The 2015 edition of photographer and film editor Jim McDonnell’s annual “Coney Island Dancing” video was released over the weekend. Miss Coney Island and her dancing cats, who are still open for business at 25 cents a dance, start the show! Its the fifth year in a row that Jim has compiled his fabulous footage of Boardwalk dancers extraordinaire. “Dancing and music is an integral part of Coney Island,” he says. “This year’s soundtrack is ‘I Know You Got Soul’ by Bobby Byrd (James Brown’s legendary sideman) Enjoy!”

Related posts on ATZ…

April 6, 2014: Photo of the Day: Miss Coney Island’s Dancing Cat

January 24, 2012: Dance Video: Ringmasters Crew in Coney Island

September 6, 2011: Video: Coney Island Dancing 2011 by Jim McDonnell

December 16, 2010: Blast from the Past: LFO’s Summer Girls Music Video

Franchise Restaurant Row

Franchise Restaurant Row in progress on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue: Checkers, Johnny Rockets, Applebee’s, Grimaldi’s, and more to come. Photo © Tricia Vita

In Coney Island’s Stillwell Terminal, Magic Gyro, a Mom and Pop destroyed nearly three years ago by Hurricane Sandy, is about to reopen, and a Checkers hamburger franchise is set to debut. Magic Gyro owner Levent Demirgil told ATZ that he will be training employees this weekend and plans a soft opening next week.

“We suffered a lot from Sandy,” Demergil said in an oral history interview recorded in Turkish for the Coney Island History Project’s immigrant narratives series. “We didn’t have insurance. I took personal loans. By taking those we are trying to stay afloat, that’s why we could not open here for three years.” Formerly a gourmet shop with a corner kitchen, the new store will be a Mediterranean Grill featuring healthy fast food such as hummus, salads, and döner kebabs.

Magic Gyro Coney Island

Levent Demirgil in his soon-to-open Magic Gyro in Stillwell Terminal. Photo © Coney Island History Project

Meanwhile, construction has resumed on the north side of Surf’s Franchise Restaurant Row. Next door to Checkers, the Johnny Rockets “Coming Soon” banner is tattered, but the long stalled construction on the burger franchise, whose themed decor is based on retro diners, is once again underway. “They are laying the plumbing under the concrete floor and pouring the concrete next week,” says broker Joe Vitacco, who gave us an update on a lease deal that he closed nearly three years ago in December 2012.

“You ask why we don’t do Mom and Pops,” Vitacco added, referring to our ongoing conversation that began with ATZ’s 2012 post “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” He says that Mom and Pops wouldn’t be able to afford this, referring to the extraordinary delays and ballooning costs due to city and MTA red tape.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On Surf Avenue across from Luna Park, construction on a 5,400 square-foot IHOP has finally begun eight months after construction was expected to begin. The franchisee is Bryan McKenzie, who is also the owner of an IHOP in New Jersey. The delay was due to bureaucratic snafus at the City’s Department of Buildings. At the beginning of this year, ATZ reported the construction had been delayed by new and ever-changing post-Sandy building regulations. Johnny Rockets was waiting for approval of a storm surge resistant front. Construction had been stalled for so long that skeptical members of the Coney Island Rumor Mill doubted it would ever resume.

Vitacco says that at this point in time he believes IHOP will be open in March 2016, in time for the 2016 season. “This is a testimony to the undying commitment of Bryan McKenzie, the IHOP franchisee, who would not give up when faced by problems with approval by the building department that took 18 months to resolve.”

The one-story building at 1019 Surf is a longtime furniture store, which is not among the use groups permitted by the city’s zoning. The space is being subdivided into six storefronts by the landlord and the stores are getting new street numbers. IHOP will combine the three stores on the far left and the Subway Cafe has the one on the right. The two remaining storefronts totaling 3,000 square feet were in fact snapped up yesterday by a Mom and Pop for a kosher pizzeria and ice cream shop, which will also have a party room for kids’ birthday parties.

