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Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the start of construction on Steeplechase Plaza, a 2.2-acre public open space which will serve as the western entryway to the revitalized amusement district and be home to the restored B&B Carousell, Coney Island’s last remaining historic carousel. Steeplechase Plaza will be located on the site of the former Steeplechase Amusement Park, between W. 16th Street and W. 19th Street, in the footprint of the landmarked Parachute Jump and across from the historic Steeplechase Pier. Once the plaza is completed, visitors will be able to enter the amusement area by walking directly underneath the landmarked Parachute Jump.
“The rebirth of Coney Island has created hundreds of jobs for New Yorkers and contributed millions to the city’s economy,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The construction of this new open space marks another major investment that will help continue the rebirth and eventually lead to the transformation of Coney Island into a year-round destination.”
“After a record setting year for attendance at Coney Island, I am thrilled to break ground on Steeplechase Plaza, something that will surely help attract even more people to this Brooklyn gem,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “It’s projects like this that are getting our economy back on the right track and helping beautify one of our city’s most historic and memorable destinations.”
“With another season of record attendance in the books, the start of construction at Steeplechase Plaza marks yet another significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to revitalize Coney Island,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky. “This new open space - located in the footprint of the former Steeplechase Amusement Park and accessible through the base of the iconic Parachute Jump - will serve as an important link to Coney’s past, and a symbol of Coney Island’s bright present and future.”
“Coney Island is one of the City’s most iconic attractions, with over 11 million visitors to its beach and boardwalk last summer,” said Commissioner Benepe. “The revitalization of Steeplechase Plaza will ensure that the area remains a source of pride for Brooklynites, all New Yorkers, and visitors. We look forward to offering families a new way to enjoy the beach, by restoring a historic carousel, moving it into the park, and constructing a brand new pavilion to host visitors and community events alike.”
“Like Luna Park, the name ‘Steeplechase’ is synonymous with the storied history of Coney Island, and as someone who grew up with Coney and Steeplechase Park, I am thrilled that construction is underway on Steeplechase Plaza,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “And soon, we expect the Parachute Jump—a centerpiece of the Plaza—to be lit and ‘bring the bling’ to Coney Island. Bravo to Mayor Bloomberg, the EDC and its president Seth Pinsky and all of our elected officials and community partners working together on the Coney Island Revitalization Plan—ensuring that Coney’s best days as America’s Playground for the 21st century are yet to come.”
"I'm very excited to see the construction of the Steeplechase Plaza get underway,” said Council Member Dominic M. Recchia, Jr. “The building of this plaza works in concert with other efforts made by myself, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and other city agency members to make Coney Island a year-round entertainment destination. Steeplechase Plaza will not only serve as a reminder of Coney Island's historic past but also serve as a beacon for our future as we continue to revitalize this neighborhood for the 50,000 people who call it home."
“Today’s groundbreaking on Steeplechase Plaza is the next great step in the rebirth of Coney Island’s legendary Amusement District,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler. “This project will help reinforce Coney Island’s place as a major destination for New Yorkers and visitors alike, and will pave the way for future improvements and attractions. I applaud Mayor Bloomberg and EDC for their significant work in making this happen.”
“Coney Island is one of the greatest spectacles and public spaces in New York, so you can imagine what a thrill it has been to work on its revitalization!” said David Rockwell, founder and CEO of Rockwell Group. “Our work on Steeplechase Plaza, including the B&B Carousell pavilion, really focused on illuminating the already colorful and layered history and identity of Coney Island, and making it as accessible and visible as possible.”
In Steeplechase Plaza, between the Parachute Jump and B&B Carousell, there will be an open public plaza, designed by AECOM and Rockwell Group, large enough to host a variety of events, both formal and informal, from gatherings for the Mermaid Parade to the Boardwalk Barrels of Fun. The public plaza will be at grade with the boardwalk, enabling easy integration with visitors to the beach or boardwalk. Additional features of Steeplechase plaza include Luna Forest, a shaded area to sit and enjoy the surroundings, custom light fixtures, as well as access under the Parachute Jump structure for a one-of-a-kind view of the historic landmark. Construction of the 2.2 acre plaza is expected to cost approximately $29.5 million and create 144 construction jobs. The plaza is expected to be open for the 2013 season.
