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Archive for April, 2010

Birth of Luna Park Set.. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Birth of Luna Park Set. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Photographer Bruce Handy, who has been chronicling the Birth of Luna Park, says the first shipping containers arrived from Italy on Monday. What is the unidentified red object in the photo? Could it be a footing for the Tickler roller coaster that we wrote about the other day? Or is it part of another Zamperla ride? Or the base of one of the towers? If you have an idea, please post a comment. As soon as we find out the correct answer, we’ll let you know. The virtual tour of Luna Park on YouTube may provide some clues!

UPDATE May 5, 2010:

A big thank you to boltz, who found out the “mystery object” is the center of the Wave Blaster, which Zamperla’s website describes as a “teen-ager version of the Jump Around. Considering the great success that all these ‘Jumper rides’ are having, Zamperla has further developed this design and is proposing the Wave Blaster with 12 arms for a total capacity of 24 seats.”

Birth of Luna Park Set. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Birth of Luna Park Set. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

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April 28, 2010: New Coney Island Coaster Pays Homage to Luna Park’s 1906 Tickler

April 14, 2010: Photo Album: Heroic 24/7 Race to Build Coney Island’s New Luna Park

February 15, 2010: Steeplechase Express: Will Zamperla MotoCoaster Pony Up for Coney Island?

January 24, 2010: Zamperla-Ride-O-Rama: Swing in the Sky over Coney Island

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Velocity Nightclub in the Henderson Building, 2007. Photo © Charles Denson

Velocity Nightclub in the Henderson Building, 2007. Photo © Charles Denson

This is the seldom-seen interior of the Henderson Building, which Thor Equities has announced plans to demolish and replace with a one-story shopping mall. Is this building “structurally questionable and potentially dangerous” as Thor’s press release claims? We don’t think so, nor does Save Coney Island, which issued their own press release today condemning Thor’s plan to demolish the Henderson, Grashorn and Bank of Coney Island buildings as well as the Shore Hotel.

“Thor’s demolition plan would destroy Coney Island’s history and undermine its unique appeal,” said Save Coney Island spokesman Juan Rivero. “It is a short-sighted squandering of the tremendous potential of these buildings to provide a distinctive Coney Island experience.”

The Velocity Nightclub occupied the second floor on the Bowery side of the former Henderson Music Hall until Thor bought the building and evicted them. “The second floor is completely renovated with original brick and steel exposed. It was the balcony of the theater,” says historian Charles Denson, author of Coney Island Lost & Found.

Vintage Postcard of Henderson's Music Hall Stage in Coney Island. Cezar Del Valle Collection

Vintage Postcard of Henderson's Music Hall Stage in Coney Island. Cezar Del Valle Collection

As we noted in February, the Henderson Music Hall was nominated for landmark designation by Coney Island USA, but has yet to be calendared by the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Its chances are thought to be slim since the building has been altered extensively. It was even cut in half! There’s also the unfortunate fact that the Henderson is owned by real estate speculator Joe Sitt of Thor Equities and occupies a prime site at the corner of Surf and Stillwell that has been rezoned for a high rise hotel. City rezoning documents detail the history of the Henderson Music Hall:

Fred Henderson opened the 3-story brick music hall on Stillwell Avenue at the Bowery around 1900. Henderson’s establishment began as a restaurant at Bowery and Henderson Walk in 1881. When that building burned in 1899, Henderson constructed the new structure to the designs of John B. McElfatrick. The original Italianate southern façade (which fronts on the Bowery) has brick piers, corbelling, stone window lintels, and a bracketed cornice. In 1923, Stillwell Avenue south of Surf Avenue was created by the widening of Stratton’s Walk, and Henderson’s Music Hall was cut in half. At that time, a new brick façade with decorative panels and a stepped parapet was added to the Stillwell Avenue frontage. Additional alterations include modern storefronts and replaced windows. The music hall operated until 1926 and featured such music and vaudeville acts as Al Jolson, the Marx Brothers, and Sophie Tucker. During its run, Henderson’s Music Hall was an important Coney Island entertainment venue. From 1926 to 1984, the building housed the World of Wax Musee. The former Henderson’s Music Hall has been extensively altered. This property was identified in the inventory of potential resources prepared by Coney Island USA.

