“The Unofficial Mayor of Coney Island”
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Coney Island owes much of its “light hearted pleasure” to none other than Dick Zigun. Many may know him as the “unofficial mayor” of Coney Island, often dressing in an antique bathing suit or vintage mayor’s top hat. But behind the entertaining appearance, is a hard working, dedicated community activist who believes Coney Island is more than just a tourist attraction.
Zigun, artistic director of a non-profit organization called “Coney Island USA” founded in 1980, is an authority on amusement parks, American popular theater, and the history and tradition of the American sideshow. He got very involved in 2009 when the Bloomberg administration rezoned Coney Island. This allowed him to become much more involved than your average advocate in making Coney Island a better place.
MOTIVATION: Being a 36-year resident, Coney Island is much more than a home to Zigun. As a strong advocate for amusement parks, he believes Coney Island, and everything it represents is a “culture worthy of preserving.” Being the head director of the largest art parade in the country, the “Mermaid Parade,” he believes that the parade holds much more value and tradition than people may think.
“The parade is significant for three things,” Zigun says. “It teaches mythology to young kids in the neighborhood, increases self-esteem amongst Coney Island employees working in amusement parks and landmarks, and allows New York City artists to display their best work.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Letting people know that besides the fun I have, I also represent the art director,” says Zigun. He believes that the community should be more aware of what his organization, Coney Island USA, represents.
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: Zigun’s organization now owns two buildings, and one building is even an official New York City landmark. “We’re just finishing up a million dollar renovation,” Zigun proudly says. “Now we even have air conditioning,” he jokes. Not only is his organization a success, but also has had a huge impact on Coney Island.
PERSONAL LIFE: When Zigun is not entertaining the community or making Coney Island a better place, he enjoys visiting the beach and traveling.
“I love going to the beach, but I do not go often enough. I wish I could go more,” he says. Zigun also enjoys traveling to West Africa with his wife. He is also an excellent public speaker who has had many TV appearances. He lectures college classes and other groups, and has produced air shows, fireworks and other events on both large and small scales. He can even perform your wedding ceremony!