Tis the season to be jolly, but there won’t be any fa-la-la-ing in good ol’ Coney Island this week. Last Wednesday, notices from attorneys for Luna Park operator Central Amusement International (CAI) were posted on the gates of the evicted Boardwalk businesses summoning them to court on December 10. CAI has retained the law firm of Davidoff, Malito & Hutcher, who filed a lawsuit to force the Coney Island 8 to “surrender the subject premises.” The eight businesses are Ruby’s, Cha Cha’s, Paul’s Daughter, Grill House, Gyro Corner, Shoot the Freak, Beer Island and Coney Island Souvenir Shop.
On Friday, Thor Equities demolition crew gutted the first floors of the Shore Hotel and the Bowery side of the Henderson Building. The dirty work will continue this week. Along with the demolished Bank of Coney Island, these historic buildings were doomed by the City’s rezoning of the parcels for high-rise hotels in 2009. A demolition permit was issued to Thor Equities in August and the Henderson’s remaining tenants were evicted, though a hotel is not expected to be built anytime soon. If you come to Coney Island for the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim, when you exit Stillwell Terminal and look across Surf, it’s likely the buildings will be demolished by then. What you’ll see is another empty lot to add to real estate speculator Joe Sitt’s collection of empty lots in Coney Island.
Will Ruby’s Bar be open on New Year’s Day? The Sarrels hope so, we hope so, but nobody knows. The future of the eight Boardwalk businesses will be the subject of legal wrangling this week, both behind the scenes and in court on Friday. According to the notice from CAI’s attorneys, copies of which were also sent by certified mail, “a hearing at which you must appear will be held at the Civil Court of the City of New York, 141 Livingston Street,
Part 52, Room 94(C) on December 10 at 10 am.” (Update: The room number has been changed. We were requested not to post the new room number since the court date may not be open to the public.)
The notice also stated that “the license premises are an integral part of redevelopment” and that “time is of the essence.” Respondents were told to “surrender the subject premises” or face penalties of $2,000 per day. The previous notice to quit by November 19th, which ATZ posted last month, is referenced in the document. Central Amusement International states that the sublease with the businesses commenced on January 25, 2010 and ended on October 31, 2010.
We hope some kind of agreement can be reached to allow indigenous Mom & Pops such as Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter to be part of the new Coney Island. The sudden notice to “vacate the premises” sent to the Boardwalk veterans on the day after the season ended calls to mind Thor Equities’ Christmas Eve lockout of 2008, when Joe Sitt was dubbed “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” by the NY Post. In that infamous incident, Sitt’s henchmen cut locks on Boardwalk businesses and hung up banners advertising Stores for Lease. Lynn Kelly, then president of the Coney Island Development Corporation, told the Post, ‘Sitt’s behavior shows why the mayor’s planned rezoning is needed, “so that the boardwalk businesses and all of Coney Island have a chance to thrive.’”
Just days before CAI’s “vacate the premises” notice was delivered to the Coney Island 8 on November 1st, Kelly left her longtime position with the CIDC and NYCEDC (Economic Development Corporation) for a new job as CEO of Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Too bad we’ll never get to hear Kelly’s explanation for the eviction of the Boardwalk businesses by Luna Park, which is a public private partnership with the EDC and Kelly was fond of calling “her park.” Neither the EDC nor the Mayor’s Office will comment to the press about the Mom & Pop businesses booted off City-owned property in Coney Island. The NYCEDC leased the Boardwalk property to CAI, the New Jersey-based operator of Coney Island’s new Luna Park. City officials–both appointed and elected–continue to distance themselves from responsibility for the evictions by remaining silent and referring all requests for comment to CAI.
UPDATE… December 9, 2010
Friday morning’s 10 a.m. court date for the eviction of the “Coney Island Eight” reportedly got postponed at the request of their attorney. ATZ was told that a postponement is a basic move at the beginning of a case. We’re not reading anything into it. Not yet. Stay tuned for new date.
UPDATE… December 10, 2010
The judge adjourned the hearing till January 10, 2011.
Related posts on ATZ…
November 21, 2010: Goodbye (Or Maybe Not?) to My Coney Island Equivalent of Proust’s Madeleine
January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010