In an exclusive interview this week on Fox Business News, Joe Sitt, the real estate speculator who’s been holding Coney Island hostage in his battle to turn it into a shopping mall dotted with high rises, had this to say: “The way I look at it you’ve got to let other people play in the sandbox and be a good friend to folks. I’m looking forward to working with the Mayor of New York and sharing the development of Coney Island and hopefully seeing some hotels come to that marketplace.”
Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt sharing? We’re deeply cynical. Sitt’s history in Coney Island has consisted of buying and flipping property (Washington Baths bought for $13 million, sold for $90 million), keeping historic properties vacant or underutilized by evicting longtime tenants or tripling the rent (Astroland, Boardwalk, Grashorn Building, Shore Hotel, west side of Jones Walk), and bulldozing thriving amusements on Stillwell to create empty lots and a failed flea market.
The Coney segment is at the tail end of a conversation about “Rebounding Real Estate?” 4:10 to be precise. Watch it here…
The clip begins with the reporter asking: “What does somebody who owns more than $3 billion dollars worth of property in the nation’s most populated cities have to say about the real estate market and where it’s headed?” As Sitt yaks about investment opportunities in commercial real estate, a caption reminds the viewer that “Thor Equities owns 11 acres of Coney Island Amusement Park.”
Fox didn’t show any pix of Sitt’s property, so here’s a few shots from my Thorland set on flickr (photodocumentation from between 03 Sep 2007 & 18 Jul 2009). In the pic below, note unused tables due to lack of vendors. Note shuttered water race game across the street in the Henderson Building aka the historic Henderson’s Music Hall. Gee that’s funny, didn’t Sitt’s pr flack say Thor Equities property was 100% active in 2009?
The reporter finally asks Sitt if “you guys” –Joey Coney Island and Mayor Mike– are close to resolving their differences. It’s the question on everyone’s mind. When the City Council passed the Coney Rezoning on July 29, there was some serious wheelin’ and dealin’ going on behind closed doors. Charles Bagli’s article in the New York Times had us on the edge of our seat: “Under the tentative deal, according to officials and executives involved in the talks, the city will buy six of Mr. Sitt’s 10 acres, leaving the remaining property on Surf and Stillwell Avenues for him to develop.” The City and Sitt’s attorney were said to be negotiating till 11 pm on the night before the hearing and through the Council meeting. Evidently the two sides never sealed the deal, or perhaps the selling price was deemed too exorbitant to make public before the election? Oh, if we were a fly on the wall at these so-called negotiations, what a delicious tell-all this would be!
Now Sitt is telling Fox News that there have been bumps in the road, but he and “Mayor Mike” are closer than they’ve ever been to a deal. Well, this is not exactly news because Bloomberg said what amounts to the same thing in a sit-down with the Brooklyn Paper back in August: “Fundamentally, the deal with him is done.”
For the past four months, it’s been awfully quiet on the Coney Island redevelopment news front. It’s as if all of the usual sources had been told to keep their lips zipped till after the election. Yet the Coney Island Rumor Mill is abuzz. Rumors come and go, but the one that sticks around is that the City is buying the Astroland site and will close on it after Bloomberg wins a third term.
Unanswered questions: Is the City buying more than the Astro site from Sitt? What happened to the now three-month-old, 6 out of 10 acres deal? Or will the City go all out and buy the Stillwell lots as well? What will happen to the former Bank of Coney Island building on 12th Street and the Henderson Music Hall at Stillwell and Bowery. Both historic buildings occupy lots rezoned for the proposed high rise “hotels.” Will Sitt keep ‘em and flip ‘em in 2010? In the vid, the Thor CEO describes 2010 as the magic year he’s been waiting for patiently.
As for “seeing some hotels come to that marketplace”… We’ve never heard anyone but Sitt refer to Coney as a marketplace. Thor Equities falsely advertised the flea fest as “the most thrilling open air market on the planet” and “a uniquely entertaining and amusing marketplace in Coney Island.” Instead it was a desecration of the C-7 amusement zone. This property is where amusements such as batting cages, go karts, bumper boats and mini golf thrived until Joe Sitt bulldozed them in 2007 to make way for “site preparation.”
Forget sharing. We recommend that Mayor Mike buy out Joe, no matter what it costs. The Mayor has spent $85 million to win a third term, he can afford to buy back Coney Island. If re-elected, Bloomberg is destined to go down in history as the Mayor Who Saved Coney Island or the Mayor Who Killed Coney Island by Letting Joe Sitt Get Away with Murder. As for Joe Sitt, we recommend that he take his own advice about the rebounding real estate market. At one point in the video he says “I think Brazil is the single biggest opportunity…” That’s great, Joe. Please move there. Permanently. Here’s an airline schedule. Adeus.
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February 10, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Amusement Operators Balk, Money Talks at Stillwell