Coney Island’s Big Changes

The New York City Council has approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to redevelop Coney Island, but what it means for a planned amphitheatre is unclear.

Coney Island, despite its historic significance and longtime attraction to tourists, is not what it used to be. The entertainment hub still has carnies and the Cyclone roller coaster built in 1927, but it has lost such attractions as Astroland, an amusement park that included a rocket ship ride.

That all has been replaced by “weed-filled lots dominated by tents that on weekends house vendors, hawking $5 bikinis and homemade cupcakes,” as noted by the Los Angeles Times in its “Hometown U.S.A.” feature.

Although activists are reportedly furious at the decision, the council voted overwhelmingly July 29 to turn Coney Island into a year-round entertainment complex that will include a new amusement park, high-rise hotels, restaurants, retail stores, movie theatres and the first new roller coaster in nearly a century.

City officials are now negotiating with developer Joseph Sitt. The city will need his property – the former grounds of Astroland and the current location of the flea market – to fully develop the plan.

The city had separate plans to build a $64 million amphitheatre, designed by Grimshaw Architects. Whether the new complex would include the shed is uncertain, and a representative for Grimshaw was unavailable at press time.

Meanwhile, Coney Island is home to the circus, with Feld Entertainment maintaining a version of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey on the grounds.