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Advocates of landmarking a decrepit, 90-year-old Coney Island theater are pushing ahead whether the building’s owner is on board or not.
The Shore Theater at Surf and Stillwell avenues has been neglected for roughly 40 years — a far cry from its glory days as a destination for movies, musicals, and X-rated skin flicks (hey, it was the ’70s).
And last Wednesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission moved toward designating the Shore — a move that boosters say would jumpstart a restoration that would fit right in with the looming overhaul of the once-glorious honky-tonk amusement area.
Kansas Fried Chicken magnate Horace Bullard has owned the building for years, but it is unclear whether he wants it to be permanently protected as a city landmark — not that anyone seems to care what he thinks.
“It is possible for [the Shore Theater] to be landmarked whether Horace agrees or not,” said Dick Zigun, the founder of Coney Island USA, which runs the sideshow and the Mermaid Parade. “Horace only owns it because the city sold it to him for $1 because the city was looking to encourage minority developers [in 1978].
“In the past, I have defended Bullard, but whether his conscience welcomes it or not, it’s time for him to cash out.”
Efforts to reach Bullard failed.
Zigun said he envisioned a restored 2,500-seat theater that would serve as a venue for concerts and Broadway shows. He added that he would like to see non-profit groups occupy the offices above the theater that were once used by people in the entertainment industry.
“Even by Broadway standards, it’s large,” he said. “We need to activate this theater!”
If restored, the theater would mesh with the city’s vision for a Coney Island as a major tourist destination with year-round entertainment, hotels and an amusement park.
Zigun did hand out an olive branch to Bullard should he decide to go along with the landmarking process.
“I have no problem calling it ‘The Bullard Center for the Arts,’ ” Zigun said.
Along with the Shore Theater, the Landmarks Preservation Commission also moved forward with the process of designating the Childs Restaurant building on the Boardwalk.
A date for the vote had not yet been determined.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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