City Near Deal for New Coney Island Operator
By CHARLES V. BAGLI
Updated, 3:06 p.m.| It looks like Coney Island will not go without a whirling, clanging amusement park and a crop of new rides for the first time in more than a century as many had feared. The city’s Economic Development Corporation is negotiating a lease with an amusement park operator, Zamperla USA, for six vacant acres in the heart of what has been the amusement district, between Surf Avenue and the ocean.
It is not a done deal, but city officials are hopeful that they can make an announcement as soon as next week that Zamperla has signed a contract to operate in Coney Island for up to 10 years. The negotiations were first reported by NY1 News.
Coney Island boosters and some community groups had worried that the waterfront district would become a dead zone this summer. Last November, the city agreed to pay $95.6 million for roughly six acres owned by the developer Joseph J. Sitt, who had spent a fortune buying land in the area and developing a proposal to revive the fabled playground that competed with the city’s vision.
But prior to that deal, Mr. Sitt had closed the Astroland amusement park and evicted many of the tenants. The city solicited bids from operators in November and got a handful of responses. It now appears that it will have an operator in place soon.
An executive at Zamperla’s office in New Jersey said the company had been instructed to refer all calls to the city’s development agency.
David Lombino, a spokesman for the development agency, conceded that the city was “closing in on an agreement with an operator for an expanded outdoor amusement park that will be open to the public starting this summer.” He declined to go into detail.
But even some critics of the city’s plans were cautiously optimistic about the pending deal.
“They’re an outstanding company,” Dick Zigun, executive director of Coney Island USA, which conducts the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade, said of Zamperla. “They would be my choice. I’m hopeful that come Memorial Day, Coney Island will have more rides than we’ve seen in the past decade.”
Zamperla USA is the American wing of an Italian company that is known more as the largest manufacturer of amusement park rides, everything from kiddie rides to sophisticated roller coasters and other thrill rides, than as an amusement park operator. The company usually has the largest single booth at the annual meeting of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Its products, like the Zodiac, which has seats mounted on a spinning disk at the top of a tower, show up at amusement parks all over the world.
Councilman Domenic M. Recchia, whose district includes Coney Island, said that Zamperla had submitted a creative proposal that set it apart from the other bidders. “You’ll love it,” he said, declining to give details. “We’ll have what the bigger amusement parks have, on a smaller scale.”
Zamperla operates the Victorian Gardens at Wollman Rink in Central Park, as well as Minitalia Leolandia Amusement Park in Capriate San Vervasio, Italy. Valerio Ferrari, the president of Zamperla USA, was a member of a city-sponsored advisory panel last year that made a series of recommendations concerning the redevelopment of Coney Island’s amusement area.
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/ ... -operator/