End of the line for Coney Island businesses

November 2, 2010 2:59:04 PM PDT
They've stood in place for generations, but the end may be near.

Mom and pop merchants are the heart and soul of the Coney Island boardwalk.

"I used to be the youngest, now I'm the oldest," 81-year-old Paul Georgoulakos said.

Georgoulakos, the owner of Paul's Daughter, has spent his life feeding the masses here. With almost a half century on Coney Island, the place seems frozen in time.

But now the beloved boardwalk fixture has no choice but to close.

Paul and 10 of his neighbors were summarily evicted by their new landlord.

"Now they tell me you got two weeks. Pack, pack your belongings and go. And that's not right," Georgoulakos said.

It's all part of the city's grand plan to redevelop the boardwalk, turning it over to a European amusement park company called Zamperla. The company last summer completed Luna Park.

In August, the company asked existing tenants like Paul to submit plans to rebuild their businesses. Paul's plan involved a personal investment of three hundred thousand dollars.

Boardwalk merchants say they were assured some of them would be able to stay here. After submitting their proposals, they heard nothing for months until the day after the leases expired. That's when they all got the same letter giving them 15 days to erase decades of memories.

"The bottom line, it's money. It's all money. It's all money. Who's got the most money, and that's it. Forget about the people. Forget about the little people," worker Frankie Colorio said.

Zamperla has stayed quiet on its plans for the boardwalk, though it has been talking to upscale national chains according to some reports. It's hoping a sit down restaurant and a coffee bar can attract more tourists like the Edsons from Australia.

"If lots of areas look rundown, the best thing that can happen is rejuvenation, and it will bring more tourists and that's what New York needs, I think," visitor Barry Edson said.

Whether this is the prescription for a Coney Island revival is anything but certain. By November 15th, the historic businesses will be history.

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