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Coney Island 'mayor' resigns over redevelopment plan

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Coney Island 'mayor' resigns over redevelopment plan

By Jotham Sederstrom

Daily News Staff Writer

June 4th 2008

 

alg_mayor.jpg

Showalter for News

Dick Zigun, aka the mayor of Coney Island, says he'll resign from the Coney

Island Development Corp. to protest a revised city development plan that

includes a shopping mall.

 

The Mayor has submitted his resignation.

 

Dick Zigun, the so-called mayor of Coney Island plans to resign from the group charged with redeveloping the amusement mecca, the Daily News has learned.

 

Zigun said he would bow out of the 13-member Coney Island Development Corp. to protest a revised city development plan he charged could include a shopping mall near the center of the 47acre plan.

 

"This spring, without the CIDC ever having a discussion or ever taking a vote, the strategic plan that I had been a major cheerleader for was totally changed and compromised in a way that no amusement park lover could possibly be happy with," said Zigun, founder of Coney Island USA, which runs a world-famous sideshow.

 

In a blistering attack, Zigun said that the revised city plan would also mean a significantly smaller amusement park if passed by the City Council next year.

 

The shopping mall, which would usher in retailers such as a Toys "R" Us with its looming Ferris wheel or an FAO Schwarz with its giant floor keyboard, is a concession to developer Thor Equities, Zigun and other critics contend.

 

"The CIDC plan promised a world-class tourist attraction with an entertainment core - lots of rides complemented by year-round nightclubs and enclosed water parks," said Zigun in a letter to Mayor Bloomberg.

 

"Instead the core will now be rezoned for a shopping mall full of Niketowns, Toys 'R' Us and four 30-story hotels."

 

City officials unveiled ambitious plans in November for a 15-acre, year-round amusement park, 4,500 new apartments and condos and blocks of glitzy stores along Surf Ave.

 

But in a departure, the plan also called for only one amusement park operator for the entire amusement district, an idea that infuriated Thor Equities' developer Joe Sitt, who intended to operate his own amusement park at the site.

 

The rift forced city officials to revise the plan in April, which they did by allowing a reduction of parkland and by working more closely with Thor and other businesses.

 

CIDC President Lynn Kelly balked at Zigun's complaints, insisting the role of CIDC members was to create a development plan for the area, not vote on its merits - a job that will be left up to the City Council.

 

Kelly defended the revised zoning plan and a shopping mall, but said the use of so-called entertainment retail across 15 acres of Coney Island was still being debated.

 

"We're still writing the zoning text, but if there is going to be any type of entertainment retail, the driving force is the entertainment," said Kelly, who used as an example a rock climbing wall at a Niketown store or a Sony electronics store that provides video game demonstrations.

 

"It's really about the interactivity with the item," Kelly added. "We're carefully considering how you define entertainment retail because that's really key."

 

Fellow CIDC board member Sol Adler defended both the CIDC and the city's revised plan, but said he respected Zigun's position.

 

"The CIDC is doing just fine in an extraordinarily complex environment that is made more difficult because private developers have swooped down," Adler said, referring to Thor Equities' purchase in 2005 of property in the area.

 

"The city is trying to work with [Thor] and not do anything that is going to jeopardize the quality of that area, the gestalt of that area. You don't want to create an environment that would destroy the feel of Coney Island."

 

A spokesman for Thor declined to comment.

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