Coney Island is the next mayor’s problem

The Brooklyn Paper
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It’s tempting to see Tuesday’s announcement of new rides this summer to Coney Island as the culmination of a decades-long effort to revitalize the area’s internationally known amusement core.

Indeed, most of the media coverage of the unveiling of 19 temporary, trucked-in rides suggested that Mayor Bloomberg had finally saved Coney Island.

Forgive us if we’re skeptical of yet another bit of ballyhoo from yet another carny barker. The real work — the hard work, that is — of “saving” Coney Island is many years and hundreds of millions of dollars away.

• • •

This page was long critical of the Bloomberg Administra­tion’s approach to Coney Island, disagreeing with the need to buy privately owned land — at a cost of close to $110 million in taxpayer money — when the area’s main landowner had his own plan for an all-year Xanadu of rides, retail, indoor attractions and hotels.

But now that the city has committed to the project by buying up those parcels, the Bloomberg Administration is fully accountable for its long-term vision.

And therein lies the problem.

Even under the best-case scenario, Coney Island’s permanent amusement revitalization is more than a decade away. Indeed, what was initially thought of as a two- or three-year interim lease on the former Astroland site is actually a 10-year contract for Central Amusement International, the same company that runs the popular — though seasonal — Victorian Gardens theme park in Central Park every summer.

Bloomberg, however, is in his (dare we say it?) final term as mayor, meaning that his successor will actually be charged with implementing the mayor’s grand and very expensive plan to restore Coney Island to a luster not seen since before the wars. And despite all the local officials’ optimism, it is very much unclear whether any amount of public money can bring back — or should even try to bring back — a magic that has been evaporating since the advent of low-cost jet travel and higher-tech entertainment options.

Of course, we wish Central Amusement International the best for this summer. The company’s rides will no doubt bring a great deal of excitement to the beach — though not, as the history-challenged mayor said on Tuesday, make it “more fun than ever” (emphasis added).

But after the crowds from the next three summers have gone and the rides have been stored away for the season, the next mayor will have to follow through on this mayor’s promises. Count us as very skeptical.

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Reader Feedback

Gangala from The hood says:
Where is coney island located?
Feb. 18, 2010, 10:37 am
common sense from Brooklyn says:
Coney Island was NEVER a year round destination. And never will be. Government involvement in the residential sections is what helped depress the area in the first place.
Feb. 18, 2010, 12:21 pm
al pankin from downtown says:
how many of the readers of this paper go to coney island? not is a wasteland that needs Moses not mayor Bloomberg to turn that place around..not too many cities in this world would have put city projects near the ocean, usually people pay big bucks to live near the sea...not in new york...that's why it's broke.
Feb. 18, 2010, 3:51 pm
Eazy D from Sheepshead says:
Good piece, no joke
Feb. 18, 2010, 6:41 pm
Jeff from Brooklyn says:
What is the problem? You're all very cynical and not helping things. I am very glad that the city had the integrity to care about this historical area and is making progress with it. The article and comments above are not helpful to Coney Island or Brooklyn.
Feb. 18, 2010, 6:47 pm
J. from The Block says:
To thrive again, Coney Island needs a year round combo of freak, sleaze, middle brow and high end entertainment. I'd zip down there in the dead of winter for comedy clubs, indoor rides, some burlesque, good restaurants, concerts, sports events (half pipe, anyone?)or an overnight stay in a fancy hotel or two.
Feb. 19, 2010, 10:06 am

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