Struggling Coney Island attractions get new city leases

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City officials have reached an agreement with Coney Island’s two biggest amusement parks that will keep them and some other longtime neighborhood mainstays on the fabled boardwalk through 2037.

To help ease the world-famous seaside destination’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, the city Economic Development Corp. plans to extend leases for Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, which were set to expire in 2027, for another 10 years.

Both amusement operators are still recovering from a lost 2020 season and sought extensions on city-owned land they leased to help show lenders they’re committed long-term to Coney Island in order to boost their borrowing capabilities for expansion and renovation projects.

The agreement was approved by the City Council Wednesday. It still needs to be ratified by the mayor, EDC’s board of directors and the Brooklyn Borough Board – a process sources said should conclude early next year.

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It also provides financial relief to four boardwalk businesses that were hit with hefty rent hikes shortly before the pandemic struck in early 2020 and barely survived to stay afloat the past two summer seasons.

Wonder Wheel at Coney Island
City officials have reached an agreement with Coney Island’s two biggest amusement parks that will keep them on the storied boardwalk through 2037.
Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park

Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) used his political clout during negotiations to help ensure Central Amusement International, the owners of Luna Park, will lower rents for 90-year-old Ruby’s Bar and Grill, Brooklyn Beach Shop and two other shops by 20 percent from what they initially agreed to pay in 2020.

“We all previously signed binding leases, so this deal is very good for us,” said Maya Haddad Miller, co-owner of Brooklyn Beach Shop.

A small seaside shop run by Nathan’s Famous is also returning next year but under terms of its original sublease with CAI.

However, a tiny, but popular, designer T-shirt shop that has been on the boardwalk since 2001 was left out of the deal.

Activist Dianna Carlin, owner of the Lola Star boutique, was the most vocal about the initial rent hikes and organized a series of protests in late 2019 and early 2020 after being socked with a 400 percent increase.

She claims she recently offered to pay a rent increase equal to the rates the other tenants agreed to, but has so far been snubbed.

The agreement was approved by the City Council on Wednesday.
The agreement was approved by the City Council on Wednesday.
Dan Herrick

Carlin is questioning whether she is being singled out for speaking her mind and said City Hall “should be doing more” to protect her small business since it sits on city-owned land.

An EDC spokesperson said the agency encourages Carlin to continue trying to iron out a new lease deal with CAI.

The spokesperson also said the planned lease and sublease extensions “will help businesses on Coney Island’s historic boardwalk” by affording them “greater stability,” enabling them “to better recover from the pandemic,” and helping “them engage in long-term investments beneficial to the Coney Island community.”

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