Henderson Building: Thor Equities banner dwarfs shuttered Shoot out the Star. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Henderson Building: Thor Equities banner dwarfs shuttered Shoot out the Star. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

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September 12, 2010: Video: Coney Island’s Faber’s Fascination by Charles Denson

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

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

February 10, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Amusement Operators Balk, Money Talks at Stillwell

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Joey Sitt Plays with Bulldozers in His Coney Island Sandbox. Art by Tiny Tim

Joey Sitt Enjoys Playing with Bulldozers in His Coney Island Sandbox. Art by Tiny Tim

Regular readers may remember the above cartoon from last summer’s post “Joe Sitt Plays in His Coney Island Sandbox” (ATZ, July 21, 2009). Summer 2010 is just thirty days away and guess what? Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt is getting ready to play the demolition game in his Coney Island sandbox.

We’re sorry that rumors of Joe Sitt’s plans to demolish historic buildings which we reported in last week’s post “Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings” (ATZ, April 21, 2010) have turned out to be true. This is one time we would have preferred for the rumors to have remained just rumors.

In response to a flurry of queries from reporters about Sitt’s still unleased empty lots and vacant properties, Thor Equities pr flack Knickerbocker SKD issued a press release announcing Sitt’s intention to begin demolishing the buildings and to replace them with other structures by May 2011. According to the release, “These structures will be replaced with more attractive, retail-friendly and up-to-code shops for the type of retailers Coney is famous for.” The Thor-owned buildings under threat of demolition are the Henderson, Grashorn, Bank of Coney Island and Shore Hotel.

Eliot Brown’s piece in the Observer–“The New Coney Island? Sitt Sees Fast Food in Place of Current Buildings”–includes a rendering by Thinkwell that is possibly the worst rendering ever produced for Coney Island. Thinkwell must have been thinking only of the fat fees they get from Thor and not their reputation in the theme park industry when they put their name on it. Anyway it’s pure Bull Sitt because we seriously doubt this interim replacement for the Henderson building — a boxy mall occupied by fast food joints– will ever get built. We suspect it’s just a ploy to make it easier to get a demolition permit from the City.

Thor No More! Joey Bulldozer Poster for Save Coney Island Coalition Rally. January 1, 2008.

Thor No More! Joey Bulldozer Poster for Save Coney Island Coalition Rally. January 1, 2008.

We’re also hit by a sense of deja vu. It’s like 2007 on Stillwell Avenue when Thor Equities evicted amusement operators and bulldozed the property to make way for “redevelopment” years ahead of the City’s rezoning. The lots stand empty today. Unfortunately Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt will tear down the historic buildings and build nothing. If the Henderson Building and the Bank of Coney Island are knocked down, the parcels which were rezoned for high rise hotels of up to 27 stories are likely to “sitt” empty until Sitt flips the property.

The situation is so much like 2007, we’ll simply direct you to a three-year-old post by the late great Bob Guskind that could just as well have been written today. (“Coney Island Looking Like Sitt for Memorial Day,” Gowanus Lounge. May 25, 2007)

The Sitt-created blight–which could be corrected by installing temporary amusements–is one thing. But, it is truly a curious thing that as the summer season begins a developer pitching a $2 billion project hasn’t even bothered to prettify the problem or to address the potential public safety hazard that he has created. If we were prone to making extreme statements, we’d call what Mr. Sitt has already done to Coney Island an act of civic contempt that could result in unsavory things as the summer crowds come to the Thor Equities Corridors of Blight. In fact, if we were the types to ascribe underhanded motives to developers, we would suggest that Mr. Sitt has been callous and calculated in creating emptiness and deadness in the heart of Coney Island long before any redevelopment will happen. We might say, in fact, that he is committing a kind of premeditated neighborhood homicide.

Will Save Coney Island hold a funeral for their proposed historic district now or wait till the wrecking ball arrives?

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April 12, 2010: Evicted by Thor, Coney Island’s Zipper Ride Thrills in Honduras

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

February 10, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Amusement Operators Balk, Money Talks at Stillwell

January 8, 2010: Coney Island 2010: Good Riddance to Thor Equities Flopped Flea Market, Hello Rides?

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One of the 19 rides set to debut in Coney Island’s new Luna Park this summer is Zamperla’s Wild Mouse spinning coaster, which has been rechristened “The Tickler” after the innovative 1906 thrill ride in the original Luna Park. Here’s the ride manufacturer’s official vid of their Twister Coaster. If you’re at work, you may want to mute the music before going for a spin…

While it’s customary for parks and carnivals to rename or re-theme a ride, the Tickler name holds special significance in the history of amusement rides and of Coney Island. The Tickler was the first amusement ride “designed to jostle, jolt and jounce its riders about in their seats when the ride was in motion,” according to its inventor and manufacturer William F Mangels.

