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Old Posted Apr 3, 2009, 3:49 PM
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http://www.nypost.com/seven/04032009...end_162737.htm

CONEY ISLAND BACK THIS WEEKEND

By RICH CALDER
April 3, 2009

Come the weekend you'll be able to ride the Cyclone - and soon even "Shoot the Freak" - just like you did last summer as Coney Island bounces back for at least one more season before a massive overhaul.

Despite the recent loss of Astroland Park, amusement operators and local leaders remain optimistic that Coney Island's world-famous boardwalk - which is undergoing repairs - can still draw big crowds.

Parts of what's left of a rapidly dwindling amusement district reopens Sunday, including the world-famous landmark Cyclone roller coaster, Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and a few boardwalk attractions.

Other attractions return in the coming weeks - including the "Freak" oddity that lets you shoot paint balls at a human target, Ruby's bar and nearly all of the other dozen small boardwalk businesses that were in danger of being booted from their space only a few months ago.

Meanwhile, developer Joe Sitt, the area's primary landowner, is planning to unveil some new, but temporary, attractions including 25 rides and games slated for the old Astroland Park site and a flea market/fair with large tents set for vacant tracts on the Stillwell Avenue boardwalk.


The old Astroland site will also host a new freak show that will look to rival the popular Coney Island USA Circus Sideshow.

The city, which wants to buy Sitt's 10.5 acres of land and redevelop it as part of the mayor's vision for a new 27-acre amusement district, announced Wednesday that it has returned to the bargaining table with a new offer of $105 million.

But sources close to Sitt laughed off word of that offer because it's $5 million less than the city's previous bid. The developer wants close to $200 million, but city officials say the economic downturn dictates the latest offer.

Other annual Coney Island events also returning include the Mermaid Parade, Friday night fireworks, Nathan's hot dog eating contest, the Siren Music Festival and several concert series.

The Lola Staar roller rink will also return to the boardwalk at the landmark Child's restaurant building Memorial Day weekend.

But owner Dianna Carlin had to relocate her popular Lola Staar Souvenir Boutique from the boardwalk to the revamped Stillwell Avenue subway terminal because Sitt failed to renew her lease. Her store also reopens Memorial Day weekend.

The Brooklyn Cyclones, a Mets minor league affiliate, kick off their 38-home game schedule June 19, and there are also year-round attractions like the New York Aquarium and the Coney Island USA Museum and Circus Sideshow.

The city is also negotiating to bring Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus to Coney Island this summer, along with the return of professional beach volleyball.

Carol Hill Albert, who operates the Cyclone, said it will be odd reopening the 82-year-old roller coaster without the rest of Astroland Park but is "hopeful tourists will give Coney Island a shot this summer."

Although the price to ride the Cyclone is still at $8, Albert said she is seeking permission from the Parks Department to up the price to $9 because of a "huge hike in insurance," but she added "we're going to have a lot of recession specials this year," including charging people only $5 if they jump back on for a second ride.

The first 100 people will ride free at the gala season opening.

Additional reporting by Sally Goldenberg.
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