Another summer for Coney Boardwalk carnies

One last drink at Ruby’s on the Boardwalk
Photo by Tom Callan

Old-school Coney Island will live on for one more season!

After a fourth-month court battle and a grueling seven-hour settlement deliberation on Monday, seven of the eight ousted Boardwalk businesses signed a new lease to operate in their original locations this summer.

An eighth business, the Shoot the Freak booth, got cash instead of a new lease, as its Boardwalk site had been bulldozed late last year to make room for an entrance to a new amusement area, the Scream Zone, set to open this spring.

“Freak” owner Anthony Berlingieri said he would reopen his paintball shooting gallery at his other attraction, Beer Island, just north of the Boardwalk on Stillwell Avenue.

“The deal was pretty fair to everybody,” he said. “I’m just glad to be back for one more summer.”

It may indeed be just one more summer. Berligieri’s beer garden sits on land controlled by Central Amusement International, the city-picked theme park operators that will likely expand further next year.

And the Monday night deal with the other seven businesses — including Ruby’s Bar and Cha Cha’s — stipulates that the operators cannot protest another eviction when the current leases expire on Nov. 1.

Still, boosters were hailing the last-minute summer-saving deal.

“It’s a great decision for all because it ends the anger and lets the summer be all about fun!” said Dick Zigun, who runs the Coney Island sideshow. “And it gives those Boardwalk businesses more time to relocate.”

Central Amusement first kicked out the Coney Island Eight in November to carry out a Bloomberg administration vision of glitzy stores and fancy sit-down restaurants — a plan that hasn’t materialized, partly because of the lengthy eviction battle, partly because of the economy, and, of course, because it’s winter.

Company president Valerio Ferrari admitted that his back was against the wall to make a deal with the mom-and-pops in order for the Boardwalk to be open for business by this spring.

“While this was not our original vision for the 2011 season, it is a viable plan that will keep Coney Island’s Boardwalk active this season,” Ferrari said in a written statement.

Aside from the current struggle, Central Amusement is largely succeeding in fulfilling the city’s Coney Island revitalization plan. The company opened Luna Park last summer, is constructing the Scream Zone now, and plans to renovate the 83-year-old Cyclone roller coaster. The amusement district kicks off its new season April 17.

On the downside, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced last week that it would not raise its big top in Coney Island this summer, a big blow to other businesses, as the circus drew more than 100,000 fans last summer.