Save Coney Island today hailed the opening this weekend of Zamperla USA’s Luna Park as a key step toward the revitalization of Coney Island.
But, at the same time, Save Coney Island warned that Coney Island’s historic heritage is in grave danger, with speculator Thor Equities planning to demolish several of Coney Island’s most historically significant buildings.
“The opening of Luna Park is a cause for great celebration, a step toward restoring Coney Island to its glory days,” said Save Coney Island spokesman, Juan Rivero. “But at the same time, our celebration is tempered by the fact that the last remnants of those glory days are in danger of imminent demolition.”
This coming Saturday, May 29, as we celebrate Luna Park’s opening day, Save Coney Island will be leading a walking tour of Coney Island’s historic buildings to raise awareness. (The tour will meet at 11 a.m. in front of the Shore Theater, on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Aves.)
While the city and ride manufacturer Zamperla USA are busy trying to create an exciting summer season for Coney Island, Thor Equities has been busy planning to destroy its history. “This summer is going to be about the demolition,” Thor Equities spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt told The Brooklyn Paper. Thor announced last month that it would immediately begin demolishing the properties it owns along Surf Avenue, including several historic buildings more than 100 years old.
“This is a tale of two Coney Islands,” said Rivero. “Luna Park is laying the groundwork for an exciting summer, while a block away Thor is planning to lay waste to Coney Island’s heritage, threatening to ruin all at once the area’s past, present, and future.”
Among the structures believed to be in immediate danger are the amusement district’s oldest remaining building, the Grashorn Building (built in the late 1880s); the Henderson Music Hall building (built circa 1899), where Harpo Marx first performed with his brothers Groucho and Gummo; the Shore Hotel (built in 1903), which was until recently Coney Island’s last operating hotel, and the 1920s classical revival Bank of Coney Island.
“The Bloomberg administration needs to decide: Will this summer be remembered as the beginning of Coney Island’s rebirth? Or will be remembered as the summer that the City allowed an opportunistic developer to demolish Coney Island’s history?” Rivero said.
Along with Save Coney Island, those urging the preservation of these buildings include Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the Municipal Art Society, the Historic District Council, and the Landmarks Conservancy.
Save Coney Island has joined other Coney Island and preservationist groups to propose the creation of a Coney Island Historic District to protect these and other buildings. Save Coney Island believes that Coney Island’s historic buildings should be restored and reused as a historic core around which to build a new and exciting 21st-century Coney Island, with attractions such as Luna Park.
“The opening of Luna Park is a key step toward creating a bright future for Coney Island,” said Rivero. “Equally important to ensuring Coney Island’s future is protecting and honoring its rich past.”