Coney Island’s loudest carnival barker sold the People’s Playground as an on-the-upswing place to be on Friday, announcing that Mayor Bloomberg is doing a great job steering the area’s comeback even as he chided other stakeholders for not keeping the spirit of the old neighborhood alive.
Dick Zigun — the neighborhood’s unofficial mayor and the amply tattooed man behind the popular Sideshows by the Seashore — defended the city’s ongoing plan to turn the area into a 24-7 destination in his highly anticipated “State of Coney” address, delivered before a crowd of two dozen people at the Sideshows on Surf Avenue between Stillwell Avenue and W. 12th Street.
“The state of Coney Island is fine, no longer on life support and recovering rapidly,” Zigun said.
Zigun gave the city an “A+” for sprucing up the area with new sidewalks, trees and other amenities, but gave landowner Joe Sitt of Thor Equities “low marks” for demolishing several historic buildings along Surf Avenue.
At the same time Zigun awarded the developer a coveted title — “Most Improved” — for starting work on a commercial building at the corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues that is expected to be finished next spring.
“Thor’s hammer can build, and not just destroy,” said Zigun.
Zigun also gave a low grade to Central Amusements International, the operator of the Luna Park and the Scream Zone, giving it a “C–” for playing bad music at the new amusement parks, which opened in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
“If you’re going to play music at a major attraction in New York it needs to be thought out better,” he said.
Zigun gave himself, as head of Coney Island USA, just a “B–” because he failed to save seven beloved Boardwalk businesses that didn’t get new leases and will now to make way for new retail.
They include Cha Cha’s and Ruby’s Bar, whose owner is not planning to relocate elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Zigun mourned the loss, but said Ruby’s demise could have been avoided.
“If you want, to you can pick yourself up by your bootstraps and relocate,” said Zigun, whose arts organization moved into a historic building on Surf Avenue after losing its space on the Boardwalk.
Stalwarts who turned out to hear him speak appreciated the message.
“People have the impression that Coney Island is dead,” said Marie Roberts, a Gravesend resident who spent her childhood summers at the seaside amusement district. “It was great to hear somebody who thinks its viable and growing.”