Posted Jun 15, 2010, 7:27 PM
New Yorker for life
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Borough of Jersey
Originally Posted by liat91
Are there more amusement parks slated for Coney?
Coney Island: Strides Amid Rides
Coney Island's Surf Avenue is drawing interest from commercial developers and amusement-park operators.
By BRITTANY HUTSON
June 11, 2010
For decades, many New Yorkers stayed as far away from Coney Island as possible. But that's starting to slowly change as plans to revitalize the decrepit area begin to unfold.
Coney Island, long dubbed the "people's playground," sprawled over nearly 60 acres along Brooklyn's Atlantic waterfront in 1910. After decades of decline, the area had shrunk by last summer to just three acres of active amusement attractions.
Now it's expanding again. Plans unveiled by the city and private developers in early 2009 call for a 27-acre district that Includes a 12-acre amusement park as well as other entertainment venues, parks, hotels and retail space.
While it's expected to take as long as 10 years before the redevelopment is completed, the first phase—the resurrection of Luna Park, a 3.1-acre amusement park with 19 new rides—is already drawing new visitors to the area since opening over Memorial Day weekend.
"Coney Island saw more foot traffic than it has in 50 years on Memorial Day," said Joseph Sitt, chief executive of real-estate development firm, Thor Equities, which owns much of the commercial real estate in the area. "And what's wild is there ain't nothing there yet relative to what's coming."
A Brooklyn native who enjoyed spending time at Coney Island as a child, Mr. Sitt has a personal investment in its revitalization. Mr. Sitt owned nearly 10 acres in the amusement zone but sold 6.9 to the city for $96 million last year.
Luna Park, which was built by New Jersey-based Central Amusement International, already takes up half of that. CAI, which also operates an amusement park in New York's Central Park, plans to build another Coney Island park called Scream Zone, on another 3.1 acres, scheduled to open next summer. The remaining 0.7 acres will be used for the redevelopment zone.
Zamperla, an Italian company that creates nearly 200 rides annually for parks such as Disney and Six Flags, is providing rides for both Luna Park and Scream Zone. CAI has invested $30 million to build and operate both parks and has signed a 10-year agreement with the city to operate them.
Mr. Sitt's Thor Equities also owns a large percentage of the retail space along Surf Avenue, the main business strip north of the Riegelmann Boardwalk and amusement park.
According to Brian Hanson, first vice president of sales for Massey Knakal Realty Services, leasing rates for most retail space along Surf Avenue are around $30 to $35 a square foot. Commercial developers, including amusement- and water-park operators and beach vendors have expressed interest in acquiring space along Surf Avenue, although Mr. Hanson says so far there's been no economic push to warrant an increase in lease rates.
That could change if Luna Park continues to attract new visitors. "Leasing prices will go up depending on the success of Luna Park and the progress of the area's entire redevelopment," he said.
Currently, Surf Avenue is a motley mixture of furniture stores, vacant lots, fast-food vendors, games and arcades. But it also has several historic buildings such as Nathan's Famous, the original hot-dog stand cofounded by Nathan Handwerker in 1916 and the Shore Theater—a venue that once featured live performances and movies for an audience of 2,500.
Also in January 2009 the Bloomberg administration adopted a redevelopment plan for a 19-block area as far west as West 24th Street, north to Mermaid Avenue, south to the boardwalk and east to West 8th Street calling for new hotels, restaurants and retail locations.
Not everyone is happy with the plans. Some community advocates are concerned that several historic buildings on Surf Avenue, including Henderson's Music Hall, where performers such as the Marx brothers got their start, could be demolished.
"It's crazy to treat the legacy as an obstacle to development as opposed to a big asset," said Juan Rivero, spokesman for Save Coney Island, a grass-roots organization devoted to restoring Coney Island.
Thor Equities wouldn't be specific about its demolition plans. But in an emailed statement, a company spokesman said Coney Island "needs to be more than a museum…it needs a new vision…a place that people can come year-round."
An application was submitted to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission in May to protect some of the buildings as part of a historic district. But Mr. Rivero said that the application was denied.
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