Coney Island seemed fixed in time for decades, but now it’s in the middle of an amusing renaissance — and it definitely deserves another look this summer.
Central Amusements International, the company the city tapped to remake the People’s Playground into a glitzy, year-round tourist destination, expanded the Scream Zone amusement park and is bringing several new stores and restaurants to the Boardwalk after closing several old-school shops that lost a legal battle to keep their spaces.
Boardwalk icons Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter were allowed back, but the historic amusement district now boasts a new go-kart track, a new ride with sweeping views of the beach, and a trio of Brownstone Brooklyn eateries set to open later this summer.
You can keep track of all these changes with our handy guide to the new Coney Island:
Boardwalk Flight: Central Amusement expanded its Scream Zone, the amusement park that opened last year. Several new rides can be found in a lot between Stillwell Avenue and W. 15th Street — the crown jewel of which is Boardwalk Flight, a ride combining elements of bungee jumping and skydiving that swings harnessed thrill-seekers between two 110-foot tall towers at speeds of up to 60-miles-per-hour. It’s the perfect way to get a bird’s-eye view of Coney Island — literally.
Scream Zone [Coney Island Boardwalk, between Stillwell Avenue and W.15th Street (718-373-5862]. Visit www.lunaparknyc.com.
Coney Island Raceway: The expanded Scream Zone will also feature a new Coney Island Raceway, a 900-foot racing track with switchbacks and hairpin turns that should satisfy Coney Island visitors desperate for the go-kart experience since Go-Kart City was razed to the ground in 2007.
Cha-Cha’s Steeplechase: John “Cha-Cha” Ciarcia — whose former honky-tonk watering hole Cha-Cha’s Bar was kicked off the Boardwalk last year — is making a big Coney comeback with his self-titled amusement park that will feature more than ten rides, animals and a new tavern called Club Atlantis Bar. Ciarcia also opened a restaurant on Surf Avenue between W. 15th Street and Stillwell Avenue.
Cha-Cha’s Steeplechase, Surf Avenue, between Stillwell Avenue and W. 12th Street.
Grimaldi’s Pizzeria: DUMBO’s premiere pizza spot — a longtime tourist hangout at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge — is opening an outpost on Surf Avenue across from Luna Park. The restaurant is guaranteed to give longtime neighborhood pizzerias a run for their money.
Grimaldi’s Pizzeria (Surf Ave., between W. 10th Street and W. 12th Street). Visit www.grimaldis.com.
Tom’s Restaurant: The legendary Prospect Heights eatery known for its burgers and egg creams is opening a diner on the Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue, on the site of old Cha-Cha’s Bar.
Tom’s owner Jimmy Kokotas said the restaurant will open this summer after a fancy renovation — but promised the place will still have plenty of old-school, honky-tonk charm.
“It’ll be Tom’s with a little bit of a seafood twist,” Kokotas said.
Tom’s Restaurant (Coney Island Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue).
Zito’s: Park Slope eatery Zito’s Sandwich Shoppe will open a gourmet sub shop on Jones Walk near the newly revamped Deno’s Wonder Wheel.
The hoagie hub will serve $11 Six Point braised roast beef sandwiches and other high-end deli fare.
Zito’s co-owner Marcello Bucca said he’s confident a new breed of Coney fans will pony up for the expensive heroes. “New people are coming in to Coney Island,” Bucca said. “We’re banking that the area’s changing.”
Visitors who prefer classic Coney food should head for Nathan’s expanded Boardwalk food stand at W. 12th Street.
Zito’s Sandwich Shoppe [Jones Walk between Bowery Street and Surf Avenue (718) 499-2800]. Visit www.zitossandwichshoppe.com.
In a controversy to end all controversies, the city’s Public Design Commission gave the Parks Department permission to pave over a section of the Boardwalk between Coney Island Avenue and Brighton 15th Street.
The city is planning to install a 12-foot-wide concrete lane and a 19-foot pathway built out of recycled plastic lumber, after testing the materials at two parts of the walkway in 2011.
The project is part of a $30-million renovation of the aging promenade, which opened in 1923.
You can test the new Boardwalk out for yourself and see if it affects your experience at the People’s Playground, but critics argue that the synthetic materials will ruin the look and feel of the historic span.
“It’s not going to be a Boardwalk anymore!” resident Sabina Mazur says.
Reach reporter Daniel Bush at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.