Coney Island's Facelift Manages to Keep the Wrinkles

A city led effort to revitalize Coney Island's famous boardwalk and amusements, started amid much angst from longtime business owners, has managed to achieve a delicate balance somewhere between Disney and seedy, writes Joseph Berger.

As the birthplace of the American amusement industry (and the hot dog!), Coney Island is sensitive to its history and its place as an accessible refuge for the full spectrum of classes, colors, and cultures that make up New York's exotic melting pot. So when the city of New York, and a new amusement partner Central Amusements, began efforts to refurbish Coney Island a few years ago, many were guarded about the aims and outcomes of such an effort.

"Skeptics who feared that replacing or freshening the woebegone Boardwalk shops, restaurants and rides would mean the Disneyfication of Coney Island - a swapping of its distinctive sizzle for a more standardized glitz - may have to wait awhile to see their fears realized," writes Berger. "While the overhaul engineered by the city is evident throughout the seaside neighborhood, Coney Island has so far avoided becoming too sanitized and tidy, many patrons say."

Granted, the revitalization that has taken place thus far is a long way from the extravagant $1.5 billion makeover planned by developer Joseph Sitt as recently as three years ago, which would have dramatically changed the area. While Coney Island enthusiasts were right to fear the encroaching transformation of Coney Island that Sitt's plan promised, the recent effort, "has been developed in a manner consistent with Coney Island's history," said Seth W. Pinsky, president of the Economic Development Corporation.

Full Story: Coney Island, Renewed but Recognizable

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