In an interview with NY1 in May, Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt talked about his redevelopment plans for Coney Island and the Surf Avenue buildings he plans to raze: “Every one of these buildings is just horrible, rundown relics with nothing exciting about them. I hate to say it, but the great buildings of Coney Island disappeared 80 years ago,” said Sitt.
What caught our eye in this four-month-old news story was not Sitt’s mischaracterization of the historic properties (please take a look at what the Henderson Building and Stillwell looked like before Sitt bought and blighted them), but what the real estate speculator had to say about the now endangered signs. According to NY1, “Sitt says he’ll re-use the vintage signs in a more modern setting.”
Really? We hate to say it, but if Sitt is planning to re-use any signs, he’d better hurry up and save some. It’s already too late for Faber’s. As ATZ reported earlier this month, the light bulbs and letters of the fabulous 60-year-old Faber’s Fascination and Sportland signs were removed by the arcade’s most recent operator and offered for sale. The cannibalized metal signs remain on the facade because they couldn’t be removed before the tenant had to vacate the property. You can see the Faber’s Fascination sign lit up for the last time and the letters being removed in this video by historian Charles Denson.
It’s too bad Joe Sitt didn’t recognize that Faber’s signage was a valuable piece of Americana worth saving and re-purposing. In a similar situation, another New York City real estate developer, the Durst Organization, did a much better job. Durst saved the Peep-O-Rama sign from the last peep show in Times Square when they demolished the building it occupied to make way for the Bank of America Tower. Vanishing New York recently featured the story of the neon sign’s restoration and return to Times Square, where the sign lights up the visitors center. Reading the story made us think of the Faber’s sign and wish it could have enjoyed a similar fate. As we noted in a comment on the VNY post: The reference to the Times reporter asking if a case could be made for preserving Peep-O-Rama or its facade for Times Square posterity, and not receiving a reply from Landmarks, the NYHS or the Mayor’s office is telling. There seems to be very little official appreciation for signage. Basically they leave it up to the building owners to do as they please.
In last week’s “Demolition in Progress! Coney Island’s Surf Hotel in Henderson Building,” ATZ wrote: “We’re told that the original Surf Hotel sign pictured above was removed, though its fate remains unknown. Was it saved, scavenged or thrown out with the windows?” Since then ATZ has received messages and comments that the “Sign is Saved!” as in saved from demolition.
On Friday morning a tipster wrote: “I am here at the building now. I saw the Surf Hotel sign inside a door on the east side of the building resting on the floor leaning against the wall. They are back working on the west side on a ladder cleaning up under the vacant windows. One of the workers was showing me how heavy the sign is and asked it I wanted to take it. The supervisor said we should call the owner about the sign.”
No one has been working in the Henderson Building this week. Is the sign still there or has it walked away? ATZ calls upon Joe Sitt to donate the Henderson signage to the Coney Island Museum or the Coney Island History Project, where these historic artifacts can be viewed by the public.
On the Stillwell side of the Henderson Building: Shoot out the Star’s iconic signage is endangered. It’s the work of Dreamland Artist Club founder Steve Powers, who also painted the Cyclone roller coaster seats, the Coney Island Museum steps, and the Bump Your Ass Off sign for the Eldorado. In 2003, Powers teamed up with Creative Time, the non-profit public art agency, to bring artists to Coney Island to create new signage for the stands along Jones Walk and the Bowery. The first year’s funding was $80,000. When the murals and signage debuted in June 2004, Powers told the Times: “A large percentage of them will be up forever.” Thor Equities has already removed the game signage on the Bowery side of the Henderson. We suggest that Powers and Creative Time come out to Coney and rescue their work! Don’t the signs actually belong to Creative Time? Last spring, a Dreamland Artist Club mural estimated to be worth $250,000 was destroyed when Feltman’s kitchen building was demolished by the City to make way for Luna Park.
Related posts on ATZ…
September 23, 2010: Demolition in Progress! Coney Island’s Surf Hotel in Henderson Building
September 9, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Faber’s Fascination Goes Dark After 50 Years
February 25, 2010: Happy Belated Birthday to Coney Island’s William F Mangels
January 21, 2010: Demolition Alert: Dreamland Artist Club Mural on Feltman’s Bldg
November 16, 2009: Rare & Vintage: Coney Island Sideshow Banner by Dan Casola