Thursday, June 10, 2010

Preservationists try once more to save Coney Island

From the Daily News:

Preservationists are making a last-ditch effort to save four century-old Coney Island buildings slated for demolition by developer Joe Sitt.

They came up with their own vision of what the buildings could look like if restored and are appealing to Sitt to hold off the wrecking ball - even though the city rejected plans to create a historic district that would have barred the demolitions.

It's likely to be an uphill battle. "While we appreciate the enthusiasm, the reality is ... the City of New York found these buildings to have no significant historical value," said Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for Sitt's company Thor Equities. "These buildings have been left to rot for decades and are now in terrible shape."

But advocates insist they're worth saving.

"It's New York's history," said Sarah Le Clerk, who designed renderings of the Grashorn and Henderson buildings for the advocacy group Save Coney Island. "These buildings have been through a lot. To tear them down would be absolutely terrible."

The images show Grashorn - a 111-year-old building believed to be Coney's oldest - fixed up and turned into a Museum of Amusements. The Henderson building - a former music hall where Harpo Marx got his start - is transformed into a theater, nightclub and rooftop restaurant.

That vision was dealt a blow when the city Landmarks Commission decided Wednesday the buildings were "too significantly altered" from their original condition to qualify as a historic district.

"Only capitalism can save those buildings [since] the Landmarks Commission will not," said Coney Island USA founder Dick Zigun.

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