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Miss Colombia

Miss Colombia and Friends in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s amusement parks kicked off the Memorial Day Weekend on Friday and starting now through Labor Day are open daily. Beach season begins on Saturday when the lifeguards return to their chairs for the summer. ATZ’s personal must-see-and-do list this weekend includes taking photos, having the first lobster roll of the year and a cold beer at Paul’s Daughter on the Boardwalk, peering through an antique stereoviewer at the Coney Island History Project’s exhibit of stereoview photography, checking out the street art-in-progress at Coney Art Walls, taking more photos, and singing Happy 95th Birthday to the Wonder Wheel, which opened on Memorial Day in 1920. One thing we’ve yet to experience in Coney Island is boredom, but tonight at Coney Island USA, we look forward to seeing Dick Zigun’s play “Boredom,” adapted from Maxim Gorky’s essay about his trip to the Electric Eden in 1904. As the original intro to the essay wisely noted: “What is seen depends upon the eye that sees it.” Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Related posts on ATZ…

May 18, 2015: Zamperla’s Power Surge Set to Make A Coney Island Comeback

May 11, 2015: Coney Island Fireworks 2015: Every Friday Plus 8 Saturdays

April 21, 2015: Coney Island 2015: New York Air Show Set For August 29-30

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

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Coney Island Fireworks

Electric Eden Revisited: Friday Night Fireworks with Wonder Wheel in Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy

With Memorial Day just two weeks away, readers are starting to ask about Coney Island’s fireworks schedule for the summer! The first Friday night fireworks show of the 2015 season will be on June 19, the eve of both the first day of summer and the Mermaid Parade. This free weekly event continues on Fridays through September 4. Friday night fireworks start at 9:30pm and are shot off from the beach. Best viewing is on the Boardwalk from West 10th to West 12th Streets or from the Wonder Wheel. Another popular viewing spot is Steeplechase Pier.

The Brooklyn Cyclones have also announced fireworks on the following eight Saturdays and one Thursday after their home games, including the team’s Home Opener on Saturday, June 20th. Fireworks at MCU Park start when the game is over, so the time varies and is sometimes later than 9:30. Since the Brooklyn Cyclones’ Fireworks are shot from inside their park, best viewing is within and close to the stadium, which is between West 16th and 19th Streets.

Saturday, June 20 – BROOKLYN CYCLONES HOME OPENER – vs. Staten Island Yankees – Post-Game Fireworks
Saturday, June 27 – vs. Connecticut – Toy Story 20th Anniversary Night, Boy Scout Sleepover – Post-Game Fireworks
Thursday, July 2 – vs. Hudson Valley – Back to the Future 30th Anniversary – Post-Game Fireworks
Saturday, July 4- vs. Williamsport – Country Night – Post-Game fireworks
Saturday, July 11 – vs. Aberdeen – Star Wars Night – Post-Game Fireworks
Saturday, July 18 – vs. Vermont – Honeymooners 60th Anniversary Night, Princess & Pirate Night – Post-Game Fireworks
Saturday, August 1 – vs. Batavia – Honeymooners 60th Anniversary Night, Princess & Pirate Night – Post-Game Fireworks
Saturday, August 29 – vs. Aberdeen – Military Appreciation Night, Intern Boot Camp – Post-Game Fireworks
Saturday, September 5 – vs. Staten Island Yankees – Latin Music Night – Post-Game Fireworks

When the weather is iffy on a day when fireworks are scheduled, or if the show is delayed, check the Coney Island tweeters on Coney Island Fun’s list for updates. Thanks to People’s Playground photographer and resident Bruce Handy for his gorgeous photo of one of the Friday night fireworks shows of the past.

Related posts on ATZ…

April 30, 2015: Thor Equities Recruits Jeffrey Deitch, Dan Biederman & Smorgasburg to Dress Up Vacant Coney Lot

April 21, 2015: Coney Island 2015: New York Air Show Set For August 29-30

March 11, 2015: In Coney Island, Two Stores and One NYC Landmark Mark 95th Year

November 18, 2014: ATZ’s Guide to Coney Island’s Honorary Walks and Places

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Steve ESPO Powers

Steve Powers’ ICY SIGNS was hired to paint the title sign for Coney Art Walls. Signage for ‘Miss Coney Island’ and games on Coney Island’s 12th St made by Powers in 2012

Goodbye vacant lots–at least temporarily–hello Coney Art Walls! Thor Equities has recruited a dream team that includes Jeffrey Deitch, art advisor and former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, and food vendors from Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg to help activate one of their long vacant lots in Coney Island. Biederman Redevelopment Ventures (BRV), the consulting firm run by Bryant Park’s Dan Biederman, was hired by Thor to develop events and programming for and manage the lot. There will also be a music stage with live performances throughout the summer.

