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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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Related posts on ATZ…

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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Related posts on ATZ…

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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Related posts on ATZ…

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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