Mayor Bloomberg Announces Start Of Coney Island Summer Season, Including Unveiling Of Restored Historic Carousel And Steeplechase Plaza
New York Aquarium, Along With Coney Island Beach and Boardwalk – Hit Hard By Hurricane Sandy – Set to Re-Open
Restoration of Historic B&B Carousell, Built Over 100 Years Ago, Will Anchor the New Steeplechase Plaza
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the official opening of Coney Island for the summer season, including the grand opening of the new Steeplechase Plaza, a two-acre public open space featuring the restored B&B Carousell in a state-of-the-art pavilion. The Mayor also today announced the partial re-opening of the New York Aquarium, which was damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Steeplechase Plaza, located on the site of the former Steeplechase Amusement Park, will serve as the western anchor of the Coney Island amusement district and feature the historic B&B Carousell, which includes 50 hand-carved horses that have been meticulously restored over the last six years. The carousel is housed in a new pavilion which opens up to the Boardwalk, and sits within open space that includes a water feature and the Luna Forest, an area for informal and formal events. Steeplechase and the return of the B&B Carousell are the next is a series of milestones in more than a decade of investment by the Bloomberg Administration to revitalize the Coney Island amusement district and the surrounding areas. The Mayor made today’s announcement at an event held at the new Steeplechase Plaza and was joined by New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky, New York City Parks Commissioner Veronica White, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and City Council Member Domenic Recchia.
“Today marks the revival of the Coney Island amusement district that suffered during Hurricane Sandy,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “Coney Island isn’t just back – it’s better than ever, with the re-opening of beach and boardwalk, the return of the Aquarium, and the unveiling of the completely renovated, beautiful designed B&B Carousell anchoring the new Steeplechase Plaza. New Yorkers and tourists alike now have even more reasons to visit Coney Island.”
“For almost a decade, the Bloomberg Administration has worked to revitalize the Coney Island amusement district, and today marks the culmination of that effort,” said Deputy Mayor Robert K. Steel. “With the opening of the beaches, the aquarium, B&B Carousell and Steeplechase Plaza, Coney Island is now open again for business, providing a helpful economic boost for the local community.”
“With the opening of the brand new Steeplechase Plaza, the restoration of the historic B&B Carousell, and the reopening of the aquarium and Coney Island’s beaches, we are celebrating the latest milestone in Coney Island’s decade-long revival,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky. “Through continued strategic investment in Coney Island, as well as other coastal communities affected by Hurricane Sandy, these neighborhoods will not only recover, but will become even more resilient and prosperous for decades to come.”
“Bravo to Mayor Bloomberg, to the EDC and its president, Brooklynite Seth Pinsky, to ‘Mr. Coney Island’ Domenic Recchia, and all of our community partners like the Alliance for Coney Island for helping to revitalize Steeplechase Plaza and resurrecting the B&B Carousell—once a part of Coney Island’s illustrious past and once again center stage in Coney Island’s bright future,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “Today’s grand opening, the arrival of Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of summer in Coney Island this year serves as more than just proof that this truly is America’s Playground. Coney Island is back and better than ever—and with the same in-your-face attitude, the affordable, exciting entertainment that make Coney Island famous and the arrival of new and improved attractions like the B&B Carousell, every family needs to ‘take a spin’ down to Coney Island this year.”
“After months of hardship in the wake of Sandy, the reopening of the Coney Island’s beach and aquarium signals a big step in the right direction and the true beginning of Summer,” said Council Member Dominic Recchia. “I’m proud of the city’s work to create local jobs and attractions, such as The Carousell and Steeplechase Plaza, to help revitalize this economic hub.”
“The grand opening of Steeplechase Plaza marks yet another reason why Coney Island is better and stronger than it was this time last year, said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. “After Superstorm Sandy ravaged Coney Island, Brooklynites worked around the clock and invested money into repairs to make sure that the attractions would be open in time for the busy season. And now, just in time for Memorial Day Weekend, Steeplechase Plaza is a welcome addition to the boardwalk. This oceanfront space will attract visitors from all over and benefit the economy of this hard-hit community. I applaud Mayor Bloomberg and NYC EDC for bringing this terrific revitalization project to fruition.”
