Coney Island Anonymous

 Ain't it grand when good things happen to good people. Dick Zigun and his freaky co-horts at  Coney Island USA have been keeping the city's historic amusement park alive for years before the city decided to target the zone for development. Now that city's built its minor league ballpark and has blueprints in hand for further upgrades(?) it's only made life more difficult for the folks who put on the Mermaid Parade, Sideshows by the Sea, music events and educational classes focusing on the history of Coney Island and its sideshow tradition. Because now the real estate people are smelling money which makes it all the more difficult for Zigun to hold on to his space and keep paying the climbing rents. Ok, enough of that. The good news is that an anonymous donor has given $25,000 to the Carnegie Foundation and designated that it be given to the CIUSA.

  • In the last four years, CIUSA has made major changes to its staff and board, bringing in new grants and drastically increasing its annual budget. New fundraising practices, including nail-biting demonstrations of sideshow skills in board rooms across Manhattan have resulted in brand-new relationships that have probably never existed in the close-knit world of American Carny Culture. "I guess I should call some of the people who went to Yale with me." says Zigun, 53, a graduate of Yale School of Drama. "None of them are going to believe where I ended up."

    After 25 years of creating some of New York's most beloved annual events, preserving the last remnants of historic Coney Island, and promoting conscientious development in their beachside home, the artists and board members of Coney Island USA are finally being recognized for their contributions. More and more often, patrons are making donations, foundations are providing support for projects, and businesses are clamoring to attach their names to events in Coney Island. As New York City's government lavishes unprecedented attention on the downtrodden amusement area, opportunities are constantly appearing.

    But the question remains: what kind of anonymous donor would throw an unsolicited $25,000 check at a group of artists working to bring art to working class New Yorkers on the beach and boardwalk in America's Playground. The letter, from Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation, contained no additional clues to the identity of the beneficent donor. No indications were given about his or her interests, whereabouts, or who else was on the list or recipients. Although their identity seems to be a closely guarded secret, his or her motives were clearer: "We thank you for your commitment to making our beloved New York City a very special place to live and work."


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