Coney Island residents seeing big changes as real estate booms

Coney Island has long been known for its amusement park, beach and boardwalk, but visitors to the neighborhood might not notice that it has been going through major changes on the residential side.

New developments and businesses are moving in, and longtime residents say the changes are for the better.

“The good times are here,” said Eddie Mark, the district manager of the local Community Board 13, who has lived in the neighborhood for 21 years. “Businesses, investors and franchises want to come to the neighborhood and I think things like that show that we’re on an upswing.”

To improve the lives of current residents, the city invested $137 million in 2009, under the Coney Island Strategic Plan, to repair the area’s roads and sewer system. In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio gave another $180 million under his Housing New York plan for additional infrastructure improvements in the area.

According to Nate Bliss, the senior vice president of development at the NYC Economic Development Corporation, government agencies plan to continue the renovations.

“An essential premise of our efforts out there is to bring more retail, amenities and services for the local neighborhood,” he said.

Meanwhile, several chain restaurants moved into Coney, such as Wahlburgers, which opened last year at 3015 Stillwell Ave., and IHOP, expected to open in October at 1019 Surf Ave.

While franchises may not seem like exciting additions to a beach-front neighborhood, residents said more dining and retail options are welcomed. It can take an hour to get to Manhattan on the subway, so running to the city to shop and grab a bite isn’t always convenient.

Also coming to Coney Island is a residential and retail project called Neptune/Sixth, being developed by Cammeby’s.

Half of it will be a seven-story, 161,000-square-foot retail and commercial building at 626 Sheepshead Bay Road, set to open in the summer of 2017. Retailers will include a pharmacy, restaurants, a bank, according to a Cammeby’s spokesperson.

The second half of the project is a residential tower at 32 Neptune Ave., which will be the tallest building in Brooklyn at 40 stories high and is slated for completion in the next two to three years.

“It’s beautiful out here, but the neighborhood just needs more stores,” said John McCall a 32-year-old contractor who moved to Coney Island three years ago with his wife and their three kids. “They’re trying to make it upscale, which is nice, but we need more variety.”

Locals do have several iconic restaurants, such as Totonno’s at 1524 Neptune Ave., an award-winning pizzeria that opened in 1924, and Gargiulo’s at 2911 W. 15th St., a fine-dining Italian restaurant that was established in 1907.

Coney Island also offers plenty of entertainment, especially in the summer. Its free public beach and boardwalk are home to Deno’s Wonder Wheel and Luna parks, which have rides, games and vendors, MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team, and old-school bars and concessions like Ruby’s Bar and Grill and Williams Candy.

Live shows are held at the Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk on Surf Avenue and West 21st Street, which opened on July 1.

And these activities aren’t just geared toward visitors.

“It’s comfortable living by the beach,” said Kenneth Lee Martino, a 61-year-old retired security guard who has lived in Coney for two years. “Walking now and then on the beach or just sitting on the boardwalk are great ways to kill time.”

Living directly on the water in Coney Island, though, is limited mostly to condo developments like The Oceanview at 3030 32nd St., which can be entered from the boardwalk, and the Brightwater Towers, which has a swimming pool.

Other than that, housing in the area consists mostly of single- and multi-family homes.

Along with the Neptune/Sixth project, several other apartment buildings are under construction, including 2856-2858 Stillwell Ave., which will have 60 apartments and is expected to open by October of this year.

Newcomers are flocking to the neighborhood since rental and home prices are currently less expensive than in other parts of Brooklyn, according to Dave Maundrell, executive vice president of Brooklyn new developments at Citi Habitats.

“A lot of people have moved to Coney Island because it’s more affordable,” he said. “And everything is getting better down there. It’s going in the right direction, but there’s a long way to go.”

The median sales price in Coney Island was $351,000 in 2015, compared to $649,950 in all of Brooklyn, according to StreetEasy. The median rental price in Coney Island in 2015 was $1,995, compared to $2,500 in the borough as a whole, the real estate listings site found.

For many residents, the area’s housing prices are well-worth living by the beach.

“There’s nothing like being here,” said Dennis Vourderis, 57, who co-owns the Deno’s Wonder Wheel amusement park. “The fresh air, the sunshine, the happy faces, everyone walking around having a nice time — it’s all so gratifying.”

Find it:

Coney Island is bordered by Ocean Parkway to the east and West 37th Street to the west. It is bound to the north by the Coney Island Creek and the Belt Parkway, and to the south by Boardwalk West.