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NEW YORK CITY — The City of New York announced late last week that it is acquiring a 6.9-acre land parcel located in Brooklyn's Coney Island for $95.6 million. The city's intention is to revitalize and expand the famed Coney Island amusement park district after years of decline. The property was purchased from Thor Equities, itself a stakeholder in the revitalization of the neighborhood, in what has been described as a long and sometimes adversarial negotiation process.

The City plans to add the parcel to its existing holdings, which were re-zoned this summer for entertainment and amusement uses, to create a 12.5-acre outdoor amusement park. The park will be situated within a 27-acre entertainment and amusement district that the City one day hopes will contain significant new retail options and approximately 5,000 residential units, including 900 affordable housing units. The City expects the Coney Island revitalization plans to generate more than $14 billion in economic activity for New York City over the next 30 years.

At a press conference, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “[This purchase] marks the beginning of a new era in Coney Island's history. It means that next summer Coney Island will be back in a big way. It means we can move full-steam ahead with our plan to restore Coney Island to its rightful place as America's greatest seaside amusement park; and it means we can begin to build a year-round destination that we feel can bring thousands of new jobs and thousands of new residences to the citizens of Coney Island.”

Thor Equities will retain roughly half of its land holdings at Coney Island, though the City owns the right of first offer for the remainder of its land should it put it up for sale. Joseph Sitt, the head of Thor Equities, has previously mentioned plans to create a Las Vegas-style resort on his holdings at Coney Island that would include an amusement component as well as retail, residential and hotel options. A call to Thor Equities was not returned in time for press.

The City released a request for proposal (RFP) on Friday for a short-term amusement park developer and operator for the site, which consists of three land parcels fronting the boardwalk. The first parcel, which encompasses a full block, is situated between the Cyclone Roller Coaster and Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. The other two parcels take up a half-block each and are situated on the other side of Deno's, between it and Keyspan Stadium, which is the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team. The site would be leased to the party beginning in summer 2010, at which point the RFP states that the operator would have to have amusements up and running at least at the larger land parcel. The operator would also manage the city's existing amusements at the park. The deadline for proposals is December 18.

In the meantime, the City plans to invest more than $150 million in improving Coney Island's infrastructure, which it hopes will also help spur additional private development in the area. Upon the termination of the short-term lease and completion of infrastructure work, the City will issue another RFP for a long-term developer for a new amusement park.

— Coleman Wood

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