Ned Jacobs: ‘This rezoning plan for Coney Island does not appear to reflect the urban values and planning principles she espoused’
Even as City officials gather today on Hudson Street in the West Village to honor urban visionary Jane Jacobs with a long-overdue street renaming, the Bloomberg administration is pushing a disastrous rezoning plan for Coney Island that flies in the face of her principles. Jacobs’s own son, Ned Jacobs, said yesterday that he is “appalled” by the City’s rezoning plan for Coney Island.
The City’s proposed rezoning plan would dramatically shrink Coney Island’s famed amusement district, leaving only a narrow, 12-acre strip for a rump amusement park. It inserts four high-rise hotel towers — soaring up to 27 stories — into the very heart of the historic, low-rise amusement district. The placement of these towers invites developers to tear down some of Coney Island’s most historic buildings, some more than a century old.
Local activist group Save Coney Island is urging the City Council to fix this plan by expanding the acreage reserved for open-air amusements, removing the four high-rise towers from the heart of the amusement district and preserving Coney Island’s historic buildings. The New York Times, the Municipal Art Society and Coney Island USA founder Dick Zigun have all urged the City to expand the amusement area and move the four hotel towers. Coney Island’s Community Board 13 also recommended that the hotel towers be relocated.
In a statement issued yesterday to Save Coney Island, Jane Jacobs’s son, Ned Jacobs, blasted the City’s rezoning plan. A community activist in Vancouver, Canada, who assisted his mother with her last book, “Dark Age Ahead,” Ned Jacobs wrote in his statement:
After having viewed the video “Don’t Kill Coney! Fix the Plan!” by Coney Island USA founder Dick Zigun, I find myself appalled by the city’s proposed rezoning plan for Coney Island’s amusement district.
While I cannot speak on behalf of my mother, the late Jane Jacobs, or predict what she would think about particular proposals today, in my view, this rezoning plan for Coney Island does not appear to reflect the urban values and planning principles she espoused. These include sensitivity and integration with the scale, character and performance of existing neighborhoods and their established uses; the need to retain aged but serviceable buildings for the sake of economic diversity and continuity, as well as for their history and charm; the benefits of planning and redevelopment based on organic, iterative change, and the inherent dangers of top-down urban renewal-type schemes, propelled by “cataclysmic money.”
These considerations are just as valid today as in the past. I therefore urge Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Council to prevent this dysfunctional, developer-driven proposal for the Coney Island amusement district from being adopted in its current form. Instead, the city should work with the community, who possess much local knowledge and appreciation of the importance that scale, atmosphere and heritage play in the amusement district’s success as an irreplaceable public amenity, and who have expressed considerable openness to change and new development, provided it is based on sound planning.