Is It 'Curtains' for Coney Island?
24 Aug 2009
Developer Joe Sitt abruptly shut down the Dreamland amusement park on his land in Coney Island, the site of the old Astroland theme park, on Friday morning, saying that the operator owed more than $500,000 to Sitt's company, Thor Equities.
The lockout on Surf Avenue and West 10th Street makes about a dozen rides and attractions off limits, perhaps for the rest of the short-lived season, which winds down after Labor Day.
"Dreamland has been locked out because it has not come close to meeting its financial obligations in many months," said Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Thor Equities. "We are hopeful that Dreamland will soon pay its rent so it can quickly re-open the rides and allow Coney Islanders and visitors to continue enjoying what has been a spectacular summer so far."
Anthony Raffaelle, the operator of Dreamland Park, rented space to several ride operators and also to John Strong, who ran a carnival sideshow of freaks.
Raffaelle has had a long behind-the-scenes presence in Coney Island. He could not be reached in time for The Brooklyn Paper's breakneck online deadline.
Dreamland sits behind locked gates on what was the space-age theme park Astroland, which Sitt shut down in a lease disagreement with the land's former owner, Carol Albert. Albert had sold the land to Sitt two years earlier, but continued to operate the amusement park on the site until last year.
Sitt still hopes to redevelop his holdings in Coney Island into a 24-7-365, Vegas-style Xanadu with rides, retail and hotels. But in the short term, he is under pressure from locals to show a commitment to the area's long history as a playground. For the past two years, he has brought in outside carnies and ride operators, with limited success.
This year's season got off to a rough start, with delayed openings and underwhelming attractions. The lockout of Dreamland today is yet another chapter in that saga. (Article found in "The Brooklyn Paper - 08/21/20090)