City: ‘Freak’ demolition was premature

‘Freak’ out! Evicted shooting gallery is bulldozed in Coney
Photo by Paul Martinka

Coney Island’s amusement operators improperly demolished the “Shoot the Freak” booth on the Boardwalk late last year, the city said.

The Department of Buildings last week cited Central Amusement International, the well-regarded theme park operators, for demolishing the beloved paintball attraction on Dec. 22 without first obtaining a permit to do so.

The Italian-based outfit is now facing a token $5,000 fine for the demolition, which is considered premature until a legal challenge to Shoot the Freak’s eviction is heard next week, according to city spokeswoman Jennifer Gilbert.

As such, Shoot the Freak owner Anthony Berlingieri was ready to pull out a paintball gun and start firing (that’s a metaphor).

“We’re dealing with a company that doesn’t play by the rules,” said Berlingieri, who has become the public face of the eight Boardwalk businesses, including the taverns Ruby’s and Cha Cha’s, that were evicted in November. “We shouldn’t be ousted like this.”

Central Amusement has a 10-year-lease to fulfill the city’s vision of a revitalized Coney Island, but can’t move forward until all eight businesses are legally evicted. The pending court case brought by all eight businesses has slowed down that process. Indeed, Ruby’s, a Depression-era watering hole, is still open for occasional business, including warming up the Polar Bears after Saturday’s New Year’s Day dip.

Central Amusement issued a statement saying that the company will “fully cooperate with the investigation.”