For Marty Markowitz (above), a longtime state senator and former Brooklyn borough
president, the amphitheater’s opening this July represents the culmination of a
long-held desire to remake Coney Island for the 21st century.
Not to mention the nearly eight-year-long process of legal wrangling and
deal-making it took to finally get the project off the ground. "
For a long time I’ve felt that for Coney Island to truly live up to its
title of ‘America’s playground,’ it needed three things—a hotel and convention
center, year-round indoor amusements and entertainment, and a venue for music
and live events," Marty says. “Now, with the amphitheater, we can finally
cross one of those off the list.”
There are several signs that
the amphitheater is just the beginning, however.
A new, 40-story multifamily
tower at nearby 532 Neptune Ave will be breaking ground soon, and back in
January Pye Properties bought Coney Island’s iconic, but long-vacant, Shore
Theater for $20M. The developer has promised to restore the landmark to its
former glory as a year-round entertainment site, possibly crossing another item
off Marty’s list in the process.
Comments made by Pye’s
lawyer to Brooklyn Daily seem to confirm that vision. The people of Coney
Island “don’t want this to be just a seasonal venue—it will be for all seasons
benefiting not only tourists, but the people here year-round,” he tells the
In addition, Thor Equities
closed on several Coney Island parcels last year, although its plans remain
unclear at the moment. The New York Aquarium, located on the Boardwalk, is also
unveiling its $127M renovation this year, and late last year the city moved
forward on plans to use eminent domain to seize neglected Coney Island plots
and turn them into a "grand walkway."
Beyond the amphitheater,
iStar has further ambitions in the area as well—the developer owns a site with
over 1M BSF just across from the new venue, bordered by Surf Avenue, West 20th
and 21st streets and the Riegelmann Boardwalk.
Julia Butler, an EVP at
iStar, says the amphitheater should be a boon to that specific slice of Coney
Island in particular, as well as the neighborhood in general.
“We liked this project
because it would bring a cultural anchor to what was previously a very desolate
stretch of Coney Island,” she says.
Although the amphitheater
and iStar’s development site are only a few blocks from the subway, previously
there was little in the area to draw tourists away from the main boardwalk.
What does it all mean? Do
the projects in the Coney Island pipeline represent a few one-off developments,
or is there actually a trend underway here?
Marty, for one, thinks it’s
“I think you’re definitely
seeing a trend towards greater development in the area right now, and frankly I
think it’s long overdue,” he says. “In any other large, successful A-list city,
the closer you get to the water, the more valuable the property becomes.”
“For a variety of reasons
that has never really happened with Coney Island, but I think you’re seeing people
start to recognize the potential there.”
Julia is even more direct.
“I think there’s a huge wave of development coming online in the next few
years,” she says.