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Miss Coney Island

Miss Coney Island – 25 cents to fall in love. December 6, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Miss Coney Island, the legendary dancing doll whose twin mottoes are “25¢ to Fall in Love” and “Don’t Postpone Joy,” will be open on New Year’s Day. Join her and her dancing cats– the cost of a dance will remain at 25 cents in 2016. She wants to show off her sweet new skirt, which her dresser did not get around to putting on till after the season was over. A favorite tape featuring reggae versions of Auld Lang Syne and Christmas carols will be played.

The doll and the cats are located on West 12th Street, under the Wonder Wheel, which will also be open for the first time ever on New Year’s, weather permitting.

Originally a circa 1935 Indian Princess at the Danbury Fair, the doll was bought at auction when the fair closed and soon underwent a sea change into Miss Coney Island. Father Time has been kind to her. Though you’d never guess it to look at Miss Coney, she is over 80, just ten years younger than Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s mechanical fortuneteller, Grandma’s Predictions.

Miss Coney Island

Father Time has been kind to Miss Coney Island, a circa 1935 dancing doll. December 6, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

October 4, 2015: Video: Coney Island Dancing 2015 by Jim McDonnell

April 6, 2014: Photo of the Day: Miss Coney Island’s Dancing Cat

September 30, 2012: Photo of the Day: Last Dance With Miss Coney Island

April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

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Astrolands Bright and Shining Gate On Surf Avenue, September 7, 2008. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita

Astroland's Bright and Shining Gate On Surf Avenue, September 7, 2008. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita

One of the eight-foot by seven-and-a-half-foot lighted stars from Astroland’s Surf Avenue gate is in the National Air and Space Museum among other space-age icons, but the second one could be yours for Christmas. Along with pieces of Dante’s Inferno dark ride, the Bonanza shooting gallery, and a variety of signage, the star is among the last vestiges of the Coney Island amusement park being offered for sale. Mark Blumenthal, Astroland’s longtime operations manager, has overseen the sale of the rides since the park closed and was dismantled at the end of 2008. If you’re interested in acquiring an Astro artifact, you can email Blumenthal at astrolandmark[at]aol[dot]com.

Dante's Inferno demon

Dante’s Inferno demon on crane, Astroland Park in Coney Island- Photo © Tricia Vita. December 26, 2008.

“We’d like to sell the ride as a whole,” Blumenthal said of Dante’s, which consists of the giant demon’s head and torso from the façade, props, track and cars in storage trailers. “But if someone has a home for the pieces, we’d entertain the idea of selling them.” Dante’s Inferno was made by the Italian manufacturer Soli and brought to Astroland in 1971, according to a tribute on Laff in the Dark’s website. More than a dozen stunts created by Lou Nasti’s Brooklyn-based Mechanical Displays in the 1990s are also for sale.

At the Brooklyn Museum, the Cyclops head from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s Spook-A-Rama dark ride, which is going into its 66th year of operation in Coney, is on display as part of the exhibit Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland. Can Dante’s demon make a similar transition from the amusement park midway to the art world? Or what about bringing it home to Coney and exercising a little creative reuse?

Also being offered for sale is the old-timey Bonanza shooting gallery, where you could shoot the piano player. You may recall it was located on the Surf Avenue side of the park next to Gregory & Paul’s. Manufactured by Taylor Engineering, Bonanza shooting galleries first debuted in 1958 and this one was brought to Coney Island by Gregory in the mid-’70s.

“It was redone a couple of years before we closed,” says Blumenthal. “It’s the old technology,” referring to the fact that vintage Bonanza galleries used photocell sensors activated by a bright light source, usually from the rifles. That’s why there were multiple signs saying “No Photography” and why we have no photos. You can catch a glimpse of it in the following video. Refurbished galleries such as “The World’s Largest Bonanza Gallery.” currently on the fair circuit, use an infrared beam of light instead of flashing light.

As we noted in a post in 2013, Astroland’s rides have found homes in Costa Rica, South America, Australia, New Jersey and Brooklyn. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park brought back the Barbieri Bumper Cars and Scrambler, and together with the Coney Island History Project, the 1960’s Astroland Rocket, which once perched on Gregory & Paul’s rooftop as an advertisement.

Signage from Astroland’s Surf and Boardwalk entrances to the park, as well as the arcade are also for sale.”I miss it, but a lot of us miss it,” Blumenthal says of Astroland. “Now it’s part of history.”

