Is nothing sacred in the world of architecture and construction? Recently, developer Joe Sitt tore down a century-old Coney Island building. There are so many things abhorrent about this action, it’s difficult to know where to start.
First of all, of course, is the tradition. Century old buildings can be restored and preserved — they need not be ripped down to create a modern, ugly strip mall. Preservationists tried to object and to protest, but they did not have the law on their side apparently. Sitt’s company Thor Equities went ahead and bulldozed the building from 1899, along with two other historic buildings in its possession.
Given that Sitt was given the go ahead to rip down the historical site, he should at least have the decency to do something with it.
Instead, the plywood-covered building is sitting lifeless, at the moment, at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenue. It’s the first thing that many visitors see as they exit the Coney Island subway station. Is this really the first impression they want of the area?
There appear to be no grand plans for the building, either, as it has signs on it advertising that there is retail space available. As the supervisor of the project told the Daily News, even when construction eventually starts on something in the building, it will remain boarded up. As he said, “It’s going to be up for a while. It’s Coney Island, and they want to prevent anything bad from happening.”
Certainly, a boarded up building is no way to attract visitors to the historic area or to draw in tourists. One tourist, Stefan Tabacznik, who was visiting Coney Island for the first time from Switzerland, conveyed his disdain. As he said,
“It just looks like a terrible eyesore and brings down the mood of a cheery place. It takes away from the atmosphere of Coney Island. You see all these beautiful sites and I think keeping the building boarded up will only district tourists of all the other pleasant sites.”
We can do better. Really, we can.