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NY1 Exclusive: New Coney Island Restaurateur Shares His Vision For The Boardwalk

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The makeover of Coney Island's boardwalk is underway, and Brooklyn Borough reporter Jeanine Ramirez got an exclusive first peek at a brand-new eatery set to open there this week.

Workers are stocking the refrigerators and labeling the beverage machines to get Coney Island's newest boardwalk concession up and running. Coney's Cones, located between the amusements of Luna Park and Deno's Wonder Wheel, is the first shop to open there since a new landlord took over the boardwalk businesses last year.

"It's a fascinating project. it's a fascinating venture," says Michele Merlo of CONYCO, LLC, who will help oversee the boardwalk's transformation.

The Italian rides manufacturer and operator Zamperla hired Merlo and his partner Julio Gonzalez to bring their Miami Beach expertise to Coney Island. Merlo operated Miami's Pelican Hotel, among other food and beverage operations, and says he envisions eateries that open for breakfast.

"Maybe one day, you can come and read your book outside on this nice boardwalk, sit in nice comfortable chairs and have a nice cappuccino or ice coffee," says Merlo.

That vision and about a roughly $5 million investment is starting with Coney's Cones, which will have outside seating and open at 9 a.m.

It was the first site on the boardwalk available for redevelopment. Eight other business owners fought their evictions last year and negotiated a one-year lease extension.

The leases for the rest of the boardwalk businesses expire on October 31, when Merlo and his team take over.

"November 1, we have a lot of work to do," says Merlo.

Plans are still in the works but call for four sit-down eating spaces. One would combine some of the existing concessions into one large food court called Mundo with international food offerings. Another restaurant resembling a diner would be called Da Ponte, Italian for "the bridge."

"Our goal is to build Da Ponte, where we can serve breakfast from 7 o'clock in the morning until 2 o'clock in the afternoon," says Merlo. "So if you wake up late, you can have your breakfast in Coney Island."

Merlo promises to be a good neighbor, creating 150 jobs, hiring locally, providing bike racks and trying to turn the boardwalk into a year-round destination.

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