The people’s playground may be expanding, and through the use of eminent domain.
Three vacant lots along the Coney Island Boardwalk amounting to 75,000 square feet may be seized by the city for long-delayed development as rides and parks, the New York Post reported.
The empty lot in front of the new Thunderbolt is one of the lots the city wants to seize. Photo by David Tan via Flickr
The Parks Department wants to foster long-planned economic development on the empty lots by building rides and other amusements. The sites include the 60,000 square-foot vacant lot of the original Thunderbolt roller coaster, which is directly adjacent to a new, steel roller coaster of the same name. As well, smaller areas on West 12th Street and on West 23rd Street, just off the Boardwalk, are being eyed for condemnation and seizure, according the Post.
City officials claim property owners have been unwilling negotiate, and eminent domain is a last resort.
Boardwalk business owners, including the landowners of the three sites being seized, apparently had no idea the city planned to seize their property until the Post reported on it.
“It’s not nice to take people’s property. We live in America. We’re not communists here,” one Boardwalk business owner told the Post.
Others felt the city could be doing even more to improve Coney Island despite reluctant property owners. Founder of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow Dick Zigun told the Post, “They should finish the job and condemn the Shore Theater.” The long vacant Shore Theater is, like the Thunderbolt lot, co-owned by late Kansas Fried Chicken King Horace Bullard’s family and partner Peter Sheffer, according to the Post.
The land slated to be seized and developed was included in former Mayor Bloomberg’s Reviving Coney Island rezoning plan, which was approved in 2009. The rezoning plan was delayed by negotiations with Thor Properties real-estate mogul Joe Sitt, who was asking for at least $200,000,000 for the 10.5 acres of land he owned in the targeted area. Ultimately, Luna Park was built on seven acres of the plot after the city payed Sitt a whopping $95,600,000.
Area business owners said they were stunned by the scheme, which includes using seized land to build new streets and parks that were outlined in a rezoning plan approved in 2009, under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Despite acrimonious negotiations, Bloomberg swore he wouldn’t utilize eminent domain.
Acquiring the three sites in question would allow the city to finish constructing a promenade proposed by Bloomberg in the approved rezoning plan called “Wonder Wheel Way,” connecting the Wonder Wheel, Cyclone, and Parachute Jump.
A public hearing on the matter will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, October 19, at Coney Island Hospital at 2601 Ocean Parkway.