More Pleadings for Coney Buildings

coney-island-preservation-060110.jpgThe Landmarks Preservation Committee recently told the preservation group Save Coney Island that their proposed historic district would not be referred to the full commission for consideration. In response, eleven New York historians have signed a letter still urging that the buildings be saved from Joe Sitt’s wrecking ball. The full letter is after the jump. Something must be done to prevent the demolition of the buildings,” says historian Michael Immerso. “Mayor Bloomberg should immediately intervene.
A Push Toward Preservation in Coney Island [Brownstoner]
Sit Disses Coney Island’s Historic Buildings [Brownstoner]
The Gutting of the Henderson Begins [Brownstoner]
Thor Reveals Soulless Vision for Surf Ave. [Brownstoner]
Tor and City Close on Coney Deal [Brownstoner]

Robert Tierney

Chairman

Landmarks Preservation Commission

Municipal Building

1 Centre Street, 9th Floor

New York, NY 10007

Dear Chairman Tierney,

We are writing as historians, scholars and chroniclers of New York City, Brooklyn and Coney Island to urge you to take immediate action to protect and preserve the historic heritage of Coney Island’s amusement district.

Coney Island is a place of great national historic significance. It is the birthplace of the modern American amusement industry. Yet, as Coney Island USA founder Dick Zigun has noted: There’s more left of ancient Rome than turn-of the century Coney Island.

Today, many of Coney Island’s few remaining historic buildings are in danger. Developer Thor Equities has announced that it plans to immediately begin demolishing the buildings it owns along the south side of Surf Avenue.

Among the structures believed to be in imminent danger are:

* The Grashorn Building (built in the 1880s), the Coney Island amusement district’s oldest surviving building.

* The Henderson Music Hall Building (built circa 1899), where Harpo Marx first publicly performed with his brothers Groucho and Gummo.

* The Shore Hotel (built in 1903), Coney Island’s last surviving small hotel.

* The Bank of Coney Island Building (built in 1923), a classical revival structure that testifies to Coney Island’s past prosperity.

We believe that these historic buildings should be preserved, restored and reused. Together, these buildings and other historic structures could serve as a historic core for a new 21st-century amusement district, tying Coney Island’s future to its rich past.

We urge you to listen to the Municipal Art Society, which recently stated: …much of the public appeal of Coney Island lies in its heritage, and there is great public support for preserving the best of Coney’s past while building new buildings and rides on the acres of vacant land that currently exist. MAS believes that steps should be taken to protect the historic buildings that remain at Coney, including those that are threatened by demolition this summer.

We urge you immediately to consider these endangered buildings individually for landmarking. We also urge you to support a Coney Island landmark district that would include these and other historic buildings along the Surf Avenue corridor.

Coney Island is an American treasure. We must not allow its most valuable asset, its history, to be erased.

Thomas Bender
University Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History,
New York University

Michele H. Bogart
Professor of Art, SUNY Stony Brook
Politics of Urban Beauty: New York and Its Art Commission

Edwin Burrows
Co-author, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
(Winner of 1999 Pulitzer Prize in History)
Distinguished Professor of History, Brooklyn College

Charles Denson
Coney Island: Lost and Found

Richard Haw
The Brooklyn Bridge: A Cultural History
Associate Professor of English, John Jay College

Michael Immerso
Coney Island: The People’s Playground

John Kasson
Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century
Professor of History and American Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Francis Morrone
An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn

Barnet Schecter
The Battle for New York

Ron Schweiger
Brooklyn Borough Historian

Mike Wallace
Co-author, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
(Winner of 1999 Pulitzer Prize in History)
Distinguished Professor of History, CUNY Graduate Center

0 Comment

  • BoerumHill

    Just to be perfectly clear, here are the historic structures that MUST be saved:

    * The Grashorn Building (built in the 1880s), the Coney Island amusement district’s oldest surviving building.

    http://bk.ly/sdy

    * The Henderson Music Hall Building (built circa 1899), where Harpo Marx first publicly performed with his brothers Groucho and Gummo.

    http://bk.ly/sdB

    * The Shore Hotel (built in 1903), Coney Island’s last surviving small hotel.

    http://bk.ly/sdC

    * The Bank of Coney Island Building (built in 1923), a classical revival structure that testifies to Coney Island’s past prosperity.

    http://bk.ly/sdE

    A look inside of the bank building today.

    http://bk.ly/sdD

    At the risk of getting flash mobbed, I’m not feeling it. I don’t have any emotional or nostalgic ties to the area. I am aware of what it once was, and its significance in middle-brow (amusement park/boardwalk/resort) and low-brow (bearded ladies and midget tossing) culture. I’m not buying what they’re selling. From an outsiders view, its a blighted, neglected area which would benefit from hitting the reset button.

    I’m an open minded person. If someone has a compelling argument for the buildings cited, I’m all eyes (ears).

  • Landmarks Preservation Committee Commission?

  • Sorry, thought you could use html in comments. My previous comment was, “Landmarks Preservation [start strikethough]Committee[end strikethough] Commission?”

  • babs

    Good luck getting Bloomberg to ever go against a real estate developer. He has made it abundantly clear that all he cares about is $ and the people who make lots of it. These bus cutbacks, for example, are just another way to make poor people leave NY. Rich people don’t need buses (or subways, or libraries, for that matter) and the eliminated routes just happen to go through/link some of the poorest, already most mass-transit-challenged areas of Brooklyn.

    On another note, suggest that all of you who are having your water turned off Friday night due to “Atlantic Yards work” spontaneously invite yourselves to a sleepover at Mike’s townhouse. RSVP by tweeting @NYCMayorsOffice.

  • BoerumHill

    The Committee gives the thumbs up or down for further review by the full Commission.

    FWIW, I have no idea what that means. Seems like three-men-in-a-room, Albany-style. That said, I would hate to have Tierney’s job; no matter what you do on any decision, you’re going to make somebody unhappy.

  • BoerumHill, do you know who is on Landmarks Preservation Committee?

  • There were six people shot today in coney island. You want historic coney island? That’s historic coney island!

  • BoerumHill

    By g man on June 10, 2010 3:29 PM

    BoerumHill, do you know who is on Landmarks Preservation Committee?

    If you click through the LPC website they detail the procedure (try the FAQ section). Once you make an application, they form a committee – it’s Tierney and 3 or 4 others (the Research Dept Commissioner might be one), I forget. Point is the 11 Commissioners pretty much rubber stamp whichever way Tierney leans – NYT had a good article on the process a year or two ago.

    So you have a committee (headed by Tierney) making a recommendation to the full commission (chaired by Tierney). Democracy is a wonderful thing.