Today’s news:

Springing into new Coney era - Rezoning effort expected to pick up steam soon

A preliminary comprehensive rezoning of Coney Island is expected to happen by late spring 2007, this newspaper has learned. “The time frame right now is we hope to start the public review process this spring, which will begin with a scoping document of all environmental issues,” said the city’s Economic Development Corporation spokesperson Janel Patterson. Patterson said there will then be a public hearing for comment, which is all part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), with the ULURP process expected to commence in the early fall. The news of the city offering up a comprehensive plan comes as such developers as Thor Equities and Taconic Investment Partners are anxious to begin projects. Thor Equities owns much of the amusement area between Stillwell Avenue and West 8th Street, and Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk, excluding Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, and the Eldorado Bumper Car ride. Taconic Investment Partners are anxious to develop the former Child’s Restaurant and other properties west of Stillwell Avenue between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk. It also comes as preservationists worry that the city’s only zoned amusement area will be rezoned to include residential developments near the boardwalk. Additionally, the Vourderis family, which owns Deno’s Wonder Wheel, says they want a similar type zoning that Thor Equities will get. The Thor Equities plan call for a mixed-use development consisting of amusements, retail, residential, a hotel and entertainment. Thor Equities President Joe Sitt said he had hoped the city would have done the rezoning already. “The city knows exactly what we’re looking for and we’re waiting for them. Taconic owns nearly as much as we have in Coney Island and they haven’t even begun thinking about putting a pencil to paper, because they are saying they don’t want to spend that energy until they see the city go ahead and do the rezoning,” said Sitt. “The city’s in control. We then fill in the blanks. We’ve done our master plan work, but we’ll have to modify to fit in with what the city does,” he added. The much-anticipated rezoning comes after the city formed the Coney Island Development Corporation in September 2003 and a strategic plan about a year later. The plan’s goals are for a vibrant year-round entertainment destination, enhanced amusement and seaside attractions and a vibrant neighborhood that provides opportunities for local residents. According to several sources familiar with the redevelopment of Coney Island, the city has not moved as fast as some would have hoped. Some in the know have speculated that part of the reason why the city has been somewhat slow in a comprehensive rezoning of the area is because of the loss of two key city employees who moved on to other jobs. These include Josh Sirefman, who under Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff spearheaded the city’s initiative to redevelop Coney Island, and Regina Myer, who served as the Department of City Planning Brooklyn Borough Director. While a replacement for Sirefman has not been named yet, Purnima Kapur, the former Planning Department director of the Bronx, has already replaced Myer. “Ms. Kapur has been actively looking at it [Coney Island], as has been Amanda Burden [City Planning director] to evaluate the approaches and preserve the amusement character and help it to evolve to a year-round destination with increased economic opportunity and a mix of uses appropriate to the area,” said City Planning spokesperson Rachaele Raynoff.

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