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IT’S OVER! Coney’s Dreamland will be closed for the rest of the summer

The Brooklyn Paper
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Coney Island’s biggest amusement park will remain closed this weekend — and for the rest of the summer — as a state Supreme Court judge refused to force landowner Joe Sitt to reopen the theme park that he abruptly shut down last week amid a rent dispute with the park’s operator.

Anthony Raffaelle, who admits he owes sit hundreds of thousands in back rent, went to court today to demand that he be allowed to reopen the Dreamland amusement park on the grounds that Sitt’s lockout last Friday was illegal.

The judge put off the case until Friday, Sept. 18, making it unlikely that the amusement park on the grounds of the old Astroland playland will reopen this summer.

Sitt had abruptly shut down Dreamland, on Surf Avenue and West 10th Street, on Aug. 21, saying that Raffaelle owed more than $500,000 in rent. The lockout put about a dozen rides and attractions off limits.

Raffaelle admitted that he owes around $500,000 in rent, but said Sitt’s lockout was hostile and foolish.

“It’s so late in the season, if they had beef with me, now is not the time,” he said.

Indeed, Coney Island Circus Sideshow operator Dick Zigun, agreed with Raffaelle

“Whether or not rent was owed, you don’t have the right to act like a bully,” said Zigun, whose iconic stature in Coney Island was affirmed this week when The Brooklyn Paper highlighed his side job as “Mayor of Coney Island.”

Sitt disagreed with both Raffaelle and Zigun, saying that he, not Raffaelle or the kids being turned away from the once-thriving amusement area, is the victim here.

“Dreamland has not come close to meeting its financial obligations in many months,” said Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Sitt’s company, Thor Equities. “We are hopeful that Dreamland will soon pay its rent [and] re-open.”

Raffaelle has long been a behind-the-scenes presence in Coney Island. He also ran Sitt’s attractions that also closed early last year. This year he planned to be on the Astroland site with Ringling Bros, but when Sitt’s negotiations with Ringling broke down, Sitt made him take the whole lot, he said.

Last weekend, he and his workers remained angry about the shutdown.

“We just showed up for work and couldn’t get in,” said Lori Vise, who worked at Dreamland. “It’s not fair for the visitors of Coney Island. We want it back open.”

And didn’t anybody think of the children?

“It’s not right to close down in the middle of the season,” said Richard Vowers of Sheepshead Bay. “It’s going to disappoint a lot of kids. My girlfriend’s son likes the helicopter ride and the train ride.”

Dreamland sits behind locked gates on what was the Space Age theme park Astroland, which Sitt shut down in a lease disagreement with the land’s former owner, Carol Albert. Albert had sold the land to Sitt two years earlier, but continued to operate the amusement park on the site until last year.

Sitt still hopes to redevelop his holdings in Coney Island into a 24-7-365, Vegas-style Xanadu with rides, retail and hotels. But last week’s lockout turned even Sitt’s longtime ally, Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island), into a critic.

“This is a heartless person who only cares about money,” Recchia told the Daily News last Saturday.

The Brooklyn Paper editorial board agreed with that sentiment this week, as did many letter writers.

Updated 3:03 pm, August 28, 2009: Updated to include a great quote from Dick Zigun.
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Reader Feedback

Joe Sitt the man from Anywhere but Coney says:
Hahaha. Sitt is just going to squeeze the —— out of Coney Island and the City until he gets his way. Just let the man build the condos, the retail, the everything. It couldn't possibly get any worse than it is today. Give Sitt what he wants and be done with it.
Aug. 28, 2009, 5:04 pm
tommygunz from your house says:
Coney Island sucks. This ain't yesteryear.
Aug. 28, 2009, 5:17 pm
Eddie Mazz from Coney Island says:
As a "New York City Greeter' I've been bring groups of tourists down to Coney for the last two years. I must say this Summer was Sad, and Joe Sitt and Thor Equities is Responsible for it! This Summer I brought groups from Florida, Michigan, Canada, U.K. , Italy and Japan. And Everyone has said "This is a such Beautiful Place, what happened to Astroland is a New Amusement Park going to be Built?" I would reply, " Joe Sitt and Thor Equities killed Astroland and are trying to Build a Mall over History" Joe, Thor, Please Leave Coney Island Now! Bloomy Get the Plan Straight! No Malls Condos or Hotels South of Surf Avenue!

