Brooklyn Senator Steps Up Quest to Halt City’s Coney Plans

The Bloomberg administration seems to have met a foe in its plans to redevelop Coney Island. And no, we’re not talking about Joe Sitt, the owner of the bulk of the prime amusement-area land that the city wants to take (the city has offered a land swap).

Rather, the biggest resistance so far, at least in public and in the media, has come from State Senator Carl Kruger, a feisty Democratic lawmaker who loves the spotlight, and seems to have put opposition to Coney Island at the top of his agenda.

Mr. Kruger, who represents neighboring Brighton Beach but does not represent Coney Island, held a press conference today to announce his discovery of a legal opinion that could throw a wrench in the city’s timeline for its plans at Coney (which include a complete redevelopment of the area, including the installation of a single, year-round amusement park in the central district).

At the “bombshell press conference,” as it was termed in his press release, Mr. Kruger seized upon a letter sent from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks, which said that before the state Legislature de-classifies as park—or “alienates”—any parkland, it must go through the state’s environmental review process. (The city was hoping to alienate a parking lot near the amusement district between January and June, according to the Department of City Planning Web site.)

The city’s Economic Development Corporation issued something of a bare bones response, saying simply that it would “comply with all legally mandated reviews and approval processes.”

Should the city need to conduct the environmental review before it alienates the parkland (a DEC spokeswoman said that any alienation at Coney Island likely would have to first go through environmental review), it could alter the timeline of the project. Full approval from the City Council is currently slated for summer 2009, a few months before the Bloomberg administration will be packing up its bags.

Still, that Mr. Kruger sought out and promulgated the letter from the DEC—New Yorkers for Parks executive director Christian DiPalmero said his request to DEC was a general one, and was not in reference to Coney Island—puts on display the man’s passion for meddling with the project.

At the press conference today, Mr. Kruger lambasted the Bloomberg administration for proceeding with the Coney Island plan without consulting the community, saying the city always follows a Manhattan-centric vision in development.

“They’ve built plans around concepts rather than practicality,” he said.

This was not the first time the Bloomberg administration has heard from Mr. Kruger regarding Coney. In November, shortly after the city unveiled its plans for the district, Mr. Kruger used his campaign funds to bus in an estimated 500 people to rally against the plans at a public meeting. Held in a relatively small room at Coney Island Hospital, city officials shut down and rescheduled the meeting, prompting Mr. Kruger to declare victory.

While the city certainly had its vision of what a new Coney Island should look like, the district manager for Brooklyn’s Community Board 13, Charles Reichenthal, disagrees that the community was excluded from discussion.

“There were dozens of meetings, literally,” said Mr. Reichenthal, who was one of multiple community members on the board of the Coney Island Development Corporation formed by the city’s Economic Development Corporation to oversee the redevelopment.

Mr. Kruger also seems to have come upon his decision to oppose the plans relatively recently. Asked whether he met with the Bloomberg administration during its multi-year planning process for Coney, the Senator did not answer directly.

“The community board was in touch with the Bloomberg plan," he said. "The community board thought that they had input into the plan. Obviously, they’re outgunned and outnumbered."

Brooklyn Senator Steps Up Quest to Halt City’s Coney Plans