Related posts on ATZ…

May 29, 2015: Coney Island Openings & Closings: Power Surge, Arcade, Rainbow Shops, Vintage Shooting Gallery

May 14, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Red Doors Bar & Grill Opens on North Side of Surf Ave.

March 11, 2015: In Coney Island, Two Stores and One NYC Landmark Mark 95th Year

February 13, 2015: Coney Island 2015: IHOP Franchisee Signs Lease for 5,400-Square-Foot Surf Ave Store


Pegasus statues from the Coney Island Pumping Station were removed to the Brooklyn Museum’s Sculpture Garden for safekeeping in 1980. Photo © Charles Denson via coneyislandhistory.org

Your last chance to submit public comments to save the long neglected Coney Island Pumping Station designed by Chanin Building architect Irwin Chanin is just three days away. The city-owned building on Coney Island Creek would be Coney’s only landmark outside of the amusement area, which has six official city landmarks–The Wonder Wheel, Cyclone and Parachute Jump, the two former Childs Restaurant buildings, and the former Shore Theater.

Prior to the Landmarks Preservation Commmission’s October 8, 2015 public hearing to address a backlog of calendared buildings, the LPC is asking speakers to register in advance and submit written statements by October 1st. The email address for comments is backlog95@lpc.nyc.gov. If you are unable to attend the hearing, your written submissions will be entered into the record and distributed to the Commissioners, according to the LPC’s website. A link to a pdf with information about the hearing, at which 29 buildings are on the agenda, is here.

If the Coney Island Pumping Station wins designation, the Pegasus statues, which were removed to the Brooklyn Museum’s Sculpture Garden for safekeeping 35 years ago, could return in triumph to their Coney Island home. After being proposed for landmark designation in 1980, the building was to be mothballed and protected for future use, according to a 1981 article in The Society for Commercial Archaeology News Journal.

Coney Island Pumping Station

Coney Island Pumping Station designed by architect Irwin S. Chanin, whose works include the Century and Majestic apartment houses and the Chanin Building

However, the city proved unable to protect the building from vandals who removed the nickel silver, steel, aluminum and granite trim, and chiseled away at the facade and the winged horses at the building’s entrance. “In an attempt to protect the sculpture from further vandalism, Charles Savage, director of the Commission’s salvage program, managed to have them removed to the Brooklyn Museum for safekeeping. Local press applauded the preservation of this portion of the so-called ‘off-beat Coney Island landmark.’”

Decommissioned as a fire pumping station in 1976, the long vacant structure is listed as a “non-residential structure with no use” in the database of city-owned property. Nothing ever came of a plan reported by the NY Times in 1990 to spend $23 million to revive the structure to connect two wings of transitional housing for homeless families.

“Numerous proposals have surfaced recently to repurpose the building for community usage including as a Coney Island ferry terminal, ecology center, or museum,” writes Charles Denson on the Coney Island History Project’s blog in a plea to save the building for future generations. “The Art Deco structure was unusual for Coney Island and much different than most municipal structures which were commonly utilitarian and devoid of ornamentation. Chanin commissioned a pair of winged horse sculptures for the entrance to the elliptical limestone and granite Moderne structure, creating a magnificent monument amidst Coney’s ephemeral landscape.”

In addition to submitting your comments to the Landmarks Preservation Commission by October 1st, we urge you to sign and share the Art Deco Society of New York’s petition to landmark the Coney Island Pumping Station, which will be submitted to the Commission.

Coney Island Pumping Station

Coney Island Pumping Station, Neptune Avenue. July 18, 2014. Photo © Charles Denson via coneyislandhistory.org

Related posts on ATZ…

May 4, 2015: Boardwalk Bunco: Milan Expo’s USA Pavilion Has Boardwalk from Coney Island, Brooklyn to Get Plastic & Concrete

April 13, 2015: Video of the Day: Century-Old Forest Park Carousel Awhirl After Off-Season Overhaul

March 11, 2015: In Coney Island, Two Stores and One NYC Landmark Mark 95th Year

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

Kite Aerial Photography Coney Island

Kite aerial photography at last year’s kite festival in Coney Island. Photo © Ron Marcisak

The beach belongs to kite flyers this weekend! On Saturday and Sunday, September 26 and 27, from 9:30am – 5pm, you can go fly a kite or buy a kite and learn to fly it on the beach between West 10th Street and Stillwell Avenue. Professionals and amateurs will be flying one line, dual line, and quad line kites. The annual event is free and all ages are welcome to participate or spectate.

