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Speaking up: Coney Islanders grill mayor on jobs, housing at town hall

Good eats: Mayor DeBlasio holds up a cannoli at the town hall event in Coney Island.
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The mayor got an earful from Coney Island residents demanding a local ferry stop and more affordable housing at a town hall on Aug. 24.

Coney Islanders hit the mayor hard on issues such as the lack of housing and local jobs, and inadequate schools and transportation. Many of the complaints boiled down to feeling that the neighborhood has been left behind by the city — economically, culturally, and educationally — according to one attendee.

“The careers are in Manhattan, that’s where the careers are, and we have to better connect to that,” said Daniel Ioannou, who asked the mayor one of the first questions — about expanding the city’s new ferry service to Coney Island. “The culture institutions for our children are in Manhattan, the gifted schools are in Manhattan.”

Daniel Ioannou, who runs the group Coney Islanders 4 Ferry, pressed the mayor on whether he would commission a new feasibility study to determine how best to extend the city’s ferry service to Coney Island, which Ioannou argued would improve local transportation and access to jobs and education. He said he was disappointed with the mayor’s lack of a plan of action when he said that the city will assess the ferry’s first year of service next summer before extending any routes.

“If ridership levels are strong, we will then start a formal assessment in [late] 2018 of additional routes,” DeBlasio said.

Ioannou said his simple request should not require so much time.

“I’m not asking for a ferry terminal to be built tomorrow, I’m asking for a new study,” he said. “It’s nothing crazy that we’re asking for. Ferry service is completely able to be attainable today, here in Coney Island.”

Ioannou said he created an online petition last month to bring the ferry service to Coney Island, and that it has already received nearly 1,600 signatures. He argues that the neighborhood needs the service due to its booming population.

“The biggest reason why we need a ferry in Coney Island is because our population is going to double in the next five years,” Ioannou said, citing the surge in residential development.

Another questioner complained that the boom in residential development wasn’t creating as much affordable housing as expected, and asked the mayor about increasing transparency in the housing sector, which she said is hobbled by developers who do not put aside enough units for the neighborhood’s low-income residents.

“I mentioned that the housing situation in Coney Island is disgraceful, because of the homeless and the unaffordability of housing with these new developments coming out,” said Victoria Lynch, a Coney Island resident.

Lynch said she wasn’t satisfied with the mayor’s response, because he simply referenced Housing Connect, a city service that facilitates applications for public housing, which she frequently hears her neighbors complain about. She said she wished he had spoken more directly about increasing accountability with developers.

“I already know of Housing Connect, he mentioned that’s the city number that you call, Housing Connect. But people call that and they don’t always get a response,” she said. “I wanted him to talk more about how he would hold developers accountable, that they would have apartments set aside for people with low incomes.”

Another resident complained to the mayor that he did not effectively manage Build it Back, a city-run post-Hurricane Sandy program meant to repair homes that were destroyed or damaged in Sandy. But the mayor responded by defending the work the program did for other New Yorkers and directed the question to the director of the program, which aggravated the questioner.

“I didn’t think he was going to give me an answer tonight, but he didn’t take accountabi­lity,” said Annette Fisher, a Coney Island resident who said she received $21,000 from the program after losing $50,000 to her storm-damaged three-story home. “I didn’t like this answer at all,” she said.

The mayor kicked off the town hall with a list of promises meant to address several of the neighborhood’s long-standing concerns.

DeBlasio promised to add 900 more school seats in the district, and said he had directed the Landmarks Preservation Commission to give the area’s iconic Boardwalk landmark status. Hizzoner also pledged to allocate $2 billion to resiliency measures in Coney Island and the surrounding area, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy five years ago.

“I don’t want a Sandy to ever hurt this community again,” DeBlasio said.

He called Coney Island and its people “tough and resilient,” and said he sees the neighborhood as more than just a tourist destination.

“I honor the part of Coney Island that’s the everyday people who are so strong and resilient,” he said.