Smorgasburg Coney Island will have a dozen food vendors operating restaurants out of remodeled shipping containers and two bars serving craft beer, wine and other drinks. Smorgasburg launched in 2011 as a spin-off of Brooklyn Flea, the popular flea market founded by Jonathan Butler and Eric Demby.

“Coney Art Walls will be an outdoor museum, featuring the most innovative street artists from the 1970s to the present,” said Jeffrey Deitch. The art walls will showcase work by famous street artists including Crash, Lee Quinones, Futura, Kenny Scharf, Miss Van, Lady Pink and Swoon. Steve Powers’ ICY SIGNS was hired to paint the title sign for Coney Art Walls. His signage for ‘Miss Coney Island’ and games on West 12th St was installed in 2012. For Powers, whose Dreamland Artists Club created signage for Coney Island businesses in 2004 and 2005, only a few of which remain, it marks a return to a landscape changed by real estate speculation, redevelopment and the rezoning of 2009.

“Coney Island visitors need more comfortable places to sit and relax, and we see demand for new activities and programs that will build on the neighborhood’s rich history, and strengthen its reputation as an attraction unlike anything else in New York,” said Ben Donsky, senior project manager at Biederman Redevelopment Ventures. “We are delighted to be part of this wonderful redevelopment program.” The consulting firm’s clients include Bryant Park, the Grand Central Partnership, Fanueil Hall Marketplace, and Rye Playland.

Coney Art Walls 1320 Bowery Coney Island

Prep for ‘Coney Art Walls’ at Thor’s long vacant lot at 1320 Bowery behind Nathan’s. April 30, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The vacant lot at 1320 Bowery behind Nathan’s is bordered by West 15th Street and the west side of Stillwell Avenue. Thor’s Stillwell properties were once home to amusements galore including the Tornado roller coaster (1927-1977), the Bobsled ride from the New York World’s Fair (1941-1974) and Norman Kaufman’s Batting Cage and Go Kart City, which was forced to close when Sitt bought the property in 2006. Rezoned by the City for retail and entertainment, the lots were used for flea markets in 2009, 2011 and 2012, but remained vacant last year as well as in 2010 and 2013, when the City issued a stop-work order on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.”

Set to begin in May, Coney Art Walls is expected to run at least through September.

UPDATE May 6, 2015:

Biederman Redevelopment Ventures was hired by Thor to manage programming for two lots. What are they planning for Thor’s second long-vacant lot, on the east side of Stillwell, across the street from where Coney Walls will be? “Our programming is still in flux, though we hope to announce some exciting things next week,” Ben Donsky, BRV’s senior project manager, told ATZ. “There will probably be performances on both lots.”

As for game trailers coming to the lot and kiosks for rent, as the Coney Island Rumor Mill has been saying: “There are no actual ‘kiosks’ in our plans on the east side of Stillwell, at least right now,” Donsky says. “But Gordon Lee (of the Eldorado) is going to be putting up midway games along the Bowery.”

Related posts on ATZ…

May 6, 2015: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh to Draw Portraits of Coney Island Residents for Coney Art Walls

April 20, 2015: Art of the Day: “Greetings from Coney Island” Blends Past & Present

October 28, 2013: Photo Album: Banksy Brings His Robot to Coney Island

February 16, 2013: Photo Album: Post-Sandy MERCY Graffiti in Coney Island

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Deno's Wonder Wheel

Go up it’s Great. Easter Sunday at the Wonder Wheel. April 5, 2015. Photo © Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

“Go up, it’s Great!” is the joyful slogan of the Wonder Wheel painted on its vintage ticket booths. On the evening of May 8th, you could say “Go up, it’s Poetry!” Deno’s Wonder Wheel will be open special hours – 7pm-10pm – for Poem-a-Rama, a special event featuring an array of poets reciting poetry to guests as they go up in the cars, plus readings on the ground and book-inspired music by Soozie Hwang & the Relastics.

The first-ever literary soiree in the landmark ride’s 95-year history is a benefit for Parachute Literary Arts’ poetry workshops and community poetry libraries in Coney Island. Advance tickets are $20 and include general admission to the event and a ride with a poet on the Wonder Wheel.

“Coney Island has been a source of inspiration for centuries for artists and poets including Whitman and E.E. Cummings and now contemporary poets,” says Parachute’s founder and artistic director Amanda Deutch. “At the same time I am interested in site specific work.” Past events produced by Parachute have featured poets reading in front of the New York Aquarium’s jellyfish tanks and over the mic at the Eldorado Bumper car ticketbooth on Surf Avenue.

