For generations, Coney Island has been synonymous with summer, home to the world’s greatest urban amusement park. But it’s so much more than that—with over 30,000 residents and multiple subway connections, Coney Island is a vibrant and hardworking neighborhood at the heart of New York City’s economic and cultural life.
Coney Island, the world’s greatest urban amusement park, sits at the heart of NYC's economic and cultural life. The neighborhood, today home to over nine acres of world-class amusements, is taking the next steps in its development with new City investments in housing, infrastructure, and commercial space.
The Amusement Area
At the turn of the 20th Century, Coney Island was known as “the People’s Playground.” A vibrant entertainment destination with amusement parks, such as Steeplechase Park, Luna Park, and Dreamland; restaurants, hotels, and abundant retail shops, it attracted millions of visitors annually. However, beginning in the 1960s, the amusement area began a decades-long decline. Through the efforts of NYCEDC and other stakeholders, an ambitious rezoning and revitalization strategy was approved in 2009 (“2009 Coney Island Comprehensive Rezoning Plan”), and with investments by the City and private-sector partners, Coney Island started to flourish again. The amusement district is currently larger than it has been at any time since Steeplechase Park closed in the mid-1960s.
Transformation of Coney Island Amusements
Luna Park & Scream Zone
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 an 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/.
The Larger Neighborhood
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:
- The opening of sit-down restaurants in Coney Island such as Applebee’s Grill & Bar, Tom’s Coney Island, and Grimaldi’s. In 2015, Mom and Pop shops opened including Lunatics Ice Cream, Luna Park Café, Piece of Velvet, Williams Candy and Pete’s Clam Stop.
- Coney Commons, a mixed-use residential building featuring a 40,000 SF community center, built in partnership with the YMCA of Greater New York, Department of Housing Preservation and Development and New York City Economic Development Corporation. Coney Commons opened to the public in 2014.
Building upon the momentum in the neighborhood, the de Blasio administration has committed investments to deliver thousands of units of affordable and mixed-income housing, much-needed infrastructure, retail development, and other amenities, spurring economic growth and creating new opportunities.
- As of early 2019, over 800 units of additional affordable housing are actively being developed through the City’s efforts, with more to come.
- In Fall 2018, the City broke ground on 446 units of affordable housing at 2926 W. 19th Street and closed on an additional 220 units of affordable housing at 3003 W. 21st Street.
- In early 2019, the City opened a housing lottery to tenant Surf Vets Place, a mixed-used development with 135 units of affordable housing and set aside units for homeless veterans, with 7,000 square feet of retail space.
Active & Completed Projects
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. NYCEDC is expected to complete initial phases of our work by the end of 2019. These phases include all infrastructure and streetscape work from Surf Avenue to Neptune Avenue and from West 17th Street to West 20th Street. Streetscape improvements will include new historic street lamps and benches. Existing street lights will also be upgraded to LED lights and new street trees will be planted.
The Seaside Park and Community Arts Center
The Seaside Park and Community Arts Center is an entertainment complex and public park that was once home to the historic Childs Restaurant. It includes a 5,000-seat amphitheater, a 20,000-square-foot restaurant, and the new Kitchen 21, which overlooks the ocean and is open year-round. The amphitheater hosts a mix of concerts, family shows, sports, comedy, and multicultural events year-round. The amphitheater and public park opened summer of 2016. The restored Child’s Building and Kitchen 21 opened in 2017.
Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium and Animal Care Facility
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 leverages its position on the Boardwalk and has views of the Atlantic Ocean. It holds 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 completed through the project provides critical support to the Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit, which opened in 2018.
Steeplechase Plaza is a 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. 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
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.
Coney Island Creek Resiliency Study
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 an opportunity for economic development around the Creek. For more information follow this link: http://www.nycedc.com/project/coney-island-creek
CIDC and the Strategic Plan
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:
- Year-round activity through new entertainment, retail, and mixed-income residential.
- Enhanced amusement and seaside resort attractions.
- A vibrant neighborhood with activity and opportunities for everyone.
After ten years of dedicated work to improve Coney Island, the CIDC accomplished the goals it set to achieve and has now formally dissolved.
Marketing and Programming
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.