The Ringling Brothers Circus is considering pitching a tent at Coney Island this summer, but the most obvious location for the show, the now-desolate Astroland site on the Boardwalk, was nixed because of developer Joe Sitt and his company Thor Equities.
According to the Post, the city, Sitt, and Ringling Brothers had been in negotiations to bring the circus to the former Astroland property, which Sitt owns, but then the developer started making demands. One unnamed city official says, "It looked like Thor was going to be able to say, 'We tore down Astroland, but look at what we're doing for Coney.' But then they added demands, so they could make more money, and the whole thing fell apart."
Sources tell the Post that Sitt tried to "nickel and dime" Ringling Brothers by insisting Thor Equities be allowed to sell concessions that would compete with the circus's concessions. It's also rumored Sitt didn't want to offer any parking space on the 10.5 acres of languishing Boardwalk property he owns. Though the claims are unsubstantiated, they're not hard to believe, given Sitt's current strategy of holding the amusement district hostage as he tries to sell the land to the city for twice what he paid for it. (The city's rezoning plan for the area is currently going through a long public-review process.)
Now Ringling Brothers and the city are eying land owned by Taconic Investment Partners west of the Boardwalk, by West 22nd Street. Meanwhile, it's still unclear what the Boardwalk area will have to offer visitors this summer in the way of rides and amusements. (Of course, Coney Island already has a circus and side show.) With the closing of Astroland, the amusement area has shrunk from 60 acres to just five, with Deno's Wonder Wheel park the last man standing.
According to Crain's, the city is considering building a temporary amusement park on land the city already owns and "hopes to acquire in the coming months and on streets that it hopes to close." While the interim park wouldn't open until next summer, it could stay open for five to seven years during the larger redevelopment of the area. In city estimate terms, that translates to about two decades.