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Developers push housing inside Coney amusements - Revamped playground to include residential units, too

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The city may be closer to allowing for some residential housing in the amusement and entertainment district of Coney Island, Courier-Life Publications has learned. The issue was discussed at length at a special sit-down meeting held last week in Borough President Marty Markowitz’s office. At the meeting were Markowitz, City Councilmember Domenic Recchia, Coney Island Development Corporation Chair and the city’s point man on the area Josh Sirefman, and Thor Equities President Joe Sitt. Neither Thor Equities nor any of the parties at the meeting returned phone calls. Sources said all at the meeting were in total agreement that the focus of Coney Island should remain an amusement and entertainment district that is private sector driven and in which the public sector serves as a catalyst. Sitt made the argument that some housing along Stillwell Avenue south of Surf Avenue is needed to achieve a year-round presence, sources said. Sources said Sitt argued that the residential component is needed in order to move along on redeveloping Astroland and the rest of the amusement district. All at the sit-down agreed that the amusement area needs more than just a 100-day-a-year draw. Sitt argued that in order to be profitable, the amusement area needs 1.4 million visitors in Coney Island to take rides. It was brought up that last year the Cyclone had about 120,000 riders and Deno’s Wonder Wheel had about 200,000 riders, according to sources. Sources suggested that if Sitt could sell the amusement area as 180 days of excitement instead of 100 days, he could turn a profit. For the city’s part, they want some kind of formula that ensures a “nice amount” of amusement and entertainment uses that allow for residential units to be built. One way to ensure this is through the issuance of special permits while building, or to not allow temporary certificates of occupancy (TCO) for the residential component until a good portion of the entertainment and amusement area is under construction, sources said. Talks at the meeting also centered on finishing a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) so that the rezoning process can start in September, The ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) takes between nine months and a year, and its crunch time is right now, said sources. Sources noted that while ULURP is sometimes private-sector pushed, in this case it will be public-sector pushed. The thinking at the meeting was that the city needs to spearhead the rezoning because it involves the entire area as per the Coney Island Strategic Plan submitted two years ago, and not just the amusement district.

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