The restored B&B Carousell will be located on the eastern side of Steeplechase Plaza, and housed in a new pavilion designed by the Rockwell Group. The B&B Carousell was originally assembled in Coney Island in 1919, and is Coney Island's last remaining historic carousel. It features fifty hand-carved wooden horses, including thirty-six jumpers (up-and-down movement) and fourteen stander (stationary) types, as well as two chariots. Master carvers Marcus Charles Illions and Charles Carmel, two of Coney Island’s most famous carousel artisans, contributed hand-carved horses and chariots to the B&B Carousell. The carousel also boasts one of three circa 1913-1916 Gebruder Bruder “Elite Orchestra Apollo” band organs existing in the United States.
The B&B Carousell, which was acquired by the City in 2005 for $1.8 million in City and private donations, is currently in Marion Ohio, where a team of carousel restoration experts and art conservators – from Carousels & Carvings Inc. and Intermuseum Conservation Association – are diligently restoring the carousel to its original condition. The restoration will also include a new, custom-carved ADA-compliant chariot. The pavilion that will house the Carousell will have colorful large-scale illuminated signage, and bi-fold doors at the boardwalk level to allow for an open-air experience and free passage through the pavilion during much of the year. The restoration will cost approximately $2 million and the fully restored B&B Carousell is expected to return to Coney in 2013 in conjunction with the opening of Steeplechase Plaza.
The Parks Department will also be issuing a Request for Proposals on Monday, November 14, seeking a concessionaire for the operation and maintenance of the carousel, as well as a food service facility and special event concession within the carousel pavilion structure. Responses will be due by Tuesday, January 17, 2012. To download a copy of the RFP, go to http://www.nyc.gov/parks/businessopportunities.
Summer 2011 was one of the most successful summer seasons on record for Coney Island with over 640,000 visitors taking over 2 million rides at Luna Park and Scream Zone. This summer marked the second season for Luna Park, which features 19 traditional and state-of-the-art rides, and the inaugural season of Scream Zone, which features four cutting-edge thrill rides. The season officially ended on October 31st after a second year of extended operations for Halloween programming—once again bringing Coney Island closer to becoming a year-round destination. Over 400 jobs were created by the new amusements parks this summer, and thanks to outreach by the City, approximately half were filled by residents of the local communities.
In addition to Scream Zone, a number of new attractions and amenities were added to the boardwalk area this summer. The Cyclone Café, a counter-service restaurant, and Coney Cones, a new ice creamery on the boardwalk, both opened this summer. The Coney Island Development Corporation, NYC & Company, Rooftop Films and EpixHD also launched a free outdoor film series, called Flicks on the Beach, which drew over 3,000 attendees to its eight movie screenings.
In 2009, the City purchased three parcels of land, totaling 6.9 acres, within the amusement district, and signed a 10-year lease with Central Amusement International (CAI) to operate and build the new amusement parks on the property. The City has invested more than $6.6 million to support the opening of Luna Park and Scream Zone. In addition, CAI has invested nearly $30 million toward the construction of the two parks over the last two years.
The construction of Steeplechase Plaza, and the opening of Scream Zone and Luna Park, are all part of the City’s Coney Island Revitalization Plan, which will preserve and grow the historic amusement area; create a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood with new retail options and nearly 5,000 new units of housing, including 900 income-targeted units; and generate more than 25,000 construction jobs and 6,000 permanent jobs. As part of the plan, the City is investing more than $150 million toward infrastructure improvements in Coney Island, including upgrading infrastructure and rebuilding large sections of the Boardwalk. Last year, New York City Economic Development Corporation in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Protection, completed an Amended Drainage Plan to guide upgrades to subsurface infrastructure throughout the entire rezoning area, the first phase of which is currently in design. In total, the plan is expected to generate more than $14 billion in economic activity for New York City over 30 years.