If you go, you’ll want to take photos of the colorful sea creature-shaped kites in the sky. In past years, we’ve seen a green octopus with flowing tentacles, a giant crab, schools of tropical fish, and a scuba diver. These photos were shot at last year’s festival by Ron Marcisak, one of the organizers of the New York Kite Aerial Photography Meet-up Group.

Coney Island Kite Festival

Coney Island Beach at start of last year’s kite festival. Photo © Ron Marcisak

This weekend is also the Coney Island Hot Rod and Tattoo Show at Coney Island USA and the 34th Annual Great Irish Fair at MCU Park. The rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and Luna Park are open weekends and holidays through November 1st.

Though the beach is now closed for swimming, sunbathing is allowed and encouraged. Says photographer Ron Marcisak of his photo shown below: “NO PHOTOS PLEASE. See the beach bag? Ironic?”

Kite aerial Photography

Kite aerial photography at last year’s Coney Island Kite Festival. Photo © Ron Marcisak

The Longest Friday of the Year by Jim McDonnell

Ray Valenz and Betty Bloomerz of the Coney Island Sideshow ride the Thunderbolt in this still from Jim McDonnell’s The Longest Friday of the Year

The 15th Annual Coney Island Film Festival kicks off tonight, September 18, with a doc about burlesque duo Trixie Little and The Evil Hate Monkey and an opening night party featuring live sideshow, burlesque and an open bar. This year’s selections include over 100 films in 16 programs, wrapping up on Sunday evening with a roster of Coney-centric films and a Coney Island style awards ceremony at the famed “Bump Your Ass Off” Eldorado Bumper Cars.

Several films screening at the film fest were made by or are about ATZ friends and acquaintances. We asked them to share behind the scenes anecdotes about the making of their films.

Jim McDonnell

Still from Jim McDonnell’s The Longest Friday of the Year

Photographer and videographer Jim McDonnell is following up his 2014 “Made in Coney Island” winning short doc “Thunderbolt” with a documentary feature “The Longest Friday of the Year” (Program 16, Sunday, 6pm). The Friday of the title is June 19, 2015, the first weekend and the first fireworks show of summer and the eve of the Mermaid Parade.

It was my goal to show a day in the life of Coney Island from and give a glimpse into the lives of some of the people that work in the amusement district. There were 11 different people that shot footage for me that I staggered over the course of the day, and that’s not including myself. We shot from 4:30 in the morning until 1:15 the next morning.

Despite only being a one day shoot – it was the largest and most ambitious production I’ve ever done. Some of my cinematographers were Coney greats including Bruce Handy, Eddie Mark, Lloyd Handwerker, Kenny Lombardi and Raymond Adams (just to name a few).

I conducted a total of 22 interviews/conversations but only used 18. Some of the interviewees are DJ Vourderis from the Wonder Wheel; Ray Valenz, Betty Bloomerz and Patrick Wall from Coney Island USA; Louis Beard from Eldorado; and Fernando Velasquez from Luna Park. I really wanted to emphasize the diversity of the community.

This Side of Dreamland by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick

Still from This Side of Dreamland, a documentary portrait of banner painter Marie Roberts by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick

“This Side of Dreamland” by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick (Program 16, Sunday, 6pm) is about Coney Island artist Marie Roberts, whose sideshow banners have emblazoned Coney Island USA’s building since 1997. Lester A. Roberts, Marie’s uncle, was a talker extraordinaire with the Dreamland Circus Sideshow in the 1920s.

I think they looked at a bit of Coney Island through me. I started a painting on camera (which I cursed myself no end for doing, it was the Kavadlo Brothers painting, and I had to use a photo) and I worked over that thing a lot. Patrick’s eye was sensitive, he got my arm painting, which was really the important thing in the shot.

I think they got me, and the culture of the place, the amusement part anyway, and that they did an incredible job in less than ideal situations. They even got the animals. There is a scene in my yard with the Dreamland animals graves and Hyjinx from CIUSA (all buried there). Momma cat appears, Patrick put some animated cats in which I am not wild about but he is.

As the story goes, Lester came back from his traveling sideshow and left the snake and monkey at the house. My father took care of them. Have photo of him and monkey. She died because the house was drafty and she caught a cold. They are buried in the yard along with Hyjinx and my Floyd and Bessie cats. Graves were not marked but my father pointed them out many times. There are flowering bushes there now.

This Side of Dreamland by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick

Still from This Side of Dreamland a documentary portrait of banner painter Marie Roberts by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick

In previous years at the Coney Island Film festival, Lou Dembrow has shown short docs about John Dorman of Philips Candy of Coney Island, which moved to Staten Island, and Jimmy Prince, who retired from Mermaid Avenue’s Major Market. In 2012, her film about the Wonder Wheel won Best Documentary Short. This year’s entry is “Deno’s 2007, A Kaleidoscope View” (Program 16, Sunday, 6pm).

A kaleidoscope is a cylinder with mirrors that creates a colorful pattern, due to the reflection of beads or pebbles, off the mirrors. I used the ‘mirror’ filter in imovie to create the kaleidoscope effect and edited the film in Final Cut,” says Dembrow. These images from the movie demonstrate the kaleidoscope effect.


Still of Airplane Ride from Deno’s 2007, A Kaleidoscope View by Lou Dembrow

Painter Marc Kehoe, for whom Coney Island has been an inspiration for more than 25 years, is also a film school alum who has two films in Program 2, Saturday, 2pm.

“When” is a film noir set in the near future of a large coastal city- after the climate and environment have radically changed, causing rising waters to engulf the city at unpredictable intervals. Our guide through this disturbingly upended society is the Narrator, an operative who works for The Control an agency or a person that/who maintains order in the city-or what is left of it. The Narrator recalls his own version of what daily existence was before the waters began rising. Love, Art, Freedom & Trust converge during the films climax, in the ruins of what was once the city’s beach resort. It was shot off season in Coney Island, soon after Luna Park was opened. There are shots of the late great AstroTower.

WHEN by Marc Kehoe

WHEN, a film by Marc Kehoe. Program 2, September 19, Coney Island Film Festival

“Ruby’s Last Call,” also by Marc Kehoe, was shot on November 6, 2010. (Luckily, Ruby’s later won a reprieve and a lease.)

“Ruby’s Last Call” records what was touted as the last day of business of Ruby’s Bar and Grill, the venerable Coney institution on the Boardwalk between W 12th Street and Stillwell Avenue. Ruby’s, along with other long-term businesses, was threatened with eviction – at very short notice. The film depicts a celebration/protest featuring Ruby’s daughters Cindy and Melody, patrons and concerned citizens- and music by local bands Sean Kershaw and the New Jack Ramblers. The finale features a poetic surprise.

Ruby's Last Call

Michael Sarrel in Ruby’s Last Call, a film by Marc Kehoe

The Plight Of Cecil is the pilot for Carla Rhodes’ upcoming web series starring Cecil Sinclaire and directed by Ed Hellman. Rhodes, who has been a ventriloquist since she was nine, performs monthly at the Slipper Room with her sidekick Cecil in a show featuring burlesque and vaudeville.

“The Plight Of Cecil” is my opus and my attempt to modernize ventriloquism again and break boundaries as an artist. I used such varied inspiration as I Love Lucy, Shari Lewis, The Marx Brothers, Joe Franklin’s Office (for aesthetic purposes) and my head full of geeky ephemera.

