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Now Playing: Heated Battle Over Shore Theatre

Beneath all the hoopla of the strategic plan to rejuvenate Coney Island, a battle is brewing over one of the centerpiece anchors and key property. The Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) released the plan last week at a public meeting at Coney Island Hospital, Ocean Parkway & Avenue Z. Sources say that Horace Bullard, who owns the vacant Shore Theatre on the corner of Stillwell and Surf avenues, has been asking for an astronomical amount of money for the property and had been disingenuous with possible developers. “One way or another we are going to develop the Shore Theatre and if Horace Bullard doesn’t come to the table in a reasonable fashion, we’re going to pursue other avenues to develop it,” said City Council member Domenic Recchia, not ruling out the possible use of eminent domain to seize the property. Recchia, who chairs the City Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee, said he refuses to sit back and have the theatre not developed. “There is a need for a theatre in Coney Island and this is a perfect example of how arts and culture should be included in economic development. A theatre with off-Broadway plays can keep business going all year around and that’s the issue,” said Recchia. Bullard also owns several acres of vacant land next to KeySpan Park—West 15th and West 16th streets, Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk bound his property. According to the CIDC draft plan, the property should be activated to generate year-round activity and jobs, along with creating oceanfront resort attractions that retain the Coney spirit. “Where do they [the sources] get off saying what is a reasonable price,” Bullard demanded to know. “I’m a developer and will participate in whatever the city wants. [I] will be very helpful, and we can decide what makes sense there.” Bullard said he thinks the CIDC has done a very good conceptual collective idea of what would be good for Coney Island, tourists, and city and local residents. “Dom [Recchia] should give me a call before he starts saying things,” said Bullard. “I’m reasonable and interested in Coney Island moving forward. I’m a pro-Coney Islander—always have been—and love what the city has come forward with, and will be cooperating in every way, shape, and form.” Josh Sirefman, chair of the CIDC and chief of staff to Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, emphasized that what was presented last week was only a draft plan and will continue to be refined and improved. “We just want to lay out a vision that can guide private activity so it’s done in the right way and is a good thing,” said Sirefman. Sirefman said as far as the Shore Theatre goes, there is a unique opportunity to turn it into a wonderful entertainment venue and that all the vacant land should be used to contribute to the overall larger goals of Coney Island. “The CIDC is a guide for public investment and actions, and what kinds of things are okay and what isn’t, and that’s the main proposal,” said Sirefman. “It’s very important that all parties work with us.” Sirefman refused comment on any possible eminent domain proceedings. The draft plan also includes an expanded aquarium, perhaps running down to the beach, revival of a historic merry-go-round, a multicultural community center, mixed-income housing and improvements to all the main thoroughfares. I like most of the things the CIDC is proposing,” said Dick Zigun, who runs the 25-year-old not-for-profit Coney Island USA, which oversees the Sideshow by the Sea Shore, the Coney Island Museum, the Mermaid Parade and other large events. “We have concerns in what Thor Equities, which has been buying properties in the area between Stilwell and West 12th Street, is doing. This is the area the CIDC says to leave alone and let it remain an amusement park,” he added. Currently the sideshow and museum are housed at 1208 Surf Avenue and that building is also on the market, Zigun said. “I would like to see the CIDC find us a place in particular—whether it’s the Shore Theatre or another building,” said Zigun. “We’ve been talking to them, but I’d be much happier seeing something specific on where we’re going to be.” Recchia said he is committed to finding Coney Island USA a new home and has already spoken to a number of developers, who are working on housing the operation. Bullard said he wouldn’t lock himself into anything at this time. “Dick Zigun will find a place in Coney Island no matter where it might be,” said Bullard.

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