In the words of T.S. Eliot: “April is the cruellest month…” Last April, Joe Sitt of Thor Equities announced plans to demolish the buildings he owned along Surf Avenue in Coney Island. Now when visitors step out of Stillwell Terminal, their first glimpse of Coney Island will be the blue construction fence surrounding Joe Sitt’s Wasteland–the newest empty lot in the real-estate speculator’s collection of empty lots. The temporary one-story building that Sitt filed a variety of plans to build beginning in October has yet to break ground because the DOB “DISAPPROVED” the plans as many as 16 times over the past six months.
Surf and Stillwell was the site of the now-demolished, century-old Henderson Music Hall. The Henderson had survived being cut in half in the 1920s to make way for the widening of Stillwell Avenue. When the City rezoned the parcel for a high-rise “hotel” in July 2009, the historic building was doomed, even though no hotel is scheduled to be built there anytime soon. At the end of the 2010 season, longtime tenants Popeye’s Chicken, Fascination Arcade and Maritza’s Souvenirs were booted out and haven’t been heard from since.
Thor’s proposed construction is a “ONE STORY NEW COMMERCIAL BUILDING WITH ASSEMBLY AND AMUSEMENT SPACES AS INDICATED ON PLANS FILED HEREWITH.” If you look under “plan examination” you’ll see that they have filed for a variety of types of permits (equipment, new building, general construction, foundation & earthworks, fencing) with a corresponding number of disapprovals for each.
As shown under “all permits,” they have applied for and been issued permits for Foundations, Earthwork, and a Construction Fence in connection with the project. This will allow them to do the excavation and pour the foundations for the job, even while the New Building and other applications remain disapproved.
Last April, Thor Equities released a rendering of a cheesy looking temporary one-story building occupied by hamburger and taco food joints. And a statement: “With the work we are commencing today, by Memorial Day, 2011, all of our parcels along Surf Avenue are scheduled to be activated with family-friendly games, food, shopping and other activities that visitors to, and residents of, Coney are clamoring for….”
When we first read about Thor’s plan and saw the rendering in Eliot Brown’s piece in the Observer–”The New Coney Island? Sitt Sees Fast Food in Place of Current Buildings”–we thought Thinkwell, a well-known firm in the themed entertainment industry, should be renamed Thinkworst for creating this crappy rendering for the gateway to Coney Island. Thor’s plan to get demo permits from the City seemed calculated to put an end to Save Coney Island’s efforts to create an historic district in Coney Island.
Last April, ATZ complained about “Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents and Deathwatch for Historic Buildings” (ATZ, April 21, 2010). The bedraggled tenting was removed and the City put up fence wraps with colorful advertisements for Coney attractions to camouflage the empty lots. We’re curious to see what kind of bills if any will be posted on Thor’s blue construction fence. Posters for Aqueduct Flea by the Sea?
UPDATE April 4, 2011:
Some readers have questioned whether Thor Equities ever really intended to build anything on the site. Were the building plans just an excuse to get a permit to demolish the Henderson? Why didn’t Thor’s architects resubmit a plan that would win DOB approval? Six months of disapprovals seems like an inordinately long time.
ATZ asked someone in the building trade to take a look at the DOB page and give an opinion. Here it is: it IS strange that they had so many disapprovals for what seems like such a simple building, and i have to think that if they are proceeding with foundations, they either think they are about to get the new building application approved, or they are sensing some change in the regulatory environment and want to get the foundations in so that they can claim to be “vested”. who knows what that would be in this case, but does seem like a lot of trouble to go thru for a one story building (am sure they’re thinking the same thing).
Related posts on ATZ…
December 20, 2010: Displaced Queens Flea Vendors Eye Coney Island’s Vacant Lots
September 24, 2010: Coney Island Cat Is Last Tenant of Henderson Building
April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings