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Archive for July, 2009

Boardwalk Souvenir Store. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Boardwalk Souvenir Store. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Welcome to Con-y island! All Aboard! Coney Island, NY. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Welcome to Con-y island! All Aboard! Coney Island, NY. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The “E” in the CONEY ISLAND sign on Stillwell terminal has been burned out for months, ruining an iconic photo op for summer visitors. Unless of course the MTA’s official name of the place is now CON-Y ISLAND in honor of the con job of a rezoning plan that passed yesterday in the City Council?

I first noticed the burned out “E” on June 5 and contacted the MTA. “Please get someone to fix it asap, if they’re not already on it. Makes it hard to take a good photo.” The guy on the MTA’s customer service line dutifully took my complaint but didn’t get my point. “You can still read the sign,” he said.

I’m going to forward this pic to elected officials to see if they can give the notoriously slow state-run MTA a nudge. Probably not. That’s why Bloomberg would like to take over the MTA if re-elected. An interviewer doing a telephone survey of voters for the Bloomberg campaign threw out that piece of info when he called to get my opinion on possible campaign proposals.

Oh, and guys, when you get around to fixing the sign, the “L” in ISLAND needs maintenance too. Somebody knocked it out of kilter.

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Former site of go-karts, batting cages and other thriving amusements bulldozed or evicted by property owner Thor Equities in 2007. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Former site of go-karts, batting cages and other thriving amusements bulldozed or evicted by property owner Thor Equities in 2007. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr


We do very little to preserve the character and charm of our neighborhoods. Our city is made up of neighborhoods. Certainly Coney Island is unique not only to the city and the country but to the world. Everybody knows what Coney Island represents. The Mayor’s proposal will destroy that. You will never get that back.

City Councilman and Mayoral candidate Tony Avella speaking about “The Future of Coney Island” on today’s Brian Lehrer Show

A day before Wednesday’s full City Council vote on the Bloomberg administration’s rezoning plan for Coney Island, Councilman Avella said “The whole basis of this plan seems to be like a house of cards.”

As chairman of the Council’s Zoning and Franchises subcommittee, Avella introduced an amendment to the plan that would have enlarged the area for outdoor amusements and limited the height of hotels to 25 feet on the south side of Surf Avenue. Avella and Charles Barron, a member of the Zoning Subcommittee, were the only two council members to vote for the amendment.

Speaking by cell phone with Lehrer since campaigning is not allowed on City Hall phones, Avella said, “Part of the argument against the hotels south of Surf Avenue is when people drive by Surf Avenue or come by the subway you want to be able to see the amusements. That’s part of the attraction. So now people driving by or coming by subway are just going to see the hotels.”

Avella also pointed out that there would be little to draw people all the way out to Coney Island to stay in the hotels if the amusement area is reduced in size.

“Nine acres is nothing,” Avella says in a statement posted on his campaign website. “People aren’t going to come out to Coney Island unless there’s a full day of amusement there. This plan by the Bloomberg Administration will destroy the character of another New York City neighborhood. They seem determined to erase the history of New York City, just like they did in Harlem on 125th Street.”

After the Lehrer show we happened to read on City Room that more than three-quarters of voters surveyed in a new Quinnipiac poll do not know enough about Avella. We would tell them Avella is a strong advocate for historic preservation who authored the Demolition by Neglect bill in 2005. He is also an outspoken critic of overdevelopment.

We got our first look at Councilman Avella in action at the July 1 City Council subcommittee hearing on the Coney Rezoning which he chaired. We were impressed by his line of questioning and his attentiveness as a listener. The hearing was a gruelling eight hours, though the majority of the council members, the press and most of the audience left after the property owners had testified. Avella was one of the few council members who stayed till the end to hear everyone’s testimony.

Like many others at the hearing, ATZ spoke in favor of revitalizing Coney Island yet stated that the City’s plan needed modifications. As Avella said on the Lehrer show: “The overwhelming sentiment from the people who live in Coney Island was the plan could be better. We don’t have to settle just because the Mayor wants to get something through and say ‘hey, look I’m improving Coney Island for his re-election.’ We can do it better. “

You can listen to the entire “Future of Coney Island” segment on the Lehrer Show here.

Councilman Tony Avellas Mayoral Announcement on the Steps of City Hall, March 2008.  Photo by tonyavella2009 via flickr

Councilman Tony Avella's Mayoral Announcement on the Steps of City Hall, March 2008. Photo by tonyavella2009 via flickr

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World Famous Bob Speaking at Save Coney Island Rally, Brooklyn Borough Hall. Photo © jane_jacobs_saves_coney via flickr
World Famous Bob Speaking at Save Coney Island Rally, Brooklyn Borough Hall. Photo © jane_jacobs_saves_coney via flickr

I’ve never had anything against tall skinny buildings. I’ve always thought Manhattan was beautiful. But in Brooklyn I just thought they’d like to keep it short and wide and that’s why I live here.

