Op-ed | Why a Coney Island casino just makes sense

A rendering shows the proposed casino in Coney Island. Photo courtesy of ‘The Coney’
Thor Equities

Whether it’s vibrant communities, buzzing restaurants, thriving arts and culture, and a people and spirit that is unmatched in the world, Brooklyn has shown that it’s the place to be. This revival has benefited countless neighborhoods around Brooklyn. However, while many have had success, some have been left behind. One such area is Coney Island. That’s why I am proud to support a premier entertainment venue on Coney Island that will bring year-round jobs and an economic revival that is long overdue. 

Coney Island’s history is rich. From the 1880s through the Second World War, Coney Island was one of the most popular vacation destinations. Legendary amusement parks like Dreamland, Luna, and Steeplechase emerged as places where people of all classes could enjoy their free time. This history is seen throughout Coney Island today. A walk along the boardwalk is rife with this history. The history of vacations and amusement runs directly across Surf Ave. However, following the end of World War Two, Coney Island as an amusement destination fell into steep decline and multiple efforts at revitalization across the decades fell short. 

As a result, this former center of tourism, leisure and entertainment, Coney Island has since lagged behind the rest of Brooklyn and New York City. Coney Island has a higher poverty rate than the rest of Brooklyn and New York City. Coney Island has lower levels of on-time high school graduation than the rest of New York City. Coney Island has higher unemployment rates than Brooklyn or New York City has a whole. And Coney Island has higher rates of New Yorkers without health insurance than the rest of New York City. Quite simply, Coney Island is a neighborhood in need of a boost.  

This is why a premier entertainment venue on Coney Island just makes sense. A casino on Coney Island would bring year-round jobs to an area in desperate need of them. Rather than the seasonal employment that dominates Coney Island, a casino and resort, with restaurants and other jobs would create thousands of career pathways where none existed before. These are jobs and opportunities that this community needs. Without a premier entertainment venue, Coney Island will languish behind the rest of New York City for the foreseeable future. For a community that once led the way, a casino can help restore Coney Island to its past greatness. 

A premier entertainment venue would harken back to a time when Coney Island was a destination spot that served all classes of New Yorkers. It would contain retail, restaurants and entertainment that would be accessible to middle-class New Yorkers at a time when the city is increasingly unaffordable except for the rich. While Manhattan has high-end locations, Coney Island is, and always will be, about accessible entertainment for families and working people – a value this casino is committed to upholding. This will be true for concerts, events and other events the casino would host. Brooklyn is already a major tourist destination, and a premier entertainment venue on Coney Island would only add to the borough’s renaissance.  This will be a family-friendly place for tourists and New Yorkers alike. 

Coney Island also makes logistical sense. Situated between two major airports, the D, F, N and Q trains, major roads from Manhattan and Long Island, and possibly even a ferry, Coney Island is easy to get to via all major forms of transportation. New Yorkers, no matter their preferred form of transit, will be able to safely and early get to Coney Island. 

When I was on the City Council, I always looked for opportunities to serve my community and Brooklyn. I have signed on to help bring a premier entertainment venue to Coney Island because this is a continuation of that work. New York has a chance to get this right. Coney Island is a community crying out for help and revitalization. Coney Island was once a destination for everyone and its history as an entertainment hub is deep. If Coney Island is picked as the location of the casino, New York will be able to lift an entire community out of decades of economic malaise, all while creating jobs for Brooklyn. Coney Island is the only choice for a casino.

Robert Cornegy is a former New York City Council Member.