As the cars went bumping and whirling down an incline that resembled a pinball machine, riders clung to each other to keep from falling out. It’s no wonder the Tickler became the perfect date ride for couples who wished to get speedily acquainted. “If a man comes in sedate and solemn, all he needs is one good trip in ‘the tickler’ to set him going like all the rest,” said Luna Park manager Frederic Thompson in a 1908 interview with the New York Times. “It is all the old principle of the small boys sliding down their cellar doors!”

Vintage postcard of Tickler Ride at Coney Island's Luna Park circa 1906. © Jeffrey Stanton. www.westland.net/coneyisland/

Vintage postcard of Tickler Ride at Luna Park circa 1906. © Jeffrey Stanton. http://www.westland.net/coneyisland/

We’ve been a fan of William F Mangels’ classic Whip ride since our days as a carny kid. Colbert’s Fiesta Show had a roto-whip that we used to ride in marathon sessions with our doll. It’s a shame that Coney Island, the birthplace of the Whip, remains Whip-less, while Rye Playland, Dorney Park and Kennywood boast 12- and 16-car models. That’s why we’re tickled pink (when was the last time we heard that quaint phrase much less got to use it!) that Zamperla is paying homage to Mangels by christening their Coney Island coaster “The Tickler.” It’s sort of like naming your kid after his illustrious great-great-great grandfather!

Hailed as “The Wizard of 8th Street” by historian Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project, Mangels (1867-1958) was posthumously inducted into the Coney Island Hall of Fame. In his book The History of the Outdoor Amusement Industry, Mangels recalls bringing his sketch of the 1906 ride to Luna Park to apply for a location for the following season.

Frederic Thompson, then the manager, took the picture, held it at arm’s length and gazed at it a minute. Then in his brusque way, he said, “You will need barrels to take away your money. Come in tomorrow morning for your contract.” The contract specified that twenty per cent of the gross receipts should go to the park.

The Tickler consisted of a wide, inclined platform, sloping upward from the entrance. On this platform a sinuous course was fixed by posts and rails, and through it a number of circular cars were operated. They were mounted on swivel caster wheels and had large rubber bumping rings on the exterior. The operation was simple. After the passengers had been seated, the cars were drawn up an incline by a chain conveyer. At the top, they entered the downward course and by gravity careened, bumped and whirled back to their terminal, tossing the passengers violently about in their seats. At the end of the jounrey, the five passengers were usually scrambled together so hopelessly that attendants had to help them disembark.

This new ride had cost $6,000 to install. It enjoyed heavy patronage from the start, grossing $42,000 the first season plus a substantial sum from royalties. Although the theory of the promoter seemed sound within a few seasons the novelty wore off and business declined.

Fairy Gorge Tickler Amusement Ride, Pay Streak, Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, Seattle, Washington, 1909. UW Digital Collections via flickr

Fairy Gorge Tickler Amusement Ride, Pay Streak, Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, Seattle, Washington, 1909. UW Digital Collections via flickr

Advertised as “A Scream from Start to Finish,” the Tickler was featured at amusement parks across the country and the Alaska Yukon Exposition of 1909. It paved the way for the scream machines that we enjoy today. The ride’s rival and immediate successor, the Virginia Reel built by Henry Riehl in Luna Park in 1908, was the first true spinning coaster. Although the Wild Mouse Spinning Coaster did not arrive on the amusement scene until the late 1990s, its lineage can be traced back to Coney Island’s Tickler and Virginia Reel.

The British writer P.G. Wodehouse, who was living in Greenwich Village when the Tickler made its debut, went for a spin on the brand-new ride and wrote the following review..

The principle at the bottom of Coney Island’s success is the eminently sound one that what would be a brutal assault, if administered gratis, becomes a rollicking pleasure when charged for at the rate of fifteen cents per assault. Suppose one laid hand upon you and put you in a large tub; suppose he then proceeded to send the tub spinning down an incline so arranged that at intervals of a few feet it spun around and violently bumped into something. Next day he would hear from our lawyer. But in Coney Island you jump into the Tickler and enjoy it; you have to enjoy it because you have paid good money to. Being in America, Coney Island is thought a little vulgar; if it were in France we would have written how essentially refined the the Tickler and the Human Roulette Wheel were, and with what abundance the French took its pleasure.”

