The owner of the Shoot the Freak booth — longtime Coney carny Andrew Berlingieri — crashed the Mike Bloomberg-Joe Sitt lovefest at City Hall yesterday to complain that the city’s billion-dollar dream for the amusement zone doesn’t include guys like him.
Though not an accredited member of the media, Berlingieri managed to asked a question during the Q&A that followed Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement of the city’s $95.6-million purchase of part of Sitt’s holdings to jumpstart a “comprehensive redevelopment” of the so-called People’s Playground into an all-year, modern amusement park run by a single outside theme park operator.
“Is there a place for us?” asked Berlingieri, referring to himself and other Boardwalk carnies who were, until Thursday, tenants of Sitt.
The mayor and economic development officials said that there would be a place for Berlingieri’s booth this summer, but beyond that, no one knows. Today, the city will formally seek bids from big-time amusement operators to do interim attractions in Coney Island — but eventually, the 12-acre city park will be operated as a single theme park run by one big company.
That kind of thing worries the man who turned a vacant Boardwalk lot into a great Coney attraction — a place where you can shoot paintballs at a live human target.
“It’s like anything else,” said Berlingieri, who also owns an open-air beer garden. “We were the ones who stayed with Coney Island through the bad times, and kept the spirit alive.
“And we’re the first to go when someone gets a big idea.”