“The official opening of Coney Island and the unveiling of the restored B&B Carousell and Steeplechase Plaza represents a major milestone in the rebuilding process,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Coney Island is back open for business and poised for a banner summer season.”
“I commend Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Economic Development Corporation on their steadfast commitment to revive the City economically in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy,” said Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. “The re-opening of Steeplechase Plaza is another positive step forward in the march toward a complete recovery. I look forward to working together to strengthen the local economy on the Coney Island peninsula in a manner that is meaningful to our wonderful residents.”
“Coney Island as we know took a big punch during and after Sandy, but we are here today to say; Coney Island is back, Coney Island is open for the Summer and America's playground continues to expand family friendly amenities like the Steeplechase Plaza,” said State Senator Diane J. Savino.
“It's exciting to see the Steeplechase Plaza open here in Coney Island. This will help bring tourism, jobs, and economic vitality to an area seeking to recover in the wake of Hurricane Sandy,” said New York State Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny.
“The partial reopening of the WCS New York Aquarium in Coney Island will help one of our city’s hardest-hit areas continue its recovery from Hurricane Sandy, said Cristian Samper, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “The aquarium serves as a critical economic driver in Brooklyn and inspires thousands of school-age children across New York City to better appreciate our oceans around the world. All of us at WCS thank our partners in government at all levels for their commitment to help us rebuild.”
“Coney Island is one of New York City’s most exciting neighborhoods, offering an array of cultural offerings in a seaside destination unlike anywhere else in the world,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin. “The start of Coney Island’s season and reopening of so many remarkable cultural organizations is great news for the City and the thousands of residents and visitors who will flock to the boardwalk this summer and beyond.”
“We are so proud to be bringing this carousel back to Coney Island, as part of our ongoing efforts to preserve the history of New York and its destinations,” says Valerio Ferrari, President of Central Amusement International. “This beautiful attraction will provide even more enjoyment to the younger generations coming to visit our park.”
“For years, I’ve been mesmerized by Coney Island and the spontaneous theater and spectacles that take place there,” said David Rockwell, Founder and President of Rockwell Group. “Steeplechase Plaza attracts an amazing cross-section of people, making it one of the most animated public spaces in New York. So it was a real thrill to design the B&B Carousel pavilion and to contribute to the overall renovation of the Plaza.”
“AECOM and the rest of the design team, including Rockwell Group, Arup, and HLB, are proud of the successful installation of Steeplechase Plaza, which was made possible by the cooperative efforts of the team and city agencies,” said Andrew Lavallee, Principal and Vice President of AECOM. “We overcame the challenges that Hurricane Sandy brought to this project and are honored to be part of EDC’s effort to revitalize Coney Island. It has been an exciting and challenging six years, but we think the new park and plaza will make a great home for the historic Carousel for generations to come.”
Steeplechase Plaza, located between West 16th Street and West 19th Street, in the footprint of the landmarked Parachute Jump and across from the historic Steeplechase Pier, is a 2.2-acre open public plaza designed by AECOM. The plaza was designed to host a variety of events – both formal and informal – such as gatherings for the annual Mermaid Parade as well as the Boardwalk Barrels of Fun. The public plaza opens directly onto the historic Boardwalk, enabling easy integration with visitors to the beach or those enjoying the Boardwalk’s many well-known attractions. Additional features of Steeplechase Plaza include Luna Forest, a shaded area for visitors to sit and enjoy the surroundings, custom light fixtures, as well as access beneath the Parachute Jump structure, offering a one-of-a-kind view of the historic landmark.
