wanna be anywhere near the prevailing filth that exists out there any other time of the year. If these Thor guys wanna build condos (and if the end result looks anything at all like that picture), then let em get to work.

  • So many people get all sentimental about the current Coney Island grit… Like that’s the way it was intended to be. It makes me nuts. Go ahead, build the condos (a modern take on all the ritzy resorts that use to populate the Brooklyn shore line?). Build a Disney-esque theme park – an updated version of the parks that were originally there – state of the art and kitchy to no end. Way better than side stepping needles and other filth….

  • i have been to coney once in 5 years so I am trying to keep my opinions to myself on this one (except that I’m sick generally of my tax dollars going into such projects) but I can confident I won’t be at any new park as Thor plans to build it any more often than I’ve been going to coney now.

  • Coney island really needs redevelopment. I went recently to see a Cyclones game and that was great but other than the staduim the rest of the area is a dump.

  • Coney Island is a shit hole that bears no resemblance to itself in its heyday. It’s true that not many things would be worse but a nod to the glory days would be cool.

  • To answer Brownstoner’s question – inevitably the issue is that Condos are not compatible with amusements (who wants to live right next to Disney) and that ultimately big $ condos will force out seasonal seaside amusements. I think that argument has some merit. That being said – clearly no matter what Thor comes up with, it will be opposed – I just can’t figure out why the City seems to be fighting this – I think Bloomberg must be really pissed about the Albee Sq fiasco

  • Sadly, I’ve got to confess that there’s nothing at Coney I’d miss except the Wonder Wheel and Cyclone (landmarked) and the beach/boardwalk (not going anywhere either)…and, of course, the new stadium. (Oh, and Nathan’s.)Those gems are set in a family-unfriendly patchwork of scary rotting depressingness…the bathrooms alone say it all. Also sadly, Thor will probably turn it into a hyper-sanitized glitz thing that erases every trace of Coney’s raffish past. But I can understand that ‘raffish’ is very hard to preserve. The peeling “Shoot the Freak” sign that pushes our edgy/quaint appreciation button is one thing; the creepy dark places behind the chainlink and the hideous restrooms are quite another. Truth be told, a state-of-the-art high-tech ultraglitzy theme park would be the truest tribute to Coney’s past–wasn’t that what Luna Park et al were, in their time?
    Here’s an idea: Amid the new turbocharged development, let’s do a Carny-Meets-Colonial-Williamsburg and meticulously recreate a chunk of Luna Park or Dreamland, right down to the vintage light bulbs, with costumed attendants etc. It would be a huge destination for weddings and film shoots, and keep the past alive as the future unfolds around it.

  • That’s what I, and the others, seem to be saying, Brenda.

  • I’ve never been to CI, so I’m not quite sure what people mean by “gross”? Is it similar to boarded up buildings and XXX theatres of pre-90s 42nd st?

  • Brenda – it would be great to keep the old flair but they need to figure out how to make it a year round destinition to some extent. Restraurants and some retail shoping can probably be added without losing that old aspect.

    Either way it is 40 years since those old parks have closed down and with Astroland closing soon (b/c of the developer) those parks are a thing of the past.

  • As someone who went to coney island with my flatbush family when I was a child, and as someone who watched the neighborhood and the perception of it decline, I would be excited to see it built up. In the 90s, when the hipsters started ‘discovering’ coney island for it’s grittiness and parade, I was happy that people were focusing on the neighborhood, but dismayed that it was being exploited for it’s ironic grossness. The fact that people want to preserve the decay is more than annoying. It’s counterproductive and twisted. There are so many other waterfront neighborhoods that remain decayed and underbuilt. Let someone make Coney Island nice (even if it ends up being overbuilt.) Let the hipsters go to Rockaway and hang out by the methadone clinics.

  • It needs a Colossus.

  • The city let this area rot for 50 years and now when a developer tries to turn it into SOMETHING, hell anything is better then whats there now they are fighting him all the way. When rappers rap about coney island and basketball players reminisce about how its “the worst place in the world to grow up” it’s just disgusting to see some upper class city officials who never been to coney in their life speaking against development..

    its a disgrace

  • June 18, 2006
    In Coney Island, Marbury Has Message but No News

    “My message to the kids of Coney Island is: ‘Don’t want to live here. Don’t want to be in Coney Island all your life,’ ” Marbury said. “And if somebody tells you different, don’t deal with them people, because they want you to stay here. So what I’m doing is trying to give kids hope, and allow them to understand that with hard work and dedication, preparation, all of those different things, they’ll be able to succeed.”
    Marbury spoke of creating jobs and other avenues out of poverty. He said he would pay barbers in his former neighborhood to give residents free haircuts.

