Continuing with my Coney Island jag, here is a really smart analysis of what should and shouldn’t happen when redeveloping one of the most unique spaces on earth. Aaron Donovan, of Fits and Starts, presents some thoughts from Juan Rivera, who wrote his urban planning master’s thesis on redevelopment plans at Coney Island. (All three of us studied urban planning at Columbia at the same time. I would link to Columbia’s urban planning homepage, but it has to be one of the worst websites I’ve ever had the displeasure of trying to navigate.):
To illustrate my point, look at the example of two current Coney Island entrepreneurs, Lola Staar and Coney Island USA. The former has started a line of Coney Island-inspired clothing that is sold is stores throughout the City and beyond. The latter has launched a burlesque revival [pictured above -ed.] that has spread throughout the City, sparking a renewed interest in a form of performance indigenous to, and closely associated with, Coney Island. Both ventures have, in their respective ways, built on the legacy of Coney Island, promoted its uniqueness, and drawn attention to it in a way that corporate retail could never do. And yet, city officials, unable to look beyond the Times Square template, continue to regard the influx of corporate retail as an all-purpose cure for urban decay. I find it ironic that the most generic little town does its best to set itself apart from other towns by highlighting its history. But New York, which actually does have a rich heritage to draw from, spends its time and money trying to look like Nowhere, USA.
Previous Polis posts on Coney Island (the first one outlines my misgivings about redeveloping Coney Island, the second one summarizes the city’s recent announcement of its strategic plans, the third one is a summary of New York magazine’s article about the developer Joe Sitt who wants to build ‘vegas on steroids’: