Coney Is­land’s Mer­maid Pa­rade is un­der­wa­ter, fi­nan­cially

The leg­endary pa­rade is floun­der­ing fi­nan­cially and turn­ing to crowd­fund­ing to sur­vive the stormy seas.

Metro USA (New York) - - News - AMY RUSSO @MetroNewYork letters@metro.us

Af­ter 35 years run­ning, Brook­lyn’s Mer­maid Pa­rade is in trou­bled wa­ters. The an­nual cel­e­bra­tion that mobs the streets of Coney Is­land with scant­ily clad mer­maids, artists and an­tique cars is known for herald­ing the start of sum­mer, at­tract­ing a stag­ger­ing 800,000 at­ten­dees.

But this year, they’re strug­gling to stay afloat. Costs, in­clud­ing pricey per­mits, in­surance and the pa­rade assem­bly’s move into the Ford Am­phithe­ater, have left an abyss in fund­ing that or­ga­niz­ers are rac­ing to fill be­fore the June 17 event.

Dick Zi­gun, the pa­rade’s founder who is known as the un­of­fi­cial mayor of Coney Is­land, says the trade-off for the new event space is a hefty price tag. “It’s the assem­bly site we al­ways dreamed of,” he re­marked. “That comes with ex­tra ex­penses.”

The am­phithe­ater has food ser­vice, a weather cover and dozens of bath­rooms, mak­ing it an ap­peal­ing spot for the assem­bly, but it’s just one of the many fees that must be paid by Coney Is­land USA, the not-for-profit putting on the event. The or­ga­ni­za­tion op­er­ates on a mil­lion-dol­lar an­nual bud­get, with the pa­rade ac­count­ing for at least 10 per­cent. The to­tal cost for the event is a not-so-mod­est $100,000, half of which or­ga­niz­ers say must be raised by crowd­sourc­ing if the event is to move for­ward.

Zi­gun re­mains con­fi­dent and said there are no plans to can­cel. “It’s fairly doable,” he re­marked. “We’re just try­ing to be re­spon­si­ble about our over­all bud­get.”

Look­ing back, Zi­gun’s op­ti­mism might be war­ranted. In 2013, a Kick­starter cam­paign gen­er­ated $100,000, dou­ble what is needed this year, when Coney Is­land USA’s of­fices were flooded by Su­per­storm Sandy and the pa­rade was in jeop­ardy. With sup­port­ers’ do­na­tions, the show went on.

Al­though the pa­rade date has been set, the not-for-profit is still strug­gling to make ends meet. Last win­ter, the or­ga­ni­za­tion laid off its en­tire staff for three months amid fi­nan­cial trou­bles. “We’re try­ing to sta­bi­lize the whole or­ga­ni­za­tion,” Zi­gun said. As for the Mer­maid Pa­rade, Coney Is­land is de­ter­mined to en­sure there is no cor­po­rate takeover and is look­ing at crowd­sourc­ing as an an­nual source of funds. So far, nearly $8,000 has been given to the Feed the Mer­maids cam­paign, leav­ing just un­der a month for the re­main­ing $40,000-plus.

This year, Deb­bie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie will be the honorary pa­rade queen and king. As Zi­gun says, it’s all part of what makes this city un­like any other. “We’re proud to rep­re­sent the won­der­ful weird­ness of New York,” he said.

GETTY IMAGES

A shell-be­speck­led par­tic­i­pant walks the board­walk in the 2014 Mer­maid Pa­rade at Coney Is­land.

NOR­MAN BLAKE

Two par­tic­i­pants pose at the Mer­maid Pa­rade.

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