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Archive for the ‘historic preservation’ Category

Coney Island Pumping Station

Coney Island Pumping Station designed by architect I.S. Chanin and completed in 1938

The Coney Island Pumping Station, a long vacant and neglected 1938 art moderne gem built by Chanin Building architect I.S. Chanin on Coney Island Creek is among nearly 100 proposed landmarks set to be dropped en masse from the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s calendar on December 9th. The city-owned building would be the only landmark outside of Coney’s amusement area, which has six landmarks. Gravesend’s privately owned Van Sicklen House, often referred to as Lady Deborah Moody’s House, is also in the group of buildings, all of which were first calendared prior to 2010.

In this morning’s email an Urgent Preservation Alert from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) confirmed the news first posted on Friday by Landmarks West and posted a link to the official notice on the LPC’s website.

Pegasus

Pegasus statues from the Coney Island Pumping Station were removed to the Brooklyn Museum’s Sculpture Garden for safekeeping in 1980. Photo © Charles Denson

Decommissioned as a fire pumping station in 1976, the long vacant structure on Neptune Avenue is listed as a “non-residential structure with no use” in the database of City-owned property. Nothing ever came of a plan reported by the NY Times in 1990 to spend $23 million to revive the structure to connect two wings of transitional housing for homeless families.

Today, Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project, says the facade can be restored and the building reused. As part of the City’s “How Would You Spend One Million” participatory budgeting program, Denson has already proposed using the property for a “constructed wetland” bio-filter demonstration project on Coney Island Creek. “This project would demonstrate the benefits of natural filtration as a way to clean Coney Island Creek’s storm sewers using natural methods of wastewater treatment.”

“The demonstration project would consist of tanks of Spartina filtering waste water that now flows untreated into Coney Island Creek,” writes Denson, who grew up in the neighborhood and recently released a film on the uncertain future on the Creek. “The project, located on city-owned land behind the old Neptune Avenue pumping station, would be educational, create habitat for wildlife, and help clean a recreational environment that is heavily used by the surrounding Coney Island community. Local schools could work with teachers and scientists to build and operate this small facility.” Machinery for the project would be located inside the building, Denson says.

Coney Island Pumping Station

Coney Island Pumping Station, Neptune Avenue. July 18, 2014. Photo © Charles Denson

After being proposed for landmark designation in 1980, the building was to be mothballed and protected for future use, according to a 1981 article in The Society for Commercial Archaeology News Journal. However, the city proved unable to protect the building from vandals who removed the nickel silver, steel, aluminum and granite trim, and chiseled away at the facade and the winged horses at the building’s entrance. “In an attempt to protect the sculpture from further vandalism, Charles Savage, director of the Commission’s salvage program, managed to have them removed to the Brooklyn Museum for safekeeping. Local press applauded the preservation of this portion of the so-called ‘off-beat Coney Island landmark.'”

According to today’s alert from GVSHP’s Andrew Berman:

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has just scheduled a vote for next Tuesday, December 9th on a mass ‘de-calendaring’ of nearly one hundred buildings and structures throughout the five boroughs. With no testimony from the public allowed and without even consideration of the individual merits of each site, the Commission will vote to ‘de-calendar’ or remove scores of buildings from its calendar for official consideration as individual landmarks

When a site has been “calendared” by the LPC, it is officially under consideration for landmark status, and the Commission can hold a public hearing and/or vote to designate the structure. Perhaps more importantly, calendaring means that no demolition, construction, or alteration permits can be granted for a site without first notifying the LPC and allowing them up to forty days to designate the structure or negotiate a change or withdrawal of the permit applications. Once de-calendared, the Commission gets no notification of such permit applications and has no power to delay their issuance, allowing these buildings to be altered or demolished at will.

GVSHP has called upon the LPC to drop the proposed mass de-calendaring, and to instead consider the individual merits of each of the structures in question through an open public hearing and review process (read letter HERE).

HOW TO HELP:

Write to the Mayor and the Chair of the LPC right away and urge them to drop the proposed de-calendaring>>

Hold Tuesday, December 9th on your calendar — if the City does not drop the proposed de-calendaring, we will need you to join us and other preservationists on the day of the vote to protest this egregious action.

