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Freaking out over Coney Island

The Brooklyn Paper

Carnies, not condos.

Brooklyn’s mermaids united with assorted other freaks and hot-dog lovers at a glittery protest of developer Joe Sitt’s $2 billion plan to transform Coney Island into a glitzy complex that would supplement Coney’s classic rides with a new roller coaster, a carousel, neon-lit games, shops and restaurants, a hotel and condos.

“Coney is already a resort for the city’s freaks and working class,” said Viva Ruiz, a member of Coney’s famed Dazzle Dancers troupe who paraded around City Hall at last Friday’s protest.

“We don’t need it to be homogenized with hotels, condos and more shops,” the sequined dancer said.

The parade-like protest came one day before Coney Island’s historic (and Sitt-owned) Astroland Amusement Park opened for its last season before it’s knocked down to make way for for Sitt’s wonderland.

Sitt bought the park last year. He said this week that he would consider keeping the park open through the 2008 season if the start of his project is delayed.

“If the developer can come to an understanding with the owner of Astroland’s amusements, and construction has not yet begun, we would love to keep it running,” said Lee Silberstein, a spokesman for Joe Sitt. Sitt has said that he needs to build condos to finance his extravagant Las Vegas–like complex, which will include Coney’s first new roller coaster since the shorefront’s heyday in the early 20th century.

The Cyclone, which is a city-owned landmark, will stay open even after the rest of Astroland closes.

Critics of Sitt’s Coney wonderland — including the city’s director of City Planning Amanda Burden — have expressed concerns that his condos could put a kibosh on Coney’s historic identity as the city’s playland.

“Developers move into farmland because it is charming and then they decide farmland is stinky and kick out the farmers,” said Charles Denson, the author of “Coney Island: Lost and Found.”

“They move into areas with jazz clubs because it is funky, then they decide it is too noisy and kick out the jazz clubs. We cannot let this cycle come to Coney.”

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