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Posts Tagged ‘rally’

Juan  Rivero of  Save Coney Island.  Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Juan Rivero of Save Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Yesterday afternoon members of Save Coney Island stood at the gates of City Hall waiting permission to symbolically take over the steps for a “Don’t Shrink Coney!” rally aimed at getting the City to amend its rezoning plan. Some were veterans of the very first Save Coney Island rally in March 2007 at City Hall. ATZ asked Dick Zigun of Coney Island USA: What would you say to motivate people who say it’s too late to save Coney, it’s a done deal, the pols have already decided?

Zigun, who resigned last June from the Coney Island Development Corporation’s board of directors to protest “the city’s flawed plan” had this to say: “There is a vote next week (City Planning Commission) and there is another vote in July or August (City Council) and that’s why we’re making our voices heard.”

Save Coney Island is asking the city to expand the acreage for outdoor rides and amusements, keep high-rises out of the central amusement district, protect small businesses, create amusement jobs and preserve Coney Island’s historic structures such as Nathan’s and the Shore Theater.

Carnival Stalls, Not Mega Malls. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Carnival Stalls, Not Mega Malls. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

If you missed the rally, there’s still time to sign the online petition or volunteer for the group’s citywide petition drive. Save Coney will also be hosting breakfast briefings with legislators, media and other interested individuals in the weeks to come.

Next question: What I don’t get is why doesn’t the City just go back to their original plan? This so-called “compromise plan” of reducing the proposed new amusement park from 15 acres to 9 acres has utterly failed in its purpose of appeasing Thor Equities. Or is the city now veering towards an even worse compromise with real estate speculator Joe Sitt? Today’s Daily News quotes Sitt saying he has no interest in selling unless the city decides to spend $165 million for the property. That’s $60 million more than the City’s supposed “final offer.” But who knows what’s going on behind the scenes? The Coney Island Rumor Mill has been sayin’ for weeks it’s a done deal and the City is set to acquire the land in September. All the more reason for Save Coney Island to press the city to “fix the plan.”

ATZ will be asking additional questions as the city’s rezoning plan continues to wend its way through the ULURP process this summer. For now, here are a few photos of the rally and excerpts from some of the speeches. Speakers included Dick Zigun and Fred Kahl aka The Great Fredini of Coney Island USA; Juan Rivero of Save Coney Island; Angie Pontani, Miss Cyclone; and artists Richard Eagan and Marc Kehoe of the Coney Island Hysterical Society.

Dick Zigun of Coney Island USA Speaking at Dont Shrink Coney Rally

Dick Zigun of Coney Island USA Speaking at Don't Shrink Coney Rally

DICK ZIGUN, FOUNDER OF CONEY ISLAND USA

Although the plan has merits it does need modifications. A Coney Island that rips down Nathan’s Famous restaurant and replaces it with a themed Nathan’s restaurant in the base of a 15-story hotel is not a good Coney Island. A new Coney Island that builds a hotel blocking the view of the Wonder Wheel, a designated landmark, is not a good Coney Island. And if you tell us Mayor Bloomberg that you are going to designate 15 acres for outdoor amusements and then a few months later say cut it back to 9, we have a right to agitate, protest, and ask you to reconsider and give us some acreage back for outdoor rides because those tourists staying in those hotels are not tourists coming for bowling alleys or movie theatres or gymnasiums. They will be coming for rides (cheering)

We want a critical mass of acreage for outdoor rides, we want you to move the hotels to the north side of Surf Avenue like the New York Times suggests, like the Municipal Art Society suggests, like Community Board 13 suggests.

We want respect for our historic icons: the Shore Theater, Nathan’s, other historic buildings. Give us the right things, make your plan better and we will stand with you in the upcoming fight against Thor Equities, who is the true villain. THe City is not the villain. But if the City wants our help, the City has to make the plan better.

