Talk about an encore! Private builder funds Coney Island’s free summer-concert series for the next six years

Sock it to us! Soul Queen Aretha Franklin wowed a standing room-only crowd in Coney Island on Thursday.
Photo Steve Solomonson

It’s music to their ears!

Coney Island will host free summer concerts for the next six years, after a real-estate-investment firm handed over three-and-a-half-million dollars to keep the tunes coming, leaders of the city’s Economic Development Corporation announced on Thursday.

The seasonal shows at the Ford Amphitheater and the nearby Seaside Park, both on the Riegelmann Boardwalk between W. 21st and W. 23rd streets, drew some of the biggest stars in music in years past, according to the founder of Coney Island USA, who cheered the news of more forthcoming free entertainment.

“Coney Island not only rocks a gorgeous facility, we give famous acts away for free!” said Dick Zigun, who is also the neighborhood’s self-declared, unofficial mayor.

Developer iStar — which worked with the city to build the amphitheater, and to restore the landmarked Childs Restaurant next door into restaurant Kitchen 21 — will fork over $600,000 annually through 2025 to fund the seaside sounds, according to economic-agency reps, who said local Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island) and Borough President Adams helped to broker the deal.

The builder is no stranger to the neighborhood, where it is in the midst of erecting a nine-story, 135-unit residential development next to MCU Park, at Surf Avenue and W. 21st Street, which will include below-market rate apartments for the formerly homeless, domestic-violence victims, and recovering addicts, as well as an on-site social-services staff.

Officials have yet to determine the number of concerts for this summer, but iStar’s cash will likely fund four or five free shows each year based on previous years’ expenses, according to a rep from the agency.

Past performers at the concert series — which dates back to 1978, and moved to the amphitheater when it opened in 2016 — include the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, Bedford-Stuyvesant native Big Daddy Kane, and Puerto Rican salsa singer Tito Rojas.

News of the shows’ future funding comes after some tenuous years for the concerts, which officials cancelled in 2014, and struggled to find cash for ever since, according to the economic agency, which noted that Treyger and Adams secured hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city’s discretionary funding to keep the events up and running until iStar bigwigs stepped in.

The concerts are one of the community’s “most beloved and popular traditions,” according to Treyger, who cheered the private company for footing their bill after he worked to keep the shows alive for years.

“I am already looking forward to this summer’s shows, and am thrilled knowing our community will be able to enjoy them for years to come,” he said.

And Adams agreed, adding that this year’s and future performances will continue to make the People’s Playground a summer destination for locals and tourists alike.

“This is a big win for everyone invested in the future of America’s Playground,” the beep said.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.

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