The mayor made sure to praise his host Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) for his commitment to the area’s recovery after Hurricane Sandy, calling him “very focused.”

He also pointed out that students in Coney Island have a higher high school graduation rate than the city overall, and the number of children in Treyger’s district enrolled in the city’s pre-Kindergarten program tripled over the past four years.

But it was the mayor’s characterization of the city’s strong economy as a “five borough economy” that drew strong pushback from locals, who complained that the lack of local jobs and affordable housing was holding them and their neighborhood back.

Lynch said she did not regret coming to the event because she came to learn more about her neighbors’ concerns, as well as the mayor’s plans to tackle them, not only to sound off herself.

“I really wanted to see what he had to say and I wanted to hear what the people of Coney Island wanted to say. But I also wanted to have my input,” she said. “I wanted to be engaged.“

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Posted 12:00 am, August 31, 2017
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Reader feedback

tommy torres from williamsburg brooklyn says:
bill de blasio should be a one term mayor he don't care about low-income homeless as long as he keeps them in shelters he's the mayor for just one group not for all the people of new York he needs to go
Aug. 31, 2017, 6:44 pm
Denny says:
How about ferry service for Coney Island? Oh I forgot, Coney Island isn't wealthy. But we do vote.
Sept. 1, 2017, 2:17 am
Ann from NY says:
Agree! 100% agree! He is the worst mayor since Dinkins!
He is done nothing to help people in need and this is his 1st term. Do anyone thinks his 2nd term would be better? Fat chance, he's already proof himself!!!
Sept. 1, 2017, 2:22 am
Ken jones from Coneyislang says:
People of Coneyislang stop kidding yourself this mayor does and your local elected officials do not have your best intrest at heart look at the west end of Coneyislang it looks like a ghost town the projects are a mess broken back and front doors intercoms don't work trash inside and out homeless peolpe live in building.the track in Kaiser park just got clean up since sandy no medical clinic since sandy and i can go on.and they want add a ferry to cater to the rich.they are investing millions and soon billions on the east end on amusement and business and crumbs on the west end.wake up Coneyislang your own politicians are doing you in and you are helping them.
Sept. 1, 2017, 9:59 am
tom says:
v
Sept. 1, 2017, 10:53 am
Daniel Ioannou from Coney Island says:
The biggest thing to take away from the Mayor's reply to my question is; Why does ridership numbers in Soundview, Bronx or the Rockaway's determine Coney Island's future? When winter comes and ridership numbers significantly drop, why should our fate hang in the balance of a place like Soundview? As a native New Yorker, I had to google where the place is. In my 26 years of existence I never heard anyone say "I'm going to Soundview, Bronx". I have heard plenty of "I'm going to Coney Island". Yet, Coney Island was passed up for Soundview...

Coney Island's commuter numbers alone are greater than all of Rockaway peninsula and large residential projects are underway this very minute here in Coney. We are facing a severe crisis just for the commuter population.

Unlike other neighborhoods we have more than commuters in Coney. Coney Island is the largest destination in NYC outside of Manhattan. Millions of tourists from outside NYC and visitors from other parts of the city flock to Coney Island in the summer to soak in the sun, ride amusements, catch a fireworks show every Friday night, a ball game, a concert, dine, stroll the boardwalk, visit the NY aquarium, view the sideshow and much much more! In the dead of winter, Coney Island is becoming an alternative as a place to celebrate New Years. We have an event with a countdown on the parachute jump, fireworks, acts from the sideshow and the next day the famous polar bear plunge...Yet we get passed up for Soundview the Bronx and the Rockaways.

