Sitt Consultants Attack Coney Plan as City Offers $105 M. for Land

It’s now been over two years since the Bloomberg administration began its public battle with Coney Island landlord Joe Sitt, frequently raining criticism on his plans for the Brooklyn amusement hub at public forums and in the press. Mr. Sitt is the largest landowner in the central amusement district and has resisted the city’s plans to revamp the area, saying it would be economically unviable.

The latest turn in the unending face off—the city is attempting to buy Mr. Sitt’s land, though the two sides are far apart in their prices—came as Mr. Sitt enlisted a string of consultants to question the economic feasibility of the city’s plan at a City Council hearing on Wednesday, at the same time that the city made a new offer of $105 million for his land. That’s down from $110 million, an offer made last fall during negotiations that fell apart.

At the hearing, consultants for Mr. Sitt raised a series of objections to the city’s planned rezoning, characterizing it as unrealistic and financially unfeasible. (The city wants to buy the land in the amusement district just north of the beach and bid it out to a developer that would build hotels, retail, and indoor and outdoor rides to create a year-round destination.)

“The mistake in the city’s plan is fundamental urban planning,” Jeff Lococo, an amusement consultant, said in prepared testimony. Under the proposed plan, he said in the testimony, “the entire redevelopment district will become seasonal in nature and thus cannot economically sustain itself.”

City officials have said their plan seeks to strike a balance between the current setup—where vacant lots dominate the area—and a zoning that would allow for residential, which would clearly be financially viable, but would weaken the amusement focus of the district.

While the Bloomberg administration does not need to remove Mr. Sitt in order to rezone the area, without his cooperation, it’s hard to see how the amusement area would undergo the revitalization the city envisions.  

Of course, it’s still early in the game. The Bloomberg administration is in the midst of the public approval process for its planned rezoning, and any deals struck traditionally happen at the end of that process. The City Council is slated to vote on the administration’s plan this summer.