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Subway Cafe

Subway Cafe, Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

More than two years after ATZ posted “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” (December 19, 2012), the trend continues. Across the street from Luna Park, an IHOP is believed to be finalizing a deal to open a pancake restaurant while a Subway Cafe has their sign up and is set to open a year-and-a-half after signing a lease. New FEMA regulations after Sandy are partly to blame for construction delays at Subway Cafe, a restaurant concept featuring “Tuscany-style decor” aiming for a “coffeehouse ambiance” and a layout a little larger than an average Subway.

Sushi Lounge

Sushi Lounge, Surf Avenue at W 12th Street. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Amid the influx of already opened national chains and franchises such as It’Sugar, Applebee’s, Rita’s Italian Ice, and Dunkin’ Donuts on Surf Avenue, there have also been a few new Mom & Pops like Lunatic Ice Cream and Luna Park Cafe (no connection to the park). An outpost of Piece of Velvet, a cake and cupcake shop with locations in Fort Greene and Harlem, is opening across the street from old-time Mom & Pops Williams Candy and Pete’s Clam Stop

Sushi is coming to the corner of Surf Ave. and West 12th Street, across the street from Coney Island USA. Shalyapin Wonderwheel Karaoke (no connection to Wonder Wheel Park) morphed into Surf 12 Club and Lounge, which features live music, but their newest sign says “SUSHI LOUNGE.” A spokesman told ATZ they wanted to do something different. A new display case stood ready to serve desserts. Quartet of Catastrophe will play on Friday at 9:30pm.

Applebee's

Signs in Applebee’s windows on Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Applebee’s, which opened in June 2013, has proven popular with locals and extended its hours. Multiple signs on the street and one in the sky announce they now serve breakfast daily from 8am till 12 noon. A sideshow banner for Gary Dreifus’ “Magic at Coney!!!” graces the window. After completing its run at Coney Island USA, the magical variety show has moved across the street to Applebee’s second floor for Sunday performances in the winter.

Unlike Manhattan, where Mom and Pops are being forced out by landlords who triple the rent and then turn around and lease to chains or upscale businesses, the new franchises on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue are replacing illegal furniture stores which have existed for years in defiance of the zoning. Until the early 1980’s the north side of Surf was home to individually-owned penny arcades and a variety of rides including bumper cars, carousels and even a Jumbo Jet-style coaster. By the time the last ride– Coney Island’s B & B Carousell — closed in 2005, the north side was known as the wrong side of Surf Avenue to locate a business because of the lack of foot traffic. Not any more.

Checkers Coney Island

Checkers in Stillwell Terminal, Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Two other previously announced and long under construction franchises that are expected to open in 2015 are Checkers in Stillwell Terminal, which has finally put its sign up, and its next door neighbor, Johnny Rockets. Like Subway Cafe, these businesses have been delayed by new and ever-changing post-Sandy building regulations. Johnny Rockets is waiting for approval of a storm surge resistant front to resume construction.

Just off Surf, on Stillwell Avenue, Thor Equities’ retail building is said to be the site of New York City’s first Wahlburgers –Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlberg’s burger franchise– opening in May. There’s a vacant space next to the Brooklyn Nets store that was designed to house a restaurant. Rumor has it that is the location and it’s set to be revealed during the Wahlberg’s reality show on A & E.

Johnny Rockets Coney Island

Johnny Rockets, Surf Avenue, January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

May 26, 2014: Photo Album: Opening Day for 5 New Businesses & Exhibits in Coney Island

January 3, 2014: New Year, New Franchise: Rita’s Italian Ice Coming to Coney Island

September 11, 2013: Subway Cafe to Replace Furniture Store on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

Out of Disorder (Coney Island) 2012 by Takahiro Iwasaki.

Out of Disorder (ConeyIsland) 2012 by Takahiro Iwasaki. Asia Society Museum, thru April 26, 2015

The 150-foot tall steel Wonder Wheel inspired Takahiro Iwasaki’s ethereal ten-inch tall sculpture made of fibers pulled from the beach towels on which it is perched! The miniature landscape also includes neighboring Coney Island landmarks the Parachute Jump and Cyclone.

Created in 2012 during the Hiroshima-based artist’s International Studio and Curatorial Program residency in Brooklyn, “Out of Disorder (Coney Island) 2012″ is among the works on view at Asia Society in the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the U.S. A newly commissioned piece created from kimono fibers takes its inspiration from a pair of 17th century Japanese folding screens from the Asia Society Museum Collection and will be shown alongside the six-panel screens.

Asia Society Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am-6pm and on Friday from 11am– 9pm. General admission is $12, seniors $10, students $7, and admission is free for members and persons under 16. Free admission Friday evenings, 6pm – 9pm.

