Coney Island’s historic Parachute Jump needs even more “bling.”
Borough President Markowitz is so under-whelmed by the $1.45 million his office spent to light up the landmark ride in 2006 that he has convinced the mayor and City Council to toss in $2 million toward yet another new lighting scheme for the long-defunct amusement.
Markowitz made the announcement of “Phase II” of the illumination project at his State of the Borough address on Feb. 7.
Markowitz spokesman Mark Zustovich explained that his boss was not the only one displeased with the first effort.
“Other people were [also] not happy with the artsy look to it,” said Zustovich, referring to the much-ballyhooed lighting that Markowitz unveiled in July 2006.
Markowitz’s disappointment is news to the original lighting designer, Leni Schwendinger.
“My design has been celebrated in publications worldwide, as well as receiving awards from professional engineering, construction, lighting and landmark associations,” she said in a statement that referred, in part, to her receipt of a Landmarks Conservancy award last year.
Indeed, when Schwendinger’s lighting scheme was unveiled, Markowitz said it signaled the Parachute Jump’s “return as a luminous landmark of the Brooklyn of today and generations to come.”
But within months, Markowitz started having buyer’s remorse.
“He wanted a little more of what he calls ‘bling,’” Zustovich said on Monday. “He wanted the Parachute Jump not only to be Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, but also to reflect the aesthetic of Coney Island.”
In February 2007 — just seven months after the initial unveiling — Markowitz told The Brooklyn Paper that the original lighting “was just Phase I — and the real bling-bling is in the works.”
By “in the works,” Markowitz meant he was busy convincing Mayor Bloomberg to allocate $1.4 million to the project. Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island) got the Council to chip in another $501,000.
The winning proposal won’t do away with Schwendinger’s Phase I lighting, but merely “enhance it,” according to the city “request for proposals” that was issued on Feb. 7.
Schwendinger’s design festooned the tower with 17 lamps and 150 lighting fixtures featuring 450 light-emitting diodes. She programmed the lights to run through six lighting schemes that span the spectrum from red-orange to green to blue, according to the seasons and holidays.
Two of those color schemes have already been disabled because they are “not bright enough,” according to the RFP, which calls for “a much brighter and very dramatic illumination of the Parachute Jump.”
Schwendinger remains less-than-pleased with an art critique from Markowitz.
“When a politician flies in the face of all this goodwill to divisively demand more ‘bling’ and less ‘art,’ New Yorkers should ask themselves: What’s wrong with this picture?”
Marty Levine, a member of the Community Board 13 and the Coney Island Local Development Corporation, said he’d rather see the money invested in something more pressing, like the dilapidated Boardwalk.
“More people use the Boardwalk than the Parachute Jump,” said Levine. “The $1.5 million could go a long way toward making [the Boardwalk] safer.”
The 262-foot-tall Parachute Jump was built for the 1939 World’s Fair, and relocated to Coney Island in 1941. For 40 cents, visitors would plummet for 15 seconds from the top of the jump to the ground below.
It closed in 1965 and was declared a city landmark in 1988.