Page C2.2 . 06 October 2010                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
NEWS   |   DESIGN   |   BUILDING   |   DESIGN TOOLS   |   ENVIRONMENT   |   CULTURE
< Prev Page Next Page >
 
CULTURE
 
  •  
  • Ulm Münsterplatz
     
  •  
  • Demolition Threat at Coney Island
     
  •  
  • Marketing Interior Design
     
  •  
  • Postcard from Trenton

    [an error occurred while processing this directive]
    AND MORE
      Current Contents
      Blog Center
      Download Center
      New Products
      Products Guide
      Classic Home
      Architecture Forum
      Architects Directory
      Topics Library
      Complete Archive
      Web Directory
      About ArchWeek
      Search
      Subscribe & Contribute
      Free Newsletters
       

     
    QUIZ

    [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    Demolition Threat at Coney Island

    continued

    Save Coney Island has urged Thor Equities and its chairman and CEO, Joseph Sitt, to consider revitalization of the buildings instead of demolition, by way of public statements, blog posts, and more. The group's efforts were ramped up in April when Sitt announced that the demolition of the four buildings was imminent. Sitt released a rendering depicting the historic structures replaced with single-story fast-food restaurants, with a statement that "by Memorial Day 2011, all of our parcels along Surf Avenue are scheduled to be activated with family-friendly games, food, shopping and other activities that visitors to, and residents of, Coney are clamoring for."

    [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    In response, Save Coney Island appealed to city and state historic organizations for official historic designation for the Surf Avenue district. However, efforts on the city level failed when the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission declined to recommend the proposal for a Coney Island Historic District, which would include the Surf Avenue stretch encompassing the threatened buildings.

    The group met with success on the state level, however, when the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation issued a statement on August 12 that the buildings and the area indeed could qualify for listing on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Although neither designation would protect the buildings from demolition, a listing on the State or National Register would offer grant opportunities and hefty tax credits — as much as 40 percent of rehabilitation costs — to Thor Equities if it chose rehab over demolition.

    Coney Island USA, the Coney Island History Project, the Historic Districts Council, and the New York City Landmarks Conservancy all worked with Save Coney Island to submit the appeal to the New York State Office; Manhattan's Municipal Arts Society and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz have also made statements to publicly support the buildings' preservation.

    Despite the state's recent ruling, Thor Equities spokesman Stefan Friedman says the company's plans for demolition have not changed — and in fact, the company believes the rendering of Sitt's newly imagined Surf Avenue shows just what the area needs to succeed. "These are ramshackle structures, eyesores," Friedman says. "Thor Equities is an organization interested in preserving history, but that has to be married with a plan that can successfully revitalize an area that is desolate eight months of the year."

    The group plans to replace the buildings with one-story temporary structures until the city "has improved their infrastructure in that area," Friedman says. He did not specify what infrastructure specifically needs to be improved, and what Thor Equities will do with the sites after those improvements are made.

    Juan Rivero, spokesman for Save Coney Island, says that many New Yorkers are speculating that a recent city rezoning of Surf Avenue's amusement zone to allow for four 30-story buildings is motivating Sitt's clearing of the sites. However, he doubts demolition of the buildings will attract investors. "Just because the zoning is there doesn't mean there are hotel developers lining up to take advantage," Rivero says. "No one is offering to build anything at all. To maliciously tear down these buildings and replace them with temporary, one-story structures contributes to the blighting of the area instead of contributing to rebuilding what's there."

    Friedman claims the buildings can't be saved. "The buildings are in extremely poor condition, and they are not on par, not of the same caliber as other Coney Island structures, such as the Cyclone," he says.

    Rivero and others adamantly disagree. "The notion that these buildings couldn't be salvaged is absurd," Rivero says. "Plenty of historic structures in New York City and Coney Island that were restored have become iconic contributors to the historic landscape." Rivero said that an engineer has even offered recently to assess the buildings' structural integrity free of charge, if Thor Equities is willing to grant access to the buildings.

    All four buildings were open for business before Thor Equities' acquisition; a nightclub on the second floor of the Henderson Music Hall had recently undergone an extensive renovation that exposed many of the theater's original detailing. (In the few years that Thor Equities has owned the buildings, the tenants have all left: tenants' leases were not renewed, and rent prices skyrocketed, according to Rivero.) But Friedman claims that the buildings simply cannot stand if the area is to experience new growth. "I don't think these buildings fit the revitalization of Coney Island that brings out the best in new games and amusement," he says.

    People aren't coming to Coney Island merely to play games, says Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project and author of Coney Island: Lost and Found. "People go to Six Flags or Disney World for one reason, but they come to Coney Island for history," he says. "It's not just nostalgia; there's an emotional component to Coney Island. People come from all over the world, and they love it. And the restoration of Luna Park is the kind of direction we should keep going in."

    Denson cites another Coney Island success: the Parachute Jump, a 260-foot (79-meter) steel structure from Steeplechase Park that was restored in 2006. "Everyone would complain, 'It's an eyesore, it's dangerous, someone is going to get hurt,'" Denson says. "But then the effort was put in to restore it, and now it's one of the great landmarks of Brooklyn. All it took was a little effort, and some foresight, and people's attitudes changed. Now everyone wants to know about it," he says.

    "Coney Island is really down to a handful of what you could call 'landmark' buildings," Denson says. "It would be good if Thor Equities would at least save one of them."   >>>

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

    Danielle Del Sol writes about historic preservation, architecture, and urban planning, and is currently pursuing a master's degree in preservation studies at the Tulane University School of Architecture in New Orleans.

    This article is reprinted from Preservation, the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, with permission.

     

    Continue...

    ArchWeek Image
    SUBSCRIPTION SAMPLE

    Coney Island's Shore Hotel, at 1228 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, was built circa 1903 by local developer Herman Popper.
    Photo: Mike Levak Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image
    SUBSCRIPTION SAMPLE

    The Shore Hotel in 1925.
    Photo: Courtesy New York Public Library

    ArchWeek Image

    The Shore Hotel's onion dome, seen here in 1932, before the dome was removed.
    Photo: Courtesy New York Public Library

    ArchWeek Image

    Detail photo of the Shore Hotel's north facade.
    Photo: Lindsay Wengler Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image
    SUBSCRIPTION SAMPLE

    The Shore Hotel is currently vacant and threatened with demolition.
    Photo: Lindsay Wengler Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The neoclassical Bank of Coney Island was designed by Holmes and Winslow Architects and built circa 1923.
    Photo: © Charles Denson

    ArchWeek Image

    Henderson Music Hall, along Stillwell Avenue just south of Surf Avenue, was built around 1900.
    Photo: Lindsay Wengler Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The upper floor of Henderson Music Hall recently held a nightclub.
    Photo: © Charles Denson

     

    Click on thumbnail images
    to view full-size pictures.

     
    < Prev Page Next Page > Send this to a friend       Subscribe       Contribute       Media Kit       Privacy       Comments
    ARCHWEEK  |  GREAT BUILDINGS  |  ARCHIPLANET  |  DISCUSSION  |  BOOKS  |  BLOGS  |  SEARCH
      ArchitectureWeek.com © 2010 Artifice, Inc. - All Rights Reserved