Astroland arcade sign

Astroland arcade sign. Photo © Tricia Vita. July 25, 2008

Related posts on ATZ…

June 4, 2014: Astroland Rocket Finds New Home Beside the Wonder Wheel

July 17, 2013: Astroland Rides Find Homes in Brooklyn, Costa Rica and Australia

March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

December 16, 2010: Blast from the Past: LFO’s Summer Girls Music Video

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Wonder Wheel and Spook-A-Rama Skeleton

Deno’s Wonder Wheel and Spook-A-Rama Skeleton. September 7, 2015.

Happy Halloween! Thanks to the extended season and the spooky holiday falling on a Saturday, which hasn’t happened in several years, Spook-A-Rama is open on Halloween Weekend for the first time ever. Coney Island’s legendary 60-year-old dark ride adjacent to Deno’s Wonder Wheel opens at 12 noon.

November 1st is the last day of the season for Coney Island’s two amusement parks – Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and Luna Park – which are scheduled to reopen on Coney’s traditional opening day, Palm Sunday, March 20, 2016. This weekend is your last chance to go for a first date or get engaged on the Wonder Wheel and brave the Cyclone roller coaster in 2015.

Related posts on ATZ…

December 23, 2013: Coney’s Parachute Jump & Wonder Wheel Lit for Christmas

November 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

March 29, 2013: Spook-A-Rama Revival: Vintage Cyclops Meets New Dragon

March 13, 2013: Coney Island 2013: New Ghouls Mingle with Old in Rebuilt Spook-A-Rama

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Ghost Hole

12th Street Amusements’ Ghost Hole is smack dab in the path of the City’s proposed extension of Wonder Wheel Way. October 11, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

At Monday’s public hearing on the City’s controversial plan to use eminent domain to acquire six privately owned lots for “the revitalization of Coney Island,” drawings show 12th Street Amusements’ Ghost Hole ride on “Block 8696, parts of lot 140” destined for condemnation. The land to the right of the ride, where a longtime Mom and Pop sublease property to operate a High Striker, is also on the part of the lot to be seized by the City. “There are no proposed alternative locations,” the public notice for the hearing published in the NY Post sternly warns.

Block 8696 parts of lot 140

Block 8696, parts of lot 140. the area marked in red is to be taken by eminent domain. October 19, 2015

The reason for the acquisitions was revealed: “Certain replacement parkland” is needed because of “the de-mapping of existing parkland,” stated the Parks Department attorney who ran the hearing. He did not explicitly say which parkland would be demapped, and since “this is not a question and answer forum” (he said twice), no questions were answered. However, it is published information and old news dating back to the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009, except that most people either forgot or never knew that the MCU parking lot, which is parkland owned by the City, is to be de-mapped and sold to a developer. What for? The construction of residential towers with height limits in the range of the Parachute Jump.

Among those who spoke out against it at those long ago rezoning hearings was preservationist Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City, who said “In Paris, the Eiffel Tower is framed by parkland. Why is that impossible here?” Refresh your memory by looking at the City’s renderings from 2007. In order to de-map parkland, the State requires that it be replaced with parkland of equal acreage and the City must apply to the State for alienation legislation. However, with the Bloomberg administration’s zoning nearly 6 years ago and a new Mayor who ran as the anti-Bloomberg in place who knew the plan was still a go?

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering. CIDC Press Kit, 2007.

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering Shows Residential Towers West and North of Keyspan Park, now MCU Park. CIDC Press Kit, 2007

As we wrote in “Steeplechase Pool, Zip Coaster Sites to Be De-Mapped for Housing” (January 11, 2010)

It’s a shame that part of the City’s Steeplechase property is set to become a residential enclave with million dollar views instead of additional acreage for Coney Island’s new amusement park.The fact that the Giuliani administration paved over Paradise–part of the Steeplechase Park site–to allow parkland to be turned into the Keyspan parking lot is bad enough (nod to Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”). Now the Bloomberg administration is asking the state legislature to “alienate” and de-map the parkland/parking lot so it can be sold to a private developer to build 1,900 units of housing.

The Brooklyn Cyclones ballpark was built on the site of Steeplechase’s Pavilion of Fun, but the ballpark is a recreational use and helped revitalize Coney Island when it opened in 2001. A mass of apartment towers on the edge of a dwarfed amusement area is another story, though the City insists 5,000 units of housing is a necessary component of their plan to revitalize Coney Island.

