Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dick Zigun Objects to Village Voice Coney Article

There's a Coney Island article in the Village Voice this week that touches on the interesting topic of Dick Zigun of Coney Island USA and his role in the redevelopment of Coney. Almost more interesting than the article itself is Mr. Zigun's reaction to it. Among other things, he calls it a "bullshit piece," but first here's an excerpt from the Voice piece:

You can be sure the new developers aren't planning any Baby Parade. In fact, it'll be a miracle if the Mermaid Parade can hang on, though the legendary Dick Zigun—who is almost single-handedly responsible for the landmark status that now protects the Parachute Jump, the Wonder Wheel, and the Cyclone, who runs the Coney Island sideshow (the last one in the USA!) and the Coney Island Museum (he's got that film of Topsy's execution) and who first thought up the Mermaid Parade—insists that it's not in danger.

You might think Zigun would be full of unmitigated hatred for the developers, but you would be wrong. "There's a lot of bad information getting out," he says as we sit at a red-and-yellow picnic table, within earshot of the museum's barker extolling acts like Insectavora and the Twisted Shockmeister. "I am not nostalgic at all about empty lots, furniture stores, and bus-parking lots. If the developers are going to build nightclubs and restaurants and rides, I'm all for it. What's wrong with having a 21st-century amusement park?"

"But what about Ruby's?" I ask. "Ruby's is closing. Ruby's and Cha Cha's they will rip down," Zigun says flatly and with an alarming lack of sympathy. Actually, this is devastating news—who doesn't love a place like Ruby's, a boardwalk institution with a soused clientele sitting on dilapidated couches in the back, and thousands of photos of summers past plastered behind the bar?...

In any case, not everyone thinks Zigun and his empire of freaks is so peachy. By chance, I run into Manny Cohen, who is (shall we say) more than a little skeptical of the developers and their big plans. Cohen is puffing on a cigar outside his own empire, the Coney Island Arcade. "Oh, you talked to the traitor?" he chuckles, nodding in the direction of the sideshow. Cohen has nothing but contempt for the developers: "They're gonna privatize the beach! This used to be a poor people's paradise!" He's says he's sure that the developers must be buying a new museum space for Zigun because, as Cohen so eloquently puts it, "he doesn't have a pot to pee in."
Now some of Mr. Zigun's reaction from a letter he posted on the Coney Island Message Board that he sent to the voice:
Re: Lynn Yaeger's feature on Coney Island wherein she writes about my "alarming lack of sympathy" and "Zigun's accommodation to the situation"...

Ms. Yaeger insisted again and again in our interview that she did NOT want to write another development ruining Coney Island story but rather wanted to write a "FUN piece" about favorite restaurants and best rides, etc. The truth is that as much as anyone else in Coney Island I have spoken out publicly against condos and/or the Mall of Americaization of Coney and any other threat to Coney Island as anything other then amusements and entertainment and tourism. My arts organization, Coney Island USA, remains at the forefront in preservation and landmarking initiatives trying to protect and preserve the best of old historic Coney Island.

To make matters even worse, Ms. Yaeger then quotes a man known throughout Coney Island as the "neighborhood bastard" to the effect that I am a "traitor" without opportunity for rebutal.

Oh, how I miss the old Village Voice where real muckraking reporters knew how to practice the disappearing art of journalism. Please send an honest reporter next time.
And, he says this in another post:
In reality I have and will continue to give interviews to major press and/or Brooklyn based media. I did a 45 minute radio interview with NPR earlier this week as well as an interview for the official Astroland documentary. Next week I am already scheduled to sit down and talk to CBS-TV Sunday Morning. I am ANXIOUS to discuss development pros and cons in detail with major media and at the publication time of Lynn Yaeger's bullshit piece was ALREADY in negotiations with another Voice reporter begging to talk about impending demolition of historic coney island buildings.
We always enjoy hearing Mr. Zigun's thoughts--and we say that without irony or sarcasm.



Blogger JakeGould said...

Dick Zigun and Coney Island USA are only out to protect themselves. And buzzings about others being unhappy with his self-promotion and relative silence are nothing new.

He's only upset now that "outsiders" are grabbing onto this idea and talking about neighborhood politics like this.

His group—Coney Island USA—is being taken care of by the city with the promise of a new home for the sideshows and museum after whatever happens in Coney Island comes to pass. It's highly doubtful that someone with a gift on the table like that will speak out. But it's still nonetheless disturbing how defensive he is in the light of any criticism thrown his way.

I have tremendous respect for Coney Island USA as a historical preservation society. But as an advocate for the neighborhood they call home, I think they fall short to say the least.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The situation in Coney Island is extremely complicated and getting moreso. As such, it is extremely annoying when the media refuses to acknowledge the things that aren't complicated.

Lynn Yaeger is not the only one who has called into question the future of the Mermaid Parade., for instance, posted a photo gallery with the tag line indicating the same thing that Lynn did...even though the organizers say that the Mermaid Parade may go on, it's not certain.

But it is certain. The Mermaid Parade will continue until global warming raises the ocean levels and the mermaids have to swim the route instead of march it. The Parade will be around in 2008, 2028 and 2058 if we haven't gotten sick of it by then.

If the media wants to debate as to whether CIUSA is acting in an opportunist fashion, or if Dick is a traitor or if we're all in cahoots with the developers and waiting to move into our free penthouse condos, that's fine, because that's all a matter of opinion.

But there is no debate about the future of the Mermaid has one; that's a matter of fact.

But it's difficult to get that message out when the media chooses to acknowledge that.


1:37 PM  

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