Brooklyn Boro

Reopening of Coney amusement district will help business community as well

April 12, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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The Coney Island Amusement Area’s 2021 season is now in full swing, with Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island Cyclone back in action after a year’s hiatus and the Brooklyn Cyclones minor-league baseball team poised to play its first 120-game season.

Beyond the fun, however, is more good news: The revival of the amusement area after a year of coronavirus will likely benefit the economic well-being of the Greater Coney Island area as a while.

After opening-day ceremonies including the yearly Blessing of the Rides and speeches from various dignitaries, the Eagle spoke to Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and  Maya Haddad Miller, co-owner of Coney Island’s Brooklyn Beach Shop, which sells beach-related gear and also prints T-shirts.

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Last year, while the beach was open after few months and several boardwalk stores, such as Nathan’s, were open, the two amusement parks were closed due to concerns about the coronavirus. Asked how the stores that were open fared financially, Miller said, “They had a terrible season and barely broke even. Most of the stores that were able to reopen lost 80 percent.”

Maya Haddad Miller, co-owner of Coney Island’s Brooklyn Beach Shop, with Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Randy Peers in front of the Beach Shop on the amusement area’s opening day. Photo courtesy of Randy Peers

Because Coney Island is a seasonal tourist attraction, she added, good weather, amusement rides and tourism, both local and international, are all essential for business. “The loss of international tourism last year hurt us quite a lot,” she said.

Asked about the Cyclones, Peers said that even with the longer season (the Cyclones, a former short-season single-A team, are now a “high single-A team”), the baseball season will still be a struggle because of limited seating. MCU Park will open at 20 percent capacity, according to news reports.

Even though the Cyclones and the amusement rides are seemingly separate attractions, some people make an entire day of going to Coney, getting both attractions in, Peers said.

Among the changes in the greater Coney Island area during the past few years, he added, are more residential buildings, such as John Catsimatidis’ Ocean Drive complex and a luxury apartment development that is slated to rise in what is now the parking lot of Gargiulo’s Restaurant. More residents, in turn, will create more demand for shops and restaurants.

“Every year, we’ve been open a little longer for the season [because of increased demand],” said Miller.

While Brighton Beach is a separate community from Coney Island, it is within a short walking distance on the boardwalk, and the spillover from a growing Coney economy is likely to reach Brighton as well, Miller said. “Many times, people who are visiting Coney Island ask me how they can get to Brighton Beach afterward.”

Among the officials who were at the reopening on Friday were Mayor Bill de Blasio, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Councilmember Mark Treyger, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver.

“Coney Island comes back, the rides come back and now New York City will come back. You can feel it,” the mayor said before taking a spin on the Cyclone himself.

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