A map of the nearly 100 structures throughout the city set to be de-calendered is HERE.

LPC decalendering

UPDATE December 5, 2014:

An email this morning from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation with the good news! BREAKING: Facing Mass Opposition City Drops Plan For De-Calendaring of Nearly 100 Potential Landmarks! Thanks to Andrew Berman of GVSHP and other advocacy groups for their leadership on this issue. We hope there is a silver lining to this and the buildings that were calendered long ago and forgotten, like the Coney Island Pumping Station, finally get the consideration they deserve.

On the website of the Landmarks Preservation Commission the following notice was posted: STATEMENT FROM CHAIR MEENAKSHI SRINIVASAN RE: PROPOSAL TO ADDRESS AGENCY BACKLOG… Agency will take additional time to consider its proposal to issue “no action” letters to items that have been on LPC’s calendar for five years or more with no action taken by the Commission. “In response to community requests for more time, the Commission has decided not to proceed on December 9th and take a pause to continue to consider feedback on aspects of the proposal. We remain committed to making the Landmarks Commission more effective and responsive in its work, and to clearing a backlog of items that have sat idle for decades so that we can focus on today’s preservation opportunities.”

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Chance Turbo

Ad for a Chance Turbo ride in Zhejiang, China, which recently sold to an amusement park in Canada via usedrides.com. November 7, 2014

A surreal-looking amusement ride from the 1970’s called the Turbo has hundreds of devoted fans ready to schedule their vacations and travel to distant places for its comeback. Though only 23 Turbos were manufactured by Chance Rides from 1970 through 1976, and none are currently in operation, two are being lovingly restored in California and Australia. The 635 members of the Turbo Amusement Ride Fan Club, a private group on Facebook, are eagerly awaiting the chance to go for a retro spin.

A few days ago, when an ad for a Turbo for sale in Zhejiang, China appeared on usedrides.com, excitement ensued. The price: $49,000. No sooner were the pros and cons of a crowdfunding campaign to buy it being discussed than ATZ learned from the seller that the ride, which had been brought from Australia a decade ago, had sold to a park in Canada. “Playland in Vancouver,” seller Jack Su told ATZ via email. A call to the park seeking comment has yet to be returned.

UPDATE, November 14: ATZ just received confirmation from PNE Maintenance Supervisor Peter Tremblay that Playland Vancouver has indeed purchased the Turbo from China and expects it to debut in 2016. Will the PNE modify their plan to replace the iconic buckets as the overhaul of the ride moves forward? It is always controversial when a park (more…)

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Muffler Man Restoration Project in Mortons Gap

Muffler Man Restoration Project in Mortons Gap, Kentucky. Photo by Joel Baker/US Giants

Thanks to girlie motorcycle blogger and Roadside Americana fan Fuzzy Galore, ATZ learned about the website “American Giants: A journal of my muffler men travels and findings.” Videographer Joel Baker and his crew have been traveling the country documenting the roadside giants known as “Muffler Men.” In Episode #4, our favorite, they visit Peoria’s UniRoyal Girl, the female version of the Muffler Man, and the Launching Pad Restaurant’s Gemini Giant, a twin to the long lost Astroman of Coney Island’s Astroland.

Now Baker is asking for help via Kickstarter to restore a headless, armless Paul Bunyan in rural Kentucky. We have a soft spot in our hearts for the fiberglass figures which date back to the 1960s and ’70s and were a common sight during our travels with the carnival but currently number less than 200. There’s something poignant about a collective effort to make this roadside character whole again.

In addition to cowboys, Indians, pirates, astronauts, and other variations, International Fiberglass also produced a 14 foot tall Paul Bunyan statue. It is not known how many of these were made but there are only about 15 of them known to still exist. This statue in Mortons Gap is an example of this model. However, it is in very poor condition.

You can help preserve this unique piece of Americana by supporting this Kickstarter campaign. Your contributions will raise the money needed to reproduce the statue’s original head, arms and axe. The statue will also be refurbished and repainted. This restoration project will be documented in an American Giants’ video episode.