It's truly an Omen that the Last Two Fireworks Friday's have been rained Out...
Aug. 28, 2009, 5:20 pm
Tricia Vita from Coney Island says:
You write "Coney Island’s biggest amusement park will remain closed this weekend...."

As someone who works in Coney Island I am very concerned people will think it's not worth going to Coney Island the rest of the season because "the biggest park" is closed. You fail to mention that the rest of Coney Island is open and what attractions we have here. This is irresponsible. Please amend your story!

In terms of acreage, Astroland was Coney's largest amusement park until Joe Sitt forced to close. But Dreamland is/was not Coney Island's biggest park. Deno's Wonder Wheel Park has 22 rides. Even McCullough's kiddie park has 12 rides.

Dreamland had only 12 rides and a few sideshows and games. They did not manage to assemble enough equipment to fill the property. They created a narrow midway to disguise this fact. If you look at aerial shots this is evident.


Most important, without Dreamland's 12 rides, all of Coney Island stlll has 43 rides!!!

Also open is the Coney Island Boom A Ring Circus, the Coney Island USA sideshow, Burlesque at the Beach, the Coney Island Museum, the Coney Island History Project, the New York Aquarium, Lola Staar’s Dreamland Roller Rink (not associated with “Dreamland Park”), Ruby’s Bar, Cha Cha’s and Coney Island Arcade and more.

For details I recommend that readers visit http://www.coneyislandfunguide.com/
Aug. 28, 2009, 6:31 pm
Pacholo from REd Hook says:
Please don't make Joe Sitt the next Walter O'Malley. If it's his land let him build.
Aug. 28, 2009, 8:52 pm
DOCJAY JAKSON HEIGHTS says:
i'm telling b you,cooney island is finished for low and med classes of people,and a hot dog will probably cost $10 and forget the drink.remember mayor bloomburger fought for this,another brooklyn yards project.
Aug. 29, 2009, 12:32 pm
DOCJAY JAKSON HEIGHTS says:
i'm telling b you,coney island is finished for low and med classes of people,and a hot dog will probably cost $10 and forget the drink.remember mayor bloomburger fought for this,another brooklkyn yards project.
Aug. 29, 2009, 12:34 pm
jay from jackson heights says:
i'm telling b you,coney island is finished for low and med classes of people,and a hot dog will probably cost $10 and forget the drink.remember mayor bloomburger fought for this,another brooklkyn yards project.
Aug. 29, 2009, 12:35 pm
Jerry Coombs from Rhode Island says:
To have NOTHING for the kids is a crime. We have, more or less the same situation in Rhode Island. No more REAL Amusement Parks, what a shame. The Mom and Pop Parks are gone, they were really fun places.
Aug. 29, 2009, 9:46 pm
tommygunz from BK says:
Ahhhhhh...Rocky Point in RI?
Aug. 30, 2009, 8:02 pm
Chuck from Orangeburg says:
The children????? Joe Sitt never once thought about kids when he ran Astroland (and all the others) out of there. Then he brought in a travelling crap house and tried to pawn it off as "Dreamland". I'm GLAD he got burned and my kids are glad he got burned. They were unsafe rides, supervised by morons, lining the pockets of idiots. Nice job Whore Equities. I hope you all die of cancer. Slowly.
Aug. 31, 2009, 9:22 am
Tom from Dyker Heights says:
Where is the money he made from the park? Pay the friggin' rent!!!!!! Maybe Raffaelle is corrupt. Check the books! He's the real blame.
Sept. 1, 2009, 10:16 am
james from ga says:
Im glade dreamland is closed they treated all employees like garbage ,slaves 91 hrs a wk for 275.00 per wk thats why im going to hope dream land never opens back up with out the employment agency involed.
Sept. 1, 2009, 5:45 pm
tomas gomez from coney island says:
yada yada yada. pay your rent moron!
Sept. 3, 2009, 10:34 pm
the sicilian from coney island says:
yada yada yada. pay your rent moron!
Sept. 3, 2009, 10:36 pm
showmen65 says:
Coney Island is a dump it looks like —— and the people there have bad attitudes
Sept. 17, 2009, 2:50 pm
showmen65 says:
if you would like to know more about the out door amusement business industry come to http://www.outdooramusementbusiness.com
Sept. 17, 2009, 2:53 pm

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