I enjoyed adding little touches like casting my actual pet dove, Pearl Friday as Cecil’s secretary. She changes between a real dove and a puppet dove (for action shots) as a throw-back to early TV. I’m such a geek there is even Morse Code in the episode that spells out a hidden message which no one has noticed or deciphered yet. These are little touches that I always loved seeing in TV/film.

The idea behind the series is Cecil Sinclaire is a vaudeville agent in modern times, and I’m his modern assistant. Potential clients come in and audition with the hopes of being added to Cecil’s roster, and each episode is sponsored by a product. Just like early tv!

Related posts on ATZ…

July 14, 2015: ‘Famous Nathan’ Documentary Gets Theatrical Run, VOD and DVD Release

April 22, 2014: ATZ Review: ‘Famous Nathan,’ A Documentary by Lloyd Handwerker

November 15, 2012: ATZ Review: Coney Island Documentary ‘Zipper’ Debuts at DOC NYC

September 27, 2010: Video: The Museum of Wax by Charles Ludlam

On Saturday, Zamperla’s much-anticipated new Enterprise-style ride, called the Endeavor, is expected to make its public debut in Coney Island, sources tell ATZ. Its inaugural spin is set to coincide with the visit of 400 amusement industry professionals attending Amusement Today‘s 18th Annual Golden Ticket Awards hosted this year by Zamperla at Luna Park and Central Park’s Victorian Gardens.

The prototype ride is already set up on West 15th Street and being inspected by the City’s ride inspector in advance of the weekend. On Wednesday, ATZ friend and beach-goer Eliot Wofse caught the Endeavor going for a test spin in the above video. If the ride looks familiar, the Enterprise was a fave at Coney Island’s Astroland from the 1970s until the early 2000’s when it was sold to New Jersey’s Casino Pier.

The Endeavor has been on Luna Park Coney Island’s map –”Coming Soon! Get ready for an experience that is out of this world” — since the park opened this spring. Sources tell ATZ the prototype has already been sold to a park in warmer climes, where it will go after an initial few weeks of operation in Coney Island. Another Endeavor will be sent to Luna Park in time for its 2016 season, the source said. This year, Luna Park is celebrating its fifth anniversary season with five new rides. The park, which has 29 rides, is also a showroom for Zamperla’s rides, 26 of which were manufactured by the Vicenza, Italy, ride manufacturer.

Zamperla Endeavor

The Endeavor, Zamperla’s new Enterprise-style ride, awaiting its debut at Luna Park. September 7, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Golden Ticket Awards is a two-day private event known as the Oscars of the amusement industry. The public can watch the Golden Ticket Awards Ceremony, which is being held at Gargiulo’s Restaurant, via an online simulcast beginning at 7:30pm on September 12 at this YouTube link. The ceremony will include Broadway-style entertainment produced by RWS & Associates and the presentation of awards to winners in 40 categories such as “Best Park,” “Most Beautiful Park,” and “#1 Steel Coaster.” At 10:30pm, the event’s big finale will be a fireworks show viewable from the Coney Island Boardwalk, according to Amusement Today. The City has issued a permit for a fireworks display for 9:30pm. The event is weather permitting, of course.

“The unique location of Coney Island is sure to add its own flavor to the event,” Tim Baldwin, Amusement Today‘s Golden Ticket Awards Communications Coordinator, told ATZ. “It will be our largest attendance yet of around 400 industry professionals from around the globe. Attendees are coming from numerous countries that include Sweden, The Ukraine, Germany, Italy, Ireland and more.”

In the meantime, enjoy this spin back in time on Astroland’s Enterprise.

