NEW YORK—The Coney Island and Brighton Beach communities are experiencing great success economically, according to a report released on July 26 by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
“The great strength of these neighborhoods are the people who live in these neighborhoods,” said DiNapoli at a press conference held at The New York Aquarium at Coney Island on Tuesday. “Nearly half of the residents in this area are immigrants. … Most of the families come from Ukraine and Russia.”
He added that a large percentage is from China and Belarus.
Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, who emigrated from the former Soviet Union in 1999 and became the first Russian-speaking American to run for political office in 2000, said that the district he represents, which includes Brighton Beach and Coney Island, is about 20 percent Russian but has more African-Americans. “That's why I'm always talking about the synergy of people from different communities,” Brook-Krasny said. “We have a synergy of people speaking more then 40 languages.”
Krasny described America as a country that has historically had people who were born here and immigrants working together.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said, “Coney Island is the original,” compared with amusement parks like Six Flags and that “it is still America's playground.”
Luna Park opened in 2010, and Scream Zone, a mini-park featuring four extreme rides, opened this spring. According to the Luna Park website, it has created 247 jobs for the local community.
Over 1,600 other private sector jobs in 2010 were added to the greater Coney Island area, with overall private employment at 27,530. Business in the area between 2000 and 2008 experienced a 21.4 percent increase.
The number of visitors to Coney Island Beaches in 2010 was more than 12.8 million, triple the number of the previous year.
Coney Island is “not exactly like the Caribbean, but if you have a good imagination, it's gorgeous,” said Markowitz. “It's accessible—that's the beauty of Coney Island—it's a subway away. And it's a great place to really visit: world tourists and tourists across the country visit Coney Island all the time. Whether it's to catch a game at MCU stadium to watch the Cyclones defeat the Staten Island Yankees, to go on the Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel, to enjoy our Luna Park, and if your a nut job, go on the human slingshot."
New York Aquarium Renovations
Set for a $100 million renovation, the New York Aquarium will open “Ocean Wonders” a grand four-story shark exhibition in 2012. Holding over 35 sharks, like sandpiper and sandbar, it will feature three exhibits in two 100,000-gallon tanks and one massive, 400,000-gallon tank.
“It will really be focused on two things,” said Jon Forrest Dohlin, aquarium director, “understanding that sharks are important for healthy eco-systems … and that sharks are facing tremendous challenges and threats.”
“They're also an important and vibrant component of an amazing seascape we have right here in NY waters,” continued Dohlin.
“Ocean Wonders” will allow people to get above the perimeter of the aquarium and see the boardwalk, beach, and ocean, and will open the perimeter up to engage the public through things like boardwalk concessions.
The design has been in development since 2008, with an earlier version from 2006 scrapped because it “didn't meet either our criteria or the city’s,” according to Dohlin.
“It's also to reinvigorate the aquarium and the wildlife conservation society as an important voice for marine conservation. We're really looking to be an effective messenger of that,” concluded Dohlin.
Has the City Neglected the Poor?
“What has the city really done for the poor people of Coney Island?” asked Martin Novitsky, who was born and raised on Coney Island, in a telephone interview. “It's really sad, because people are talking about the great renovation of Coney Island. … The real truth is their renovating Brighton Beach.”
Novitsky is not against Brighton Beach development, though he feels like Brighton Beach and Coney Island should be kept separate in order to avoid misleading anybody. He notices all of the economic development is happening near the affluent part of Coney Island, near the beaches, while he thinks “the right thing to do would be to bring economic development to the heart of Coney Island.”
“There's still a lot more that needs to be done,” said Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr. “We are addressing the needs of the community.”