It makes us wonder what Wodehouse would have written about the new Italian coaster in Coney Island.

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August 29, 2010: Video: Grand Prize Winner of Luna Park Coney Island’s Film Contest!

March 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: First Ride of the Season on Coney Island’s Cyclone!

February 25, 2010: Happy Belated Birthday to Coney Island’s William F Mangels

February 15, 2010: Steeplechase Express: Will Zamperla MotoCoaster Pony Up for Coney Island?

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Brooklyn Bread's Yummy Tuna Bella Comes to Coney Island! Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Brooklyn Bread’s Yummy Tuna Bella Comes to Coney Island! Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Among the welcome new arrivals on the Coney Island Boardwalk this season are Brooklyn Bread’s Grilled Vegetable Salads, Broccoli Rabe Wraps, and Tuna Bella Sandwiches. You’ll also be able to get a latte, espresso or cappuccino at the cafe’s new satellite location in Coney Island next door to Ruby’s Bar. After a soft opening on Palm Sunday, Brooklyn Bread is expected to be fully open in May, according to Rob Suh, owner of the Coney Island Souvenir Shop. Suh has partnered with friends from the Park Slope cafe and bakery to bring their delicious Italian sandwiches, breads and salads to the Boardwalk.

On opening day we sampled the #1 sandwich on Brooklyn Bread’s menu–the Tuna Bella–which has already gotten rave reviews from Brooklynites. Two cans of Italian tuna, roasted peppers, two kinds of cheese—mozzarella and creamy Balpaese, balsamic vinegar and Tuscan olive oil on a homemade roll. Some lovely arugula too. Delizioso!

Sandwiches are large enough for two people to share and range in price from $6.50 to $9.50. Vegetarians can look forward to #5 The Vegetarian Special and three different eggplant sandwiches. Bagels, breads and a variety of beverages are also on the menu. Did we mention that Coney Island’s Brooklyn Bread will deliver to the Beach and Boardwalk?

Brooklyn Bread in Coney Island, on the Boardwalk next door to Ruby’s, 718-266-7885

Update: This Brooklyn Bread location is closed.

Bagels, Beverages & Brooklyn Bread's Favorites come to Coney Island.Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Bagels, Beverages & Brooklyn Bread’s Favorites come to Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

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April 23, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk Businesses Open for 2010

March 12, 2010: Photo of the Day: Williams Candy in Coney Island

February 3, 2010: New in 2010: Coney Island Fun Phone Addition to CI Fun Guide

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

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ATZ is happy to see Coney Island’s small businesses alive and kicking in the first year of Coney Island’s predicted rebirth. The good news is that all of the familiar mom-and-pop shops, bars and eateries on Coney Island’s Boardwalk are back in business for the 2010 season. The big difference is real estate speculator Joe Sitt is no longer their landlord and unlike previous years, they didn’t suffer a rent hike.

Coney Island Souvenir Shop on the Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Rolling Sign: Souvenir Shop on the Boardwalk in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

When the City of New York bought 6.9 acres of Coney Island property from Thor Equities in November, existing tenants on the Boardwalk were offered a one-year lease at last year’s rate, including one tenant who’d famously gotten the boot from Thor: The Lola Star Boutique. We’re thrilled that Lola aka entrepreneur Dianna Carlin is back in her original location next to Ruby’s after a one-year absence. Carlin, the founder of Save Coney Island, had not been offered a lease in 2009 by Thor because of her outspokenness on Coney Island development issues.

Lola Star Boutique Returns! Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Lola Star Boutique Returns! Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Rink, located in the Childs Building on the Boardwalk and leased from Taconic Investment Partners, will reopen next month. (Update 5/16: The roller rink will NOT return to Coney!) Other returning Boardwalk businesses scheduled to open in the coming weeks: Pio Pio Rico–“The House of the Best Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken”— located in the former Astroland arcade, Beer Island, and Nathan’s Famous Boardwalk location.

Best French Fries Sold Here: Paul's Daughter on Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

The Best French Fries Sold Here! Paul's Daughter on Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Paul’s Daughter, Gyro Corner, Ruby’s Bar & Grill, Cha Cha’s, Steve’s Grill House, Rosa’s Tacos & Juice Bar and the Coney Island Souvenir Shop next to Ruby’s are already open daily. Weather permitting, of course. The Lola Star Boutique and Shoot the Freak are currently open weekends. Also open daily in Coney Island: Nathan’s Famous original location at Surf and Stillwell, Williams Candy, Coney Island Beach Shop and the WCS New York Aquarium.