Related posts on ATZ…

August 19, 2015: Battery Park’s SeaGlass Carousel Goes for Its First Spin

May 28, 2015: Coney Island Openings & Closings: Power Surge, Arcade, Rainbow Shops, Vintage Shooting Gallery

April 10, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Power Surge and Enterprise-Style Ride Set for Comeback

March 3, 2015: Coney Island 2015: The Whip Returns with a NASCAR Twist

Ten years in the making, the much-anticipated SeaGlass Carousel at Battery Park will open to the public on Thursday, August 20th, from 1pm till midnight. Today, at a press preview, ATZ captured the unique ride’s inaugural spin in the above video. For its second go-round, we hopped aboard one of the 30 bioluminescent fish and shot an on-ride video through its porthole. Glowing Angelfish, Lionfish, and Butterflyfish changed colors as they swam by in a 360-degree aquatic dance. It is a very calming, otherworldly experience and totally unlike any other carousel or amusement ride.

George Tsypin

George Tsypin set to ride one of the fish that he designed for the SeaGlass Carousel. August 19, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Among the carousel’s riders was George Tsypin, the internationally acclaimed opera designer who created the opening ceremony for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. His latest creation is what he calls “the dancing fish.”

“I always try to do something I’ve never done before,” he remarked at the press conference. “SeaGlass Carousel allows visitors to experience a ‘mini-opera’ in which they are spectators, actors and participants.” He describes it as a reinvention of the carousel for the 21st century with the choreography of movement being the most important thing. “You can program the movement in many different ways. It’s a living organism that we tried to create.”

The fiberglass fish are a bit like a capsule, Tsypin adds, noting that you can’t ride a shark as you would a horse. “Children can feel like they’re in a secret world in their own little capsule.”

SeaGlass Carousel

Girl riding SeaGlass Carousel at press preview. August 19, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Celebrating the history of the Battery as the first home of the New York Aquarium, which was located in Castle Clinton from 1896 until 1941, the carousel was designed to simulate a dive to the bottom of the sea. “Most New York City children will not scuba dive or snorkel,” said the Battery Conservancy’s Warrie Price. “This is a simulation of them being fish.”

The SeaGlass Carousel’s iridescent fish are set on four moving turntables within a nautilus shell structure. The 46-foot grand turntable gently rotates 360 degrees. Within it are three on-board turntables, which slowly rotate 120 degrees in each direction on their own axes, adding an oscillating motion. Eighteen of the fish move up and down. “These various systems generate up to 25 axes of motion…swimming indeed,” according to the Conservancy. Since all mechanisms are located below the floor, there is no centerpole, as is customary with carousels.

SeaGlass Carousel

SeaGlass Carousel features iridescent fish set on four moving turntables within a nautilus shell structure. August 19, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Last year, the Battery Conservancy issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) for the operation and maintenance of the SeaGlass Carousel along with food and merchandise carts in Battery Park. Ride Entertainment Group’s New York division, NY Carousel, was selected to operate the ride, which after opening day will spin daily from 10am to 10pm. The cost is $5 per ride. The group also operates Fantasy Forest at the Flushing Meadows Carousel and the Forest Park Carousel in Queens, as well as Fantasy Shore at Midland Beach in Staten Island and carousels in Boston and Baltimore.

SeaGlass Carousel

Moms and kids aboard the SeaGlass Carousel at Battery Park. August 19, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Created by the Battery Conservancy together with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, SeaGlass Carousel was conceived and designed by WXY Architecture + Urban Design and their engineering teams, George Tsypin Opera Factory and Show Canada. The $16 million dollar project was funded with $8 million in public funds and $8 million in private funds. The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Woodland Gardens encircle SeaGlass Carousel.

Tiffany & Co. Foundation Woodland Gardens

The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Woodland Gardens encircle Battery Park’s SeaGlass Carousel. August 19, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

April 13, 2015: Video of the Day: Century-Old Forest Park Carousel Awhirl After Off-Season Overhaul

October 21, 2013: Traveler: Osteria Ai Pioppi’s Homemade Amusement Rides

December 8, 2010: Children’s Book Tells Coney Island Carousel Carver’s Story

February 26, 2010: Made in Brooklyn: The World’s Only Jet-Powered Merry-Go-Round


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 370 other followers

%d bloggers like this: