“This summer will be the best we have had in decades.”
That was Thor Equities principal Joe Sitt before the start of this year’s summer season in Coney Island.
Late last week, however, the Coney Island landowner brought the hammer down on the ride operator he was counting on to pump some life into the vacated Astroland site on Surf Avenue.
“Dreamland has been locked out because it has not come close to meeting its financial obligations in many months,” a spokesperson for Thor Equities said.
According to the landlord, Anthony Raffaelle and his “Dreamland” amusement park owes Thor a half-a-million bucks in back rent.
At the time of this writing, the landlord still had hopes of resolving the issue so that the rides could be reopened this week.
Thor Equities has struggled mightily to maintain activity on the 3.1 acre site ever since it booted Astroland Amusement Park out of Coney Island in September 2008.
Last year, Thor Equities’ “Summer of Hope” ended in a cloud of disappointment and less-than inspiring inflatable rides.
This year, Thor Equities pinned its hopes on the success of “Dreamland,” the John Strong sideshows and an outdoor flea market dubbed “Festival by the Sea.”
Strong’s freak shows have earned a lot of bad press for its alleged exploitation of animal oddities, while the flea market - after prolonged issues with its tents - has failed to generate the kind of foot traffic neighboring merchants had hoped for.
Raffaelle is reportedly crying foul over the whole situation, but sources close to the negotiations between Thor and “Dreamland” suggested that the operator might be trying to withhold payment of back rent as a way of leveraging a new contract for next season.
According to Thor, they worked well with Raffaelle last year and there were no indications of trouble this year until the bills started piling up.
Raffaelle did not resposnd to calls for comment at press time.
©2009 Community News Group
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