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Posts Tagged ‘iStar Financial’

Landmark Childs Building

Landmark Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Tourists often ask “what are those ruins on the Boardwalk?” Some locals tell them the crumbling palazzo by the sea is an old bathhouse. The former Childs Restaurant building has been been vacant for so long, between stints as a chocolate factory, a roller rink, and a warehouse, most people have no memory of its glory days.

Last weekend, ATZ took these photos of the 1923 landmark, which is now in hibernation, awaiting restoration as part of a $53 million dollar City project. Terra-cotta fish and seashells and Neptune the god of the sea peek out from above the sidewalk shed and plywood fencing, which was recently installed around the property.

Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk

Detail of terracotta ornamentation on Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The construction of the shed and fencing and work on the floors are the only permits currently approved by the Department of Buildings. Several other permits are still listed as on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit by the New York City Community Garden Coalition (NYCCGC) and the Coney Island Boardwalk Community Garden members vs the City and developer iStar Financial. The clerk for Judge Peter Sweeney, who got the case after a prior judge recused himself, told ATZ last week that the judge has not yet made a decision. At a hearing in December, Judge Sweeney asked both sides to submit briefs arguing for or against a jury trial.

“There is a chance that, given his willingness to bring the parkland issue before a jury, he might break up the case along its two issues and rule separately on each,” writes Aziz Dekhan on the NYCCGC’s website.”Or he might wait to rule on either issue until after he or a jury decides on the parkland issue.”

Former Community Garden on the Boardwalk

Site of former community garden adjacent to the Childs Building. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The crux of the suit is the gardeners’ claim the land is public parkland and that the development project is an alienation of parkland without the required approval of the state legislature. In December 2013, the garden was razed without warning to make way for construction of the seating area for the amphitheater, which was initially expected to open in June 2015.

ATZ previously wrote about the project when it was under consideration (Clock Ticking on Plan for the Landmark Childs Building, September 25, 2013) and after the razing of the garden (Pre-Dawn Bulldozing of Coney Island Community Garden, December 29, 2013).

Neptune

Neptune medallion on Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Designated a landmark nearly twelve years ago, on February 4, 2003, the building operated as a restaurant until the early 1950s. Childs was one of the largest restaurant chains in the country with 107 restaurants in 33 cities in the U.S. and Canada by the 1920s, but it was not a formula business. According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission report, the Boardwalk restaurant was designed specifically for Coney Island “in a fanciful resort style combining elements of the Spanish Colonial Revival with numerous maritime allusions that refer to its seaside location.”

UPDATE December 12, 2015:

What is going on here? The Boardwalk Community Garden lawsuit is on its third judge with no end in sight! On Monday morn, NYCCGC in court again vs the City and iStar.

Childs Building

Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

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September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

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Surf Avenue

On the Market: Taconic’s former ‘Coney Island North Venture,’ vacant parcels of land on north side of Surf Ave. between W 16th and W 20th Streets

Last year, the landmark Childs Building on the Boardwalk and a neighboring lot zoned for condos became part of iStar Financial’s portfolio when Taconic Investment Partners, which acquired the properties in 2005, defaulted on loans. Now the other shoe has dropped. Taconic’s former “Coney Island North Venture,” three city blocks on the north side of Surf Avenue across from the Brooklyn Cyclones stadium totaling over 100,000 square feet of vacant land, is on the market.

ATZ learned of the offering from Coney Island broker Joe Vitacco. Neither Taconic nor iStar is mentioned in a two-page teaser for “Surf Avenue Assemblage: Prime Coney Island Mixed Use Development Opportunity.” Nor is the price. Interested persons are required to sign a nondisclosure agreement with the listing broker to find out additional info.

According to the brokers, R7-X and C2-4 zoning allows for approximately 380,426 buildable square feet as-of-right or up to 507,235 buildable square feet with inclusionary housing on 101,447 square feet of parcels. Combined Assessment/Taxes Due for 2013 and ’14 are $1,668,753/$185,488.

“Buyers can also explore a larger assemblage opportunity by incorporating adjacent sites currently owned by HPD,” says the flier. “Developers will also be able to take advantage of the property’s significant retail frontage. With few assemblages of this scale ever coming to market, the Surf Avenue Assemblage represents a unique opportunity to develop a project in one of New York City’s most dynamic submarkets.”

