Mayor Bloomberg and Joseph Sitt just can’t seem to get along.
Mr. Sitt, the major landowner in Coney Island, has been resisting the city’s quest to remake the Brooklyn enclave. He opposed the city’s earlier plan and now has reservations about a compromise that would allow him to develop much of his land just north of a nine-acre amusement zone.
A failure by the city to reach an agreement with Mr. Sitt could hobble the compromise plan as it reaches the City Council, as local Councilman Domenic Recchia has thus far sided with Mr. Sitt.
The sticking point is retail—specifically, what type the city’s zoning would allow for on the area just north of the amusement hub. The Bloomberg administration envisions a thriving “entertainment retail” district mixed with enclosed amusements and water parks. In the city’s view, an eclectic variety of stores would fit that definition, mostly national retailers with some sort of theme—Virgin Records, Dave & Busters, a Madame Tussauds wax museum and Toys R Us (with a Ferris Wheel inside, that is).
Such a restriction throughout the whole area is unacceptable to Mr. Sitt, according to his attorney, Jesse Masyr, who said the limited zoning would restrict development on the land, as investors and tenants would be scared off by the unproven constraints.
“There’s got to be an element here of standard commercial retail,” Mr. Masyr said. “Do we want it to be big-box? No … it should be some kind of retail that also serves the community.”
The examples of retail put forward by the city are too Manhattan-centric, Mr. Masyr said. “We would all agree that the iconic nature of Coney Island is not a slice of Manhattan.”
But the city contends that the area around the amusements needs to be unique, noting that there will be plenty of space for standard retail in the areas to the north and west of the amusement zone, which are also slated to be rezoned.
“The restrictions that we have here are sufficiently broad, we believe, that it really should not be an issue for Joe Sitt,” said Seth Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which is leading the redevelopment initiative. “We’ve really worked hard to come up with something that treats him fairly.”
Though perhaps the city has worked a bit too hard—at least for the liking of many Coney Island advocates. “I don’t support the changes they’ve made to their plan,” said local vendor Dianna Carlin, leader of the Save Coney Island movement. “It’s too much of a compromise.”