‘Freak’ out! Luna Park shutters several old-time Boardwalk shops

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Nine longtime Boardwalk businesses — including the Shoot the Freak booth and a bar dating back to the Great Depression — got the boot on Monday, part of the city’s controversial effort to transform Coney Island into a glitzy year-round destination.

Owners of the businesses between W. 10th Street and Stillwell Avenue learned yesterday morning that their leases won’t be renewed for next spring by Central Amusement International, the Italy-based outfit that ran the Luna Park concession on city-owned land this summer and has plans for a major theme park expansion next year.

“They threw us out like dogs,” said Anthony Berlingieri, owner of the 10-year-old Shoot The Freak booth, who has sounded the alarm about the impending doom of the old-school Boardwalk business for a year. “They kicked out the people that kept Coney Island on the map for all these years.”

Central Amusement’s decision may not sit well with some city officials. Three years ago, the chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, Amanda Burden, horrified Mayor Bloomberg when she said she that she hoped that Shoot the Freak booth would remain — even has her boss expressed contempt for the junk yard where patrons shoot paintballs at human targets dressed in costume.

“I would vote for Shoot the Freak,” Burden chimed in while the mayor was speaking at the podium. “I love Shoot the Freak.”

A video of Burden’s defense of the carny booth, filmed by late blogger Robert Guskind, bounced all over the Internet on Tuesday.

In addition to axing Shoot the Freak, Central Amusement declined to renew leases for Coney Island Souvenirs, Gyro Corner and Ruby’s Old Tyme Bar and Grill, a dive that opened in 1934.

Meanwhile, Nathan’s, a fast-food-serving national chain, will retain its Boardwalk satellite location two blocks from the restaurant’s flagship eatery.

Only one non-chain store — the Lola Star Boutique — was told that its lease would be renewed.

It is unclear why some shops were shuttered and others allowed to remain, but amusement area stalwarts condemned the move.

“It’s really sad because these businesses have been part of the fabric of Coney Island for a long time,” said Carol Albert, who owned the Astroland amusement park before selling to developer Joe Sitt in 2006. That sale set into motion a city takeover of Coney’s redevelopment, the subsequent least to Central Amusement and the decision to end the leases this week.

For a while, it wasn’t clear what would happen. Earlier this summer, Central Amusements had required the Boardwalk shop owners to prepare a “business plan” so that the company could determine if the shops could stay. But Berlingieri and others said that the company didn’t bother to read the proposals.

“I wrote in my business plan that I was willing to work with Central Amusement 150 percent to make any accommodations and changes that they wanted,” Berlingieri said. “But I don’t think they had any intention of keeping us.”

Steve Bitetzakis, owner of the Grill House, was also shocked that Central Amusement did not approve his business plan — which called for a lucrative second-floor lounge.

“I’ve had my business for 17 years, so I can’t believe we have to leave,” Bitetzakis said.

Central Amusement spokesman Tom Corsillo declined to comment about the leases, saying only that the closed beachfront businesses didn’t jibe with the company’s plans for the “new” Coney Island, a vision that includes year-round stores, a fancy, sit-down restaurant and a section of new thrill rides called Scream Zone.

“We’re just looking at tenants that can provide a good experience for all of Coney Island,” said Corsillo.

Not every business plan focused on pluses and minuses on a ledger. Dianna Carlin, owner of the 10-year-old Lola Star, said that her business plan was mostly cosmetic.

“I want to install a three-dimensional Lola Star figure roller-skating on top of a disco ball over the entrance and three hot pink chandeliers, including one made of Gummi bears!” she said.

Carlin has become something of a bridge between the old carny charm of Coney Island and the city’s vision for an all-year theme park with shops, restaurants and other retail.

Like Carlin, Berligieri also sees himself providing a valuable service to the “new” Coney Island. But he’s also been a blunt ambassador for the lingering businesses on the Boardwalk, some of which, like Ruby’s, have survived decades of decline in Coney Island.

Berligieri always suspected that the future would not be bright for everyone. Last November, when Mayor Bloomberg trumpeted his $100-million purchase of land from developer Joe Sitt, there was Berligieri asking whether there were any guarantees that longtime businesses would be allowed to remain.

No guarantee was given.

Months later, Central Amusement won the 10-year lease to run the theme park on the city-owned land, setting in motion Monday’s demise of the old guard.

