We’re marking the start of the new year with a look back at ATZ’s Top 10 news stories of 2010 listed in order of page views. The majority of the stories were first reported by ATZ. Thanks to our readers for your comments, both online and in person. Thanks to the bloggers and journos who have linked to our stories in 2010. Happy New Year to All and Happy New Year to Coney Island!
1. Suspicious Fire at Coney Island Arcade Building – May 6, 2010
ATZ’s most viewed news story of 2010 was about the fire that destroyed Coney Island Arcade on the Bowery at 12th Street. After news of the fire was mentioned on Coney Island USA message board and twitter by neighborhood residents, we followed up by phone with eyewitnesses at the scene. The FDNY had to saw open the metal shutters and break through the roof to fight the stubborn fire, which took more than two-and-a-half hours to put out.
The building was not “unoccupied,” as was widely reported. Targette, one of the arcade’s beloved cats, died of smoke inhalation, but her brother Target managed to escape the fire when the firemen cut the gates. The next day, sources told ATZ the fire was caused by the use of a propane torch by roofers who had been tarring the arcade’s roof. The arcade machines were a total loss and the building still stands in ruins.
2. Scoop: Zamperla’s $24M Coney Island Park to be Named Luna Park!– January 26, 2010
Two weeks after Zamperla was chosen to be the City’s amusement operator in Coney Island, ATZ discovered an Italian newspaper interview with Alberto Zamperla in which he revealed the previously undisclosed name of the soon-to-be built amusement park: “The park will be called, Luna Park, like the first, the only, the inimitable one, the one created by Frederic Thompson and Elmer ‘Skip’ Dundy.” In many countries, including Italy, “Luna Park” is a generic term for amusement park.
3. Luna Park Coney Island’s Pinwheel & Moon Gate Takes Shape! –May 23, 2010
One of the most exciting photo ops of the heroic round-the-clock race to build Luna Park occurred just one week before the grand opening. Workers from Zamperla and Paul Signs were putting four giant pinwheel and crescent moons into place on the front gate. We ran out from our booth to witness the historic occasion. At 6:30 pm, when the fourth pinwheel was in place, we stood with two other photographers in the middle of Surf Avenue getting shots of the magnificent gate, which pays homage to the entrance of the original Luna Park.
4. Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back - November 1, 2010
On the day after the 2010 season ended, we were shocked to hear from Boardwalk folks that Ruby’s Bar and several other Boardwalk businesses had received vacate notices from CAI/Zamperla. We phoned Zamperla USA CEO Valerio Ferrari for confirmation. “They didn’t have the vision that we have for the Boardwalk,” Ferrari told ATZ. “It’s a business decision.” He said Zamperla/CAI’s vision is to revitalize the Boardwalk by making it a lively place open 365 days a year. But it’s also a matter of investment dollars. Luna Park is investing $1.4 million in a new restaurant at the corner of Surf and 10th Street, formerly occupied by Gregory & Paul’s. A Boardwalk restaurant/bar hoping to get a lease renewal would have had to make a million dollar investment as well, Ferrari said.
5. Friends of Ruby’s Bar Launch Petition, Plan Nov 6 Rally – November 3, 2010
After the Monday Morning Massacre of the Boardwalk businesses, friends of Ruby’s Bar spread the word via Facebook and email to “all Ruby’s family and friends” to gather for “last call” on November 6th. “We are not going quietly,” Rubyshost said in an email. A petition was launched that began: “Dear Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. Ferrari, It has been brought to my attention that a historic piece of Coney Island is being kicked out. How does a business that has been there since 1934 get kicked out?”
The eviction hearing of the Coney Island 8–Ruby’s, Paul’s Daughter, Cha Cha’s, Steve’s Grill House, Gyro Corner, Coney Island Souvenir Shop, Beer Island and Shoot the Freak–has been adjourned till January 10, 2011. UPDATE: In March 2011, all eight of the Coney Island 8 signed an agreement with property manager Zamperla’s Central Amusement International and the City that will allow 7 of them–Shoot the Freak is out– to lease their City-owned Boardwalk locations for one final summer.
6. Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man – October 13, 2010
Our eulogy to our friend Scott Fitlin, who operated the Eldorado Bumper cars for his family, was read by Scott’s many, many friends in Coney Island and around the world. Commenters from several audio forums paid tribute to Scott’s knowledge and generosity of spirit.
Scott was the DJ extraordinaire of Surf Avenue’s legendary disco palace of bumper cars and a steadfast defender of the amusement zone. Coney Island will miss him more than we can say. Coney Island raconteur Stan Fox, whose family operated the Playland arcade, recalled saying that when Mike Saltzstein of the B & B Carousell died in 2001, the music died. “Today’s another day when the music died,” Fox said. As we reported in November, the Fitlin family will reopen the Eldorado Bumper cars in 2011.
7. New Coney Island Coaster Pays Homage to Luna Park’s 1906 Tickler – April 28, 2010
When we heard that the new Luna Park’s Wild Mouse spinning coaster would be renamed “The Tickler,” we were delighted to be able to write about the innovative 1906 thrill ride in the original Luna Park and pay homage to its inventor Willliam F. Mangels. 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 Mangels, who had his shop in Coney Island.
In his book The History of the Outdoor Amusement Industry, Mangels recalls bringing his sketch of the 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.”
8. Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt - March 3, 2010
Visitors to Coney Island still ask us: Where are the batting cages? What happened to the go karts? ATZ discovered that the website of this popular and much missed Stillwell Avenue attraction lives on! Never mind that Thor Equities evicted amusement operator Norman Kaufman and bulldozed the property in 2007 to make way for “redevelopment” (translation: empty lots). This attractive mini-golf course was located on the west side of Stillwell behind the Grill House. We miss the bumper boats on the Bowery most of all.
9. Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall – April 28, 2010
The Velocity Nightclub occupied the second floor on the Bowery side of the former Henderson Music Hall until Thor Equities bought the building and proceeded to empty it of tenants. Charles Denson’s photo provides a rare glimpse inside the building, which a Thor spokesman described as “structurally questionable and potentially dangerous.” Thor announced plans to demolish the building and replace it with a one-story shopping mall. In the last months of 2010, the Thor-owned Bank of Coney Island and Shore Hotel were demolished and the Henderson is currently being taken down. See the “Video: Tribute to the Henderson Theater by Charles Denson” for a recent look inside the doomed building.
10. Nathan Slept Here! Coney Island’s Feltman’s Kitchen Set for Demolition – January 19, 2010
The first demolition of 2010 was the old Feltman’s kitchen on the former Astroland site. The City demolished the structure to make way for the new Luna Park. This humble building was the last remnant of the block-long restaurant and entertainment complex owned by Charles Feltman, the inventor of the hot dog. Before Nathan Handwerker founded Nathan’s, he worked for Feltman and legend has it that he slept on the kitchen floor! Tiles from Feltman’s kitchen were retrieved by the Coney Island History Project.