The campaign has raised $976 of a $4,500 goal, but Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing funding model. The project must be fully funded by April 20th for the Muffler Man to be restored. Why not contribute in memory of Astroland’s Astroman? Thank you gifts include a time capsule message ($10 or more), American Giants T-shirt ($35 or more), and a reproduction of a 1970 International Fiberglass Catalogue featuring all the Muffler Men and other statues ($100 or more).

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NY State Pavilion

Ruins of the New York State Pavilion from the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Flushing Meadows Park, Queens. Photo by Matthew Silva via Kickstarter

You cannot think of Coney Island without the Parachute Jump, especially now that it is illuminated nightly. Last night, it was bathed in sea green and blue light to celebrate the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl win. But the iconic tower, which was moved to Coney after first thrilling visitors at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair in Queens, stopped operating as a ride after Steeplechase Park closed in 1964. The Jump endured nearly 40 years of neglect and threats of demolition before being rehabbed and lit with LEDs at a cost of $8.5 million during the Bloomberg administration.

Beginning in 2002, the City’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz championed the landmark’s costly revamp as part of their plan to revitalize Coney Island. Will the ruins of the New York State Pavilion, an iconic structure from the 1964 New York World’s Fair in Queens’ Flushing Meadows Park, which the Parks Department says would cost $14 million to demolish and $52 million to restore, find a plan and a champion to underwrite the cost of saving it?

“World’s Fair buildings are not designed to be permanent. They’re meant to be taken down again,” says a voice at the beginning of the trailer for Matthew Silva’s documentary Modern Ruin about the Pavilion. “Somehow there’s always something nobody wants to tear down, and in this case the New York State Pavilion was one.”

The voice is that of Frank Sanchis, director of the World Monuments Fund, which included architect Philip Johnson’s pavilion on their 2008 Watch List. The Tent of Tomorrow is in imminent danger of collapse due to the deterioration of the exposed steel structure and the decay of the wood piles that serve as the building’s foundation, according to WMF, which successfully nominated the Pavilion for inclusion in the State Register of Historic Places in 2009.

NY State Pavilion

The interior of the New York State Pavilion, designed by Philip Johnson, at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. Photo: © Ezra Stoller/Esto/Yossi Milo Gallery

Now as the building approaches its 50th anniversary, it’s in the spotlight again after years of neglect. People for the Pavilion, a grassroots group dedicated to the preservation and reuse of the structure, hosted a kickoff event last month which drew over 200 people. Silva, who is one of the organization’s co-founders, launched a Kickstarter for his documentary about the pavilion, and raised more than $11,000 towards his goal of $30,000 in the first week. The Parks Department held two “listening sessions,” where people were invited to share their vision for the future of the Pavilion after listening to a presentation on recent structural studies that were completed on the Tent of Tomorrow and Towers.

“The reasons for its neglect are open to interpretation and kind of complicated,” said Silva, in an interview with ATZ. “But one could argue that it simply came down to money, poor post-fair planning, and the fact that the City almost went into default in the ’70s. When the city was in such bad financial shape, how could anyone justify pumping money into an old building from the World’s Fair? But here we are 50 years later and maybe now we can make the case for its rehabilitation and reuse.”

UPDATE February 4, 2014:

The Parks Department has posted links to their PowerPoint presentation, which was shown at the listening sessions, and a survey “in order to understand your vision for the future of the New York State Pavilion.” The survey will be posted on the webpage of Flushing Meadows Corona Park through March 15.

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January 20, 2014: Amusement Park Operators Eye Return to Staten Island Beachfront

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

January 18, 2012: Video of the Day: Climbing Coney Island’s Parachute Jump

December 14, 2011: Another Go Round for RFP to Run Carousels in Flushing Meadows & Forest Parks

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Surf Avenue

Guys in Hazmat suits doing interior demo work at Thor Equities-owned building at 1106 Surf Ave, December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

On Saturday, we were alarmed to receive a call about men in hazmat suits starting interior demolition on Thor Equities-owned Grashorn, Coney Island’s oldest building. Asked by a pedestrian if there was danger, a worker replied they were doing demolition. The work continued through the weekend. A dumpster in front of the building filled up with sheetrock, ductwork insulation, and mattresses. There are no permits posted, nor are there any work permits on the DOB website for the buildings at 1102-1106 Surf Avenue. Anonymous tipsters sent us these photos.

