Coney Island Freak is bulldozed

December 23, 2010 2:25:13 PM PST
It's a quirky concept with a kitschy name, but over the past decade "Shoot the Freak" became quite an institution on the Coney Island boardwalk.

"It's three days before Christmas they come in the middle of the night with bulldozers and knock down my whole business. What kind of people are these?" Anthony Berlingeri said.

Berlingeri and his business partner, Carlo Muraco, say the new developer of Coney Island illegally bulldozed their stand this week.

The demolition happened in spite of a lawsuit seeking to block the redevelopment of this aging landmark.

"They were not allowed to do this until the court decisions were made," Berlingeri said.

They call themselves the Coney Island Eight -- eight mom and pop merchants who lost their leases last month, but claim they're being evicted illegally.

Among the tenants, Ruby's Bar and Grill in business since 1934. Michael Sarrel has owned it since the 70s.

"Losing Ruby's, it's like losing a family member," Sarrel said. "To get rid of that flavor that makes New York part of New York, it's a sin."

The developer is an Italian amusement park company called Zamperla.

The company says it wants the boardwalk to become a year-round attraction with shops and restaurants that appeal to an audience from beyond Brooklyn.

"They want to change this into some kind of ritzy place where they give you a 10 dollar beer a 12 dollar hamburger. It's gonna be unaffordable for the average person," Sarrel said.

A judge is scheduled to hear the case next month, but one of the eight businesses is already gone. The future is not bright for the remaining seven merchants, who may be forced to close for good.

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