Former site of go-karts, batting cages and other thriving amusements bulldozed or evicted by property owner Thor Equities in 2007. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr
We do very little to preserve the character and charm of our neighborhoods. Our city is made up of neighborhoods. Certainly Coney Island is unique not only to the city and the country but to the world. Everybody knows what Coney Island represents. The Mayor’s proposal will destroy that. You will never get that back.
—City Councilman and Mayoral candidate Tony Avella speaking about “The Future of Coney Island” on today’s Brian Lehrer Show
A day before Wednesday’s full City Council vote on the Bloomberg administration’s rezoning plan for Coney Island, Councilman Avella said “The whole basis of this plan seems to be like a house of cards.”
As chairman of the Council’s Zoning and Franchises subcommittee, Avella introduced an amendment to the plan that would have enlarged the area for outdoor amusements and limited the height of hotels to 25 feet on the south side of Surf Avenue. Avella and Charles Barron, a member of the Zoning Subcommittee, were the only two council members to vote for the amendment.
Speaking by cell phone with Lehrer since campaigning is not allowed on City Hall phones, Avella said, “Part of the argument against the hotels south of Surf Avenue is when people drive by Surf Avenue or come by the subway you want to be able to see the amusements. That’s part of the attraction. So now people driving by or coming by subway are just going to see the hotels.”
Avella also pointed out that there would be little to draw people all the way out to Coney Island to stay in the hotels if the amusement area is reduced in size.
“Nine acres is nothing,” Avella says in a statement posted on his campaign website. “People aren’t going to come out to Coney Island unless there’s a full day of amusement there. This plan by the Bloomberg Administration will destroy the character of another New York City neighborhood. They seem determined to erase the history of New York City, just like they did in Harlem on 125th Street.”
After the Lehrer show we happened to read on City Room that more than three-quarters of voters surveyed in a new Quinnipiac poll do not know enough about Avella. We would tell them Avella is a strong advocate for historic preservation who authored the Demolition by Neglect bill in 2005. He is also an outspoken critic of overdevelopment.
We got our first look at Councilman Avella in action at the July 1 City Council subcommittee hearing on the Coney Rezoning which he chaired. We were impressed by his line of questioning and his attentiveness as a listener. The hearing was a gruelling eight hours, though the majority of the council members, the press and most of the audience left after the property owners had testified. Avella was one of the few council members who stayed till the end to hear everyone’s testimony.
Like many others at the hearing, ATZ spoke in favor of revitalizing Coney Island yet stated that the City’s plan needed modifications. As Avella said on the Lehrer show: “The overwhelming sentiment from the people who live in Coney Island was the plan could be better. We don’t have to settle just because the Mayor wants to get something through and say ‘hey, look I’m improving Coney Island for his re-election.’ We can do it better. ”
You can listen to the entire “Future of Coney Island” segment on the Lehrer Show here.
Councilman Tony Avella's Mayoral Announcement on the Steps of City Hall, March 2008. Photo by tonyavella2009 via flickr
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