The Redevelopment Of Coney Island

With the sale of the Astroland park, the once popular seaside amusement district is facing an uncertain future.

"Once, Coney Island was an immense, chaotic, overpowering extravaganza of rides, shooting galleries, hot-dog stands, a six-story hotel shaped like an elephant, and three amusement parks that became the stuff of myth: Luna, Steeplechase, Dreamland.

By 1966, all of them had vanished, victims of fire, the wrecker's ball and a long-term decline in the fortunes of Coney Island. Gone, also, were the fun-seeking hordes who had devoured them, driven out by decades of decay that culminated in a bloody riot in 1968.

The amusement area, which once sprawled from West 37th Street all the way to what is now the New York Aquarium, shrank to its present size, from Surf Avenue to the beach, between West 10th and 16th Streets. Huge tracts even of that stretch are vacant now, a landscape of weeds, fractured concrete and plywood fencing.

Nobody is happy with this situation. Local residents grieve over the neighborhood's tattered state. The city wants to make Coney Island a magnet again, hoping, in the way of the Bloomberg era, to encourage private investment that will restore it to the roughneck glory of its midway and freak-show days.

In 2005, a prospective developer did indeed appear on the scene. Thor Equities, under its principal, Joseph Sitt, has bought up about half of the entertainment district in the critical blocks between KeySpan Park and the Cyclone, envisioning an investment of up to $2 billion. Late last year, Thor made its most monumental (and controversial) purchase when it bought up the land beneath Astroland, Coney's largest surviving amusement area, and proposed to redevelop it with a bigger and brighter array of indoor and outdoor amusements stretching from Surf Avenue to the Boardwalk."

Full Story: The Call of the Wild Ride

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