In the throes of alleged frustration caused by recalcitrant land owners in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, it appears that New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio and his administration are cooking up plans to scoop up unused property under the power of eminent domain, which up until this juncture in time, has seldom been exercised.
According to a report in the New York Post, the city’s motivation for this highly unusual move is to “spur long-stalled economic development” in the once iconic amusement venue. Eminent domain, defined as “the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use,” is typically enacted to build projects such as bridges, highways, or schools.
The land that the city plans to take hold of consists of three vacant beachfront sites; including the 60,000 square foot area that was once the home of the original Thunderbolt roller coaster. Other smaller tracts of land are off the famous Riegelmann Boardwalk and span between West 12th Street and West 23rd Street. All together, the sites total 75,000 square feet.
Under the plan, the Parks Department will oversee new amusements and various amenities; details of which haven’t been shared, according to a report on the 6sqft web site. Officials representing New York City have told the NY Post that they are utilizing the eminent domain clause as a result of being unable to negotiate “fair-market” deals with property owners.
Revitalizing the Coney Island area is not a new concept, and back in 2009, under the leadership of former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the city forked over a staggering $95.6 million for a seven-acre site that is now Luna Park. The land was owned by developer Joe Sitt, and it was reported that both he and the city were at loggerheads for years over the future of the sites, as the revival of Coney Island was a top priority for Bloomberg and was considered one of his legacy projects. Despite the protracted talks between the city and Sitt, however, Mayor Bloomberg pledged never to use the eminent domain option in order to expedite the process.
It also appears that local Coney Island politicos are not at all aware of the city’s property seizure plan. Speaking to the Post, Butch Moran, the chair of Community Board 13 said, “This is the first I am hearing of it.” A Boardwalk business owner expressed his distaste for the eminent domain decision by saying, “It’s not nice to take people’s property. We live in America. We’re not communists here.”
As for the future of the Thunderbolt roller coaster site which is located at West 15th Street and the Boardwalk, property owner Peter Sheffer (who was the longtime business partner of Kansas Fried Chicken tycoon Horace Bullard , who has since passed on) has said that they city has not as yet approached him about the plan.
Everyone will have their say on this matter on October 19th, when a public hearing will be held at Coney Island Hospital at 1:30 pm to “solicit community input on the condemnation plan.”