Detail of CIDC Map of of Coney Island Redevelopment Plan.  Salmon and cream color denote residential and residential towers north and west of MCU Park

Detail of CIDC Map of of Coney Island Redevelopment Plan. Salmon and cream color denote residential and residential towers north and west of MCU Park, 2007

News reports prior to Monday’s hearing focused on the acquisition of long vacant land such as the former Thunderbolt lot, but the land grab is not about punishing property owners for keeping their holdings vacant. If it were, Thor Equities’ blighted lot on Surf Avenue and West 12th Street, among others, and Bullard’s Shore Theater, vacant for 40 years, would also be on the list of properties to be taken by condemnation.

As we already noted, the proposed acquisition includes property currently and historically used for amusement attractions. “Block 8696, parts of lot 140” is owned by the Murray family and has been used for amusement rides for over 100 years, Carol Murray said in her comments at the hearing. The taking of the land constituted “abuse,” she added. In negotiations with the City’s Economic Development Corporation, she said she is being asked to sell the property to the City, which will then lease a portion of it back to her to operate the amusements that already exist on the spot. “It fails to meet the standards of eminent domain,” she said.

eminent domain hearing

Carol Murray, whose family owns a lot leased to 12th St Amusements that is set to be taken by eminent domain by the City, calls the procedure “abuse” at public hearing. October 19, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

While many of our Coney friends have said they’re in the dark about what the City is up to, eminent domain in Coney Island is nothing new. Remember Robert Moses? (ICYMI Read Chapter 5 of Charles Denson’s Coney Island: Lost and Found). Remember the behind the scenes bargaining leading up to the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009? (ICYMI See Amy Nicholson’s film Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride). In fact, why write new text when we can recycle old ATZ blog posts that are pertinent once again. As we wrote in “Eminent Domain in Coney Island? Fuhgeddaboutit!” (July 31, 2012):

The Bloomberg administration was right to back off from the idea of taking land by condemnation from Thor Equities and other Coney Island property owners during the rezoning hearings in 2009. Under sharp questioning by City Council land use committee members, the EDC’s Seth Pinsky was forced to admit, “I’m not saying we will use eminent domain, but in fairness to your question, I’m not saying we won’t.” In order to get Council members to agree to vote for the zoning, the EDC instead had to negotiate an agreement to buy property from Thor Equities. At the same time, other property owners were no longer threatened by E.D.

We attended that land use committee hearing too, and left with the impression ED was off the table. But that was the Bloomberg administration. A new administration doesn’t have to follow the playbook of the previous one. Back in the ’60s Fred Trump destroyed Steeplechase Park, one of Coney Island’s most famous amusement parks, confident that he would get to develop the “south side” of Surf. That effort failed. The City rejected Trump’s proposed zoning change to develop Miami-style apartments on the beachfront where they approved them in the rezoning of 2009.

Fred’s son Donald Trump has been in the news recently for saying “eminent domain is wonderful.” No one suggested anything like that at Monday’s hearing. The support was tepid with the exception of Dick Zigun, Coney Island’s self-proclaimed Mayor, who jumped on the ED bandwagon by saying “Finish the job.”

Pamela Pettyjohn of the Coney Island Beautification Project said, “Once you open the door for eminent domain, you can’t close it back. It can be abused. Everyone can be in jeopardy.” Ironically the Supreme Court case of Kelo v the City of New London that makes it possible for the City to condemn privately owned property so that it could be used as part of a “comprehensive redevelopment plan” did not turn out to be for the public good in New London. The seized property is a vacant lot ten years after the court’s decision.

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On Saturday, Zamperla’s much-anticipated new Enterprise-style ride, called the Endeavor, is expected to make its public debut in Coney Island, sources tell ATZ. Its inaugural spin is set to coincide with the visit of 400 amusement industry professionals attending Amusement Today‘s 18th Annual Golden Ticket Awards hosted this year by Zamperla at Luna Park and Central Park’s Victorian Gardens.

The prototype ride is already set up on West 15th Street and being inspected by the City’s ride inspector in advance of the weekend. On Wednesday, ATZ friend and beach-goer Eliot Wofse caught the Endeavor going for a test spin in the above video. If the ride looks familiar, the Enterprise was a fave at Coney Island’s Astroland from the 1970s until the early 2000’s when it was sold to New Jersey’s Casino Pier.

