Now you can add more than $40 million to the hundreds of millions that city taxpayers will buck-up so that Mayor Bloomberg can pretend that he is doing something to “save” Coney Island.
The new fee comes in the form of a payoff to Coney Island’s City Councilman Domenic Recchia, who had long opposed the mayor’s scheme to rezone the current amusement area to allow for a wider array of all-year entertainment, plus housing, hotels and retail shops.
We shared Recchia’s opposition to the city plan, mostly because it calls for the city to spend more than $100 million to acquire land from Joe Sitt, who also says he wants to turn Coney Island into a 24-7-365, Vegas-style entertainment, hotel and retail complex.
The main difference between Sitt’s plan and Bloomberg’s is that Sitt owns the land in question. City officials have long said that they don’t trust Sitt to do the job right, but the city controls its own zoning and, as such, has ultimate control over what Sitt could build there.
We have long argued that rather than spending more than $100 million to buy out Sitt, the mayor should have used his zoning leverage to broker a better deal with Sitt — a deal that would then go through the normal public-review process.
Then there would be no need for the current flaws in the mayor’s plan: huge land acquisition costs, bringing in outside amusement developers, or needing the approval of sclerotic Albany so the city can demap some existing parkland near Keyspan Park for housing.
For months, Recchia shared our apprehension about the mayor’s rezoning scheme. But this week, he got his payoff. As Mike McLaughlin reported on BrooklynPaper.com on Wednesday, Recchia gave his vote to the mayor after receiving a promise of a new emergency room at Coney Island Hospital, a new gym for a nearby elementary school and a new deluxe shark tank for the New York Aquarium.
Make no mistake: We are not opposing a better hospital ($30 million), a school gym ($5.5 million) or a fancy new home for our dorsal-finned friends (millions unclear). But if those improvements are truly necessary for Coney Island, they should be made as part of the normal budgeting process, not doled out simply to get the vote of an influential councilmember.
Once Recchia was on board, the full Council rolled over, voting 44-2 to back the mayor’s rezoning scheme.
The vote followed a disquieting pattern when large development projects are concerned — local lawmakers point out flaws and are then bought off.
But buying off Recchia and winning a rezoning in Coney Island has accomplished nothing in the immediate term — there are still no guarantees that the new zoning will actually bear fruit. Only developers and landowners can do that.
So if the city is going to play “Let’s Make a Deal” with our valuable public resources, why not make the deals with the people who actually have some control? In Coney Island, that’s Joe Sitt, not Domenic Recchia.
©2009 Community News Group
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