Last month ATZ posted “Rumor Mill Says Coney’s Oldest Building To be Demolished” (ATZ, November 15, 2013). Was the Rumor Mill right? As it turns out, the demo crew was working next door to the Grashorn building where Henry Grashorn’s hardware store was in the 1880s. They are doing interior demo in the neighboring space that was G. Grashorn’s Groceries. The buildings also housed the Grashorn family’s hotel but due to alterations to the facade were not considered eligible for landmarking by the City’s Landmark’s Commission.

Surf Avenue

Thor Equities-owned buildings on Surf Ave, December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

We’ll look into the matter of the permits this week. In the past, there’s been a lag on updates to the DOB site. In 2010, Thor’s teardown of the Henderson Music Hall caught people by surprise as the asbestos abatement that preceded the demo got underway. Also without any permits posted, it should be noted.

The storefronts at 1106 Surf Avenue are newly vacant, having been occupied by Gameworld arcade, a pina colada stand and other concessions for the past four seasons. The neighboring Grashorn building at 1102-1104 Surf Avenue, which also has frontage on Jones Walk, has been vacant since 2008 as ATZ reported in “The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks” (ATZ, Sept. 2, 2013).

The Grashorn no longer has a C of O after having been gutted, though it looked great as the Susquehanna Hat Company in an episode of HBO’s Bored to Death in 2011. Save Coney Island has published renderings showing the potential of the building if restored. Henry Grashorn was a founding director of the Bank of Coney Island, the Mardi Gras Association and the Coney Island Church and Rescue Home. His hardware store catered to Coney Island’s amusement businesses for six decades and the building later housed shooting galleries, arcades, and cotton candy and taffy stands.

Surf Avenue

Dumpster at Thor Equities Building on Surf Ave, Coney Island. December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

In addition to the Henderson, Thor CEO Joe Sitt demolished two other historic Surf Avenue properties–the Bank of Coney Island and the Shore Hotel in 2010, after his lots on the south side of Surf were rezoned by the city for 30 story hotels. Only the buildings that once housed the Grashorn hardware and grocery store remain. If Coney Island’s oldest is going down to become another empty lot to add to Joe Sitt’s collection of empty lots in Coney Island, it won’t happen unnoticed. We promise to make a lot of noise.

Thor Equities purchased the Grashorn (1102-1104 Surf Ave.) for $1.4 million in 2005 and the adjacent building at 1106 for $2.2 million in 2006, according to Property Shark.

UPDATE December 9, 2013:

Sources say the FDNY inspected the building last week and the property owner was fined and required to clean the fire hazard caused by squatters. Squatters have been living there since at least 2010. It takes the FDNY to get Thor to maintain their property and keep it safe? The public cannot access the FDNY’s database but has to put in a request for a search which takes 10 days and costs 10 bucks. Betcha 20 we’ll have more info from the Rumor Mill sooner than that!

Surf Avenue

Thor Equities-owned buildings at 1102-1106 Surf Ave, Coney Island. December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

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October 17, 2013: The New Coney Island: Thor Equities Vacant Lots, Dummy Arcades

September 2, 2013: The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks

September 9, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Faber’s Fascination Goes Dark After 50 Years

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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Childs Building

Childs Building, Proposed Elevation Boardwalk. GKV Architects, PC and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners via NYCEDC

Visitors to Coney Island frequently ask “What are those ruins on the Boardwalk?” From Steeplechase Pier, where the crumbling walls are not evident but the allure is unmistakeable, they simply ask “What is that building?” On Wednesday at 10:00 am, the City Planning Commission at 22 Reade St. will consider and is likely to approve the plan to convert the former Childs Restaurant building on the Boardwalk, a New York City landmark, into an amphitheater for live concerts and a restaurant. If the board votes yes, as expected, then it goes to the City Council on Dec 16

The project’s official name is “The Seaside Park and Community Arts Center” and it would also “provide the community with additional publicly accessible recreational and entertainment opportunities throughout the year,” according to the proposal. The application was submitted by property owner iStar Financial (AKA Coney Island Holdings) and the City’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

Anyone wishing to speak at the hearing is requested to fill out a speaker’s slip at the staff desk outside the hearing chambers. Remarks are limited to 3 minutes. The full agenda of the meeting –the Childs Building is “Nos. 9-14″– and information on submitting written statements can be found in the calendar[pdf].

