On Memorial Day weekend, 19 new rides will thrill Coney Island visitors into a season of fun and offer a glimpse of changes that may echo Times Square’s evolution from gritty to glossy.
“We want it to be nicer and cleaner. We want to bring everything up a little bit,” said Valerio Ferrari, president of Zamperla USA, which is building its Luna Park atop the old Astroland.
Cha Cha’s bar owner John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia was pleased about the area’s “family-oriented” direction: “There’s no more hookers, pimps and drugs.”
But his own future — as well as other popular boardwalk stops including Shoot the Freak, Ruby’s and Lola Staar’s souvenir boutique — remains in question next summer since Zamperla, which is investing $15 million on the city-owned property its leasing, is only giving them one-year leases.
Shoot the Freak’s creator Anthony Berlingieri said if he had a 10-year lease like Zamperla’s, instead of the one-year leases he’s had over the last decade, “I would have ‘Shoot the Freak’ in neon, not in paint. I would have been more high-tech.” He added: “I’m world-renowned, yet I don’t have a leg to stand on. … I should be part of the next 10 years. I hope the city recognizes that. If not, I’m not going quietly.”
Also, some worry developer Thor Equities’ plan to tear down buildings along Surf Avenue to bring “family-friendly” entertainment next year will also bring chain stores.
“Right now there is a teetering balance of the old and the new as well as the big and the small,” Lola Staar’s Dianna Carlin said.