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering. CIDC Press Kit

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering Shows Residential Towers West and North of the Brooklyn Cyclones Stadium. CIDC Press Kit, 2009

Up until a few years ago when they fell silent, Taconic Investment Partners planned to build a glittering city of high-rise apartments and retail west and north of MCU Park. Their Senior VP of Acquisitions and his colleagues were a regular presence at hearings leading up to the Coney Island Rezoning of July 2009. According to Taconic’s website, the rezoning “significantly increased our buildable floor areas for mixed-use residential and retail projects to between 1.8 million and 2.4 million square feet, with the potential to create nearly 2,000 residential units and more than 200,000 square feet of retail space.”

The parcels between W 16th and W 20th Streets have been vacant since the wave of urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s, says Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson, who grew up a few blocks away and documented the razing of the neighborhood in his photos. The RKO Tilyou, operated by the Tilyou family across the street from their Steeplechase Park on Surf at West 17th was demolished in 1973.

Coney Island North and South Venture

Rendering of Coney Island North and South Venture, Taconic Real Estate Investment Partners

Taconic’s plans for their “Coney Island North and South Venture” remain on their website. Only the players are changing.

As Taconic CEO William Bendit told Eliot Brown of the New York Observer in an interview in 2009: “What attracted us to Coney Island was the fact that it’s vacant land—we didn’t have to dispossess anybody, relocate anybody. And it’s the beachfront. How much beachfront land is there in New York City? Not only that, but beachfront land that’s accessible to the subway. So, if you think about it, how many young people, or anybody, for that matter, would like to commute into New York or Brooklyn, and go home at night and live on the beach?”

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February 17, 2011: New Construction: Coney Island’s 1st Private Beachfront Condos on Boardwalk

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Rabbit Rescue

Runaway Bunny Netted in Coney Island by William Leung of Rabbit Rescue and Rehab. January 18, 2014

The runaway bunny from the bulldozed Coney Island Community Garden was finally rescued today after 21 days surviving on its own. “Just caught it, here is a bunny ball!” said William Leung in a text message with an accompanying photo at 4pm on Saturday. He named the rabbit Steeplechase, after the famous amusement park.

Coney Island was of course named Conyne Eylandt –Rabbit Island– by the Dutch after the wild rabbits that lived here in the 17th century. But this white bunny with black ears is a Californian breed of domestic rabbit and has lived her entire life outdoors in the boardwalk garden. “It’s a girl, 7.8 lbs, all those carrots!” Leung said. After the rabbit ran off when the garden was bulldozed by developer iStar on December 28, she was seen intermittently, usually after dark.

Leung, a volunteer with Rabbit Rescue and Rehab, the New York City chapter of the House Rabbit Society, has spent the last 10 days trying to catch the elusive bunny with the help of gardener Carolyn McCrory “I’m exhausted,” he said when ATZ phoned on Saturday morning to ask how it was going. The Queens resident has been traveling once or twice daily from Astoria to Coney Island to leave food, water and shelter in an attempt to befriend and net the rabbit before the bitter cold temps return. Fellow rabbit owner Mindy Jackson also helped to feed the rabbit during the ten day ordeal.

Coney Island Bunny

Coney Island Bunny hiding out. January 16, 2013. Photo © William Leung

If you’re wondering How to Catch a Stray Bunny, Rabbit Rescue and Rehab says it may take several attempts before the bunny is comfortable enough to let you anywhere near him. Among the suggestions: “Sit or lie down and have carrots and alfalfa hay and banana on hand. Do not overfeed the bunny and do not leave these treat items behind for him—you want him to crave these special foods and you want him to associate them with only you. You also do not want him to gorge on them and thus not be interested when you return to try to catch him again.”

While the banana worked like a charm with another bunny, the Coney Island coney was Leung’s most difficult rescue yet, he says. First of all, the rabbit kept returning to its former home in the bulldozed garden but the site managers for amphitheater developer iStar Financial would not allow Leung access to the site, claiming liability issues. People who came to feed the feral cats inadvertently upset his plan to herd the bunny when they cut holes in the mesh fence for the cats, which the bunny also used to escape. After neighbors harassed him on Thursday, Leung grew increasingly frustrated with the situation, but said he would go out again this weekend. Luckily, he was successful today.

