What's Up With Coney Island's Shore Theater?
If you've been to Coney Island, you've noticed the Shore Theater. The building sits at the intersection of Surf Avenue and Stillwell Avenue across the street from both Nathan's and the Stillwell Avenue subway station. Last year, it gained scaffolding, which might have led some people to conclude that something would happen with the building.
The long and short answer is that nothing is happening at the Shore Theater, which is owned by Horace Bullard, who made his money with the Kansas Fried Chicken chain. Mr. Bullard owns a number of inactive properties in Coney Island and has been involved in big political and legal battles with the city over the years. Mr. Bullard once floated a grandiose plan for Coney Island redevelopment (sound familiar?), but it went nowhere. And so, Mr. Bullard is one of Coney Island's most prominent owners of vacant land and, to some, a symbol of how big plans can be massive sources of blight.
In any case, the remnants of a once grand theater are at the base of the building and the space above was once used for offices. At the very top is a venue that was once used for banquets and other events. However, the theater is bad shape. Water leaks have taken a toll. The seats have been ripped out. Coney Island USA's Dick Zigun explains in a posting on the Coney Island Message Board that "the scaffolding originally was put up to steam clean the building but now Bullard has decided not to pay the expense... so the scaffolding is now up for no reason." In addition, Coney Island USA has nominated the Shore Theater for landmark status. There are apparently several city tax liens on the property.
Us, we look and see a building that needs landmark protection and that is a leading candidate for renovation and re-use. In fact, one would think that obtaining the property and renovating it and returning it to use as as performing arts space with offices and a venue on the top floor should be a public priority. Frankly, it's so easy to see the property's potential that you want to scream.
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