Poets reading on the ground at Poem-a-Rama include Patricia Spears Jones, Lynn Melnick and teen poets from Parachute Literary Arts’ writing workshops. Poets with whom you can ride the Wheel are Parachute Festival alum Matthea Harvey and Edwin Torres, as well as Penny Arcade, Amber Atiya, Paul Blackburn, Kurt Boone, Michael Broder, Brenda Coultas, Ian Dreiblatt, Jen Fitzgerald, Tyehimba Jess, Brenda Iijima, Lucy Ives, Amy King, Wanda Phipps and “a wandering Walt Whitman.”

Deutch’s hope for Poem-a-Rama is for poets and passengers to enjoy a truly unique experience “because of all of it–the ride, the ocean breeze, the intimate nature of such a small reading– the poetry will sink in and reverberate for days to come.”

Advance tickets for Poem-a-Rama are available online for $20 via Parachute Literary Arts. Tickets will be $25 online on May 8th, the day of the event, and at the door. Entrance to the event will be at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park‘s West 12th Street gate at 3059 West 12th between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk.

Related posts on ATZ…

October 13, 2013: Photo of the Day: Swinging on the Wonder Wheel

September 29, 2011: Coney Island Poem from the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project

September 7, 2011: Photography: Floating Above the Coney Island Boardwalk

September 27, 2009: Coney Island 1969 by Edwin Torres: Fave Poem from Parachute Festival

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Coney Island air show

During the 1980s and 90s, Astroland sponsored air shows featuring Air Force, Navy and Army flyers and parachute teams. The last air show in Coney Island was in 2000.

City officials have just signed off on an air show that will bring teams of flyers and parachutists to Coney Island this summer, according to a report by Jeanine Ramirez of NY1. The show will cost more than $500,000, but sponsors have agreed to cover all expenses. The event is scheduled for August 29 and 30.

“So much fun! I’m so happy they’re bringing it back! So exciting!” Tina Georgoulakos of Paul’s Daughter told ATZ. Among the iconic photos on display in her boardwalk eatery is one of a parachutist landing on the beach in front of her family’s business, then called Gregory & Paul’s. Friends who’ve attended Coney Island’s famed air shows of the past –the last one was in 2000– say the jumpers landed with unerring precision on targets set out on the beach.

New York City Air Show

The New York City Air Show in Coney Island has been on the Coney Rumor Mill’s radar since last summer and on fan websites since early this year. Fence Check says the venue is MCU Park and lists the following participants: Air Boss & Consulting International, B-25 Panchito, Horsemen Flight Team, USAF F-22A Raptor Demo, USAF Heritage Flight, USMC AV-8 Harrier Demo, USN F/A-18 Hornet East Demo – VFA-106, USN Leap Frogs, and Mike Wiskus & the Lucas Oil Pitts. The new air show has a logo, a website under construction and a Facebook page. And they are already planning ahead for next year with “the New York City Air Show in Coney Island” on the Blue Angels schedule for August 20-21, 2016.

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Astroland sponsored not only the USAF Thunderbirds but also the US Army’s Golden Knights parachute team as well as the Navy’s Blue Angels in 2000. The walls of Astroland’s office were emblazoned with dramatic news photos of these annual events. The flamboyant Coney Island press agent Milton Berger was the “air show chairman” and a master at estimating attendance. “For the first day of a three-day air show, he reported a crowd of only 750,000, but only to leave room for much bigger crowds that he would report for the next two days,” his obit says.

US Navy Leap Frogs

The U.S. Navy Parachute Demonstration Team, the Leap Frogs, will be part of the New York City Air Show. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Torrey W. Lee

How many people are projected to attend this year’s air show? In 2010, a Coney Island Air Show featuring the Thunderbirds was planned but could not get all of the necessary permits–a complicated situation by all accounts– and was cancelled. The director of that show told ATZ that “a conservative estimate would be 500,000 per day.” The air show will also be visible for blocks beyond the amusement district. According to the USAF Thunderbirds fact sheet, the largest crowd in USAF Thunderbirds history –2.25 million– was on July 4, 1987 at their Coney Island air show.

Fourth of July air shows and fireworks have been a Coney tradition since the 1940s. In 1957, New York City’s delegation to the House of Representatives lobbied the Secretary of Defense for a national air show in Coney Island that would demonstrate America’s “airpower for peace.” The May event grew into Armed Forces Week with the sponsorship of the US Air Force Recruiting Services, the City of New York and the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce.