Rabbit Rescue and Rehab is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization whose primary goals are to rescue abandoned rabbits and find permanent indoor homes for them as well as to educate the public and assist humane societies. “We’re the primary bunny rescue group that works with ACC,” says Leung, referring to New York City’s Animal Care and Control. “Our volunteers go there every day to feed the rabbits.”

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January 8, 2014: Bunny Returns to Bulldozed Coney Island Garden, Kitten Euthanized

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Bulldozing of Boardwalk Community Garden

The Bulldozing of Boardwalk Community Garden. Coney Island December 28, 2013. Photo via Facebook.com/NYCCGC

If you find a bunny under the Coney Island boardwalk, he ran off during the bulldozing of the Boardwalk community garden on Saturday morning. This isn’t a “coney” joke, but something we learned from the site manager. And when a gardener collected her chickens she also walked off with three kittens. The mama cat kept coming back all day looking for them. Such was the chaos that ensued in the animal kingdom when the 16-year-old boardwalk garden was abruptly razed and the plants were plowed under on Saturday to make way for the seating area for an amphitheater slated to open in June 2015.

Boardwalk Community Garden

Community Garden on the Boardwalk adjacent to the Childs Building. September 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

We support the rehab of the landmark Childs Building, which tourists frequently refer to as “those ruins on the Boardwalk.” But it’s barbaric to bulldoze a garden, especially at 5am on a holiday weekend, no matter the circumstances. Waking up to photos and videos of the destruction posted on Facebook brought back memories of the infamous pre-dawn demolition of the Thunderbolt roller coaster by Mayor Giuliani in 2000. It also calls to mind Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt’s demo of the Henderson Music Hall and Bank of Coney Island in 2010, which cruelly put a halt to Save Coney Island’s efforts to create a historic district.

The community gardeners along with the New York City Community Garden Coalition are expected to call a press conference to address the demolition in the next couple of days. “The Community and the NYCCGC will not let this action stand without a fight,” said the Coalition in a post on their Facebook page. [UPDATE: The press conference will be on Monday, December 30, 11 am, at 3099 W 22nd Street, between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk, said NYCCGC in a release issued this afternoon.]

Boardwalk garden

Bulldozed Boardwalk Community Garden. Coney Island. Photo by Anonymouse. December 28, 2013.

As previously noted (“Clock Ticking on Plan for the Landmark Childs Building,” ATZ, September 25, 2013), the City has the funds to bring the landmark back to life since Borough President Marty Markowitz will be able to use $50 million set aside in 2010 for a $64 million amphitheater in Asser Levy Park that was halted by a lawsuit. If the $50 million isn’t spent by the time the Borough President’s third term ends on December 31, 2013, it would go back into the public coffers and be lost to Coney Island. The landmark building’s deteriorating condition is also cause for concern. After Sandy, parts of the terracotta facade cracked and began falling off.

Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk

Photographer and Model in front of Landmark Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk. September 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Just before Christmas, developer iStar Financial won approval from the City Council for the amphitheater project. The officially “decommissioned” garden was set to be relocated to a site five blocks away. Why was it necessary to raze it, without giving the gardeners an opportunity to collect their belongings and animals and make the move? Among the items that were reportedly destroyed was a “Coney totem,” a sculpture by artist Philomena Marano.

Boardwalk Garden Furniture

Garden furniture on corner of lot after bulldozing of Boardwalk Community Garden. December 28, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse

Marty Cottingham, a consultant to iStar, cited safety concerns and the need to do environmental testing and, if necessary, remediation as required by the DEP for property that was flooded during Sandy. “We have taken great lengths to do the right thing,” he told ATZ, noting that some items were put in the Childs Building and are available for pick-up. Improvements have been made at the alternate garden site, known as Surfside Garden, on Surf Avenue at 29th Street, including new topsoil and raised beds. Some gardeners say the new site is not suitable due its smaller footprint and being hemmed in by buildings. Others who were promised help relocating felt betrayed by the lack of warning.

