On December 14, the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will designate the Shore Theater an official New York City Landmark, according to the website of the Municipal Art Society. We applaud the landmarking, which is long overdue. The designation will help rescue the building, which has been vacant and neglected for 35 years. But the timing of the announcement, just as the demolitions and evictions of much of old Coney Island are in the news, including the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, strikes us as a little too coincidental. It’s as if the City is saying, hey look over here, we’re saving Coney Island!
Five years ago, the 1925 Shore Theater, formerly the Loew’s Coney Island, and five other historic buildings were nominated for New York City landmark designation by Coney Island USA. But the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission dragged its feet and would not calendar any of the buildings until February 2010, months after Coney Island had been rezoned. Of the nominated buildings, only two–the Childs Restaurant (owned by CIUSA) and the Shore Theater (owned by Horace Bullard)– were considered worthy of landmark designation. The Shore Hotel was demolished on Friday and the Henderson Building is next on Thor Equities hit list. The doomed buildings were on parcels rezoned for high rise hotels.
As for the Shore Theater, we would not be surprised if the City ended up acquiring the building. At the Community Board’s public hearing on the Coney Island rezoning, there was a proposal to revive the Shore as a community center. When the LPC held a public hearing on the landmark designation in March 2010, ATZ noted…
The Shore’s history as a year-round entertainment venue fits in with the Bloomberg administration’s long-term plan to revitalize Coney Island as a year-round destination.
Sources tell ATZ that the City has been trying to buy Bullard’s Coney Island properties or negotiate a land swap. We have also heard rumors of a “blight” taking of the Shore Theater based on the fact that the property owner has done nothing with the building for 25 years. In fact, the Shore has been vacant for over 35 years! Bullard’s acrimonious relationship with the City dates back to the Giuliani administration, when the Mayor killed his plans to build a new Steeplechase Park and illegally demolished the Thunderbolt roller coaster.
The day before the LPC’s calendaring of the Shore Theater in February, Bullard was served with a violation from the Department of Buildings. The caps are the DOB’s: “FAILURE TO FILE AN ACCEPTABLE SIXTH ROUND TECHNICAL FACADE REPORT.” Cycle 6 ended February 20, 2010. Chunks of the facade are falling off.
If the building is landmarked, Demolition by Neglect laws could come into play. The New York City demolition by neglect ordinance states, “every [owner] of a landmark site or historic district shall keep in good repair (1) all of the exterior portions of such improvement and (2) all interior portions thereof which, if not so maintained, may cause or tend to cause the exterior portions of such improvement to deteriorate, decay or become damaged or otherwise to fell into a state of disrepair.” NEW YORK, N.Y., CODE § 25-311 (2001).
Last year, in a precedent setting lawsuit, the City was awarded $1.1 million in civil penalties and gave the owners of the landmarked Windermere apartments a choice of fixing the property or selling it. “This settlement sends a message to owners of landmarked buildings that they must keep them in a state of good repair,” said Robert B. Tierney, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in a New York City Law Department press release about the case. “Buildings like the Windermere are an indispensable part of New York City’s architectural heritage and must be preserved for future generations.”
Related posts on ATZ…
December 13, 2010: R.I.P Coney Island’s Shore Hotel, Henderson Next on Hit List
November 24, 2010: Photo of the Day: R.I.P. Bank of Coney Island