Vintage Postcard: Promenading at Midland Beach, Staten Island. Collection Milstein Division, New York Public Library
Staten Island’s east shore, once home to amusement parks with roller coasters, Ferris wheels and carousels, could be awhirl with seasonal rides again as early as this summer. A Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the Staten Island Beachfronts by the City mentions amusement rides at Midland Beach as well as carnivals, rides and stall-based amusements among over 30 suggested uses at 8 different sites. Respondents are encouraged to submit proposals for these ideas as well as others that they believe are suitable but not mentioned in the RFEI.
Big Mark’s Action Park and NY Carousel Entertainment LLC were among the amusement park operators eyeing the property in recent site visits held by the City’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Parks Department. Proposals are due on Tuesday and some of the ideas are expected to be activated in summer 2014.
Carousel and Kiddie Rides in Midland Beach Opportunity Site Diagram, Staten Island Beachfronts RFEI, December 13, 2013. NYCEDC
Six concrete pads for future amusement rides with electrical utilities already installed are mentioned in the Midland Beach Site Opportunity section of the RFEI. The diagram above shows the pads occupied by a carousel, magic castle, sky glider, mini airport and spinning teacups circled by a trackless train, though these are just examples. There’s also a pad for a concession building with attached public restrooms, which are under construction.
Staten Island site visit attendee Mark Zientek of Big Mark’s Action Park says, “We put together some ideas we’re really excited about. We think the beachfronts offer a lot of promise.” Zientek is the owner of a long-established amusement rental and special events production company whose clients include AT&T, HBO, and Turner Construction. He’s also chairman of ROAR (Responsible Operators of Amusement Rentals) and a NAARSO (National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials) certified maintenance technician. Big Mark’s proposal is a two-phase plan, with an initial emphasis on participatory attractions for children like Little Mark’s climbing wall and slide, and a mechanically operated ride that lets the riders control the speed of the spin. A zip line and other action-oriented attractions are part of phase two.
Vintage Postcard: Great Roller Boller Coaster Amusement Co., South Beach, Staten Island. Collection Milstein Division, New York Public Library
Also attending the site visit were David Galst and Ami Abramson of NY Carousel Entertainment LLC, which operates two historic Queens carousels for the Parks Department in Flushing Meadows and Forest Park. Last year, the company added a mini-amusement park at Flushing Meadows including Queens’ one and only roller coaster, a family ride called the Corona Cobra. Could a coaster for Staten Island be next? Galst and Abramson are also managing directors with Ride Entertainment Group, which not only operates carousels but also installs coasters and other high thrill rides. Past projects include the 110-foot-high SkyCoaster at Luna Park’s Scream Zone in Coney Island and Gerstlauer’s new FireChaser Express at Dollywood, the first dual-launch family coaster in the U.S.
One of the questions from a respondent in the RFEI’s Q & A about zoning restrictions as to height partly answers whether a SkyCoaster or similarly tall ride would fly on Staten Island’s beachfront. The answer: “NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) structures are not subject to zoning restrictions. Structure heights are subject to the NYC Parks Commissioner’s discretion. The construction of new structures will not be permitted at the Miller Field Opportunity Site.” NY Carousel Entertainment did not reply to ATZ’s request for comment on their proposal for the Staten Island beachfront.
Vintage Postcard: Everybody Rides the The Whip at Midland Beach, Staten Island. Collection Milstein Division, New York Public Library
According to the NYCEDC, the primary purpose of the RFEI is to generate ideas to enhance and re-invigorate Staten Island’s public beachfronts and open spaces after Superstorm Sandy. Proposals may consider one or more of eight locations, for temporary, seasonal, and/or permanent activations for early summer 2014 as well as long-term projects. In addition to small-scale amusements, suggested project concepts include food trucks, vending machines, beer gardens, cafes, skate parks, surf schools, skating rinks, mini golf, driving ranges, batting cages, recreational and beach equipment rental, educational programming, public art activations, festivals, performances and markets.
South Beach was once home to Happyland Amusement Park (1906-1935) and other independently owned amusements. In 1955, a project to extend the Boardwalk and provide parking and playing fields led to New York City’s condemnation of properties where rides, eateries and other amusements had been for decades. Beachland Amusements (1941-2006) survived by moving inland. Midland Beach, just south of South Beach, had hotels, beer gardens, bathing pavilions, theaters, carousels, Ferris wheels and amusements. Vintage postcards in the New York Public Library show a variety of entertainments, including trapeze performances on the boardwalk and a boxing exhibition by the world-famous Rossow Midgets.
The Rossow Midgets, Midland Beach, Staten Island, NY. Collection Milstein Division, New York Public Library
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