Seaside Park Rendering

Seaside Park and Community Arts Center, Stage Doors and Tower in Season, 3D Rendering

The amphitheater project will be developed and operated by a partnership between an affiliate of iStar’s Coney Island Holdings LLC and non-profit Coney Island USA with $53 million in City capital funds, and involves the restoration and adaptive reuse of the Childs building as well as the development of a 5,100 seat amphitheater with a neighborhood park and playground on city-owned land overlooking the beachfront. In addition to approximately 40 to 50 free and paid concerts during the outdoor concert season, the developer promises to host community-based events throughout the year.

The Childs Building along with adjacent lots rezoned for high rise condos became part of iStar’s portfolio when Taconic Investment Partners defaulted on loans. The rezoning plan approved by the City Council in 2009 put 26 high rise residential towers and 5,000 new units of housing in Coney Island, including beachfront condos on 5.5 blocks of vacant land just west of MCU Park.

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering. CIDC Press Kit

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering Shows Residential Towers West and North of MCU Park. CIDC Press Kit, 2007

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Childs Building

Childs Building, Proposed Elevation Boardwalk. GKV Architects, PC and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners via NYCEDC

Visitors to Coney Island frequently ask “What are those ruins on the Boardwalk?” From Steeplechase Pier, where the crumbling walls are not evident but the allure is unmistakeable, they simply ask “What is that building?” On Wednesday at 10:00 am, the City Planning Commission at 22 Reade St. will consider and is likely to approve the plan to convert the former Childs Restaurant building on the Boardwalk, a New York City landmark, into an amphitheater for live concerts and a restaurant. If the board votes yes, as expected, then it goes to the City Council on Dec 16

The project’s official name is “The Seaside Park and Community Arts Center” and it would also “provide the community with additional publicly accessible recreational and entertainment opportunities throughout the year,” according to the proposal. The application was submitted by property owner iStar Financial (AKA Coney Island Holdings) and the City’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

Anyone wishing to speak at the hearing is requested to fill out a speaker’s slip at the staff desk outside the hearing chambers. Remarks are limited to 3 minutes. The full agenda of the meeting –the Childs Building is “Nos. 9-14”– and information on submitting written statements can be found in the calendar[pdf].

Childs Building

section Looking at Stage, Childs Building in Season. GKV Architects, PC and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners via NYCEDC

As previously noted (“Clock Ticking on Plan for the Landmark Childs Building,” ATZ, September 25, 2013), the City has the funds to bring the landmark back to life since Borough President Marty Markowitz will be able to use $50 million set aside in 2010 for a $64 million amphitheater in Asser Levy Park that was halted by a lawsuit. Since then, his free Seaside Concerts have been held on the Washington Baths site, a vacant lot across 21st Street from the Childs Building.

If the $50 million isn’t spent by the time the Borough President’s third term ends on December 31, 2013, it would go back into the public coffers and be lost to Coney Island. The landmark building’s deteriorating condition is also cause for concern. After Sandy, parts of the terracotta facade cracked and began falling off. A sidewalk shed was installed this summer.

Childs Building

Childs Building, Proposed elevation West 21st Street. GKV Architects, PC and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners via NYCEDC

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December 2, 2013: New Construction: Coney Island Area’s 1st Hotel in Decades

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October 30, 2013: Photo Album: Four Transformations, One Year After Sandy

October 7, 2012: ATZ’s Big Wish List for the New Coney Island

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Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk

Photographer and Model in front of Landmark Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk. September 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The fate of the landmark Childs Building on the Boardwalk is in limbo as Brooklyn’s Community Board 13 voted 15-7, with 7 abstentions, against the City’s plan to convert the former restaurant into an amphitheater for live concerts. Noise, traffic, parking and infrastructure issues were some of the reasons cited for the “no” votes. In public testimony at Monday night’s meeting, some residents of Coney Island said the plan was rushed, they needed to hear more about it. Others brought up the idea of a Community Benefits Agreement. Community garden advocates protested the loss and relocation of the Boardwalk garden adjacent to the building, which has been active since 1998 and has between 35-50 gardeners.