The Endeavor has been on Luna Park Coney Island’s map –”Coming Soon! Get ready for an experience that is out of this world” — since the park opened this spring. Sources tell ATZ the prototype has already been sold to a park in warmer climes, where it will go after an initial few weeks of operation in Coney Island. Another Endeavor will be sent to Luna Park in time for its 2016 season, the source said. This year, Luna Park is celebrating its fifth anniversary season with five new rides. The park, which has 29 rides, is also a showroom for Zamperla’s rides, 26 of which were manufactured by the Vicenza, Italy, ride manufacturer.

Zamperla Endeavor

The Endeavor, Zamperla’s new Enterprise-style ride, awaiting its debut at Luna Park. September 7, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Golden Ticket Awards is a two-day private event known as the Oscars of the amusement industry. The public can watch the Golden Ticket Awards Ceremony, which is being held at Gargiulo’s Restaurant, via an online simulcast beginning at 7:30pm on September 12 at this YouTube link. The ceremony will include Broadway-style entertainment produced by RWS & Associates and the presentation of awards to winners in 40 categories such as “Best Park,” “Most Beautiful Park,” and “#1 Steel Coaster.” At 10:30pm, the event’s big finale will be a fireworks show viewable from the Coney Island Boardwalk, according to Amusement Today. The City has issued a permit for a fireworks display for 9:30pm. The event is weather permitting, of course.

“The unique location of Coney Island is sure to add its own flavor to the event,” Tim Baldwin, Amusement Today‘s Golden Ticket Awards Communications Coordinator, told ATZ. “It will be our largest attendance yet of around 400 industry professionals from around the globe. Attendees are coming from numerous countries that include Sweden, The Ukraine, Germany, Italy, Ireland and more.”

In the meantime, enjoy this spin back in time on Astroland’s Enterprise.

Related posts on ATZ…

August 19, 2015: Battery Park’s SeaGlass Carousel Goes for Its First Spin

May 28, 2015: Coney Island Openings & Closings: Power Surge, Arcade, Rainbow Shops, Vintage Shooting Gallery

April 10, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Power Surge and Enterprise-Style Ride Set for Comeback

March 3, 2015: Coney Island 2015: The Whip Returns with a NASCAR Twist

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enterprise style ride

Screenshot of New Enterprise-style ride set to debut at Luna Park Coney Island via TV Paese Mio

A new Enterprise-style ride called the Endeavor has been on Luna Park Coney Island’s map–“Coming Soon! Get ready for an experience that is out of this world” — and ATZ’s radar since the park opened this spring. But the newly built ride has yet to arrive in Coney and a photo of what it looks like has not been seen till now.

Thanks to a tipster for alerting us to a video tour of Italian ride factories including Zamperla’s Soriani factory, in which the ride is seen in action for about a minute from 2:59 in the video below. ATZ’s source says the new ride is en route to Coney Island, where it is expected to debut within the next six weeks.

What will ride aficionados have to say about the ride experience compared to the classic Enterpise and how long will the operator keep the ride in a vertical spin? The Enterprise, which first came out in 1972, was named after the Star Trek Starship. Manufactured by Huss, the spinning thrill ride was a fave at Coney Island’s Astroland from the 1970s until the early 2000’s when it was sold to New Jersey’s Casino Pier. Lake Compounce, Dorney Park and Strates Shows are among the owners of the 20 or so Enterprises operating in the U.S. today.

At New Jersey’s Meadowlands Fair, ATZ snapped photos of Strates Shows’ Enterprise. It is mesmerizing to watch and an intense thrill to ride. Jersey amusement ride blogger The DoD3, who has ridden both the Strates’ and Astroland Enterprises, had this to say in his review of the ride:

Once secured, the wheel begins to spin until it hits warp speed. Once riders are nice an plastered to the seat, the arm holding the wheel begins to rise up to 87 degrees (basically vertical.) Most Enterprise rides will keep the wheel vertical for less than a minute, however I’ve seen some go for longer. Strates’ Enterprise goes for at least a minute and a half. Astroland’s old Enterprise went for three plus minutes!

