For more than a century, New Yorkers and visitors alike have enjoyed the fascination, freedom, and diversity of the world-famous urban amusement destination known as "The People’s Playground."
Coney Island is not just a historic entertainment destination known around the world, it is also home to 50,000 residents, many of whom are low and middle income. Through zoning changes, mapping actions, and strategic capital investments, the City’s Comprehensive Plan for Coney Island is reinvigorating this fabled amusement and entertainment destination while bringing much needed housing, retail, services, amenities, and career opportunities to the larger neighborhood.
On November 13, 2009, NYCEDC released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for amusement and entertainment operators for approximately 6.5 acres of property in the heart of the Coney Island amusement district. The release of the RFP came upon the announcement of an agreement between NYCEDC and the predominant land owner in Coney Island, Thor Equities, for NYCEDC’s purchase of the property. The contract was awarded to Central Amusements International (CAI).
On May 28, 2010 former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and CAI celebrated the opening of Luna Park at Coney Island, a new, 3.1 acre amusement park that features 19 traditional and cutting edge rides from Zamperla, the renowned Italian designer and manufacturer of amusement attractions. It is the first amusement park to open in Coney Island in nearly 50 years and has more than doubled Coney Island's amusement area. The park takes its name from the original Luna Park, which operated at Coney Island from 1903 to 1946. In 2011, CAI began its second stage of development by building Scream Zone, an additional amusement park. In 2012, Scream Zone expanded to include a total of six new high thrill rides including roller coasters, sling shots, and go-carts. In 2013, Central Amusement International was selected by NYCEDC, pursuant to an RFP for amusement development, to build the Thunderbolt Roller Coaster on West 15th Street between Boardwalk and Surf Avenue. The Thunderbolt opened in June 2014 and is the the first custom-designed roller coaster to open in Coney Island since 1972. The thrill ride travels up to 55 mph and has a 115 foot vertical drop, 100 foot vertical loop and 80 foot zero-g roll. Visitorship reached a 40-year high in 2010 and has continued to increase over the last few years with 3.5 million passengers taking the subway to Coney Island each year.
In its inaugural season, Luna Park hired approximately 200 employees, a number which now tops 600, many of whom reside in the Coney Island area. Visit http://www.ConeyIslandFunGuide.com for the latest ride, attraction, and event information about Coney Island or http://www.lunaparknyc.com/.
Coney Island of the late-19th and early-20th century was a site to behold. Steeplechase Park, Dreamland, Luna Park and everything around and between them established Coney as the world’s most iconic urban amusement park.
Today, Coney Island is still a favorite summer destination. On any summer day, Coney’s beach and boardwalk teem with a wondrously eclectic mix of families and freaks. These visitors ride the landmark Wonder Wheel and Cyclone, and visit the New York Aquarium and Coney Island Sideshow. Since 2001, the Brooklyn Cyclones have played 32 home games a year at MCU Park, and the Mermaid Parade and Nathan’s Famous’ Hot Dog Eating Contest make the list of New York’s favorite events. The millions of visitors that come each year serve as a testament to the enduring love for this magical place.
Transformation of Coney Island Amusements
Like the amusement area, Coney Island’s residential neighborhood is also brimming with potential. However:
The neighborhood still lacks basic retail and services, such as bookstores, groceries, and sit-down restaurants. The commercial development boom benefitting surrounding neighborhoods in recent years has largely missed Coney Island.
Long-vacant lots and seasonally-shuttered businesses have contributed to a decreased quality of life in much of the Coney Island neighborhood. Lapses in infrastructure point to a clear need for both private and public investment under a comprehensive plan for neighborhood improvement.
Moving forward, the development of the amusement area is just one phase of the City's Coney Island Revitalization Plan. Since the rezoning, a great deal of progress has been made towards the realization of Coney Island’s potential, including:
To address the need for new infrastructure, the City is advancing the design and construction of new sewers and streets. Infrastructure improvements will include reconstruction and enlargement of three existing outfalls, installation of new stormwater collection sewers, relocation and upgrade of distribution and trunk water mains, and relocation and upgrade of sanitary sewer lines along with the reconstruction of streets. Initial phases of work are already in construction, and NYCEDC design of additional phases is in progress.
