The eight Coney Island Boardwalk businesses that are being shuttered by their landlord may have an unlikely savior: state Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brighton Beach).
Kruger doesn’t even represent Coney Island, but he took time off from addressing federal accusations that he sold political clout at high-priced fundraisers to pledge his loyalty to owners of the kitschy shops. In a Nov. 22 meeting on the Boardwalk, Kruger told the owners that he plans to work with the city and their landlord to negotiate a deal for them to stay on the Boardwalk.
“These eight stores have unique circumstances and should be allowed to stay,” Kruger said. “I’m optimistic that we can work something out with the city and the developer.”
The meeting with Kruger was a last-ditch effort by business owners to get at least one politician to take on their cause. Their leases expired Nov. 21, as developer Central Amusement decided to give them the boot to make way for sit-down restaurants and year-round stores that will abut a major theme park called the Scream Zone.
“Sen. Kruger is the only politician that’s come to talk us,” said Tina Georgoulakos, co-owner of Gregory and Paul’s, a concession stand.
“He can open the dialogue about our situation to a larger office,” said Mike Sarrel, whose 76-year-old Ruby’s Bar opened this Saturday despite its expired lease. “We’re just burger-flippers and bartenders, but he’s a politician with access to other politicians.”
Kruger is an odd person for shopkeepers on whom to pin their hopes, as he failed the first time he tried to deride the city’s plan to revitalize Coney Island. Kruger vehemently opposed Mayor Bloomberg’s use of taxpayer dollars to buy out then-landlord Joe Sitt, who had already spent more than $100 million to buy land in Coney’s amusement zone. Bloomberg wanted to bring in a developer who would put forth his vision for a ritzy theme park and entertainment district, but Kruger tried to derail his plot by bussing in opponents from surrounding neighborhoods to bash the proposal at a public forum.
But Kruger couldn’t fight City Hall, as Bloomberg bought the 10.5 Coney Island acres from Joe Sitt for $95.6 million. That deal then paved the way for Central Amusement to run the show and kick out the businesses who are now looking for Kruger to be the hero. Still, the state senator seems to think that he can help.
When asked about how his contentious relationship with the Bloomberg administration would affect his efforts to save the Boardwalk businesses, Kruger responded, “My relationship with the Bloomberg administration is not tense,” and, “The mayor approaches every new circumstance with a clear vision.”