Photo Essay

Is It 'Curtains' for Coney Island?


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)

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12 responses

  • Pat MinNYC

    Pat MinNYC said (24 Aug 2009):

    Ejoyed reading this and your CI set but it made me sad at the same time

  • Charles

    Charles (Deleted) gave props (24 Aug 2009):

    Great could have included 100 photos, and I would have loved every one.

  • Maura Wolfson-Foster

    Maura Wolfson-Foster said (24 Aug 2009):

    Thank you so much Pat and Charles! More photos are coming.... :)

  • Markus Weber

    Markus Weber said (24 Aug 2009):

    Nearly every perspective/approach for this part of NYC is worth a look or two. Both of your stories are no exception to this. Your words describe quite accurately the vanishing character of the place. there are so many places around that have been shot to death by photographers or simply one or more master(s) of photography already have set benchmarks nobody else really should/could compete with, but Coney Island is a big exception to this, I think...I can't imagine someday being fed up with added another facette to this diverse imagery...

  • Anne Worner

    Anne Worner (Deleted) gave props (24 Aug 2009):

    Thanks for this. I've never been to Coney Island, but certainly have heard of it. A set of good images go with your commentary.

  • Lise Utne

    Lise Utne gave props (26 Aug 2009):

    Interesting! I've never been to Coney Island, but associate it with photographers such as Diane Arbus and Lisette Model, so the name in itself has a great ring in my ears. I like your images from the place, and my very favourite of the lot is the one you picked as the main photo of your story.

  • peter

    peter (Deleted) said (26 Aug 2009):

    All these EXCELLENT photos are so amazing, touching to me ... coney island was my very first (1984) and my last, ‘conciliable’ impression/memory about new York (1988) ... impression in the meaning that I was touched, touched by the atmosphere there, the things I saw there, the smells, the voices …and not in the meaning how new, how big, how polishes 'something' is ... i was fascinated by that kind of ‘damp from yesterday’ , that 'sweat' of human living (well, i am a sentimental person) … listening to the stories people who started to tell me the moment i sat down on a bench on the pier … mostly their lifes stories which always got to do with coney island … the ‘cyclone’ where they got known ‘somebody’ who finally got their husband … and their common life was like a ‘cyclone’ … or that they were living there since 50, 60 years (after immigrating from germany) and watched the up and down, more the down of this/ their social place, where you went to be with people, or to feel how it feels to be with people, where you could have been a different person … where they continued to go to remember, refreshing their memories, and ‘to be’ in their imagination how they were (in love, jolly, jealous), like this ‘russian countess’, who once had an affair with one of the owners of the ‘cyclone’ and who once worked their as a 'headless woman'… the ‘simple’ merit of your story is to document an area what is still so loaded (i think) with magic, memories, stories, but which will disappear more and more … and getting another blank ground. Your photos are loaded, no blank ground! (so, please another 90 ones!)

  • Alexis - Now on Flickr

    Alexis - Now on Flickr gave props (26 Aug 2009):

    Absolutely! My vote

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (28 Aug 2009):

    Hell YEAH! Rad!

  • Maura Wolfson-Foster

    Maura Wolfson-Foster said (30 Aug 2009):

    Thank you my friends.....xo, ~ M

  • Debrah Leonard

    Debrah Leonard (Deleted) gave props (21 Jan 2010):

    Yes, vote! Most excellent photos!

  • The Man Who Isn't There

    The Man Who Isn't There (Deleted) gave props (2 Dec 2011):

    Just stumbled in this story. I like Coney and I should have several pics of the wonder wheel somewhere. Who remembers "The Warriors"? Come out and play ...

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