Expo 2012 Keynote: ‘We’ll Come Back’

Coney Island rebuilds after hurricane; Alliance for Coney Island formed

by Amanda Charney

If there’s one park that can bounce back from hardship, economic changes, and devastating acts of nature one after another, it’s Coney Island. It must be that Brooklyn willpower.

During the “Reinventing Coney Island” lunch session at the Expo, Nate Bliss, vice president of the New York City ­Economic Development Corporation, announced the formation of the Alliance of Coney Island, a collaboration among the major stakeholders in Coney Island to rebuild the area’s attractions, businesses, and residences following Hurricane Sandy. “The devastation was caused to the amusement parks, the New York Aquarium, the beach, the pier, the stadium,” he said. “But perhaps the most damage has been done to the local residents and the local ­merchants in Coney Island.”

The storm was especially heartbreaking for the community, local officials, and developers who spent decades fighting to renew Coney Island after it succumbed to postwar economic hardship.

But despite the extensive damage and scope of devastation, Bliss’ key message during the session was a hopeful one.

“We realized there’s a symbiotic relationship between our parks and the Coney Island community, and the task of rebuilding needs to be comprehensive,” he said. “While the reality on the ground has been a real challenging one for the past two weeks in Coney Island, these challenges are not insurmountable. We’ve been hit by storms before; our colleagues in the Jersey Shore are already rebuilding, too. We’ll come back.”

And the residents and business owners of Coney Island are nothing if not expeditious. “We’re already getting started,” Bliss said, adding that the day after the storm, workers and residents were cleaning up the boardwalks and the parks with donated supplies.

Tenants along the boardwalk were miraculously the only ones with no damage, he said.

One of those tenants, a restaurant called Tom’s Coney Island, which opened two months before the storm, is now serving as the command center for the relief effort. The group is also occupying churches and parking lots to help those affected.

“If the past two weeks have taught me anything, it’s that New Yorkers are tough cookies, and we’re not taking this storm sitting down,” he said.

And neither did two Coney Island icons: “I’m happy to report that both ‘The Cyclone’ and ‘Deno’s Wonder Wheel’ are fine; they have some work to do, but they’re fine.” 

For information on the alliance, visit coneyrecovers.org.