“Takahiro Iwasaki: In Focus,” January 27 thru April 26, 2015 at Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue New York, NY, 212-288-6400

Related posts on ATZ…

December 13, 2014: Art of the Day: David Levine’s Watercolors of Coney Island

October 4, 2013: Art of the Day: John Dunivant’s Bizarre Midway

May 22, 2013: Art of the Day: Girl to Gorilla Showfront by Lew Stamm

September 17, 2011: Photography: Floating Above the Coney Island Boardwalk

Photo © John Huntington

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

When Brooklyn photographer John Huntington took the subway to Coney Island at the start of the “Blizzard of 2015,” it was just before dusk and he had a subway car all to himself. He saw a few people heading home along Surf Avenue and a solitary figure seated on a bench looking out at the ocean. On the boardwalk, the patterns of freshly fallen snow on the slats are a lovely sight to see and to photograph, and one that will soon disappear if the Parks Department is allowed to continue replacing the wooden boards with concrete and plastic. The hibernating amusement parks and attractions provide a colorful backdrop for this storm chaser’s photos.

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard,

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

“Storm chasing requires knowledge of weather, mobility, and patience. I shoot any storm I can here in New York City, and in the spring I often chase across the great plains and beyond,” says the intro to a page with storm photos on Huntington’s blog. Among his photos are images of tornadoes in Kansas and Texas, and Coney Island and the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy.

Photo © John Huntington

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

“I’ve been chasing probably since the 80’s–my first chase was Hurricane Gloria,” Huntington told ATZ. The photographer hoped to go back to Coney on Tuesday. “I won’t be able to get out there tomorrow with no subway. This is apparently the first time they EVER shut the trains down for a snow storm,” he said. According to a popular post last night on the blog Second Avenue Sagas, the closing of the subway for a blizzard was ironic because it was built in response to people not being able to get around during the Blizzard of 1888.

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

Coney Island’s Parachute Jump, also known as Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, is lit nightly from dusk until midnight or later. Its 8,000 LEDs, which are said to be visible from Mars and are definitely visible on the Coney Island Cam, remained a beacon during the storm.

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

Nathan’s, which usually closes at 1 am, was one of the few places open on Monday evening. “I actually first told them trains were shutting down,” tweeted Huntington. “Kid behind the counter said he might sleep there and work tomorrow.”

How much snow did he predict for Coney? Some forecasters had begun revising projected snow totals downward.

“I won’t even guess :-) NWS is sticking to 18″ +.”

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

Related posts on ATZ…

December 29, 2014: Parachute Jump ‘Ball Drop,’ Sideshow & Fireworks at Coney Island on New Year’s Eve

November 18, 2014: ATZ’s Guide to Coney Island’s Honorary Walks and Places

March 10, 2014: High Hopes for Coney Island’s New Thunderbolt Coaster

November 28, 2013: Photo Album: Parachute Jump Lights Way to Year-Round Coney Island

Snowy Cyclone

Snowy Cyclone. January 24, 2015. Photo © Bruce Handy

In this striking photo of Saturday morning’s snowfall by Coney Island resident Bruce Handy, the Cyclone is transformed into veritable “Russian Mountains,” as the world’s first roller coasters were called. The Beach and Boardwalk are a Winter Wonderland. It was a perfect day for Brooklyn’s Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, who brought their homemade sleds to Coney Island for the annual Klondike Derby. More snow is predicted for Monday and Tuesday.

Snowy Parachute Jump

Snowy Parachute Jump. January 24, 2015. Photo © Bruce Handy

Related posts on ATZ...

April 20, 2013: Photo of the Day: Moon Viewing in Coney Island by Bruce Handy

December 27, 2010: Photo of the Day: First Snow on Coney Island Boardwalk

February 26, 2010: Photo of the Day: Snow Mermaid on Coney Island Beach

December 20, 2009: Coney Island Photo of the Day: First Snow on the Cyclone

Thor's Coney Island

Thor’s Coney Island: Aerial view of vacant lots on south side of the Bowery between W 12th and W 15th where amusements once thrived. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Today brought a new twist to the November rumor that an amusement park is coming to one of Thor Equities’ CEO Joe Sitt’s vacant lots in 2015. The latest from the Coney Island Rumor Mill is that there will be no rides (insert unhappy face emoticon) but about 20 trailers with games, food and merchandise. If true, the games would fulfill the “Use Group A” amusement component required by the zoning.

The location is in the heart of Coney Island adjacent to Luna Park’s Scream Zone and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. In recent years, this lot on the Bowery between Stillwell Avenue and West 12th Street has hosted failed flea markets and made a mockery of the rezoning in 2009 and 2011. “Festival by the Sea” and the “BK Festival” were granted City permits as a “temporary fair” because a flea market is not a permitted use on this property in Coney Island. A color coded map on Thor Equities’ website currently designates it as “Future Retailer/Entertainment Spaces.”

As a critic of flea markets on land where the Tornado roller coaster (1927-1977) and the Bobsled (1941-1974) once thrilled, we were happy to see the BK Festival and Thor Equities bring in rides, games and sideshows in 2012. Why not do it again?

MegaWhirl in Coney Island

Abandoned MegaWhirl Ride on Thor’s lot in Coney Island. November 11, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Despite various amusement operators efforts to negotiate lease deals with Thor Equities in the past, the lots remained vacant last year as well as in 2010 and 2013, when the City issued a stop-work order on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.”

