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Coney Details: Amusements in Middle, Tall on Edges

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After more than a year of speculation, the city weighed in with its own vision of Coney Island redevelopment today. It boils down to a new 15-acre city-owned amusement area that would be surrounded by land rezoned for high density developments. Mayor Bloomberg delivered the news himself, but put a positive spin on things, saying "We hope to achieve a win-win outcome for all." He said that the city will "work with existing land owners to acquire land." Developer Joe Sitt, who owns a significant amount of land the city wants to rezone as parkland and lease to a "world-class" developer of amusements, released a statement saying he was "disappointed" in the plan, but "optimistic" a deal can be cut.

A spokesperson for Wonder Wheel Park, which still owns most of its land said, "leave the Wonder Wheel out of this." The other major landowner that owns a big empty parcel next to KeySpan Park has been involved with on-and-off litigation with the city for years.

A post-speech press conference was full of jabs at Mr. Sitt, who has feuded publicly with city officials. Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff said Mr. Sitt "doesn't have the expertise" to build an amusement park. He said he expects Mr. Sitt "to play a major part" in the redevelopment "but not in the amusement area." The Mayor refused to use the word "eminent domain," saying "We think we will not need eminent domain. We think we will be able to structure deals."

The city also looks like it's rejecting the idea of having a number of small operators in the amusement area. The Mayor said the city is "seeking to have one overall expert in managing and running the whole thing" because "you can't have a bunch of little things and have them survive." As for Mr. Sitt, the city appears that it will make an offer that he can't refuse. "One assumes that Mr. Sitt is rational and trying to do what's best for his bottom line," the Mayor said.

Whereas Mr. Sitt has had bulldozers parked on his land since last winter, the new plan--after a long land use review process--is to have development start before the Mayor's term ends. The new amusement operator will probably get a subsidy in the "tens of millions" of dollars.

· Breaking Coney Island Bombshell: City Planning Takeover [Curbed]