Coney Baloney: DiNapoli's Report Obscures Brooklyn Beachfront's Rollercoaster Economy

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Yesterday state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a report on economic development in Coney Island and Brighton Beach, and declared the two Brooklyn communities to be “back as dynamic neighborhoods where New Yorkers can come to live, work and play,” with job growth far exceeding that of the city as a whole.

DiNapoli’s press statement was quickly snapped up by numerous city news outlets, with the Post‘s headline typical: “Report shows huge gains in jobs, population gains for Coney Island.”

It was an odd moment for anyone who’s actually been to Coney Island lately, since there are few obvious signs of a massive renaissance: Luna Park has effectively replaced the late, lamented Astroland, but at the same time much of the Surf Avenue commercial district has fallen to developer Joe Sitt’s bulldozers, while the much-anticipated construction of condos and mixed-use retail buildings on Coney’s vacant lots — which the city promised would follow its 2009 rezoning — remains vaportecture for now.

So what does DiNapoli’s report really say? Private sector employment is indeed up 7.1 percent–but relative to 2009, a year in which Astroland had been shuttered and Luna Park not yet opened. Jobs are actually down in “greater Coney Island” –a nebulous term that, the report notes, is varyingly used to mean either three zip codes stretching into Bensonhurst, or U.S. Census tracts that cover Coney Island and Brighton–since 2008, and down even more than that since 2007, when the new zoning plan was officially introduced.

And though housing in “greater Coney Island” has grown faster than in the city as a whole since 2002, that should come as no surprise to anyone who witnessed the spate of condo towers that transformed Brighton, with its booming Russian immigrant population, in the middle of the last decade.