USAF Thunderbirds at Coney Island

The largest crowd in USAF Thunderbirds history was on July 4, 1987 at Coney Island where 2.25 million people watched as the Thunderbirds performed. Photo via USAF Thunderbirds

Related posts on ATZ…

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

January 31, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Wahlburgers Signage Goes Up at Thor’s Retail Building

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

Read Full Post »

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

The FDNY Color Guard will present the colors and sing the National Anthem at Coney Island’s Opening Day Ceremony. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

There’s a chance of snow showers on Saturday, but it’s expected to be sunny with temps in the 40s on Palm Sunday, when Coney Island’s rides go for their first spin of the season. In celebration of the landmark Wonder Wheel’s 95th year, the first 95 people will get a free ride on Opening Day. The soon-to-be 88-year-old Cyclone roller coaster will as usual offer free rides to the first 100 on line. Erik Knapp aka Mr. Cyclone is once again expected to arrive the night before to be the first on line.

Michael Sarrel, co-owner of Ruby's Bar

Michael Sarrel, co-owner of Ruby’s Bar. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Saturday, the Boardwalk businesses Ruby’s Bar and Lola Star Boutique will welcome customers for the first time since last fall, joining Tom’s Restaurant and Brooklyn Beach Shop, which are already open daily.

Saturday night is Coney Island USA’s spring gala, which is being held at the art organization’s Surf Avenue headquarters on the eve of Coney’s Opening Day. Featuring performances by burlesque and sideshow stars including Mat Fraser of “American Horror Story,” live music, and go go dancers in the Freak Bar, the event runs from 8pm till midnight.

Coney Island USA Freak Bar

Freak Bar at Coney Island USA. Photo © Norman Blake

The annual fundraiser supports Coney Island USA’s Mermaid Parade, Coney Island Circus Sideshow, Burlesque at the Beach, Coney Island Museum and Coney Island Film Festival. General admission of $100 includes unlimited beer, wine, and food. VIP admission of $150 also includes one hour earlier admission at 7pm, Meet and Greet with some of the performers in the V.I.P. Lounge, and gift bags. Tickets may be purchased online until 10pm on Friday. Day of tickets available from 6pm and during the gala at Coney Island USA.

On Palm Sunday, the festivities begin at 10:30am on the Boardwalk with the Blessing of the Rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park by Pastor Debbie Santiago of Coney Island’s Salt and Sea Mission, speeches by elected officials, and the FDNY color guard presenting the Colors and singing the National Anthem. After a ribbon cutting ceremony at Deno’s gate, the gathering moves to the Cyclone roller coaster, which is operated by Luna Park. Brooklyn’s Borough President performs the traditional Egg Cream Christening of the front car of the Cyclone, after which it goes for its inaugural ride of the season.

Chuck Schumer Erik Knapp

Senator Schumer admires Erik Knapp’s Cyclone Tattoo, Opening Day, March 24, 2013. Photo via Luna Park

The Coney Island Circus Sideshow will run continuously on Palm Sunday from 1pm – 8pm. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for kids under 12.

The Coney Island History Project, located on West 12th Street under the Wonder Wheel sign, will be open special hours from 1pm-6pm for a preview of the 2015 season and free souvenir photos with vintage ride figures. Admission is free of charge.

Also opening on Palm Sunday are 12th Street Amusements and the remaining independent concessions on the Bowery and West 12th Street, including the dancing doll “Miss Coney Island,” the animated windows of “Coney Island Always,” games of skill such as Skin the Wire and Feed the Clown, and Monica, the High Striker Queen of Coney Island.

Coney Island

Monica getting ready to open her High Striker on West 12th Street in Coney Island. March 22, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

March 19, 2015: News and Views: 10 Days Till Coney Island’s Opening Day

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

March 25, 2013: Photo of the Day: Palms on Palm Sunday in Coney Island

March 29, 2012: Photo Album: Looking Back at Coney Island’s Opening Day

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Happy Lunar New Year! Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year 4713, the Year of the Sheep, based on the Chinese lunar calendar. On Tuesday night, a Grucci fireworks display over the Hudson River launched a week-long celebration of Chinese art and culture in New York City. For the event schedule, visit the website Fantastic Art China. Many thanks to ATZ reader Jim Levine, who sent us his gorgeous photos and video of the fireworks.

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year 2015

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year, February 17, 2015. Photo © Jim Levine

According to the event’s organizer, the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (part of the Chinese Ministry of Culture), this is the first time in U.S. history that a large-scale fireworks show celebrated the Lunar New Year. The three-barge Grucci Fireworks spectacular employed 27 pyrotechnicians and took 972 man hours to set up. Grucci has produced the fireworks entertainment for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 60th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, as well as seven consecutive U.S. Presidential Inaugurations, and World’s Fairs.

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year 2015

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year, February 17, 2015. Photo © Jim Levine

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year 2015

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year, February 17, 2015. Photo © Jim Levine

Related posts on ATZ…

February 16, 2015: February 17: Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year

May 30, 2014: Coney Island Fireworks 2014: Fridays Including July 4, Six Saturdays, and More

November 28, 2013: Photo Album: Parachute Jump Lights Way to Year-Round Coney Island

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

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