–Burlesque artist World Famous BOB, emceeing Sunday’s Last Chance to Save Island Rally.

The Burlesque at the Beach bombshell held up “Before” and “After” renderings to show the folly of the City’s rezoning plan. The plan would allow high-rises of up to 27 stories along the south side of Surf Avenue, walling off and casting shadows across the world famous seaside amusement district.

BOB urged New Yorkers to call their City Council members before the full Council votes on the plan this Wednesday. “I am a huge fan not only of Brooklyn, but specifically of Coney Island,” said the New York Burlesque Festival’s “Most Inspiring” performer. “There’s no better way I would personally like to spend a Sunday afternoon than with a bunch of people who not only love Coney Island but love it enough to actually came down here and request that it get saved.” If you missed the rally, here’s how you can request that it get saved.

ATZ will dutifully phone our Council member a third time. But we would feel more confident about the outcome of Wednesday’s Council meeting if the World Famous BOB were City Council Speaker instead of Bloomberg’s henchwoman Christine Quinn! Last week Coney Island’s Councilman Domenic Recchia said in a statement posted on his blog, “I know that there are those who would like to see lower buildings on the south side of Surf Avenue. We just couldn’t make this work and will be moving forward with project that you see today.”

On the plus side, the Councilman’s post mentioned discussions with the administration about expanding the area for outdoor amusements. “I hope that by the time the entire City Council votes on this plan, on July 29th, I will have great news for everyone.” We’re sitting on the edge of our seats till then, when presumably we’ll find out what kind of deal the City is currently cutting with real estate speculator Thor Equities behind closed doors.

Speakers at the Last Chance to Save Coney rally also included Juan Rivero of Save Coney Island, Mermaid Parade founder and Coney Island’s permanently unelected “Mayor” Dick Zigun, “Coney Island: Lost & Found” author and historian Charles Denson, Cyclone roller coaster operator and former Astroland owner Carol Hill Albert, Miss Cyclone Angie Pontani, Lola Staar Souvenir Boutique owner Dianna Carlin, activist and author Kevin Powell, Green Party mayoral candidate Rev. Billy Talen and musician Amos Wengler singing his anthem “Save Coney Island.”

Last Chance to Save Coney Island Rally, Brooklyn Borough Hall. Photo © jane_jacobs_saves_coney via flickr

Mayoral candidate Rev Billy Talen Speaking at Last Chance to Save Coney Island Rally, Brooklyn Borough Hall. Photo © Robert & Robbie Bailey via jane_jacobs_saves_coney flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

December 18, 2009: Ciao Coney Island! Will Ruby’s, Shoot the Freak, Astrotower & Other Oldies Survive?

October 9, 2009: A Rare Peek Inside Endangered Old Bank of Coney Island

July 9, 2009: Video: A Friendly but Urgent PSA from Coney Island’s ‘Mayor’

June 11, 2009: Coney Island Amusement Advocates Rally for More Acreage for Outdoor Rides

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Father and Son on Way to Last Chance to Save Coney Rally at Borough Hall. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Father and Son on Way to Last Chance to Save Coney Rally at Borough Hall. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Before the Save Coney Rally got started we asked this little boy what he loved about Coney Island. “The up and down ride!” he said. “He means the Free Fall in Deno’s,” explained his Dad, who added that they missed Astroland’s Water Flume. The log flume, which was dismantled when Astroland closed in September 2008, was one of our faves too. All that’s left are souvenir photos and historic signage.

We’re glad the City Council amended the zoning plan to ensure that the Vourderis family will continue to own and operate Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. What about the rest of Coney Island? An amendment introduced by Councilman Tony Avella to expand the area for open-air amusements and restrict the height of the high rises on the south side of Surf was voted down. Save Coney Island is urging New Yorkers to phone their Council members to “fix the plan” before the full Council vote this Wednesday, July 29.

At today’s Last Chance to Save Coney Island rally on the steps of Borough Hall, Juan Rivero quoted some of the comments from the group’s petition drive. “When you’re asking a thousand people about Coney Island, you’re going to get a thousand different stories and a thousand different reasons why Coney Island must be preserved as an affordable amusement destination. Here are a few”:

Coney Island is the Grand Central Station and the Brooklyn Bridge of amusement parks in America—Alan Solomon

It was a wild carnival place but it has a rich history and it should be preserved and celebrated, not destroyed– Jacqueline Underwood

When our daughter was 2 years old in 1957 we brought her to Coney Island and we shall never forget her comment: “Everything I love is here.” –Rita Brettschneider

July 26 Last Chance to Save Coney Rally. Photo © jane_jacobs_saves_coney via flickr

July 26 Last Chance to Save Coney Rally. Photo © jane_jacobs_saves_coney via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

December 18, 2009: Ciao Coney Island! Will Ruby’s, Shoot the Freak, Astrotower & Other Oldies Survive?