  • Does anyone really believe that Sitt intends to honor this scaled back plan? It strikes me as a last ditch effort to salvage something in the face of city opposition. Clearly, his Albee-flip is fresh in peoples minds, hence the reluctance to give away the farm. Given that the current Coney Island amusement area is about a third the size of the one of my youth, there’s not much to give away anyway. And if some schmuck wants to lay down some long cash to live in the middle of an amusement park, I say let ’em. BTW, I find the comparisons between Coney and Disney somewhat spurious. Coney’s a hodge-podge of hucksters trying to separate you from your money; Disney is a corporate monolith trying to separate you from your free-will.

  • I posted earlier but wanted to add that growing up, I would hear stories of how, for my parents and grandparents, CI was the PLACE to be…pristine, fun, a great family place. I, along with a whole generation, never got to experience that b/c by the time we came along, CI was (and still is) a place you steer clear of. It would be nice if, by the time I have kids, CI would be a desitination place again so another generation doesn’t miss out on this area which is so much a part of Brooklyn! So what if my kids ride the merry-go-round next to some mega-condos…I’m sure all they’ll remember is the fun they had at CI!

  • I can understand the arguments against redeveloping the atlantic yards but fighting against redevelopment of Coney Island shows signs of wanting no change even if it is for the better.

  • Again, it’s not the development that the city has a problem with. It’s buildings that are out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood.

  • These statements by Sitt are particularly offensive. nothing like developing a minority neighborhood and putting all them blacks to work, serving the affluent and wealthy:

    “The hotels, Mr. Sitt said, would offer black residents not only jobs, but careers. The Russian immigrants, who enjoy a “quality of life and activity by the water,” would flock to the hotels and nightclubs. Jewish and Italian-American residents would get the “quality retail, bookstores and entertainment venues” that they want. As for everyone else, “what’s better than having fabulous restaurants, catering halls, shows and concerts?”

  • Mateo! The housing projects are 40 story high! WTF?!?!?!?

  • Wrong.

    Current projects are 18 to 24 stories per Wiki.

    These, at least, are 14 stories tall:

    Also, see:

    Give me a source that says existing housing is 40 stories, not an exclamation point and a WTF.

  • I don’t get this argument. What is wrong with high rise buildings on the waterfront replacing a run down area, which will basically be an empty lot once Astroland closes.

  • Well, he was responsible for closing Astroland so you can’t use that argument. It’s no better than kids who killed their parents asking for leniency because they were orphans.

    And what’s wrong with maintaining a sense or proportionality for neighborhoods? Not every neighborhood is the financial district or midtown. There’s zoning regs; it’s not like just buying a plot of land gives you unfettered right to build whatever and however on it as you please.

  • True about him buying Astroland up (I posted at 1:36pm menting him buying it up).

    Either way I don’t think that 20 to 30 story buildings in the area with retail and restaurants would be a bad thing. 40 Stories is probably a little large but I think the neighborhood needs help and having large towers on the water is not a bad thing as long as the beach and boardwalk remain open to the public, which no one is saying will change. I do like to go to the Cyclones games so it is not like I haven’t been to the area but the surronding area needs help.

    Also, what is the hatred against housing in the area.

  • Again, it’s not hatred against housing. So stop framing it that way. I may as well keep asking why people hate doing things in proportion to the neighborhood. Although really, I’ve answered your question (What is the hatred against housing? There isn’t one.); I’ve never heard a response to mine other than incorrect assertions.

    “The housing projects are 40 stories high.”
    They’re not.

    “20 to 30 story buildings in the area with retail and restaurants would [not] be a bad thing.”
    20 story builings may be ok, 30 are still really high. The picture in the first link from the Gowanus blogger depicted a 35-story building and it just dwarfed everything. Also, there’s little assurance that he would get approval and hold to his promises, which is the point made by the president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

    And I also go to Coney Island; am going there tomorrow night, in fact, for the Cyclones season opener.

  • Also, you say that in your opinion 20 to 30 story buildings wouldn’t a bad thing. What’s wrong with deferring to the opinion of the people the city has hired and put in charge of making these decisions?

  • I did not make all these posts and never said the housing projects were 40 stories that was someone else.

