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NEW YORK CITY-The City Council voted decisively Wednesday afternoon to approve the rezoning of Coney Island, the final step in the public review of the Bloomberg administration’s plan to revamp the historic amusement area. Still to be finalized is a deal with developer Joseph Sitt to buy some of the land under his control in the district.

The 44-2 vote caps a 21-month public review process that began with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s November 2007 introduction of a plan to create a 27-acre amusement and entertainment district surrounded by multifamily housing, 35% of which will be affordable compared to 20% as originally proposed. In a statement, Bloomberg calls the council’s approval “a big step forward for Coney Island, and for the future of our entire city.”

Melinda Katz, chair of the council’s land use committee, says in a release that “with all of the stakeholders coming together to negotiate, we arrived at a plan that best benefits this community. Not only will Coney Island have year-round amusements that restore its past grandeur, but it will have the affordable housing, jobs, retail development and other amenities it has long sought.”

A less enthusiastic response came from the group Save Coney Island, which issued a statement calling the council’s vote “a sad day for New York City. As a result of this rezoning, people across the city and around the world who love Coney Island could see its historic amusement district shrunk, covered up and blocked off with high-rises, its history destroyed and its potential squandered–all for nothing.” Similarly, the Municipal Art Society had recommended that the amusement district be expanded from 12 acres to 25–a recommendation that was not implemented in the bill passed by the council.

In addition to negotiations with area landowners including Sitt, CEO of Thor Equities, the Bloomberg administration must still get the State Legislature’s approval to create the district. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do in the days ahead,” Bloomberg says in a statement. “We have every reason to feel optimistic because we’re working aggressively to iron out the terms of deals with landowners. And we will also continue working with our partners in Albany to gain approval for the parkland legislation we need for the development to move forward.”

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