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Reader Feedback

sal from coney island says:
I don't hear Councilman Recchia coming to the defense of these long time business owners.He's MIA. What a BUM he is.
Also where is the weasel Dick Zigun ? The so-called mayor of Coney Island. MIA. He got his build ing from the city so F##k everone else. Another BUM.
Nov. 2, 2010, 9:08 am
joey bots from Botsville says:
What a sad day - why can't the new and old co-exist? I agree Zigun and Carlin are SELL-OUTS!
Nov. 2, 2010, 9:23 am
common sense from bay ridge says:
Welcome to Bloombergville, bring lotsa $$$ or get the f*** out. RIP Ruby's.
Nov. 2, 2010, 11:18 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I always felt like I needed to bring lotsa $$$ or get the f*** out of Ruby's. It lured you in by being decrepit and divey but never failed to disappoint.
Nov. 2, 2010, 12:25 pm
Paul A. Toomey from Fort Hamilton/Bay Ridge says:
Another hole in the heart of New York!I knew that it would be a matter of time before the powers that be decided that it was time to erase all visages of Coney Island as it was.Rubys was the last of the old boardwalk bars with the exception of Cha Chas.Rubys gone?? Where are you gonna sit with a cold one & watch the people on the boardwalk? What about the interior with all the photos going back to the 30s? Who's gonna get the moterbike in the back the centerpiece amid beat-up old couches. I hope Dick Zigun gets some of the place over to the Coney Island Museum.Bye Mike, Sam, Willie, Dianna RubyHost, Master, Shorty et al. New York is slowly fading away. SAD!
Nov. 2, 2010, 1:41 pm
Manley from Dyker Heights says:
These businesses are primarily cash businesses. They don't give money to the crooks, er politicians or whathaveyous, and so they don't get defended by them. The "business plan" is to see which ones will supply revenue to city officials and developers and which ones won't. Instead of writing proposals, businesses should open a new bank account, start accepting credit cards, and make sure their EIN shows employees with formal paychecks.
Nov. 2, 2010, 2:54 pm
johhny from bensenhurst says:
the guy anthony from shoot the freak is a pill popping bubble gum ganster. thers coked up half the time anyway. hes a jerk. i hope he loses everything
Nov. 3, 2010, 1:04 am
Johnny C from Coney Island says:
To the morons who talk before they research Zigun did make a comment to the NY Times.

“My heart goes out to people who have worked here all their lives,” said Dick Zigun, executive director of Coney Island USA, which runs a sideshow, the annual Mermaid parade and the Coney Island Museum. “But let’s not separate Coney Island from the cruel world of New York real estate politics and the way real estate leases work under capitalism.”

I don't know what anyone expects Zigun to do, this is all Bloomberg's vision to sanitize all of NYC. What do you expect from a Massachusetts transplant billionaire?
Nov. 3, 2010, 9:16 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Yes, Manley, those businesses should pay taxes. I didn't realize that was in question.
Nov. 3, 2010, 6:26 pm
catherine from coney island says:
its a shame that diana lola star and dick zugun and carol albert are sell outs whats she boohooing about she sold out 2 the city and got millions and she wants us 2 pity her joe sitt is a jerk all he wants is money fancy smancy resturants and attractions in coney where the poor and middle class go that wont work there and shame on the city for letting history the best part of coney let go away those old places chachas/souviener/grill house/gregory and pauls and especailly rubys the best place ont the boardwalk were the kindest hearted people work will never be another i say lets go after those jerks and keep our hang outs why cant the old and new go side by side peacefully they are tearing down all the old building that could have been restored and used shame on u all wont stand up 4 coney its a its a disgrace
Nov. 3, 2010, 11:41 pm
sal from coney island says:
@ Johnny C.... Zigun is A BUM. Mayor Mike & Councilman Recchia say jump , & Zigun says.. How High.

As long as Zigun got his building he looks the other way . I don't see him standing shoulder to shoulder with the other guys who are being kicked out.

He talks a good game but that's all BS.
Nov. 4, 2010, 9:27 am
johhny from bensenhurst says:
i just want to say im sorry to the shoot the freak guy for what i said about him i was just mad that hes a winner and im a loser that cant spell
Nov. 13, 2010, 10:26 pm

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