Chic revamp may endanger Coney Island's freaky New York charm

Fri Sep 4, 2009 4:12pm EDT
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By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Would "The Warriors" recognize the Coney Island of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's dreams?

The street gang at the center of the 1979 cult movie fought police and rival gang "Armies of the Night" as they trekked 27 miles back to their Coney Island turf from The Bronx.

New York City has revived since the Seventies, when street gangs ruled some of the graffiti-scarred neighborhoods in the city's five boroughs.

Bloomberg, running for mayor for a third term as an independent, has built on those changes and now has Coney Island in his sights.

An oceanside neighborhood in Brooklyn long known for its amusement parks and boardwalk, Coney Island was in serious decline when "The Warriors" hit theaters, and it has continued on that downward spiral for 30 years.

Still, it is prime real estate, and Bloomberg wants to reinvent Coney Island as a year-round destination, with luxury hotels and 4,500 new apartments.

The mayor estimates his plan would create 6,000 permanent jobs, 25,000 construction jobs and give the area a $14 billion shot in the arm over the next 30 years.

Opponents of the plan, including residents, local workers, economists, and preservationists, fear it will drive out residents or doom them to menial jobs serving the wealthy.   Continued...

<p>Beachgoers brave the high winds on the boardwalk at Coney Island, in New York, July 11, 2009. REUTERS/Chip East</p>