LOCKOUT! Joe Sitt shuts down his own Coney amusement park

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Developer Joe Sitt abruptly shut down the Dreamland amusement park on his land in Coney Island, the site of the old Astroland theme park, last Friday morning, saying that the operator owed more than $500,000 in rent.

The lockout on Surf Avenue and West 10th Street made about a dozen rides and attractions off limits, perhaps for the rest of the short-lived season, which winds down after Labor Day.

Since the lockout, Dreamland’s operator, Anthony Raffaelle, has been in court trying to get a judge to declare that Sitt acted illegally, but Monday’s hearing was inconclusive. Another session was set for Thursday.

Raffaelle admits that he owes around $500,000 in rent, but said Sitt’s lockout was not only illegal, but hostile.

“It’s so late in the season, if they had beef with me, now is not the time,” he said.

Sitt disagreed, saying that he, not Raffaelle or the kids being turned away from the once-thriving amusement area, is the victim here.

“Dreamland has not come close to meeting its financial obligations in many months,” said Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Sitt’s company, Thor Equities. “We are hopeful that Dreamland will soon pay its rent [and] re-open.”

Raffaelle, who has long been a behind-the-scenes presence in Coney Island, also ran Sitt’s attractions that also closed early last year. This year he planned to be on the Astroland site with Ringling Bros, but when Sitt’s negotiations with Ringling broke down, Sitt made him take the whole lot, he said.

Last weekend, he and his workers remained angry about the shutdown.

“We just showed up for work and couldn’t get in,” said Lori Vise, who worked at Dreamland. “It’s not fair for the visitors of Coney Island. We want it back open.”

And didn’t anybody think of the children?

“It’s not right to close down in the middle of the season,” said Richard Vowers of Sheepshead Bay. “It’s going to disappoint a lot of kids. My girlfriend’s son likes the helicopter ride and the train ride.”

Dreamland sits behind locked gates on what was the Space Age theme park Astroland, which Sitt shut down in a lease disagreement with the land’s former owner, Carol Albert. Albert had sold the land to Sitt two years earlier, but continued to operate the amusement park on the site until last year.

Sitt still hopes to redevelop his holdings in Coney Island into a 24-7-365, Vegas-style Xanadu with rides, retail and hotels. But last week’s lockout turned even Sitt’s longtime ally, Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island), into a critic.

“This is a heartless person who only cares about money,” Recchia told the Daily News on Saturday.

Updated 5:14 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated to include an amazing quote from Domenic Recchia.
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Reasonable discourse

Rocker 44 from Brooklyn says:
So sad what has become of a great NYC treasure.

Joe Sitt Sucks!
Aug. 21, 2009, 5:35 pm
phil from bay ridge says:
he does not suck, times change, he paid good money for the property and deserves to collect rent. if the rent is not paid the tenant gets evicted.
Aug. 21, 2009, 7:12 pm
Joe from Coney says:
It is illegal to lock someone out the way Sitt did. Sitt would have to go to court to prove that he is owed money and must get the courts permission to serve eviction papers on the tenant. You cant cut locks, you cant keep people from their property, you cant remove someones property without a court order.
Aug. 21, 2009, 8:59 pm
Joe from Coney says:
BTW, this is the second time Sitt did this to his tenants in Coney.
Aug. 21, 2009, 9 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
I'm not sure Joe, but commercial property has different eviction rules. Sitt may be in the right.
Aug. 21, 2009, 9:18 pm
Big Lou from Sheepshead Bay says:
I bet the deadbeat con artist who got evicted is going to try getting cash by running dice games in the Bowery. This is one case where The Sith is right.
Aug. 22, 2009, 12:15 am
Joe from Coney Island says:
no, you still need court approval. For example, i saw a court notice about the former gas station at the corner of West8th and Sheepshead Bay road, across from Luna Park. There was a judges order saying because they owed x amount of rent, the owner of the land is taking possesion on this date.

you cant hire thugs, cut and change locks, its the law.

The only question now is, will sitt get away with it? When he did it to the businesses at Henderson bldg and his other tenants on Surf, they were mom and pop businesses. now he took on geren, they will go to court over this. they will sue for illegal lock out.
Aug. 22, 2009, 1:35 am
WhorEquities from Brooklyn says:
Actually, we here at Whor Equities are very kind people. We first thought about burning down Dreamland but instead we just decided to cut locks and evict people. Why do we do this? We get bored.

Is anyone interested in renting some property? We have sky-high rates and we'll evict you soon. Sounds great, right?
Aug. 22, 2009, 2:52 am
Mark from Coney says:
Joe is right, you need a sheriff to evict someone, post a judges order, padlock the place. I have seen this numerous times in the city. Even when CIUSA bought their building, they had court ordered paperwork affixed to stores that they want evicted.

If Sitt's hand isnt slapped over this, then we know some official is running interference for Sitt, not hard to figure out what public official is on Sitt's payroll.
Aug. 22, 2009, 8:37 am
jerry from brighton beach says:
Sitt thinks he's above the law. He needs to go through the process to evict & then only a City Marshall can put a lock on the door! Sitt can be sued by the leasee for this infraction. Big Time!
Aug. 24, 2009, 10:20 am

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