Save Coney Island spokesman Juan Rivero participated in a forum on Coney Island redevelopment in a recent issue of the New York City real estate newspaper The Real Deal.
Here’s what he said in response to some questions from The Real Deal:
How concerned are you about old-time Coney Island businesses going under?
The departure of old-time Coney Island businesses is of great concern on a number of counts. First, they are part of what makes Coney Island unique, and not some generic strip off an interstate highway. Second, the retention and cultivation of local businesses makes sense as a matter of economic policy, since a higher percentage of the revenues they generate remain within the local economy. It is lamentable that the city has not encouraged leasing to local businesses on the land that it owns. The boardwalk and Coney Island could use the color, quirkiness and creative energy that local entrepreneurs have to offer and that chains and big corporations struggle to provide.
There is still a lack of higher-end restaurants and amenities in the area. Do you expect that to change?
Throughout most of its history, Coney Island has been a place of affordable amusement and recreation for anyone who could afford the price of a subway ride. Its old monikers — the People’s Playground, the Poor Man’s Riviera or the Nickel Empire — tell you as much. … Coney Island is an affordable amusement destination that is, and should continue to be, available to all New Yorkers.
Are there any buildings or projects outside of the main amusement park that you’re keeping an eye on?
Absolutely. The newly landmarked Shore Theater has a central location, and with the right vision it could again be a theater destination. The landmarked Childs Restaurant Building on the boardwalk is an obvious anchor for the western side of the district, and it’s just a matter of time before someone turns it into a restaurant, a club or a concert venue. On the south side of Surf Avenue, we envision the Grashorn, the oldest building in the amusement area, as a museum, a theme restaurant or perhaps a large haunted house. … One current development project we’re watching is the construction of new structures on Surf Avenue by Thor Equities. Regrettably, given Thor’s record so far in Coney Island, we don’t have very high expectations.