The Seaside Park and Community Arts Center is an entertainment complex and public park that will be housed in the empty landmarked space that was once home to the historic Childs Restaurant. It includes a 5,000-seat amphitheater, a 20,000 square-foot restaurant overlooking the ocean, which will be open year-round. The amphitheater will host a mix of concerts, family shows, sports, comedy, and multicultural events year-round. The amphitheater and public park are expected to open summer of 2016, with the restaurant targeted to open in 2017.
In 2015, construction began on Ocean Wonders: Sharks! a 57,000-square-foot building featuring sharks, rays, sea turtles, and thousands of schooling fish at the New York aquarium. This new building will leverage its position on the Boardwalk and have views of the Atlantic Ocean. It will hold more than 500,000 gallons of water in fully immersive and interactive exhibits, forging connections between people and wildlife while highlighting the need for conservation of delicate marine ecosystems. A new Animal Care facility is also under construction through the project, and will provide critical support to the Ocean Wonders exhibit.
Steeplechase Plaza is a new 2.2-acre public open space that serves as the western entryway to the revitalized amusement district and is home to the restored B&B Carousell, Coney Island’s last remaining historic carousel. Steeplechase Plaza is located on the site of the former Steeplechase Amusement Park, between West 16th Street and West 19th Street, in the footprint of the landmarked Parachute Jump and across from the historic Steeplechase Pier. The Steeplechase Plaza design allows visitors to enter the amusement area by walking directly underneath the landmarked Parachute Jump.
In 2005, the City acquired the B&B Carousell, a magnificent 50-horse attraction and Coney Island’s last remaining historic carousel. After its purchase by the City, the carousel was carefully dismantled and stored at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park. Restoration experts Carousels and Carvings, Inc. were selected by the City to perform the restoration and the carousel was shipped from Brooklyn to their facility in Marion, Ohio where it underwent a meticulous restoration process, which included carving a new ADA-compliant chariot from scratch. Once the restoration was completed, the B&B Carousell was transported back to Coney Island and was installed in a new custom designed pavilion in Steeplechase Plaza on the Boardwalk. The B&B Carousell reopened to the public in May 2013. As Coney Island continues to undergo an exciting revitalization, the B&B Carousell serves as an essential link between this historic amusement area’s past and future. You can view a brief video of the restoration process here.
The Parachute Jump is an iconic Coney Island landmark. At 250 feet tall and weighing 170 tons, it has been called the “Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn.” It was built for the 1939 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, and moved to Steeplechase Park, in 1941. It is the only portion of Steeplechase Park still standing today. The ride ceased operations in 1964 when the park shut down for good. In 1980, the Parachute Jump was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1989, New York recognized it as a city landmark. NYCEDC, working with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and Luna Park, installed 8,000 LED lights to the Parachute jump, highlighting its historic significance while serving as a spectacular advertisement for the revitalizing Coney Island of today.
West 8th Street Station Access Project is designed to enhance pedestrian safety and access between the West 8th Street subway station, WCS New York Aquarium, beach and boardwalk. The first phase of this project realigned the pedestrian crossing at West 8th Street and Surf Avenue and was completed in 2014. The second phase constructed a tiered access point at West 10th Street and the Boardwalk, which opened to the public in Spring 2016.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Coney Island Creek Resiliency Study was initiated to study the Coney Island Creek and adjacent upland areas that are increasingly vulnerable to flooding from storm surge and sea level rise. The Coney Island Creek Resiliency Study is a critical component to resiliency planning for the communities around Coney Island Creek. This study investigated hydrological management strategies that prevent and mitigate upland flooding, improve waterfront open space, strengthen neighborhood connections, enhance infrastructure, and provide opportunity for economic development around the Creek. For more information follow this link: http://www.nycedc.com/project/coney-island-creek
In September 2003, the Mayor, the City Council, and the Brooklyn Borough President formed the Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) to spearhead and implement a comprehensive planning process for Coney Island and to create a coordinated economic development strategy for the area.
In September 2005, after a long public outreach process, the CIDC released the Coney Island Strategic Plan, which outlined these key goals:
After ten years of dedicated work to improve Coney Island, the CIDC accomplished the goals it set to achieve and has now formally dissolved.
NYCEDC and its partners, such as the newly formed Alliance for Coney Island, continually work to market and program Coney Island. In addition to ongoing maintenance of the beach and boardwalk, Alliance for Coney Island operates the Coney Island Fun Guide website, a resource for events, rides, amusements, eating, and shopping in Coney Island. Additional event updates are posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While the Strategic Plan progresses, Coney Island is still vibrant, fun, and fascinating.