Skip to main content

Imagine Coney thinks big (and small): new cable car, digital skins, and lucrative $ignage

A little more than four decades ago, many in the city had given up on the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Now it's a thriving, multi-building institution, and its handsome, cavernous BAMcafe, glittering with light and graced with Milton Rosa-Ortiz's floating part-torso sculptures dubbed "Disbelief", was the appropriate setting for last night's standing-room only public unveiling of the Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Imagine Coney project.

It was a particularly opportune time, as well, given that just yesterday morning the New York Post reported that developer (or flipper?) Joe Sitt was ready to give up his plans for hotels (time-shares) and entertainment retail and sell to the city.

And MAS president Kent Barwick said that city officials, while not yet jumping on the Imagine Coney bandwagon, were definitely listening. (Presumably they're considering the Imagine Coney contention that a 25-acre amusement area, not the city's plans for a bonsai park of 9 acres, is required to restore Coney.)

The civic process, it should go without saying, differs enormously from the Atlantic Yards plan, where the city embraced rather than challenged a developer and endorsed a fait accompli.

Big plans

If Sitt sells, the city would control the site of Astroland, whose rides are about to go on the block, but, as was instantly clear yesterday, the nostalgia that New Yorkers feel for that 1960s amusement park is not enough to revive Coney.

Rather, said members of an international team that solicited ideas from the public, held two public work sessions last week and then held an intensive two-day charette, it was time to restore Coney as an international destination, capitalizing on the amusement area's iconic status.

That means Coney would be the city's "greatest seaside stage," a home for concerts and festivals--and current empty lots and Keyspan Park could immediately be deployed so that Coney is busy rather than dead in 2009. And Coney would be a year-round destination.

An express train from Manhattan could deliver many thousands more people, and no new track is easy. (The train design incorporates the Funny Face emblem of the old Steeplechase Park.)

But, as former Disney VP David Malmuth put it, "It's critical that there be something that blows people's minds."

That would be a "glass boat in the sky," according to stage designer George Tsypin, and it's the first item in the MAS press release:
Among the concepts from the charrette: an extraordinary new cable-car ride that would float through clouds and connect all of the major Coney Island attractions; a wave-like retractable roof that would ensure 12-month seasonality for Coney Island; an “electric city” that would feature small-scale, local entrepreneurs, amusement operators with 21st century digital skin signage; and a high-rise hotel and entertainment district north of Surf Avenue that would feature extraordinary new architecture.

Digital skin signage? "One day, it looks like Venice," said Tsypin. "The next day, it looks like Marrakech."

Retractable roof? Well, as architect and design engineer Nicholas Goldsmith explained, the Beijing Olympics deployed a tent-like foil material that allowed climate control but also let people get a sense of being outside.

More ideas

Other ideas floated last night included an international graffiti contest; parades for every season; a ferry to Coney Island Creek; an opportunity for large-scale public gaming; and juiced-up presentations of Coney's popular sports, handball and basketball.

Malmuth suggested that the Shore Theater next to the subway terminal be revived, housing a "signature Coney Island show," an introduction to the amusement area's history. He also endorsed an opportunity for "sing-along" shows.

The Child's Restaurant building, at the west end of the amusement area, has already been temporarily repurposed as a roller rink; Malmuth said it could house "a new form of dinner theater."

How to pay?

Oh, and how to pay for it? Well, L.A. Live, the entertainment campus next to the Staples Center in Los Angeles, generates $63 million in signage and sponsorship.

(Oh, right, civic groups and government now know that sponsorship and naming rights can be lucrative. The Empire State Development Corporation apparently gave no thought to claiming a share of the naming rights for the Atlantic Yards arena, which would technically be publicly-owned.)

One audience member was dismayed: "Are corporate billboards about dreams?" Malmuth responded that "Coney has always been about commercialization. I want to suggest that we not think about Coney as either/or."

Also, and this was a major theme last night, high-rise hotels and housing--north of Surf Avenue, so as not to block sightlines to the beach--also would be necessary to drive revenue.

Audience reception

Several hundred people filled the BAMcafe and, while the crowd (to my eye) skewed hipster, there was good diversity in ages and geography (and some in ethnicity), each with Coney Island memories.

"We really need your help," Barwick said and, while a few in the audience expressed dismay at aspects of what they saw as blueprints, most were enthusiastic.

If the city proceeds with its land use review process regarding the smaller amusement area, could the Imagine Coney ideas still work? Sure, said Barwick; the first round of events could occur in Keyspan Park and parking lots.

What about smaller entrepreneurs--wouldn't they get lost? "You need both," said Barwick, saying the overall framework must work for promotional purposes but "Coney Island cannot be Disney by the Sea."

One Coney Island resident said she was very upset because she thought Coney was demonized as a deserved place of criminals and addicts. "All I see is a beautiful beach, a beautiful boardwalk," she said.

Barwick didn't respond directly; only later did Aaron Beebe of Coney Island USA comment that there were limits to the Imagine Coney plans, which were focused on the mostly-empty amusement area--which, he could have said, benefits from zoning that is rare in the city.

But last night was the beginning of a long process, and MAS said it aimed to keep
people in the loop and capitalize on their passion.

“The long-term future of Coney Island begins with a short-term programming schedule,” said Barwick in the MAS press release. “We must send a clear message to the world that Coney Island is back, and get people going there this summer. Unless that starts to happen, a robust long-term vision will become less and less viable.”

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …