surf's up

Coney Island Subway Station Buckles Up for a New Ride

Next summer, Luna Park, which runs the Coney Island amusement park, will be taking over retail spaces at the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue terminal, June 14, 2019.
Next summer, Luna Park, which runs the Coney Island amusement park, will be taking over retail spaces at the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue terminal, June 14, 2019. Photo: Jose Martinez /THE CITY

The gritty gateway to Coney Island’s sweet array of beach, rides and Nathan’s hot dogs is set to get a taste of the amusement park across Surf Avenue.

Central Amusement International — which opened Luna Park in 2010 — will expand its reach into the sprawling Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue subway terminal through a 15-year lease designed to pump close to $5 million into the MTA.

By next summer, the main entrance to a subway station 4.8 million people pass through annually will get a makeover, with Central Amusement International taking over close to 7,000 square feet of retail space now occupied by small vendors.

On the way are a year-round restaurant, bar and arcade, along with a coffee shop, visitors center, clothing boutique and a “beach necessities” shop, according to the MTA.

Passersby perked up at the news.

“This place could use a new look,” said Victor Correa, 65, as he walked past small storefronts with the gates pulled down. “It would be good, because we have a lot of people coming to Coney Island now, tourists and all the people who come in for that frankfurter thing that happens every Fourth of July.”

“As long as it wouldn’t mess with the character of the place too much, it’s a good thing for Coney Island,” said Gerard Gilchrist, 36. “This is a historic place — ‘The Warriors’ was shot out here.”

‘An Iconic New York Location’

The MTA said the leases for existing businesses within the century-old terminal are expiring. Last June, the authority’s real estate arm began seeking to lease nine storefronts for “innovative food and retail concepts” that are “reflective of the Coney Island community.”

The transit agency received 25 proposals, and went with the amusement park operator because of its “strong financial background” and “innovative proposal,” according to MTA documents.

“We reap the benefits that come from working with a single tenant capable of upgrading the retail environment and (Central Amusement International) gets access to an iconic New York location,” Janno Lieber, the MTA’s chief development officer, told THE CITY.

Change is coming to the retail spaces at gthe Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue terminal, June 14, 2019.
Change is coming to the retail spaces at gthe Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue terminal, June 14, 2019. Photo: Jose Martinez/THE CITY

Alessandro Zamperla, president of Central Amusement International, touted environmental benefits to the company’s retail plan.

“We will embody principles of sustainability by working with local vendors and by building our stores with reclaimed and recycled materials,” Zamperla said.

There are 248 retail spaces in the subway system, 80 of which are currently vacant. In 2016, the MTA turned a block-long passageway of vacant storefronts at the 59th Street-Columbus Circle station into “Turnstyle,” home to small eateries, shops and kiosks.

It’s now trying to pull off a similar move in Coney Island, in the passageway at the Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue subway complex in Queens and several other spots in the transit system.

“You got all these spaces just sitting there, might as well do something with them,” said Michael Hernandez, 18, as he walked past several shuttered storefronts at the Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue station.

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