Related posts on ATZ…

June 16, 2015: Coney Island Businesses Racing to Open by Mermaid Parade Day Now Aiming for July

May 28, 2015: Coney Island Openings & Closings: Power Surge, Arcade, Rainbow Shops, Vintage Shooting Gallery

May 21, 2015: Coney Island Fireworks 2015: Every Friday Plus 8 Saturdays Including July 4

April 10, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Power Surge and Enterprise-Style Ride Set for Comeback

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Power Surge

Power Surge returns to Coney Island opened for business on Memorial Day Weekend. May 23, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Zamperla’s Power Surge, one of the ride manufacturer’s signature rides, opened at Coney Island’s Luna Park over Memorial Day Weekend. The big surprise is that we’re told it’s the very same ride that debuted in Astroland in 2001! As ATZ previously reported, when the Power Surge first came to Coney’s Astroland in time for Fourth of July in 2001, its photo was featured on the cover of Time Out New York. The ride remained in Astroland until 2006 when it was sold to Australia. Zamperla bought it back and refurbished it.

Located in Luna Park’s Scream Zone against the back wall of the Boardwalk Nathan’s, the scream machine was awhirl for most of the weekend. The Power Surge is not the only Astroland ride to come home to Coney Island. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park brought back and refurbished Astroland’s Scrambler and Barbieri Bumper Cars, and together with the Coney Island History Project, the historic 1962 Astroland Rocket.

Arcade

Over Memorial Day Weekend, Arcade Replaces Rainbow Shop in Thor Equities Building. May 23, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Friday we were delighted to find out that Coney Island has one less chain store and one more arcade. Rainbow Shops, a retail chain featuring discount clothing and shoes, will NOT be returning for a third season to Thor Equities retail building in Coney. Gordon Lee of Eldorado Arcade has moved arcade machines into the 2,500 square foot space, which still has the word Rainbow over its door.

It’s surprising news because until last July, Thor’s retail building flaunted two ARCADE signs but no arcades, despite the fact that 15% of amusement frontage was required by zoning regulations to obtain the Certificate of Occupancy from the City. For a long time, it was one of our pet peeves. ATZ wrote about this sham here and again here. Now the two mini-arcades, the minimum required by Bloomberg’s rezoning of Coney Island for this building, have an actual arcade to keep them company.

mini arcade

One of two mini arcades installed in July 2014 at Thor Equities retail building at Surf and Stillwell. May 27, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

We’re sad to report that Coney Island USA’s 1940s Shooting Gallery at 1214 Surf Avenue has been closed. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the nonprofit arts organization is offering the 3,500 square foot Shooting Gallery Arts Annex building for lease at $50 square foot or approximately $175,000 per year. “When a lease is signed we will return it to Deno’s,” Coney Island USA’s Dick Zigun told ATZ. “Until then it might reopen if we can afford machine gun maintenance.”

Made in Coney Island by William F. Mangels, the vintage shooting gallery is the only publicly operating one of its kind that we’re aware of. The gallery restored by Coney Island USA in 2013 is on loan from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, where it had operated for decades next to Spook-A-Rama and was uncovered during post-Sandy renovations.

Mangels Shooting Gallery

1940s Mangels Shooting Gallery, Coney Island USA. August 3, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Intact Mangels shooting galleries are exceptionally rare since most were long ago sold for scrap metal or broken up by antique dealers who sell the targets individually. It brought an authentic, old-timey ambiance to Surf Avenue that will be missed.

CIUSA bought Denny’s ice cream shop and building next door to their headquarters in 2012 for $1.3 million. Unfortunately, Denny’s was one of the first casualties of Superstorm Sandy in Coney Island’s amusement area. The building had to be gutted and at first there was talk of replacing the ruined ice cream machines with a paintball game, mini-golf or a roller rink. What will it house next?

When Coney Island USA bought the building, Dick Zigun told ATZ: “Some day we can transfer air rights from the landmark Childs Building, match the two-story front of Childs then do a setback with an additional five to seven story tower on top of the base,” Zigun noted. The renderings that he showed at a Coney Island presentation at the AIA included a whimsical homage to the Elephant Hotel.

Shooting Gallery

Shooting Gallery building at 1214 Surf Avenue. May 26, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

May 19, 2015: Gargiulo’s Russo Brothers to Open Italian Fast Food on Surf Avenue

May 6, 2015: New Owner of Surf Ave Lot Across from Coney Island Cyclone Seeks Ideas for Seasonal Use

April 7, 2015: Coney Island Area’s 1st Hotel in Decades to Open This Summer

March 3, 2015: Coney Island 2015: The Whip Returns with a NASCAR Twist

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