Amusement purveyor to revamp Coney transit hub

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Photo by Ted Levin

The owners of Luna Park will transform Coney Island’s sprawling Stillwell Avenue subway station into a shopping and entertainment complex, transit authorities announced Tuesday.

The terminal’s soon-to-be refurbished retail spaces are slated to open by Summer 2020, and will include an arcade and restaurant-bar, a coffee shop, and five other food and retail vendors, the city said.

Earlier this year, the transit agency’s real-estate branch awarded a 15-year-lease for the transit hub to Central Amusement International, a corporation that has run Luna Park since 2010. The international company plans to renovate nine of the station’s 11 retail units — about 7,000 square feet in all — including space currently occupied by local souvenir vendors, a newsstand, and three chain restaurants.

Some Coney Island residents met the plans with excitement, anticipating that the renovations will revitalize a century-old terminal in need of repair. About three of the station’s retail spaces have remained empty since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and the palatial edifice suffers from exposure to the salty air, according to local civic gurus.

“I think it’s great that [CAI is] the recipient of the [Request for Proposals],” said Eddie Mark, the District Manager of Community Board 13. He added that the developers’ plans to operate the shopping center year-round would benefit residents of the area.

“They’re familiar with the neighborhood, and they have a good track record,” Mark added.

But other Coney Islanders are slow to trust the Luna Park developer, which controls most of the amusement park, including the Scream Zone between Stillwell Avenue and W. 12th Street, and the B&B Carousel by W. 16th Street. Last year, the international corporation won the rights to develop a water park between the Thunderbolt roller coaster and MCU park.

“It’s a bit disturbing,” said resident and Community Board 13 member, Orlando Mendez. “They’re gong to get everything retail-wise, community-wise,” he said. “Seems like it’s all going exclusively to CAI.”

The Luna Park developers say they will employ local vendors in the station’s retail units, but according to Mendez, the company has broken promises to local businesses before. This year, the corporation decided not to renew a licensing agreement with Feltman’s Hot Dogs — a revival of the company that introduced Coney Island to the frankfurter in 1867. According to Feltman’s owner Michael Quinn, the developer broke several agreements they had made with the eatery, hanging signs and serving food from other vendors at a concession stand that was supposed to exclusively sell Feltman’s brand of delicious dogs.

“They take money from you and they don’t honor contracts,” said Quinn.

And Quinn’s accusations, coupled with the company’s steady expansion throughout Coney Island’s amusement district, has led Mendez to distrust the developer’s promise to support local businesses.

“They’re going to be displacing existing businesses,” he said. “Now they’ve got more concessions on the island than the mom ’n’ pops.”

A spokesman for Central Amusement International did not immediately comment regarding its contract with Feltman’s, or Mendez’s criticisms.

Reach reporter Rose Adams at radams@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–8306.