Coney Fans Offer New Plans


image (cc) Mark Kehoe

A petting zoo for cloned animals? A giant apple orchard? A freak show with yuppies in a cage? Some futuristic-looking NeoGothic towers? When a group of people gathered in Our Lady of Solace Church on Mermaid Avenue last night to discuss the future of Coney Island, the lines between reality and fantasy was about as blurred and as dizzying as a ride on the Cyclone.

But perhaps only a good dose of fantasy will save Coney Island and the Astroland amusement park from whatever the next round of developers have in store for it. At least that’s what the Municipal Art Society hopes. Over the past few months, the organization has solicited public proposals and designs for the changing neighborhood’s future. (The contest closes today, but you can check the proposals out at Imagine Coney or see the Flickr images set.)

Jasper Goldman, who manages the organization’s Coney Island project, acknowledged that the many of the ideas were completely unrealistic, but said the point was to get the public talking — especially at a time when the city is just weeks away from beginning a rezoning process there. At least the ideas stayed true to the wacky, freaky nature of the place.

“Without the amusement park, people around here won’t have nothing to do,” a man was overheard saying to a friend.

After closing the famous Astroland amusement park at the end of last summer, the Bloomberg administration has been battling with Joe Sitt, who owns much of the waterfront property and has been kicking out businesses there. According to Goldman, Sitt was betting that his friend Anthony Weiner would help him develop the Coney Island waterfront into a Vegas-like shopping, entertainment, and hotel complex, but so far Sitt has produced nothing but rubble.

While the city’s plan involves keeping a segment of the waterfront for entertainment and retail uses, it hasn’t really said what kind of entertainment it has in mind. The city says it wants to “maintain the area’s amusement character,” whatever that means.