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Hearing set for Coney Island rezoning

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Coney Island is about to experience a summertime scorcher.

With a number of serious questions still outstanding, the City Council has scheduled a July 1 public hearing on the comprehensive development and rezoning plan for Coney Island — a full vote on the fate of the proposal is expected to come as soon as mid−summer. Those interested in weighing in on the plan, which calls for the construction of a 27−acre indoor and outdoor amusement park, hotels, 4,500 units of housing and new retail, should report to City Hall Chambers in advance of the 10 a.m. start time to sign up for speaking time. The Zoning and Franchises subcommittee hearing was only put on the calendar last week following the City Planning Commission’s approval of the controversial proposal.

Coney Island landowners, residents and ride advocates have major problems with aspects of the plan — and at the time of this writing, the city and developer Joe Sitt had still not come to terms over the disposition of 10−and­a−half­acres of land inside the amusement district.

Last week, several groups hoping to squeeze more affordable housing, as well as guaranteed job opportunities out of the city’s proposal rallied at City Hall. Coney Island CLEAR, ACORN, New York Hotel Trades Council and Pratt Center for Community Development were among them.

“As residents of Coney Island, we want our children to be able to afford to live here in the future,” ACORN member Carmen Gonzalez said. “Any redevelopment must include a significant portion of affordable housing.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the plan to create a 27−acre indoor and outdoor amusement park in Coney Island, in addition to 4,500 housing units, new retail and hotels “cannot be passed up.”

“Our plan will now be reviewed and considered by the City Council, and I am confident that they will finally put Coney Island on a path toward investment and growth, creating new jobs and neighborhood amenities for community residents and revitalizing America’s first playground,” Bloomberg said.

But with a 20 percent affordable housing model promising only 900 so−called “affordable housing” units out of those 4,500 new units planned, critics find a lot to be desired about the plan.

“I think it should be more than the 20 percent,” said Coney Island Clear cofounder Brian Gotlieb.

Borough President Marty Markowitz has called for a 35 percent affordable housing model for some new development in Coney Island — but not on the bulk of the land where Taconic Investment Partners hopes to build much of the new housing units planned for the western end of the neighborhood.

“We’re really looking beyond Taconic on city−owned property to come up with the 35 percent affordable housing of mixed income,” Markowitz told this newspaper back in May.

Both the borough president and City Councilman Domenic Recchia support an “affordable housing umbrella” for Coney Island comprised of “mixed incomes.”

“To me, there has to be a mix of incomes,” Markowitz explained. “There’s not one group only that are hurting in terms of a lack of affordable housing.”

Coney Island CLEAR supports the use of an affordability model based on the average median income (AMI) of existing Coney Island residents.

“We need to specifically gear it toward the AMI of the community,” Gotlieb said. “I would hope that the City Council focuses on that.”

Coney Island CLEAR is now advocating for an enforceable Community Benefits Agreement that not only ensures the creation of more truly affordable housing units in Coney Island, but also guarantees jobs for current Coney Island residents.

This week, Coney Island Development Corporation President Lynn Kelly urged supporters of the comprehensive development and rezoning plan to sign an online petition at the CIDC website to be presented to members of the City Council.

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