It’s a shame that part of the City’s Steeplechase property is set to become a residential enclave with million dollar views instead of additional acreage for Coney Island’s new amusement park. Over on the Coney Island Message Board, vintage photos and postcards of the salt water swimming pool at Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park (1897-1964) have inspired a lively discussion about the pool’s exact location. After several maps were posted, the consensus is the Steeplechase Park Pool is buried beneath Keyspan parking lot, which is City owned parkland.
The fact that the Giuliani administration paved over Paradise–part of the Steeplechase Park site–to allow parkland to be turned into the Keyspan parking lot is bad enough (nod to Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”). Now the Bloomberg administration is asking the state legislature to “alienate” and de-map the parkland/parking lot so it can be sold to a private developer (most likely Taconic Investment Partners) to build 1,900 units of housing.
The Coney Island Message Board‘s JimEmack writes: “I believe the old Steeplechase swimming pool was just filled in with parts of the old bathhouses that were on two sides of the pool. It was just plowed over with debris from tearing down the park. Maybe a future generation will unearth it once again.”
Somehow we don’t think a Steeplechase Pool in the basement will be one of the amenities of the luxury housing slated to be built on the site. Perhaps the apartments will be named Steeplechase something-or-other in memory of George C Tilyou’s Funny Place, where 10,000 People Laughed at One Time?
Steeplechase died in 1966, when Fred Trump bought the property and threw a party to celebrate the destruction of the Pavilion of Fun. “The Trump Organization office views the acreage as a potential site for a modern Miami Beach type high rise apartment,” according to the New York Times clipping “6 Bikinied Beauties Attend Demolishing of Coney Landmark” in Charles Denson’s Coney Island Lost and Found. Trump’s effort to get the zoning changed to residential failed to get approval. Now the City itself is planning to do what the City wouldn’t let Fred Trump do more than 40 years ago.
The Brooklyn Cyclones ballpark was built on the site of Steeplechase’s Pavilion of Fun, but the ballpark is a recreational use and helped revitalize Coney Island when it opened in 2001. A mass of apartment towers on the edge of a dwarfed amusement area is another story, though the City insists 5,000 units of housing is a necessary component of their plan to revitalize Coney Island.
In Coney Island, Mayor Bloomberg gives with one hand (6.9 acres purchased from Thor Equities for the City’s new amusement park, which we applaud) and takes away with the other (City parkland aka Keyspan parking lot to be demapped by the state legislature and sold to a private developer to build housing including high rises). Before the rezoning in July 2009, the City estimated that over 1,900 of the proposed 5,000 housing units would go unbuilt if the parkland were not alienated.
We wish those 1,900 units would go unbuilt and the parking lot remain parkland. As long as the land remains undeveloped and has the word “park” in it, there’s hope that it could be used for amusement or recreation in the future. Now that the City has gone ahead and acquired the Boardwalk property from Thor Equities to replace the de-mapped parkland/parking lot, we anticipate the legislators will give the plan the go ahead.
Last week, when BK Southie reproduced the CIDC’s full size rendering on his blog, a commenter wanted to know: “Why does the surrounding area look more like midtown Manhattan than Coney Island?” People are surprised to find out the rezoning puts 26 high rise residential towers and 5,000 new units of housing in Coney Island. The parkland alienation vote is looming, yet this issue hasn’t gotten any attention lately in the press. We think it’s because the focus has been on the City’s efforts to acquire Thor Equities property in the amusement area and the four high rise hotels proposed for the south side of Surf Avenue. As Joni Mitchell sings, “Don’t it always seem to go… That you don’t know what you’ve got… Till it’s gone.”
Related posts on ATZ…
October 9, 2009: A Rare Peek Inside Endangered Old Bank of Coney Island