Located on the eastern side of Steeplechase Plaza, the B&B Carousell (historically spelled with two “Ls” likely due to the spelling used by the carousel’s original manufacturer) is the only historic carousel in Coney Island and represents a link between the amusement area’s past, present, and future. Built in 1906, the carousel features fifty hand-carved wooden horses, including thirty-six jumpers (up-and-down movement), fourteen standers (stationary), as well as two chariots and the striking “Lincoln’s head” horse, covered in bold silver armor. The carousel also features the Gebruder Bruder “Elite Orchestra Apollo” band organ (likely constructed between 1913 and 1916), one of only three existing in the United States. The carousel operated on Surf Avenue for seventy years until it was nearly sold in pieces at an auction in 2005. The City of New York instead purchased the carousel to preserve this important piece of Coney Island’s history and restore it to its former glory. A team of carousel restoration experts and art conservators – from Carousels & Carvings Inc. and Intermuseum Conservation Association – diligently restored the carousel to its original condition, including a new, custom-carved wheelchair-accessible chariot.
The B&B Carousell pavilion, designed by Rockwell Group, houses the carousel and features doors that open up to the boardwalk to create an open-air experience, as well as large letters reading “Carousell” inspired by the playful history of Coney Island. The upper portion of the carousel pavilion exterior is wrapped in a custom perforated metal band featuring painted graphics of horses and doubles as both solar shading and backdrop for the new “Carousell” sign. The building features hurricane-proof glace and was raised to be level with the boardwalk to flooding. The pavilion was designed to maximize the visibility of the carousel from the Boardwalk and plaza, as well as the Parachute Jump and 16th Street, and will attract local residents and visitors alike to this world-class public space. The pavilion also includes a café and a children’s party room that will be operated by Central Amusement International, LLC, which also operates dozens of rides in Coney Island at Luna Park.
The Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the New York Aquarium, will partially reopen on Saturday, May 25th. The reopening will include the organization's Glover’s Reef; exhibits in the Conservation Hall (Coral Triangle of Fiji, Great Lakes of East Africa, and the Flooded Forests of the Amazon); outdoor spaces of Sea Cliffs (walrus, sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters and penguins); a fully re-modeled Aquatheater with a new sea lion demonstration; and resumption of the education and teen docent programs. In addition to the Aquarium, there are a number of events taking place at other cultural organizations in the neighborhood, including the return of the Coney Island USA magic, burlesque, and circus sideshow performances, and Coney Island History Project’s exhibition center underneath the Wonder Wheel, offering free admission to explore artifacts, photographs, maps and ephemera of “America’s Playground.”
Last year, millions of New Yorkers and visitors from across the globe came to Coney Island, and this summer, Coney Island is poised for another record breaking season. This year, the new Steeplechase Plaza and carousel pavilion will be complemented by other new attractions in the amusement area, including the opening of an Applebee’s restaurant, which will be open year round, and IT’Sugar, a candy store on the corner of Stillwell and Surf Avenues. Other local businesses will also celebrate the start of the 2013 amusement season, including: Nathan’s Famous, Brooklyn Beach Shop, and Tom’s Restaurant, Ruby’s Bar & Grill, Paul’s Daughter, and Coney Cones. Place to Beach, a new bar and restaurant on the Boardwalk will also open for the summer.
In addition to the new Steeplechase Plaza and restored B&B Carousell, the City will continue to make critical investments, including moving forward on over $130 million in infrastructure upgrades, and other streetscape improvements which are planned in Coney Island for the next two summer seasons. Earlier this year, the City began accepting applications for Coney Island Commons, a new housing development that includes nearly 200 units of affordable housing and a new state-of-the-art YMCA – the first YMCA in South Brooklyn. Also earlier this year, NYCEDC, Council Member Recchia, and the Alliance for Coney Island, with support from Workforce1 and Small Business Services, hosted its fourth annual job screening events in anticipation of the 2013 season. The recruitment effort sought to fill over 800 positions in the amusement area, many of which were filled by Coney Island residents.
The construction of Steeplechase Plaza is 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.
New York City Economic Development Corporation is the City's primary vehicle for promoting economic growth in each of the five boroughs. NYCEDC's mission is to stimulate growth through expansion and redevelopment programs that encourage investment, generate prosperity and strengthen the City's competitive position. NYCEDC serves as an advocate to the business community by building relationships with companies that allow them to take advantage of New York City's many opportunities. Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, or visit our blog to learn more about NYCEDC projects and initiatives.