Coney Island: Why It’s No Longer Praying For Sunshine, But For A Whole Foods

At the tip of Brooklyn, this haven for locals might be getting the full gentrification treatment.

By Jeff Vasishta October 12, 2016
Photo courtesy of Spoiled NYC

Coney Island summer: The beach, boardwalk, fairground and sun drenched boundless hordes. Winter: Horizontal rain, driving winds, desolation and despondency. If the local residents have no compelling reason to stay, they leave. Until recently Coney Island seemed to be bypassed by the glossy new Brooklyn dreamed up in developer fantasyland. But now the borough’s financial pixie dust is finally being blown its way.

Related: Exiled By Gentrification: We All Might Just End Up Living In These Un-Gentrifyable Brooklyn Neighborhoods

In 2009 the city invested $137 million 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. Not bad going. How has the money helped?

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

New developments and businesses have moved in like liberators with the bedraggled locals jumping for joy.

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

Neighborhood stalwart businesses like the family owned Totonno Pizzeria Napolitano, which opened in 1924 and has won multiple awards, and Gargiulo’s at W. 15th St., a fine-dining Italian restaurant that was established in 1907 may be the soul of a community but its survival is predicated on big, national businesses coming to town.

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

If variety is the spice of life, Coney Island might not yet be a vindaloo but taking in all the development may soon require a glass of water. Wahlburgers, opened last year at 3015 Stillwell Ave., and IHOP, expected to open in October at 1019 Surf Ave. Also a residential and retail project called Neptune/Sixth is being developed by Cammeby’s. Fifty percent 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, and a bank, according to a Cammeby’s spokesperson. The second half 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.

Coney Island’s calling card is the fact that it’s cheap to get into the city, if albeit time consuming, and far less expensive that other trendier Brooklyn neighborhoods. The median sales price in 2015, according to StreetEasy was $351,000 compared to $700,000 in all of Brooklyn.

Half the price for twice the commute. And the beach, too. Finally, a Brooklyn neighborhood on an upswing without a hint of gentrification. Yet.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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