Doc on People’s Playground battle screens in Bay Ridge

Coney clash! Doc on People’s Playground battle screens in Bay Ridge
Photo by Robert Bailey

Coney Island is coming to Bay Ridge.

The annual Art of Brooklyn Film Festival will make its Ridge debut on May 10 — and leading off the second night of the cinematic extravaganza is “Coney Island: Dreams for Sale,” a documentary look at the fight last decade that forever transformed the People’s Playground.

The movie is the first feature-length work by filmmaker Alessandra Giordano, who originally intended to make a five-minute short. Giordano, who hails from Italy, was taking a film course at New York University in the summer of 2008, when the fight over Coney’s future was raging, and a friend suggested that she should visit the area.

“They told me it was a place I would enjoy, a place that’s different and interesting and quirky,” said Giordano.

On that trip, Giordano met one of the main characters of her film, Coney carny Anthony Raimondi, owner of the now-defunct Jones Walk booth Gangster Cigars.

“I started talking to him right away, and I thought he was a wonderful, interesting character who knows a lot,” Giordano said.

It was from Raimondi that Giordano learned about the situation in Sodom by the Sea — Thor Equities owner Joe Sitt had bought up big tracts of amusement district turf that the Bloomberg Administration hoped to redevelop, and was demolishing longstanding attractions in an effort to force the city to either buy him out or rezone so he could sell the properties at a profit.

Over the next several months, Giordano met her other two protagonists — Sideshows by the Seashore founder Dick Zigun, and Dianna Carlin, owner of the Lola Star boutique on the Boardwalk. And the more people Giordano met and the more she learned, the longer her film became.

“Being in Coney Island, and learning more and seeing the complexity of the situation, I thought this would be a great story to tell,” said Giordano.

It was Carlin, with her efforts to preserve Coney Island’s endangered historic attractions, who became the central figure in the documentary — even though she was a relative newcomer to the Playground of the World compared to old-timers like Zigun and Raimondi.

“She’s the one who spearheaded all the activism,” Giordano said. “She in a way symbolizes the new Coney Island, a new entrepreneur who comes in and starts a unique business.”

Giordano’s film climaxes with the heartbreaking 2008 closure of Astroland theme park, but it ends four years later, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy — when Giordano was putting her last touches on the film.

“I was still editing and the storm happened, and I thought ‘That’s the last thing Coney Island needed,’ ” she said. “But then I thought ‘Coney Island is like that, it’s constantly struggling to survive.’ But somehow people keep on going, like Diana, and that’s what I ended with, because I really wanted to end on a positive note.”

“Coney Island: Dreams for Sale,” at Saint John’s Parish Hall [461 99th St. near Fort Hamilton Parkway in Bay Ridge, (347) 746–4002, www.aobff.org] May 10 at 7 pm. $10.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
Star of the show: Lola Star boutique owner Dianna Carlin’s activist efforts are in the spotlight of “Dreams for Sale.”
Photo by Robert Bailey