Across the Bowery, Thor’s retail building is said to be the site of New York City’s first Wahlburgers –Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlberg’s burger franchise– opening in May. There’s a vacant space on Stillwell next to the Brooklyn Nets store that was designed to house a restaurant. Rumor has it that is the location and it’s set to be revealed during the Wahlberg’s reality show on A & E.

Mozzarepa and other street fair food at Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park on Thor’s Stillwell Avenue lot, June 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

March 24, 2014: Will Rides Return to Thor Equities Vacant Lots in Coney Island?

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

May 16, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Aqueduct Flea Vendors Make Dismal Debut

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

Chance Turbo

November 2014 Ad for a Chance Turbo ride in Zhejiang, China, which sold to Playland in Vancover, Canada via usedrides.com

This week, ATZ learned that Playland Vancouver will re-sell the rare 1970’s Turbo ride purchased last year from China via usedrides.com instead of having it refurbished as planned. Last November ATZ had the scoop on the acquisition of the legendary and surreal-looking amusement ride by Canada’s oldest park, which hosts the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE). The news galvanized the 700-plus members of the Turbo Amusement Ride Fan Club, who are ready to plan their vacations and travel to distant places for the ride’s comeback. Why did the PNE change their plans?

“Chance has given us an extensive report on the machine’s condition that has shocked us,” PNE Maintenance Supervisor Peter Tremblay told ATZ, referring to the Turbo’s manufacturer, Chance Rides. “With this report our board has voted to sell this ride, rather then repair to add to our park due to high costs and risks. On a more positive note, we have had very high interest in the machine, and now it will be sold to a U.S. buyer.”

The Turbo, which was brought to China from Australia a decade ago, was shipped to Chance’s factory in Wichita, Kansas. A spokesman for the manufacturer said Chance will not go ahead with any work on the ride until the PNE has sold it to a new owner. As ATZ reported previously, this Turbo is expected to get a re-do rather than a restoration. Chance and the PNE had agreed to “a full make over in line with today’s strict safety standards” and “new open style tubs limiting 2 passengers per arm to make this ride more modern,” much to the dismay of Turbo aficionados, many of whom were born too late to have experienced the unique thrill of the ride.

A total of 23 Turbos were manufactured by Chance Rides from 1970 through 1976, and none are currently in operation. The Turbo Amusement Ride Fan Club’s hopes are now pinned on the two Turbos being restored as labors of love by independent ride operators Jerry Baque of Classic Rides Amusements in California and Elwin Bell of Bell’s Amusements in Australia.

Turbo Maple Leaf Village

Mark Hackett, co-founder of the Turbo Amusement Ride Fan Club, after riding the Turbo for the first time – 12 times in a row!- at Maple Leaf Village in Niagara Falls, 1991. Photo © Mark Hackett

Related posts on ATZ…

Janaury 20, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park Adds Scrambler, ‘Twist & Shout’ Drop Tower

November 13, 2014: The Turbo, Legendary 1970s Thrill Ride Poised to Return

June 4, 2014: Astroland Rocket Finds New Home Beside the Wonder Wheel

August 8, 2013: Rare & Vintage: Looking for Artifacts from Idora Park

January 21, 2013: Rare & Vintage: 1960s Chance Skydiver Car

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park Scrambler

Astroland Scrambler Back Home in Coney Island at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

With only 2 months and 9 days till Coney Island’s official opening day on Palm Sunday — March 29, 2015 — new rides are starting to arrive at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. This year, park co-owner Dennis Vourderis says they are bringing back the popular Scrambler and adding three new family rides, including a Twist and Shout Drop Tower to Deno’s Kiddie Park. The other two new family rides slated for the kiddie park are to be announced.

Remember Astroland’s Scrambler? It’s back at home in Coney Island at Deno’s! The Scrambler will be located between the Wonder Wheel and the Barbieri Bumper Cars, which also hail from Astroland and were refurbished and returned in 2012. With 24 cars and a huge floor, it’s the largest bumper car ride in Coney. The historic 1962 Astroland Rocket was in that spot last year and has been moved across the midway.

The new drop tower, which adults and children can ride together, is set for the corner spot on the Boardwalk at West 12th Street. Nick, Deno and Dennis Vourderis went for a test ride at the IAAPA trade show in Orlando in November. “Adults can ride this one too! Yayyyyy!!!! Ordered ours with different theming and colors,” said a post on the park’s Facebook page.

Drop Tower Wonder Wheel Park

Nick, Deno and Dennis Vourderis testing new drop tower at IAAPA in Orlando. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Related posts on ATZ…

December 28, 2014: Photo of the Day: Coney’s Parachute Jump & Wonder Wheel Lit for Holidays

June 4, 2014: Astroland Rocket Finds New Home Beside the Wonder Wheel

February 28, 2014: Photo Album: Wonder Wheel Park Preps for Coney Island’s Opening Day

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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