End of the Line for Iconic Coney Island Vendors

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Some Coney Island businesses are getting booted from the beach by the owner of the new park. The bad news came yesterday for the owners of the popular "Shoot the Freak" attraction and other longtime boardwalk establishments. So how do you feel about these old time favorites getting forced off Coney Island? Is it fair? Sound off on our facebook page, http://facebook.com/nbcnewyork or tweet us @TodayInNewYork. (Published Tuesday, Nov 2, 2010)

    Some longtime Coney Island vendors are getting the boot — from the Brooklyn amusement park's new Italian developers.

    Letters were sent Monday to 11 boardwalk vendors doing business near the Luna Park rides installed in May to kick-start Coney Island's renewal, said Tom Corsillo, a spokesman for the ride operator, Central Amusement International.

    Its Italy-based partner, Zamperla USA, dominates the redevelopment of the seaside attraction that served as an escape for generations of New Yorkers but fell into seedy disrepair in recent years.

    About half of the 11 vendors must leave within two weeks.

    Corsillo said vendor names won't be released until new contract negotiations are completed. He acknowledged, however, that one of the likely survivors is a stand run by Nathan's, which each year stages Coney Island's Fourth of July hot dog eating contest.

    The Lola Starr Boutique, whose owner created a 60-page proposal including a statue rotating on a disco ball above sparkling circus lights, is also expected to be saved.

    But other iconic boardwalk attractions that are slated to close include Shoot the Freak, Beer Island and the famed Ruby's Bar and Grill.

    "They threw us out! These are not nice people!!" said the irate owner of Beer Island who by Monday afternoon had received letters via FedEx for both his open beer garden and a second business called Cha Cha's that's a music club serving food.

    A former boxing promoter, John "Cha Cha" Ciarcia — "my name is Cha Cha, just Cha Cha, that's my legal name!" — ran the two spots on the boardwalk for almost a decade, he said.

    He has till Nov. 15 to clear out.

    "They wasted my time and money, having me submit a proposal for what I was going to do to the places, and evidently they weren't satisfied," he said. "I'm very bitter. They never even talked to me."

    The vendor leases, which are controlled by the city, expired this week.

    The fate of the vendors has been unknown since Zamperla opened Luna Park, replacing the old Astroland rides. Central Amusement International has signed a 10-year lease for about 6 acres of Coney Island, paying the city $1 million plus part of gross receipts.

    Valerio Ferrari, president of both Central Amusement and Zamperla USA, said the Italians' $15 million investment in Luna Park has helped Coney Island "enjoy its most successful season in decades."

    The above-average summer heat drew 450,000 visitors, extending the season through this past weekend for a total of 2.5 million rides on 19 new attractions.

    Ferrari said he now wants to create "an incredible new experience on the boardwalk, while continuing to honor Coney Island's magnificent past."

    Businesses planned in place of the ousted vendors include a sit-down restaurant and a sports bar — both open year-round — as well as free WiFi and more variety of food.

    Luna Park is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's vision of turning the seafront into an amusement and entertainment district with restaurants, movie theaters, retail stores and hotels.

    Central Amusement International is planning a 2011 opening for the "Scream Zone," which will offer two roller coasters, go-carts and a human slingshot launching people more than 200 feet into the air.