Imagine Coney: First Glance

From our roving correspondant, Saharat Surattanont, we get this report on Imagine Coney:

Last night, the Municipal Art Society (MASNYC) showcased their proposal for the redevelopment of Coney Island. Underscored by the financial realities of such an endeavor, their master plan of “big ideas” outlined the process for revitalization. The stated goal was to develop a viable economic paradigm without sacrificing the authentic flavor of Coney Island.

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The presentation began with an historical video of Luna Park. The video emphasized its seaside destination and concluded with the question “What is the future for Coney Island?” David Malmuth, an economist / real estate developer, answered that Coney Island was a “world brand” characterized by “variety, diversity, and joy”. He cited the revitalization of Times Square as an economic model for their proposal. To achieve monetary returns, Malmuth stressed that Coney Island needed to function as a year round destination spot. He discussed accessibility through new express trains and ferries to Coney Island. He described it as a potentially self sustaining site powered by an underwater Wave Plant. Much like Times Square, additional revenue could be generated through corporate signage and sponsorship. Once the economic realities were outlined, the presentation shifted towards the design proposal.

MASNYC’s proposed a three tiered system. The first layer, described as the “wave” was a “subway in the sky” that echoed the function of the London Eye with the formal language of Beijing bird’s nest. It was designed to unify the entire site by transporting passengers throughout the Coney Island complex. The second “digital city” layer consisted of electronic signage and billboards. The final “infrastructure” layer functioned at the pedestrian level and encompassed such landmarks as Nathan’s Hot Dogs, the aquarium as well as miscellaneous carnival shows and retail services.

MASNYC reiterated that their presentation were the initial stages for Coney Island’s revitalization and was intended to stimulate new ideas and generate excitement within the community. They believed their proposal would lead to local, state, and federal support which in turn, would encourage further investments from developers and corporations. Several Coney Island residents expressed concerns that corporate sponsorship was favored over the lifelong experiences of local resident--that it was somehow devoid of “authenticity”. Malmuth responded to these issues rather bluntly stating that Coney Island had always been about commercialism and a 21st century model needed to establish a large scale economic base. He firmly believed that corporate sponsorship would trickle down to local businesses and encourage independent entrepreneurship. However, MASNYC conceded that a successful revitalization scheme needed to balance economic viability with the concerns of local residents and their sense of connection with the neighborhood. The crowd's reaction was mixed….but cautiously optimistic.


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