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Land baron: Thunderbolt could roar again for $90 million • Brooklyn Paper

Land baron: Thunderbolt could roar again for $90 million

Shark tank: Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Markowitz, and Councilman Domenic Recchia announced on Thursday that a new, planned exhibit at the New York Aquarium will contain 40 sharks and cost more than $100 million.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

The city wants to bring more amusements to Coney Island and the thrill rides could be built where the Thunderbolt rollercoaster once roared — if someone ponies up $90 million, a major Coney Island land owner declared this week.

Reports that new rides will be built at the site of the fictional home of “Annie Hall” character Alvy Singer are not true, said Horace Bullard, who owns the waterfront property where the ride-and-home once stood — but he’d be willing to let the city do what it wants with his land if it pays him what he thinks it’s worth.

According to Bullard, other nearby properties — specifically the Washington Baths site at Surf Avenue and West 21st Street — cost a pretty penny.

“They billed $90 million for that,” Bullard told us.

But until the Mayor offers him that sum, his property will not become a part of the city’s plan.

“What the city is doing is with the city’s land,” Bullard said, pointing out that the Economic Development Corporation is actually looking to develop the pair of tracts next door to his on W. 15th Street between Surf Avenue and Bowery Street, and between Bowery Street and the Boardwalk. “Our land is still our land.”

Bullard, who has been blasted for halting Coney Island’s resurgence by refusing to develop or sell properties like the long-vacant Shore Theater, purchased the Thunderbolt site in 1985 as part of a plan to rebuild the legendary Steeplechase Park.

That plan fell through, but now the city’s Economic Development Corporation wants new rides, games, and other attractions on an adjacent site where the Wild Mouse, a single-car coaster torn down in the late ’70s, and the Magic Carpet, a funhouse full of papier-mache figurines once stood.

“The reestablishment of a dynamic amusement area is a vital step towards realizing the vision of a re-imagined Coney Island,” the organization said in its request-for-proposals.

Longtime Coney Island boosters say they can’t wait to see new rides rise in Coney.

“There is nothing better that could go on those pieces of land than a major roller coaster,” said Dick Zigun, Coney Island’s unofficial mayor, who once suggested the city use its power of eminent domain to take property away from Bullard.

“Luna Park should go from the Cyclone to the Parachute Jump,” Zigun said.

Bullard said several people are interested in scooping up the Thunderbolt site, but a sale wasn’t imminent.

“We have some people kicking the tires,” said Bullard.

The Thunderbolt, built in 1925, was the brainchild of famed ride designer John Miller. The ride thrilled visitors for more than 60 years and ran right over the Kensington Hotel, which served as the fictional former home of “Annie Hall” protagonist Alvy Singer.

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani ordered the derelict roller coaster demolished in 2000, a move a federal court later declared illegal.

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