Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The standalone arena makes the Coney option look stronger

Ok, it's not on the city's radar screen, given other ambitious plans for Coney Island, but Forest City Ratner's intention to proceed with an Atlantic Yards arena and wait--perhaps for a very long while--before building office space and housing suddenly removed some major objections to the once front-burner plan to put an arena in Coney Island.

And the city's intention to press for express train service would remove another objection. That's not to say an arena is likely, but the discussion deserves a second look.

Express train coming?

At a panel last Wednesday on Coney Island at the Museum of the City of New York, Coney Island Development Corporation President Lynn Kelly said that a "next step is we need to convince the MTA to get express service" to Coney Island.

Such express service would further help Coney compete with the more central location near the Atlantic Terminal subway/LIRR hub. Remember, Forest City Ratner points to ten subway lines and the suburban train, while Coney Island has only four subway lines.

However, that's deceptive; because Coney's a terminus, it has eight subway tracks, versus ten at the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street hub, and it's easier to load people on and off at a terminus.

FCR's package deal

Remember, at a 5/4/04 City Council hearing, now-departed FCR point man Jim Stuckey contrasted the Atlantic Yards site with two potential alternatives, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Coney Island, and declared them inferior: The Brooklyn Navy Yard could never result in the jobs that we would be able to create here, because you could not build the amount of office space that we are talking about building here. And the Brooklyn Navy Yard would never permit us to build the amount of housing that we can build on this site, nor could Coney Island. It could not sustain it, it does not have the development ability and you could not attract the companies to go to those locations...

However, Stuckey was arguing for an iteration of the plan that promised 10,000 office jobs and, until last week, the promise was of space for 1340 such jobs. Now the promise may be zero, which makes the central location less crucial.

And Coney Island might make a fine place for new housing, as the city's rezoning plan suggests--it's just that Forest City Ratner didn't acquire a site to propose such a package deal.

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