JT & Cha Cha Welcome You to Coney Island 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

JT & Cha Cha Welcome You to Coney Island 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

On Wednesday, a painter was touching up the sign at Steve’s Grill House. ATZ observed many people out and about on the Boardwalk. We chatted with several British tourists who’d been stranded in New York by the volcanic ash cloud. It was a sunny, breezy afternoon until rain sent everyone scurrying for cover and the Coney Island Souvenir Shop wheeled in their sign.

Touching Up the Sign at Steve's Grill House on the Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Touching Up the Sign at Steve's Grill House on the Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island Souvenir Shop owner Tom Suh died in a car accident in March and is much missed by his Coney Island friends and family. On Easter Sunday, we offered our condolences to Mrs. Suh, who is recovering from the accident, and son Rob, who is carrying on the family business.

Mrs. Suh in her family's souvenir shop on the Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Mrs. Suh in her family's souvenir shop on the Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Last Friday, it was decidedly chilly in Coney Island, yet a photo shoot with a bikini-clad model was in progress on the Beach. We ducked into Ruby’s Bar and Grill, where it’s cozy and Beato was manning the grill. Did you know that Coney Island Boardwalk’s oldest bar and grill is among the Travel Channel’s “Top 21 sexiest beach bars”? Ruby’s has a brand-new website at www.rubysconeyisland.com or follow their Facebook fan page for news of upcoming events.

At Ruby's on Friday Afternoon: Beato Minds the Store. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

At Ruby's on Friday Afternoon: Beato Minds the Store. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Ruby’s namesake–Ruby Jacobs–bought the bar in 1975. That’s his portrait with the Parachute Jump amid the vintage photos on the oft-photographed wall. After Ruby’s death in 2000, West 12th Street was named Ruby Jacobs Way in his honor. His daughters and son-in-law continue to run the family-owned business. Cheers to Coney Island’s 2010 season!

Wall of Photos at Ruby's Bar in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Wall of Photos at Ruby's Bar in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

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March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

March 12, 2010: Photo of the Day: Williams Candy in Coney Island

February 7, 2010: Coney Island Valentine: Get a Sea Lion Kiss at New York Aquarium!

February 3, 2010: New in 2010: Coney Island Fun Phone Addition to CI Fun Guide

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Thor Equities abandoned flea market, Coney Island. April 16, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Thor Equities abandoned flea market tents on Stillwell Ave, Coney Island. April 16, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

If you’ve been wondering what Joe Sitt of Thor Equities is doing with his vacant buildings and empty lots in Coney Island 2010, the answer is nothing yet. It’s disgraceful that Coney Island’s no. 1 real estate speculator is getting away with letting his tents from last year’s flopped Flea by the Sea deteriorate and become a public eyesore. The bedraggled tents are the first sight visitors see when they stroll down Stillwell Avenue, the gateway to Coney Island’s Beach and Boardwalk. How would “Joey Coney Island” like it if this mess was in his backyard instead of the People’s Playground? Tear ‘em down!

Thor Equities abandoned flea market tent, Coney Island. April 19, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Thor Equities abandoned flea market tent, Coney Island. April 19, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island’s 40 rides and diverse attractions opened for the season on Palm Sunday and enjoyed the best Easter in decades. On the City-owned former Astroland site, Zamperla/CAI is working nearly around the clock to finish the new Luna Park in time for Memorial Day Weekend. If Sitt had sold the land to the City when the rezoning was passed in July, the park would probably be open now! With the return of Ringling Brothers Circus and the grand opening of Luna Park, Coney Island’s stakeholders are busy planning an exciting summer season. But Joe Sitt has yet to announce any tenants or plans for his Coney Island buildings or remaining Stillwell parcels.

Shoot out the Star in Thor-Owned Henderson Building, Bowery at Stillwell. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Shoot out the Star in Thor-Owned Henderson Building, Bowery at Stillwell. April 19, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Thor Equities huge “Store for Lease” banners on the Henderson Building and Shore Hotel continue to greet visitors when they exit Stillwell station. As for Thor’s vacant buildings, the Grashorn—Coney Island’s oldest building—and the former Bank of Coney Island—it’s deathwatch time. The Coney Island Rumor Mill is saying a demolition company was asked to give a quote for the takedown of the Grashorn and the Bank of Coney Island immediately as well as the Henderson Building and Shore Hotel by October. Popeye’s $120K per year lease of the corner store on the ground floor is said to be up this year.

