OPINION: Take that, Six Flags, Coney Island is coming back
If you haven’t been to Coney Island in years, you don’t know what you’re missing. The island, once famous for its Parachute Jump, the Cyclone, the gigantic Wonder Wheel and, of course, Nathan’s Famous Hot Hogs on the boardwalk, lost its magic for a while and became stained by graffiti and neighborhood street gangs.
But we are happy to say Coney Island is coming back.
The new Coney Island will be a year-round, safe destination drawing people from the five boroughs and beyond.
Just this week, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and NYC Parks announced that they are expanding the very popular Luna Park by 50 percent. The park, which returned to Coney Island in 2010, will include the addition of a giant log flume, a ropes course (circus), a public plaza and an arcade.
President and CEO of the EDC James Patchett said, “Coney Island is both a cherished summertime destination and an important economic engine for South Brooklyn. With these exciting new attractions and our ongoing investments in housing and infrastructure, Coney Island’s future has never looked brighter.” He predicts the Luna Park expansion will add even more fun for the thousands of families that flock to Coney Island each year.
At the same time, work is continuing on the construction of the first new hotel on Coney Island in decades, to stand at the site of the Shore Theater. For decades, the faded city landmark at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island attracted graffiti and homeless squatters.
City Councilman Mark Treyger said there had been complaints in recent years that “there are bricks falling down, pieces of glass falling down, people breaking in, staying inside.”
This will be a “boutique” hotel with about 50 rooms.
And in another sign of the comeback of Coney Island, a Brooklyn-based developer has announced that construction has begun on a commercial-residential tower on Sea Breeze Avenue. Sea Breeze Tower will contain more than 100 luxury apartments, as well as a fitness center and parking facilities.
This developer and others are betting big money on the continued comeback of Coney Island.
We would be remiss if we didn’t note the excitement that the remodeled New York Aquarium has brought to Coney Island.
It’s always Shark Week, 12 months a year, thanks to the Aquarium’s new shark exhibit, “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” The only thing separating visitors from the predators is about six inches of acrylic. The exhibit is an underwater world of zebra sharks and black-tipped reef sharks gliding amidst colorful coral.
The $158 million exhibit, which took four years to build, marks a giant step in the aquarium’s recovery after it was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Jon Forrest Dohlin, New York Aquarium director, hopes the exhibit can help visitors become more aware of the crucial role sharks play in the world’s oceans, including right in their own backyards.
The aquarium has always found a way to mix the educational with the fun.
Of course, in the summer, at the end of a day at the beach and enjoying the boardwalk, families can enjoy a Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball game at MCU Park, which opened in 2001. (Unlike their parents, the Mets, the Cyclones actually had a winning season.)
In addition, there are concerts, crazy parades and events happening all year long.
We are proud of Coney Island and excited about its future.
Flushing, Queens, is also experiencing a renaissance and resurgence. For the next two weeks, the neighborhood will host free walking tours designed to engage the more than 500,000 visitors expected to converge on the Billie Jean King Tennis Center for the ongoing U.S. Open, which ends Sept. 9
“Too many tennis fans come to the U.S. Open and never discover the world-class restaurants, shopping or history right next door,” said Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Choe.
We note, if you live in Queens and want a Coney Island experience, unlike going to Six Flags, you don’t have to take the New Jersey Turnpike to get here. Just hop on the D, F, N or Q or load up the car and take a short drive on the Belt Parkway and you’ll be there.
— Jack Ryan
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