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Coney Island’s long-eroding amusement area is finally growing again.
The conversion of the Childs Restaurant, at the corner of W. 21st Street and the Boardwalk, into a restaurant and concert venue flies in the face of more than 60 years of city planning and development, which have whittled the entertainment area down to a fraction of its former glory.
In its early 20th-century heyday, the People’s Playground sprawled from W. Fifth to W. 21st streets, and was home to three magnificent theme parks — Dreamland, Luna Park, and Steeplechase Park.
Dreamland, built in 1904, burnt to the ground in 1911. Robert Moses — who, besides being the city’s mighty master builder, was apparently a world-class killjoy — decided in 1957 to move the New York Aquarium from Battery Park to discourage the amusements on Coney Island in favor of parks and educational facilities.
The original Luna Park, which spanned W. Eighth to W. 12th streets, suffered a pair of devastating blazes in 1944 and failed to reopen the next year. The city — still in Moses’s grip — took over the land and built the Luna Park Houses on top of it in the mid-1950s.
Developer Fred Trump — father of developer and television blowhard Donald Trump — bought the property and demolished the iconic funzone, hoping to build waterfront housing on the site. But the city refused to change the zoning, and the real estate mogul leased the space to small operators for several years, before the city bought it from him in 1969. It lay fallow until the city built Keyspan — now MCU — Park on the site in 2000.
In 2009, the city decided it wanted to encourage residential and hotel development, and pared the area zoned strictly for amusements down to a puny five-block stretch between W. 10th Street and Kensington Walk, along with a few small patches of land along the Boardwalk.
The original Luna Park, which spanned W. Eighth to W. 12th streets, suffered a pair of devastating blazes in 1944 and failed to reopen the next year. The city -- still in Moses’s grip -- took over the land and built the Luna Park Houses on top of it in the mid-1950s.Reach reporter Will Bredderman at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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