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Freak out! Coney job growth is strong — but not for carnies • Brooklyn Paper

Freak out! Coney job growth is strong — but not for carnies

The job market in Coney Island is hot — but the People’s Playground’s famous freaks need not apply.

Coney Island — and its sister neighborhood, Brighton Beach — added the most private-sector jobs in the borough last year, but the majority of those jobs weren’t at the neighborhood’s ballyhooed and tourist-friendly amusement centers, according to a new state economic study.

Two-thirds of the 1,840 jobs that were created in the oceanfront communities in 2010 were in the trucking, utilities, and education — leaving just one-third in the entertainment and retail industries, including the 239 jobs that came from the opening of Luna Park alone.

The Scream Zone, an adjacent amusement park that opened this summer, brought 400 more jobs.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said the amusement zone would start to show even better growth.

“A major part of why this area is a destination is the continued investment in the entertainment district from the private and public sectors,” said DiNapoli, whose office released the report. “Strong draws like Luna Park and Scream Zone will support hundreds of jobs in the community for years to come.”

But Surf Avenue stalwarts say they haven’t seen new employment opportunities anywhere else.

“I don’t know where the job growth is coming from,” said Shoot the Freak owner Anthony Berlingieri. “Outside of the people at Luna Park, I don’t see the big influence to hire people.”

But restaurants and stores along the Boardwalk have been slowly expanding, too — the neighborhoods added 660 retail jobs since 2003.

The new figures mark a stunning reversal from two years ago, when the neighborhoods lost 3,080 private sector jobs during the Great Recession.

City leaders beamed at the results.

“Coney Island is the original American playground,” said Borough President Markowitz. “The people may have changed but the spirit has stayed the same.”

And jobs aren’t the only things moving to the shore. People are, too.

More than 111,000 residents live in the sandy neighborhoods according to US Census data — an increase of almost 8,000 people since 2006.

Almost half of them are foreign born, originating from 50 different countries.

And many of them work for small businesses — the neighborhood’s primary job creators.

Three-quarters of the 4,030 firms in Coney Island and Brighton Beach have fewer than five workers, and 88 percent of them have fewer than 10 employees.

On top of that, attendance at Coney Island’s beaches has more than tripled from 2009 to 2010 to 12.8 visitors.

As the tourists have come, businesses opened and jobs followed — the number of private jobs rose from 21,000 in 2001 to 27,530 last year. In the same period, wages rose 60 percent.

Total private sector wages grew 8.5 percent, fueled by growth in new health care and information sector jobs.

But average salaries only rose 1.3 percent — as people working existing jobs had few raises.

The future could be even brighter if long-envisioned plans actually come to fruition.

The New York Aquarium is prepping a $100-million renovation, adding two new shark tanks and the city prepares to build a $64-million amphitheater in Asser Levy Park.

And several condominium and below-market-rate housing developments are set to come online in the next five years, allowing residents to remain off the Boardwalk as housing prices steadily increase.

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