Start off your weekend early with a Friday morning breakfast talk on “The New Coney Island: Who Gains, Who Loses?” by Brooklyn journo Neil deMause. CUNY – City Tech’s Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center is sponsoring the free event in downtown Brooklyn at 300 Jay Street (Room N119) from 8:30-10:00am. Reserve a seat via their eventbrite page.
A contributing editor for City Limits magazine and 25-year Brooklyn resident, deMause is co-author of “Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit”(2008). He is currently at work on “The Brooklyn Wars,” which comes out next year. “The talk is probably best described as a Powerpoint that draws on a chapter from my book. Which is almost done now, so it should be out by April-ish,” deMause tells ATZ.
Neil is one of our fave reporters from the frenzied years leading up to the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009. One of his reports that comes to mind was titled — we kid you not– CONEY COMMUNITY BOARD VOTES YES TO REZONING PLAN, NO TO PLAN’S ACTUAL DETAILS (Village Voice, March 11, 2009). Among that CB13 meeting’s memorable moments was then-Councilman Domenic Recchia’s screaming tirade, which the reporter recorded and posted the next day.
That was nearly seven years ago but it’s only now that the plan’s very scary actual details are looming: The City recently invoked eminent domain to complete a controversial parkland swap to be able to sell off MCU parking lot to hi-rise developers. Thor Equities is snapping up more Coney Island lots to consolidate ownership of a Surf Avenue block zoned for a 30-story hotel.
It will be interesting to hear this veteran reporter on the Brooklyn beat’s take on who gains, who loses in the new Coney Island, as it begins to come into view.
What’s deMause’s favorite piece that he wrote about Coney during the rezoning hoopla?
“I’m not sure I can single out a particular favorite,” he says. “The Recchia one was absurd, certainly, as was the one from Sitt’s bizarro sideshow agglomeration he put up after he forced out Astroland. (I can still hear the tape loop: ‘Rat! Rat! Giant rat!’)”
“If I had to pick just one, it might be the very first long piece I did after Sitt started bringing in the bulldozers, since it still lays out the basics of what went down: The city’s rezoning process, inadvertently or not, set off a land war that almost ended up destroying the neighborhood that it was trying to save. It’s a stark cautionary tale about how ‘revitalization’ is a weapon that must be handled with care, and how city officials have steadfastly refused to learn that lesson — not just in Coney Island, but the rest of Brooklyn as well.”