October 9, 2009: A Rare Peek Inside Endangered Old Bank of Coney Island

July 27, 2009: Tall, Skinny & Destined to Kill Coney Island: High Rises on South Side of Surf

July 19: Coney Island Hip-Hop Anthem: AMO1’s Fight for Your Right to Save Coney

July 9, 2009: Video: A Friendly but Urgent PSA from Coney Island’s ‘Mayor’

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View of Surf Avenues Henderson Building and Shore Hotel from Stillwell Station. Owned by Thor Equities, these historic structures are  endangered by the city’s plan proposes four high-rise hotels of up to 27 stories along the south side of Surf Avenue. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

View of Surf Avenue's Henderson Building and Shore Hotel from Stillwell Station. Owned by Thor Equities, these historic structures are endangered by the city’s rezoning plan allowing four high-rise hotels of up to 27 stories along the south side of Surf Avenue. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

I’m happy to report the adorable-looking, headline-grabbing 5- legged puppy was “saved” from being sold to a Coney Island freak show. Now can we please grab your attention for a minute to Save Coney Island? The grassroots group Save Coney Island has called a rally on Sunday, July 26, at 1 p.m. in Columbus Park by the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Juan Rivero of Save Coney Island told ATZ:

With the City Council set to vote on the plan this coming Wednesday, this rally is the public’s last chance to make its voice heard.

We are calling for more acres to be devoted to outdoor amusements, for the removal of the four high-rise hotel towers proposed for the south side of Surf Avenue, and for the preservation of Coney Island’s historic buildings. We share the hope and expectation expressed at the land use committee hearing by Council members Recchia, Katz, and others that the City will address our concerns through negotiations before the full Council vote.

If you live in NYC please phone AND email your City Council member, Speaker Christine Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg. Remember, they are running for re-election in November and want your vote. Do they want to go down in history as the city officials who KILLED CONEY ISLAND? Of course not!

To find your City Council member, type your address on the City’s Council’s info page.

If you do NOT live in NYC, please send a DON’T KILL CONEY email to Mayor Michael Bloomberg
email:http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html
or phone 311 (1- 212-NEWYORK outside of the city) and
leave a “Comment for the Mayor.”

Visit Save Coney Island’s website for more info.

As for the 5- legged puppy story, I was dismayed to see the LA Times story “Coney Island freak show owner vows to fight for ownership of 5 legged puppy” knock the HuffPost editorial “How Mayor Bloomberg is Killing Coney Island” from the #1 slot in a Google search of “Coney Island.” The puppy was a featured attraction in yesterday’s NY Times, NY Post, NY Daily News and amNew York, as well as papers as far away as Ethiopia and New Zealand.

I’m pretty sure Coney Island sideshow operator John Strong’s threat to sue the puppy’s owner and reattach the dog’s amputated fifth leg is a publicity stunt. I kinda liked his earlier, more philosophical comment “Sometimes, you just gotta say: ‘OK, I still have nine live, two-headed animals,’ and move on.” Yes, let’s move on to Save Coney Island. It may be our last chance.

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Happy First Birthday to Lola Staars Dreamland Roller Rink! Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Happy First Birthday to Lola Staar's Dreamland Roller Rink! Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Congrats to entrepreneur Dianna Carlin aka Lola Staar! Her Dreamland Roller Rink opened one year ago in Coney Island’s long vacant terracotta palace known as the Childs Building. You’re invited to help celebrate the occasion on Saturday night. Dreamland’s birthday bash will be a Xanadu themed skate party with Roxy’s DJ Julio spinning skate-classics, music and imagery from the dreamy film Xanadu.

Saturday, July 25, 8 pm – midnight

$12 admission ($10 with Xanadu Attire), $5 skate rentals
21 and over

Dreamland Roller Rink, Boardwalk at W 21st St., Coney Island

This business closed at the end of the 2009 season and is seeking a new location.

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Related posts on ATZ...

January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010

October 17, 2009: Coney Island-Blog-O-Rama: Fave Blog Finds #1

June 26, 2009: Happy Birthday to Coney Island’s Cyclone Roller Coaster!

June 7, 2009: How Sweet It Is: Wedding Party at Cyclone Roller Coaster

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