Save Coney Island, a group dedicated to the revitalization of Coney Island as an amusement destination, has released a new rendering (see attached) envisioning the Bank of Coney Island as a new, Bowery-Ballroom-style event and music space named “The Banker’s Ballroom.”
The Bank of Coney Island was built by the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce in the early 1920s, and its neo-classical architectural style was meant to demonstrate the solidity of Coney Island’s business community in the amusement district. Since 1990, the Bank has not been in regular use, and its current owner, Thor Equities, has announced plans to demolish the structure. Thor obtained a demolition permit on August 12.
Save Coney Island produced the new rendering to show the value of an alternative approach — the restoration and reactivation of the structure with an exciting new use.
“The Bank of Coney Island could be restored and re-purposed as a Bowery-Ballroom-style event space,” said Save Coney Island spokesman Juan Rivero. “This would not only preserve one of Coney’s most attractive and historic structures, but also give new life to the amusement area and contribute to its revitalization.”
While Thor Equities has to date not expressed interest in revitalizing the structure, Save Coney Island hopes that another entity might purchase the site from Thor and adaptively reuse the Bank of Coney Island building.
“New York has a track record of saving wonderful structures from the chopping block at the eleventh hour,” said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council. “Grand Central, the High Line, even Coney Island’s own Parachute Jump and Cyclone were all once threatened with demolition, but were ultimately restored and have become New York City icons. The Bank of Coney Island could be the next.”
Save Coney Island commissioned a team of volunteer architects to develop a preservation-oriented design strategy for the building. The team drew inspiration from the Bowery Ballroom and from the Brooklyn Academy of Music in developing their rendering of a potential future for the Bank.
Earlier this summer, the design team produced renderings showing Henderson’s Music Hall — where Harpo Marx made his stage debut — re-purposed as a mixed-use event and restaurant space, and the Grashorn Building – the oldest surviving building in the amusement area — as a Coney Island Museum of Amusements. These structures are also threatened by Thor with demolition.
“We appreciate that the renovation of these structures could be challenging,” said Rivero. “But if the will exists among New Yorkers to save Coney Island’s heritage, we’re confident that a creative way to save and reuse these historic buildings can be found.”
The buildings and their future will be discussed at a panel discussion on September 30 hosted and co-sponsored by CUNY and moderated by Pulitzer prize-winning historian Mike Wallace. For more information on the CUNY Panel discussion, visit http://cunyconeypanel-auto.eventbrite.com/