Big plans announced for Coney

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Relics of Coney Island’s glory days, like the B&B Carousel and the boarded-up Shore Theatre, could earn starring roles in the neighborhood’s revival, according to a draft master plan unveiled this week that aims to combine modern glitz with honky-tonk gold.

Released on May 3, the draft plan envisions plenty of new rides, outdoor restaurants and even hotels, but also more than a few of the neighborhood’s legendary staples, some of which have sat idle for years.

“We’re working on a coherent story that balances the history and authenticity of Coney Island while also recognizing the importance for new growth,” said Joshua Sirefman, chairman of the Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) and CEO of the city Economic Development Corporation.

Although the plan was short on specifics, Kate Collignon, a special projects coordinator with the EDC, said officials hoped to turn Coney Island into a year-round destination, in part by offering indoor amusement attractions like, perhaps, a water park, bowling or shopping, as have been suggested at previous meetings.

And if artist renderings can be trusted, visitors can expect a whole lot more — like fire juggling stilt-walkers, new public art and enough neon lights to illuminate the entire neighborhood.

The proposal, the fruits of a yearlong CIDC study, come as the neighborhood is experiencing a slight resurgence, thanks to a $280 million reconstruction of the subway hub on Stillwell Avenue and the Brooklyn Cyclones bringing thousands of baseball fans out to Keyspan Park during the summer.

But for some preservationists in Coney Island, plans to restore the neighborhood’s historic charm proved the most exciting. Both Sirefman and Collignon said that the B&B Carousel, hidden away on Surf Avenue near West 12th Street since 1935, could be moved below the Parachute Jump, a landmark that was restored last year and could be brought back into action.

The 2,300-seat Shore Theatre, closed decades ago, could also be renovated for a new generation of moviegoers, and dancing on the Boardwalk, once a common sight in Coney Island, could see a new heyday.

Dan Pisark, a carousel historian, said that the B&B is one of only a handful that still survive from nearly a hundred years ago when William Mangels helped turn Brooklyn into the nation’s leading carousel manufacturer. His shop on West Eighth Street turned out hundreds of the rides, but aside from the famous one at Prospect Park, and another stored away in DUMBO, few remain.

Although he hesitated to say how much the carousel is worth, he said that the 50-wooden-horse attraction could easily fetch $250,000, but likely much more.

“It’s one of the rarest privately owned carousels we know of,” said a beaming Pisark. “But right now, it’s a little bit hidden.”

Although Sirefman acknowledged that, for now, the plans were only guidelines for property developers, incentives would likely be offered in future drafts.

Such incentives would be particularly important for the landmark Childs Restaurant, which for decades has sat vacant on the Boardwalk at West 21st Street. Michael Harari, a broker with Massey Knakal Realty, says that at least four national entertainment developers are involved in a bidding war for the 25,400-square-foot landmark building. Graffiti-strewn and abandoned, the marbled-columned, three-story building went on the market with an asking price of $7.9 million.

Citing confidentiality clauses, Harari declined to name all the suitors, but allowed that one was Thor Equities, the national mall developer that last month acknowledged its own plans to build an entertainment complex in Coney Island.

“I can tell you, however, that two of them have developed over 10 new sites each across the country that include bowling centers, arcades and high-end restaurants,” said Harari.

Councilman Domenic Recchia said that besides crowd-pleasing new amusement rides, the introduction of a shuttle bus and a revitalized New York Aquarium, the plans would also include new retail businesses that could provide jobs in the area. A new community center near the western edge of the neighborhood is also being discussed.

“We’re looking at the future of Coney Island and we’re looking after the future of its residents,” said Recchia, who formed the 13-member CIDC along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller.

For Kenneth Weatherspoon, that growth should include new jobs for the neighborhood’s residents, many of who he said struggle to find employment in Coney Island. A chef in Manhattan, Weatherspoon said that despite recent development, few new jobs have surfaced.

“The biggest problem is the job market,” said Weatherspoon, who said that Tuesday’s meeting at Coney Island Hospital was the first such meeting he had attended. “If that could be addressed, it would be great.

“This neighborhood needs a boost.”

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