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Coney does Disney?

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The state of Coney Island is not strong, one of its most vocal boosters said this week.

Unlike the presidential state of the union speech, which inevitably has a rosy tinge to it, the “State of Coney” speech given Sunday by the honky-tonk neighborhood’s unofficial mayor Dick Zigun was a withering assessment of the neighborhood’s current situation and its prospects.

“I don’t like this Coney Island with the empty lots,” thundered Zigun from a podium in the Coney Island Museum.

On this one point, Zigun agreed with city officials and private developers, like Thor Equities, that want to transform the underperforming amusement area into a 24-7-365 tourist destination.

But no leader, whether elected or self-proclaimed as in Zigun’s case, can speechify without unveiling solutions. And so the founder of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow told the audience that he has seen the light and it’s in Orlando.

Zigun even said he might be willing to accept a drastic measure like a Disney-style “pay-one-price” ticket system at a gated Coney Island theme park.

“I’m trying to redo Coney Island, Orlando-style” Zigun said, having just returned from a fact-finding mission to the Mecca of rides, resorts and cartoon vermin.

What Disney World and Universal Studios have in Central Florida — and the current Bloomberg Administration proposal for redeveloping Coney Island needs, according to Zigun — is a model of “clustering” with a centerpiece attraction surrounded by secondary rides, games and concessions.

If it means abandoning the “People’s Playground” tradition of pay-as-you-go attractions, so be it.

“I’m willing to accept that you may have to pay $60 to $80 to get into it.” He added, “New Yorkers will still be able to come here for $2 and go to the beach for free.”

While Zigun shares a common goal with the Bloomberg Administration, whcih wants to redevelop the sandy peninsula into a new, city-owned, open-air theme park alongside current rides like the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel, he differs bitterly over plans to include enclosed attractions like arcades, bowling alleys and movie theaters, as well as hotels and restaurants.

The city says this will be the backbone of making the area enticing to visitors during cold-weather months, but opponents say it will backfire.

“People are not going to fly here for movies and bowling,” Zigun said, hunched over a podium.

Zigun’s other ways to improve the redevelopment plan include:

• Running a trolley along Surf Avenue.

• Building bowling alleys and arcades on the ground floors of new buildings in the residential part of Coney Island.

• Erecting piers jutting into the ocean with rides and entertainment on top of them.

On Coney Island, existing elements like the New York Aquarium, the Cyclone and Keyspan Park could be the natural nucleus of several clusters and several more should be created.

“Five or six major attractions is all it takes for a full day of fantasy,” Zigun said.

Critics say Zigun might be the one full of fantasy.

“All his ideas are to get the city to spend money, but from what I hear New York is broke,” said Jim Quivey, who flew in from Florida just to hear Zigun’s talk.

City officials would not comment on any of Zigun’s specifics.

Updated 5:07 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Tom from Coney Island says:
Funny....Dick Zigun resigns after he GOT his BUILDING from the city for FREE....Amazing the chutzpa of these people like Dick Zigun. They make believe they are community activists all the while looking out for THEMSELVES...now because THOR equities and the rest don't want to be shaken down by Dick Zigun he decides to protest....funny his methods are similar to Al Sharptons...they protest all the way to the BANK.....
July 24, 2008, 6:08 am
Albret from Brooklyn says:
How really cares about what Mr Zigun thinks. he is the self appointed spokesman for Coney Island. Self appointed is the problem. He is part of the bigger problem of GREED and political corruption in the Coney Island. That is why Coney Island is in the state it is in today. Years of neglect and waste and 9 months out of the year - it's deserted. For him to agree with the notion of charging 50-100 dollars for entrance to a theme park is outrageous. How much does he really care about Coney Island? And the other self appointed spokeswoman for Coney Island-she too just got her kickback-the new Lola Starr skating rink...amazing how the hands of GREED and CORRUPTION work!!!!!!
July 24, 2008, 8:13 am
Lee from CI says:
Coney Island needs to be redone in the worst way. Status quo is not cutting it. I agree with and like the newest city plan. Coney needs a gated pay one price top notch theme park in the new amusement zone. It also needs lots of entertaiment retail like bowling, night clubs, shops, eateries and movies in or adjacent to the amusement zone. This will keep activity stimulated in the winter and provide year round jobs for residents.

Nostalgia is fun and whimsical, but having a financially feasible plan that benefits both visitors and locals is equally important.

