Over the past two months, the owners of Ruby’s and Shoot the Freak have emerged as the spokesmen for the Coney Island 8, the eight Boardwalk businesses locked in a eviction battle with Zamperla’s Central Amusement International. But we’ve heard very little from the others. ATZ got in touch with Tina Georgoulakos, owner of Paul’s Daughter, which was founded as Gregory & Paul’s in 1962, for her view on the Boardwalk Brawl.
“I wanted so much to be a part of the New Coney Island but they didn’t even offer me a tiny little spot on the Boardwalk,” says Tina. “They didn’t even respond to me about my proposal, they didn’t even write my name on the eviction notice. And then to find out I’m being replaced by Sodexo, a company who paid out $100 million to settle lawsuits because of racism against their employees and fraud against New York schools. I feel like I’m in a bad B movie.”
Zamperla’s plan for Paul’s Daughter’s Boardwalk location at the southeast corner of Luna Park is a restaurant run by food management giant Sodexo. The French multinational is the world’s 22nd largest corporation. Since the park opened in May, the company has been Zamperla’s partner for “On Site Service Solutions,” setting up and managing food and beverage kiosks in the park.
In early December the Boardwalk businesses were asked to give access to architects from a firm that was hired by the EDC this summer to do existing condition reports on each of the Boardwalk properties. They were requested to provide access for them since the city needed these reports for insurance purposes.
“The architects did complete floor plans and elevations, they then turned those drawings over to Sodexo,” says Tina. “One of the architects asked Sodexo rep Sandy Boyd if Sodexo was going to be a year-round restaurant and she replied ‘oh no, it will be seasonal, there aren’t enough people here off season.’ Of course being open all year is what CAI has been pitching to the public so it’s just another lie.”
After the shock of finding out that her location at the Boardwalk entrance to the park would become a Sodexo-run restaurant, Tina was disapppointed that the City and Zamperla didn’t at least offer her another space, even a smaller one, on the Boardwalk. If another location had been offered she would have a smaller menu and take the Burger people from the roof and put them together, along with the iconic signage, she says.
The lack of support from City officials and some comments in the media have also been hurtful. In Monday’s NY Post, Councilman Domenic Recchia said, ‘I understand the sentiment that these businesses have been here a long time, but they also made a lot of money paying cheap rent all these years. If they really cared, I know firsthand that they had plenty of chances to buy these properties and fix them up, but they never did.”
“I wish Recchia had called me. I imagine he’s going to be very angry when he finds out he was misinformed,” says Tina. “It hurts me to hear such untruths about my store Paul’s Daughter. There aren’t any violations against it. I’ve been handcuffed by one year leases for years and years. And I would have given anything to have been given the opportunity to purchase the property but it was never offered and by the way it sold for
32 30 million dollars to Sitt. I pay $100,000 for seven months. I guess some people don’t think that’s a lot. I proposed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to modernize my iconic store.”
Paul’s Daughter is located on the former Astroland property and was able to remain there after Sitt bought the land. In 2009, the city purchased the property along with two additional lots on Stillwell for $95 million and leased them to Zamperla, which pays $100,000 annual rent plus a small percentage of the gross receipts to the City. According to CAI’s contract with the City, Luna Park also received a subsidy of $5.7 million from the City for “among other things, facilitating the purchase of certain equipment necessary for the Tenant to operate the Premises as a first class amusement park.”
“I would have been elated to share in Valerio’s vision for Coney Island only he kept it a secret,” said Tina. “If they were even entertaining the idea of me staying wouldn’t they have shared their vision with me?” On the day of eviction, Valerio Ferrari, Zamperla USA CEO, told ATZ: “They didn’t have the vision that we have for the Boardwalk. It’s a business decision.” He said Zamperla/CAI’s vision is to revitalize the Boardwalk by making it a lively place open 365 days a year. But it’s also a matter of investment dollars.
Says Tina: “It breaks my heart to know that not only is my city, my beloved New York, not helping me, they are trying to tell lies about my business to make me look bad. I haven’t a clue as to why. Ask anyone in Coney Island about my dad aka ‘The Chief.’ I don’t know a soul who doesn’t adore him. Forty-one crazy, wonderful years on the Boardwalk. I love NY….. I love Brooklyn and I love the view from my store even more. I wish someone could help me stay.”
Related posts on ATZ…
November 13, 2011: The End of Paul’s Daughter As We Know It–Will They Return?
October 8, 2011: Photo of the Day: “The Chief” of the Coney Island Boardwalk
November 21, 2010: Goodbye (Or Maybe Not?) to My Coney Island Equivalent of Proust’s Madeleine
November 10, 2010: This Week in Coney Island: Party at Paul’s Daughter, Hypocrisy at NYCEDC