FROM THE MAYOR’S DESK ...
Few areas of our city inspire as much nostalgia as Coney Island. Even those who never got to experience the glory days have heard the stories. And all of us long to see Coney Island recapture the magic that made it America’s greatest seaside amusement park. Our administration has made revitalizing Coney Island a key part of our Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan. We want Coney Island to be on the “must-do” list of every tourist, right next to visiting the Statue of Liberty and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. And we want New Yorkers from all five boroughs to experience the greatest seaside sensation anywhere in the world.
Last summer, we took a big step towards realizing this vision for a 21st century Coney Island by passing a necessary zoning change. Then last week, we moved an even bigger piece of the puzzle into place. The City signed contract to purchase nearly seven acres of land along the Boardwalk and Surf Avenue. That will form the core of new amusement park – the largest Coney Island amusement area since Steeplechase Park closed in 1964. In addition to the acquisition of new public parkland, the City is also investing in infrastructure improvements to attract private investment to the Coney Island neighborhood.
Because of the national economic slowdown, City government has to reduce spending – and that’s what we’ve been doing. We ordered City agencies to start cutting spending two years ago, as soon as the first clouds appeared on the financial horizon. At the same time, we’ve also got to make the right choices that will help us grow our way out of the economic downturn. Last week’s decision concerning Coney Island was definitely the right choice for two reasons.
First, our investment preserves significant part of our city’s history and ensures that just like other iconic spaces, such as Prospect and Central Parks, Coney Island will always belong to the people of New York. Second, our work will help pave the way for thousands of new private sector jobs, new stores and shops, and 5,000 new units of housing in the surrounding area.
Using a combination of rezoning and public investment to jumpstart private development is a strategy we’ve employed in neighborhoods all across the City, from Jamaica to Hunters Point South to the Staten Island Homeport to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. These investments will pay big dividends over the long term. And in the short-term they’re helping us to grow parts of our economy – even in the midst of a national recession. Take the example of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Over the past three months, seven small businesses have signed new leases and set up shop, bringing the total number of leases at the Navy Yard this year to 38. In fact, there are signs of optimism throughout the city, from the new Gateway Center at the Bronx Terminal Market to the long-awaited East River Plaza in East Harlem, where Costco opened just last week.
Our investment in Coney Island is another great cause for optimism – and we won’t have to wait too long to reap the benefits. As early as next summer, we intend to have nearly 10 acres of amusements and attractions open for business, which is about double what was open this past summer. That means New Yorkers looking for an exciting seaside escape, complete with modern amusements, won’t have to look any farther than their own backyards. Coney Island is an important part of our history – and now we’re making sure that it’s an important part of our future, too.