Lots of talk about the visitors to Coney. What about the local residents who want opportunities, entertainment and jobs year round? The needs of their neighorhood should be a big part of this redevlopment.
July 24, 2008, 2:57 pm
Ace from New Utrecht says:
There were plenty of folks visiting Coney Island two Sundays ago. Honestly, it is the cost of a subway ride which allows people to bring their entire families for a day away without spending silly amounts of money.
July 25, 2008, 2:24 pm
Zoechesler from Sheepshead Bay says:
Careful urban planning will fix Coney Island and not simply giving in to all whims of developers. We made the mistake of listened to developers in our neighborhood and they ruined the place. They stripped it of all its local flavor, closed down the only businesses that were attracting outside customers, cut off access to much of the waterfront, and built a bunch of ugly cheap looking condos that now sit empty. Because of those developers the property value on my house is going down each day. I could have sold for a million and a half three years ago. Today I will be lucky if someone offers me $20,000. Our neighborhood is ruined and the developers are now nowhere to be found. If Coney Island is not careful it will end up just like Sheepshead Bay, a ghost town with a bunch of cheap looking empty buildings that pass for luxury condos.

Fred
July 25, 2008, 8:15 pm
Jim Quivey from Ft Lauderdale says:
I was misquoted here. What I was saying was that Dick Zigun's vision for Coney Island's restoration is dependant on the city of New York to pay for everything. Like the Statue of Liberty many years ago, what Coney Island needs is for big money types to step in and lead a fund raising effort to restore what's left. He needs to work with developers through comprimise to get the amusements he wants while still giving the land owners the ability to make money off their properties. Only by working together with all parties is an exciting new Coney Island amusement district going to become a reality!
July 26, 2008, 1:50 pm
Bruce from Coney Island says:
This issue here in Coney Island is not Dick, but a man who thirst for money and more money has now set his sights on Coney Island. Amusement land cheap, get it rezoned for residential, then he can make mega money selling former amusement park land that now million dollar condos can be built on.

Don’t protest Dick, protest Joe Sitt of Thor Equities, for he is the true destroyer of the people’s playground, for every year Coney Island amusements become less and less. Don’t believe him when he says he wants to have amusements, for he doesn’t know amusements. If you don’t believe me, just look at the pathetic attempts of what he tried to do with his land over the last two summers.

If Joe Sitt gets his way, the only thing left of Coney Island Amusements will be the name of the 30 story condo towers that will be built where Astroland existed for over 40 years.

Bruce
July 27, 2008, 12:21 am
bababooey from Coney Island says:
Wow what a shock? Bruce the minion geezer from coneyisland.com's message board is defending Dicky. Of course Sitt is evil, but you forget that Dicky was in bed with Thor's mighty hammer until Sitt screwed him and decided to not sell him a building. Then Big Dicky did a 360 and cut a deal with City Hall to get a free place to live. And that's wrong because he could have used his living quarters to hold activities.

July 27, 2008, 11:57 pm
Scott from Brooklyn says:
The allure of Coney Island is its amusements - people travel there to have fun. The area was only settled in the first place because of its beaches and when people discovered the fun of amusements at the world's fairs, these treasures were brought to Coney, and for these, Coney Island became world-famous. It's not famous for housing, or for empty lots. It's famous for rollercoasters and excitement - food, friends, and fun. The city already agreed to a deal that would keep Coney Island a place of wonder and fun, and they have to go back to that. If they don't, and they change what Coney Island is all about via rezoning, then Coney Island will just become another place where New Yorkers live. Then the area will lose its tourist attractions one by one, and the Coney Island we all know and love will be lost forever.
Aug. 5, 2008, 1:51 pm
Pat from Coney Island says:
Born and raised in CI traveled with the carnival until I was five my father was in the side shows hypnotist contortionist and magician with Sam Rosens Side Shows on Surf Ave.lived on 31st st. What they are trying to do to CI is not bring back the old culture they are looking at big business and thats not what CI is about it's about family spending the day together and enjoying the amenities of CI build theatres and skating rinks and indoor amusement park keep business all year long and residents employed revenue will come back Summer always brings the people the beaches are awesome and Nathans well don't let me be the one to tell you GREAT Give CI a chance to become what it was once stop trying to create something that big business wants think of us little people who would LOVE to say "are you going to CONEY today"
Oct. 5, 2008, 1 pm

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