    As for the city making the decision, I would watch out for what you ask for as Atlantic Yards has shown us.

    Also, while you may not be against housing from reading all the articles posted by Brownstoner and the links you posted clearly there are opponents to housing and that is the major change in his new proposal. Sorry if I assumed you held those positions. Personally, I would be in favor of housing if people want to live next to an amusment park why not let them. I think it improve the area with residents having a vested interest in a nice neighborhood.

  • Sorry,

    Just tough to keep track of with all the Anonymous posters. My apologies.

    The thought crossed my mind earlier on projects like Atlantic Yards, but honestly, I don’t think that decision was made by the city planning department but rather was made upstairs. But where they have made a considered opinion, I think it deserves at least a bit more respect than our own relatively poorly informed ones (and I’m including myself in that, no offense meant).

    In his new proposal, he also got rid of the 40-story building but, according to the articles, maintained the same density with spreading things out a bit. There would be two questions of whether he lowered the buildings enough to be reasonable and whether he is going to bind himself to anything acceptable or will just pay lip-service to a particular plan and then go ahead with his original idea once the constructions crews show up. If he commits to building something within the scope of the neighborhood, I think some new housing would be good for the neighborhood.

  • Astorland is still open. I actually take my five year old to Coney Island all the time – it is really funa dn attracts a wonderful mix of people. At 20 bucks for 10 rides it is affordable for me. The kiddie rides are great. But the attendants do look a little worse for wear and some of the music is really x-rated. Given the rundown nature of the immediate neighbrohood and the plethora of taller buildings (both projects and middle class housing) it seems like not the place to argue for low rise being contextual. What is contextual is auto repairs and Russian internet shops and boarde up SRO’s. Seems to be a pretty blank shlate to recreate – as it has been in the past.

  • Don’t know if anyone thought of this, but here goes:
    • The Astrotower converted into a rotating, Russian, bi-level vodka bar (“On a clear day, you can see Sebastopol”)
    • Selling Cyclone ride time shares
    • All public bathrooms equipped with Joseph Sittz Baths ™
    • Allow housing project residents to rent their apartments as hotel rooms for the budget conscience
    • Hold annual Le Nathan’s foi gras eating contest

  • Don’t know if anyone thought of this, but here goes:
    • The Astrotower converted into a rotating, Russian, bi-level vodka bar (“On a clear day, you can see Sebastopol”)
    • Selling Cyclone ride time shares
    • All public bathrooms equipped with Joseph Sittz Baths ™
    • Allow housing project residents to rent their apartments as hotel rooms for the budget conscience
    • Hold annual Le Nathan’s foi gras eating contest

  • Don’t know if anyone thought of this, but here goes:
    • The Astrotower converted into a rotating, Russian, bi-level vodka bar (“On a clear day, you can see Sebastopol”)
    • Selling Cyclone ride time shares
    • All public bathrooms equipped with Joseph Sittz Baths ™
    • Allow housing project residents to rent their apartments as hotel rooms for the budget conscience
    • Hold annual Le Nathan’s foi gras eating contest

  • Contextual? CI is empty lots, a few rides, some scary carnie shacks, and the projects. Build a mile-high tower — anything is an improvement. Except for more projects, of course.

  • When I spend a day in Coney Island it’s a unique experience. It’s funky because it’s run down. I liked the old Time Square for the same reason. Did I spend money there ? No. Did I go down to those places more than once a year? No. I would like to see Coney Island be revamped however it would be sad to see it be turned in to a mall like Time Square is now.


  • @ putnam-denizen: Yes, Astroland is still open. No, it won’t be after this year.

    @ jeremy: Coney Island is also the home of the still new Keyspan Park, the landmarked parachute jump, the landmarked Cyclone roller coaster, the iconic Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, the Fourth of July hotdog eating contest, the Mermaid Parade (and last night I just met two people who traveled to New York from Wisconsin just to see the Parade), the New York Aquarium, and a beach that although has some scary exposures of flesh, is still free, right off a subway stop, and accessible to most of Brooklyn. Other than those things, though, I’m sure there’s nothing to be concerned about from a contextual standpoint.

    @ Dhg: Cut down on the meth. Seriously.

  • @ putnam-denizen: Also, the argument isn’t that low-rise is contextual. The argument that mid-rise is contextual. If you think the buildings that are around now are high, you should look at the links I posted yesterday to see how high the suckers he wanted to build are.

  • the only ones complaining are those who may lose their views