The most outspoken critic of the city’s plan to transform Coney Island from a seasonal, independent amusement area into a corporate-run, year-round pleasure zone has resigned in protest from the city agency guiding the redevelopment process.
While he was on the board of the Coney Island Development Corporation, Dick Zigun, the founder of the Coney Island USA sideshow, was a strong voice for preserving the flair of an independently owned amusement zone. And he was a constant opponent of developer Joe Sitt, whose own plan for a Xanadu of rides, housing and retail.
As a result, Zigun endorsed the city’s initial plan, which called for a 15-acre amusement park, hotels, and a privately developed zone for year-round attractions like bowling alleys and an enclosed water park.
But last month, the Bloomberg Administration downsized its ambitions to break the impasse with Sitt, who did not want to sell his land so the city could bring in someone else to build and operate the new theme park. Under the current proposal, there would be less land for rides and more land for developers to create high-rise hotels, and so-called “entertainment retail” of bowling alleys, arcades and movie theaters.
So Zigun quit in disgust.
“We worked four hard years for consensus, and I for one feel betrayed,” Zigun wrote in his resignation letter to Mayor Bloomberg.
The carny showman thinks “entertainment retail” is code for shopping.
“The CIDC plan promised a world-class tourist attraction with an entertainment core — lots of rides complemented by year-round nightclubs and enclosed water parks. Instead, the core will now be rezoned for a shopping mall full of Niketowns, Toys ‘R’ Us and four 30-story hotels,” Zigun wrote.
Of course, even without the irrepressible Zigun, the redevelopment of Coney Island goes on. In fact, Zigun’s resignation takes effect on June 24 at 6 pm, the exact time of the first public meeting on the redevelopment plan. That “scoping” meeting will help establish the criteria to assess the city’s plan in the official environmental impact study.
Zigun will be there, albeit in a different role.
The city’s Coney Island public scoping meeting will be on June 24 at 6 pm at Lincoln High School (2800 Ocean Prkwy., between West Avenue and Leif Erickson Drive in Coney Island). Call (212) 312-3718 for info.