Boardwalk Community Garden

Community Garden on the Boardwalk adjacent to the Childs Building. September 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The problem is with less than 100 days left in this administration, time is running out to use the funds allocated for the project. If some kind of compromise plan isn’t worked out, the chance to restore and repurpose the vacant building could be lost. The City has the funds to bring the landmark back to life since Borough President Marty Markowitz will be able to use $50 million set aside in 2010 for a $64 million amphitheater in Seaside Park that was halted by a lawsuit. Since then, his free Seaside Concerts have been held on the Washington Baths site, a vacant lot across the street from the Childs Building.

If the $50 million isn’t spent by the time the Borough President’s third term ends on December 31, 2013, it would go back into the public coffers and be lost to Coney Island. The building’s deteriorating condition is also cause for concern. After Sandy, parts of the facade cracked and began falling off. The sidewalk shed was installed this summer.

Childs Building Coney Island

Landmark Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk. September 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Community Board’s vote is advisory only. Their recommendation is being forwarded to the City Planning Department and the Borough President’s Office, which may amend the proposal before sending it the City Council. It is customary for the Council to vote with the council member from the district. In 2011, when the community board voted 21 to 7 against the Parks Department’s plan to make a section of the Boardwalk concrete and plastic, the City pressed forward with the plan and won the necessary approval of the Public Design Commission, which is comprised of Mayoral appointees.

Dreamland Roller Rink

In 2008 and 2009, the Childs Building was used as Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Rink. August 2, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The City’s plan to develop the former Childs Restaurant building on the Boardwalk and adjacent lot into an entertainment complex with a rooftop restaurant was first reported by NY1 in August 2012 but detailed plans were not made public until April of this year. The property and surrounding lots zoned for high rise condos became part of the portfolio of iStar Financial when Taconic Investment Partners defaulted on loans. The developer plans to sell the building to the City and partner with nonprofit Coney Island USA to manage the programming.

As we noted last summer, it’s been sad to see Coney Island’s terracotta palace by the sea boarded up for the past few years after being enlivened by the Mermaid Parade Ball and Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Rink. Yet it’s hard to pass by without taking photos of its ornamental ships, seashells, fish and King Neptunes. When a tourist recently tweeted a photo describing the Childs as “the ruins,” we didn’t have the heart to respond. The 1923 Spanish Colonial Revival style building was designated a City landmark in 2003.

UPDATE December 20, 2013:

The City Council approved the development of the Seaside Park and Community Art Center, an entertainment complex and public park at the site of the Childs Restaurant Building. The approval by the City Council was part of a public review process that also involved approvals by the City Planning Commission, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Public Design Commission.

The project will be developed and operated by a partnership between an affiliate of Coney Island Holdings LLC, and non-profit Coney Island USA, Inc., with $53 Million in city capital funds to develop the project, which involves the restoration and adaptive reuse of the Childs building as well as the development of a 5,100 seat amphitheater with a neighborhood park and playground overlooking Coney Island beachfront. Completion of the project is slated for June 2015.

UPDATE October 21, 2013:

There’s a public hearing on Wednesday, October 23rd, at 10:00 AM in Spector Hall, at the Department of City Planning (22 Reade Street, in Manhattan) to receive comments related to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Seaside Park and Community Arts Center project. According to the posted notice:

Comments are requested on the DEIS and will be accepted until 5:00p.m. on Monday, November 4, 2013. The Applicant, Coney Island Holdings LLC, is proposing a number of land use actions to facilitate the development of the Seaside Park and Community Arts Center (the “proposed project”) in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn. The proposed project involves the development of approximately 2.41-acres of publicly accessible open space, which would include an approximately 5,100-seat seasonal amphitheater for concerts and other events. The proposed project also includes the landmarked (Former) Childs Restaurant Building, which would be restored for reuse as a restaurant and banquet facility and renovated for adaptive reuse to provide the stage area for the open-air concert venue and use as an indoor entertainment venue during the off-season months. The Seaside Park and Community Arts Center would be a temporary use of the development site for a term of ten years from completion of construction.

The New Childs Restaurant

The New Childs Restaurant on the Riegelmann Boardwalk, August 1924. Eugene L. Armbruster Collection, New York Public Library

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