Thor-Owned Henderson Building sits on a Parcel Rezoned for a High-Rise Hotel. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Thor-Owned Henderson Building sits on a Parcel Rezoned for a High-Rise Hotel. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Last July, the Bank of Coney and the Henderson parcels were rezoned for high-rise hotels of up to 27 stories. Though it’s unlikely a hotel will go up anytime soon, the speculation is that Sitt wants to get rid of the Grashorn and Henderson, which were nominated by Coney Island USA for landmark status, before the LPC calendars them or Save Coney Island’s plan for a historic district gathers steam.

Vacant on Surf Ave at Jones Walk: Thor-Owned Grashorn and Lambros Buildings. April 1, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Vacant on Surf Ave at Jones Walk: Thor-Owned Grashorn and Lambros Buildings. April 1, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Since Zamperla/CAI won the 10 year contract to build a new amusement park on the City owned land purchased from Sitt, a who’s who of amusement operators has enquired about leasing Sitt’s remaining parcels. But showmen are not marks. Sitt’s steep asking price—reportedly $300K-$500K– for each of his two 50,000 square foot Stillwell lots–has driven away top carnivals and amusement park operators who negotiated for yet failed to sign multi-year leases. Sources tell ATZ that onerous lease terms such as a 30-day vacate clause and having to pay all of the rent up front helped kill the deals.

Boarded Up Shore Hotel: Nature's Paradise By the Sea. April 26, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Boarded Up Shore Hotel: Nature's Paradise By the Sea. April 26, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Sideshow operator John Strong, who negotiated with Thor to bring his freak museum to the Grashorn Building, now says all deals are off since he can’t spend more in rent than he can take in at the ticket box. Strong believes he got outbid by a Russian who owns an arcade. But the supposed tenant, Sam’s Arcade from last year’s Dreamland, hasn’t signed the lease for Coney Island’s oldest building. What is Sitt’s game?

The Wall Street Journal recently had an article called “Empty Storefronts Blot Union Square Area”–San Francisco, not New York–with a quote from Joe Sitt, who is one of the property owners: “Mr. Sitt says he isn’t rushing to lock up a long-term lease before the market recovers. ‘I’m very willing to be patient,’ he says. While an empty storefront might not help in the short run, securing better tenants is a long-term boon for the neighborhood.” Ironically, another quote in the piece is “It’s like a major theme park losing its rides,” says Joe D’Alessandro, chief executive of the city’s Convention & Visitors Bureau, of Union Square’s store closings.

Funny thing is the quote could apply equally to the situation in Coney Island, though Sitt hasn’t had much to say about Coney since he sold 7 acres to the City in November 2009. At the time, Sitt told the Real Deal in a Q & A…

“We have to redo all of our plans, but we will still have millions and millions of square feet of apartments and hotels and retail and restaurants and enclosed amusements. Yes, it will still have the Las Vegas component to it. The latter versions of the renderings are close to what it will be.”

Oh, yeah, he forgot to mention the millions and millions of dollars he’ll make when he flippity-flips it.

Before Thor: Remember Batting Range and Go Kart City? April 16, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Before Thor: Remember Batting Range and Go Kart City? April 16, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In the meantime, a parade of people eager to do business in Coney Island continues to look at Thor’s Stillwell parcels. Last week, yet another amusement operator interested in a three-year lease for a go-kart track arrived on the scene. Rumor has it they’re set to sign a lease tomorrow. We’ll see. Our skeptical friends say that Sitt’s lots will remain empty this summer. We say it’s 37 days till Memorial Day Weekend and Sitt never had carnival rides up and running in “Dreamland” until then. In fact, bizarre rumors of Thor Equities producing entertainment in a Spiegeltent on one parcel and bringing their very own carnival to the other are circulating, too. What else can we say but this isn’t just any run-of-the-mill rumor mill, it’s in Coney Island, which thrives on the strange, the odd and the unpredictable.

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Related posts on ATZ…

June 7, 2010: Fence Wrap Advertising Comes to Coney Island’s Stillwell Avenue

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

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

February 10, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Amusement Operators Balk, Money Talks at Stillwell

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