Sitt Readies for Coney Island Demolitions

coney buildigns Sitt Readies for Coney Island DemolitionsA push by preservationists be damned, Coney Island landlord Joe Sitt appears to be near the start of property demolitions in the amusement hub’s central district.

Late last week, the Department of Buildings approved demolitions on two buildings: the Shore Hotel, built in 1903, and the Bank of Coney Island, built in 1923, according to advocacy group Save Coney Island. (The permits can be seen here.)

A set of preservation and Coney Island groups had been trying to preserve many of the buildings in the area, some of which are over 100 years old. The rationale was that the buildings were a big part of Coney’s historic past, and it shouldn’t come at any immediate cost to Mr. Sitt, particularly given that he doesn’t have any grand plans for them right now: He just wants to put up one-story taxpayers in their place.

Mr. Sitt, however, had his own plans, and, from his perspective, it might be easier to ready his prime land for any eventual large-scale development (read: amusement-themed hotel) without the old buildings, and the looming threat of landmarking protections.

Here’s a statement from Juan Rivero, spokesman for Save Coney Island, politely asking Joe Sitt not to go ahead with demolitions:

We urge Thor Equities to halt its demolition before it does permanent damage to a national treasure … Thor has the opportunity to emerge as a hero out of this process by sitting down with the city, the Coney Island community, and preservationists to devise a redevelopment plan that utilizes, rather than squanders, these precious historic resources and valuable economic assets. Let’s redevelop Coney Island the right way.

Interestingly, the Save Coney Island folks also snapped a few photos this morning of workers doing demolition on another property owned by Mr. Sitt that hadn’t yet received permits (at least none on the DOB’s Web site): the Henderson Music Hall.

All of this comes as the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation gave the area a Determination of Eligibility as a historic district, a designation that might enable landlords to qualify for tax credits to develop in the area while incorporating the existing historic structures.

That, however, might not be of much use, should the wrecking ball indeed make its way to Coney.

ebrown@observer.com