View of media & bystanders from steps before start of rally. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

View of media & bystanders from steps before start of rally. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

JUAN RIVERO OF SAVE CONEY ISLAND

The City maintains that its plan is to revitalize Coney Island and make it into a world class amusement destination. Well, let us see how that scans. Coney Island is identified in the world’s imagination as an amusement park. The first thing they do is take 60 acres zoned for amusements and reduce it to a narrow 12 acre strip, turning the playground of the world into a playground for a few skinny children. It is as if they were thinking, “what is the smallest possible park that would still be viable” instead of, “how many acres of these 60 acres currently used for amusements could we use to create an extraordinary amusement experience.”

And the rest of the amusement area has succumbed to this indoor
fetishism. Seasonality is one of the biggest assets of Coney Island.
For obvious reasons: The beach is seasonal, tourism is a seasonal
phenomenon, the school year is organized seasonally. To try to fight that seasonality would be like putting a tarp over Central Park so that you can increase attendance in the winter. You are fighting the very thing that makes Coney Island appealing, and the very thing, ironically, that is the crux of its economic potential.

Then, having done that, they erect a wall of hotels along Surf
Avenue. You want people to come out of that station and be dazzled by a display of amusements and to encounter a unique Coney Island with the few historic structures that remain along that corridor. The City’s plan would destroy all that, it would create an incentive to demolish those buildings and it would create a wall. Although they maintain that this a great idea they have not yet seen fit to produce a rendering of what this would actually look like so I have a little illustration for you…

We really want to support the city’s plan. The changes that we are
asking are not that big. We have already conceded 60% of the area zoned for amusements. But in what remains, amusements have become just an afterthought. So, we are asking for amusements to be expanded so that they extend all the way to the Bowery, as the City itself originally proposed. We’re asking for those hotels to be removed form the south side of Surf Avenue, as basic human decency would dictate. If the City makes those changes, they have our support. Until they make those changes, we will continue to denounce the plan for what it is: a permanent squandering of the enormous potential of Coney Island to become a world class amusement destination that once more might capture everyone’s imagination.

Juan Rivero of Save Coney Island holds up a rendering of a high rise to illustrate the danger of the city's rezoning plan. It would allow high-rise towers up to 27 stories tall in the heart of Coney Island’s amusement district.

Juan Rivero of Save Coney Island holds up a rendering of a high rise to illustrate the danger of the city's rezoning plan. It would allow high-rise towers up to 27 stories tall in the heart of Coney Island’s amusement district.

MARC KEHOE, ARTIST AND TOUR GUIDE

Brooklyn and Manhattan politicians should take a long hard look at what is being done in the amusement area. It must be enlarged not shrunk. I also work at the present time as a tour guide taking people around Manhattan and Brooklyn, people from Australia, Europe, Asia and the rest of the United States. They all ask me about Coney Island. Coney Island is an international brand. Shrinking Coney Island at this point is the worst possible thing you can do because if you build an amusement park the world will come to it and there will be a continual revenue stream for the city and the borough of Brooklyn. I would say at this point, with this vote coming up, we’re standing at the threshold of the time in 1963 when Penn Station was ripped down and New York was changed forever. That was the beginning of historic preservation in America. And we need to do that here and now with Coney Island. We have to save Coney Island, enlarge the amusement area, keep the hotels to the north side of Surf Avenue.

Miss Cyclone Angie Pontani and Charlotte the Mermaid. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

"Miss Cyclone" Angie Pontani and Charlotte the Mermaid. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

ANGIE PONTANI, MISS CYCLONE

What I would like to say to the City is think big, think ambitious, like the people who started Coney Island. Let’s make it big, let’s make it fabulous.

Today when people say ‘go out to Coney Island,’ they go for the amusement rides. That’s what people want, we have to make the area bigger. If you don’t have that, it’s just Anywhere USA.

We owe it to the world to keep Coney Island. There’s replicas of a Coney Island in Australia, Japan. We have the original. We have to maintain it and keep it. We don’t need to build a replica on top of the original.

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