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Dick Zigun, the unofficial mayor of Coney Island, fired by Coney Island USA

December 27, 2021 Jaime DeJesus,
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Dick Zigun, known to many as “The Unofficial Mayor of Coney Island,” has been fired from his position at Coney Island USA, effective Friday.

The not-for-profit organization was co-founded by Zigun in 1980, and he has served as artistic director. The group and Zigun have produced famous events, including the Mermaid Parade and the Coney Island Circus Sideshow.

Zigun announced via social media that he was fired on Christmas Day, stating that he might have more to say next week.

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“Thanks all for your love and support,” he wrote. “I am not able to comment further at this time so cannot answer some questions. I will have more to say soon, perhaps in a week.”

Following his announcement, the Coney Island USA Board of Directors responded to Zigun’s claim that he was fired on Christmas Day and shed light on the situation.

“Dick was not fired on Christmas day, although he wants you to think he was,” the group wrote on its website. “This is a shameless bid for sympathy, regardless of the facts. Given these false and disparaging statements, Coney Island USA must set the record straight.”

The group said that since 2018, Zigun has requested a transition for him and Coney Island USA.

“As part of this, Dick was integrally involved in choosing Adam Rinn (aka Adam Realman) to be his successor as artistic director,” they wrote. “During the shutdowns of the last two years, Dick remained fully employed as artistic director, save for a short period when everyone was furloughed.”

Things got complicated this past January, according to the board. The board’s statement charged that Zigun asserted that the rights to produce on Coney Island USA’s signature events – The Mermaid Parade and the Coney Island Circus Sideshow – were owned and controlled by him, not by Coney Island USA.

“This shocked the board since it was completely contrary to the working relationship and legal relationship between Dick and Coney Island USA,” the statement said. “This unacceptable claim and the economic demands that came with it created a very significant and ongoing conflict of interest between Dick and Coney Island USA and an existential threat to Coney Island USA.”

This created a conflict, according to Coney Island USA.

“Regrettably, the board had no choice but to terminate Dick’s employment, given these circumstances and the production schedules of Coney Island USA,” they wrote. “On December 2, 2021, Dick was informed of his termination, effective Dec. 31, 2021.”

The 2021 Mermaid Parade was scheduled to take place in September but was canceled due to COVID variant concerns.

Later, Zigun tweeted in response to an article, “Can’t wait to reply to the board of directors once my NDA (non-disclosure agreement) expires. Stay turned and fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride…” He also said on Facebook that he will be “setting up a Defense Fund crowdsourcing site soon.”

There was an outpouring of support for Zigun on social media. For example, Charles DeLutri commented on Facebook, “This is disgusting. Dick Zigun has been an advocate for Coney Island during the good times and the bad. When an industrial company wanted rides out of the Astroland lot, he was the first to say the rides must stay in Coney. Keeping the classic Ten in One Sideshow by the Seashore going, Coney Island Museum, and of course, the Historic Mermaid Parade a staple in Coney Island. Not to mention all the support he gave to all businesses in the Coney Island community.”
On Twitter, Mike and Clara Manumission commented, “No f—- way! Dick Zigun, you are the man. More power to you. Coney Island lives on in you!”

Zigun, who is well known for his robust knowledge of all things Coney, told this paper in 2015 that he got involved in the politics and land use process of the area when the Bloomberg administration rezoned Coney Island in 2009.

“Letting people know that besides the fun I have, I also represent the art director [which is the job’s biggest challenge],” Zigun said at the time. He added that his biggest achievement at that time was the fact that Coney Island USA owned two buildings, with one of them being made an official New York City landmark.

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