Does this sound right? How can the NYCEDC and this Mayor go along with that narrative? It ridiculous and downright embarrassing to even utter that as an answer as to why Coney Island could not have a new ferry feasibility study initiated ASAP. The reason why Coney Island was left out of the current citywide ferry routes is due to flawed data in the previous 2012 Coney Island Ferry Feasibility Study.
Sept. 1, 2017, 11:10 am
John says:
You don't seem to understand that they haven't put a ferry into Coney Island because there are problems. They can't put it on the beach side because there are people swimming year round. It's like trying to drive a truck through a playground and large ships don't stop easily or quickly. They already tried docking at Steeplechase Pier and that didn't work out. Putting a ferry dock in Coney Island Creek will be very expensive because there are toxin problems that have to be fixed. There is also sand that keeps coming into Coney Island Creek which makes it shallower and shallower. Just because there is water all around doesn't guarantee that you can get a ferry close to shore and docked.
Sept. 1, 2017, 11:38 am
Daniel Ioannou from Coney Island says:
John,

Not sure if you are a Coney Island resident. I am. All 26 years of my life. A ferry landing is nothing more than a barge with 8 pilings driven into the soil to secure it. It is minimally environmentally evasive. In fact, during sandy one was installed temporally in Coney Island Creek to aid with superstorm sandy recovery efforts. Let me say that again, one was already built recently in Coney Island Creek. It wasn't expensive or environmental concerns were not a factor then as it should not be now.

Your points do not hold up. The cost of a Coney Island Creek landing are 70% lower than retrofitting the pier to accommodate a ferry. Although the creek should be cleaned up, it does not currently hinder the possibility of ferry service in Coney Island Creek.

Ken,

A ferry will help those who are not rich.It will help everyday people like you and I. Most of our children have to attend a local non-preforming school due to long commute times to attend better preforming schools. Manhattan has plenty of schools for gifted children. For far too long our gifted children have had to either attend a local non preforming school or face up to four hour commute to attend a better school, being at a severe disadvantage to to their counterparts. The time from Coney Island Creek to Lower Manhattan is just 29 minutes. Our children will be able to get to school quicker and more safely. After all, our future hangs in the balance of our children.

The west end has been cut off from transportation for far too long. A Coney Island Creek location provides better access to those living in the west. Being connected to the ferry route will help us access jobs scattered throughout all parts of the city. Let's face it. Mermaid Ave does not have careers for us at this time. We must commute outside the neighborhood to earn a living, a ferry helps us quickly connect to job markets elsewhere.

More options for us will lead to more better choices for us. Not having a ferry restricts us in our little box of Coney Island. The NYCEDC has sent signals indicating how they truly feel about Coney Island. From shrinking our amusement zone in 2009, taking away our bread and butter to having a high speed ferry bypass Coney Island on the hour living us stranded, they want us everyday residents to fail. Enough is Enough. We must hold our leadership accountable and non-elected decision makers like the NYCEDC accountable for their actions.
Sept. 1, 2017, 12:07 pm
trump from in the house says:
all you people sound like a bunch of liberal cry baby's why don't you just change party and put someone in city hall that gets things done. make change and stop the crying maybe then the dems will hear you
Sept. 1, 2017, 9:47 pm
AM goodridge from Crown heights/prospect heights says:
Let's face it, on surf Av there's the B36, the X28 & X38 Express bus to midtown. On mermaid Av there's the B74. What is wrong with u people, The Coney island community​ need local jobs with local hire in the West End community to reduced​ proverty. Sorry but deblasio's is a 1 term mayor Talking about his affordable housing plan but is not affordable to who? That's is why all this luxury condo & high-end development may bring gentrification/displacement to coastal communities in southern Brooklyn & not benefit the community. So on September 12 primary day. vote for change​ David eisenbach for public advocate he is man who will passed the small business jobs survival act (SBJSA) & protect small businesses​ for high-end/national chain stores in the neighborhood.
Sept. 3, 2017, 10:27 am
LouieLouieLouie says:
The tourists crowd the trains in the summer in order to get to Coney Island. The rich from Manhattan take the ferry to Rockaway beach. Coney Needs a ferry too. Plenty of working people live in Coney and West Brighton. Nothing wrong with a short bus ride to the ferry stop. We no longer have the X29 like we used to.
Sept. 3, 2017, 1:41 pm

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