On Thursday, September 30, CUNY Graduate Center and Save Coney Island are co-hosting “Heritage, Rides, Redevelopment: What’s Next for Coney Island?,” a discussion moderated by Pulitzer prize winning historian Mike Wallace. This is one panel discussion we’re actually looking forward to because the panelists are not academic talk, no-action kind of guys. They’re in it to win it, as we say on the midway.
Speakers include Valerio Ferrari, president and CEO of Zamperla USA and Central Amusement International (CAI), operator of Coney Island’s fabulously successful new Luna Park; David Malmuth, former Disney vice-president, developer of Times Square’s New Amsterdam Theatre, and chief presenter of the Municipal Art Society’s “Imagine Coney”; and Michael Immerso, historian and author of “Coney Island: the People’s Playground” and a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on the benefits of preserving Surf Avenue’s historic buildings.
Admission is free to the September 30th event, which is being held at CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan, but it’s advisable to make a reservation online. The invite reads: “What lies ahead for Coney Island? Join us for a panel discussion on the latest developments in Coney Island and on how Coney’s past can shape its future.”
We’re eager to hear what Valerio Ferrari has to say about his company’s plans for next season and beyond. Zamperla/CAI has a ten-year lease to operate amusements on the 6.9 acres the City bought for $95.6 million from Thor Equities. As we pointed out in our article for IAAPA Funworld, the new Luna Park is a partnership with the City of New York, which receives $100,000 annual rent plus an undisclosed percentage of the gross. This arrangement represents a successful new model for government-owned amusement parks, which are a rarity.
Yesterday, the Mayor’s Office released figures that more than 400,000 visitors took 1.7 million rides during Luna Park’s inaugural season, prompting the City and the park to extend the season through Halloween. We’re thrilled that Scream Zone, set to open next spring at the Boardwalk and Stillwell, will bring in more new rides, including two Zamperla coasters and a SlingShot as well as Go Karts, which have been missed in Coney since Thor evicted them.
It will be interesting to see where David Malmuth takes up the discussion. His plan for Coney Island’s amusement area at MAS’s Imagine Coney event in 2008 was a huge hit with fellow amusement advocates. Though we lost the battle with the City to expand the acreage rezoned for outdoor amusements, Malmuth is still the guy who dazzled us with statistics: “Park sizing analysis suggests that Coney Island will require a minimum of 25 acres to support 3.4 million visitors, ” he said. “It can’t be done in 9 acres. No possible way you can create the variety, and the diversity and joy and excitement with only 9 acres. Minimally you need 25 acres to support that level of attendance.” Malmuth’s stats and charts of park attendance can be found in this pdf available on MAS’s website.
At CUNY, Malmuth and historian Michael Immerso are expected to make a compelling economic case for preserving and reusing Coney Island’s historic buildings. Unfortunately the City has already issued demolition permits to Thor Equities for two of the buildings, the Bank of Coney Island and the Shore Hotel. The heartbreaker is that the permits were issued by the City’s Department of Buildings one day after the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) declared that Coney Island meets the criteria for recognition as a historic district in the State and National Registers of Historic Places. That’s why we’re singin’ “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle.”
But as Save Coney Island notes on their website: “It is a miracle that any of these buildings survived the fires, land speculation, and urban renewal plans that decimated Coney Island over the years. It would be a shame to lose these rare survivors, just when their rehabilitation could provide a necessary boost to Coney’s revival.”
“What’s Next for Coney Island?” is sponsored by the Environmental Psychology Program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the NYC Graduate Urban Research Network, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, Save Coney Island, the Historic Districts Council, Coney Island USA and the Coney Island History Project.
“Heritage, Rides, Redevelopment: What’s Next for Coney Island?”
CUNY Graduate Center, Proshansky Auditorium, 365 5th Ave at 35th St,
Thursday, September 30, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, free event, online registration.
Related posts on ATZ…
May 29, 2010: Photo Album: Preview of Coney Island’s New Luna Park
October 9, 2009: A Rare Peek Inside Endangered Old Bank of Coney Island