Childs Building

section Looking at Stage, Childs Building in Season. GKV Architects, PC and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners via NYCEDC

As previously noted (“Clock Ticking on Plan for the Landmark Childs Building,” ATZ, September 25, 2013), the City has the funds to bring the landmark back to life since Borough President Marty Markowitz will be able to use $50 million set aside in 2010 for a $64 million amphitheater in Asser Levy Park that was halted by a lawsuit. Since then, his free Seaside Concerts have been held on the Washington Baths site, a vacant lot across 21st Street from the Childs Building.

If the $50 million isn’t spent by the time the Borough President’s third term ends on December 31, 2013, it would go back into the public coffers and be lost to Coney Island. The landmark building’s deteriorating condition is also cause for concern. After Sandy, parts of the terracotta facade cracked and began falling off. A sidewalk shed was installed this summer.

Childs Building

Childs Building, Proposed elevation West 21st Street. GKV Architects, PC and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners via NYCEDC

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Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk

Photographer and Model in front of Landmark Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk. September 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The fate of the landmark Childs Building on the Boardwalk is in limbo as Brooklyn’s Community Board 13 voted 15-7, with 7 abstentions, against the City’s plan to convert the former restaurant into an amphitheater for live concerts. Noise, traffic, parking and infrastructure issues were some of the reasons cited for the “no” votes. In public testimony at Monday night’s meeting, some residents of Coney Island said the plan was rushed, they needed to hear more about it. Others brought up the idea of a Community Benefits Agreement. Community garden advocates protested the loss and relocation of the Boardwalk garden adjacent to the building, which has been active since 1998 and has between 35-50 gardeners.

Boardwalk Community Garden

Community Garden on the Boardwalk adjacent to the Childs Building. September 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The problem is with less than 100 days left in this administration, time is running out to use the funds allocated for the project. If some kind of compromise plan isn’t worked out, the chance to restore and repurpose the vacant building could be lost. The City has the funds to bring the landmark back to life since Borough President Marty Markowitz will be able to use $50 million set aside in 2010 for a $64 million amphitheater in Seaside Park that was halted by a lawsuit. Since then, his free Seaside Concerts have been held on the Washington Baths site, a vacant lot across the street from the Childs Building.

If the $50 million isn’t spent by the time the Borough President’s third term ends on December 31, 2013, it would go back into the public coffers and be lost to Coney Island. The building’s deteriorating condition is also cause for concern. After Sandy, parts of the facade cracked and began falling off. The sidewalk shed was installed this summer.

Childs Building Coney Island

Landmark Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk. September 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Community Board’s vote is advisory only. Their recommendation is being forwarded to the City Planning Department and the Borough President’s Office, which may amend the proposal before sending it the City Council. It is customary for the Council to vote with the council member from the district. In 2011, when the community board voted 21 to 7 against the Parks Department’s plan to make a section of the Boardwalk concrete and plastic, the City pressed forward with the plan and won the necessary approval of the Public Design Commission, which is comprised of Mayoral appointees.

Dreamland Roller Rink

In 2008 and 2009, the Childs Building was used as Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Rink. August 2, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The City’s plan to develop the former Childs Restaurant building on the Boardwalk and adjacent lot into an entertainment complex with a rooftop restaurant was first reported by NY1 in August 2012 but detailed plans were not made public until April of this year. The property and surrounding lots zoned for high rise condos became part of the portfolio of iStar Financial when Taconic Investment Partners defaulted on loans. The developer plans to sell the building to the City and partner with nonprofit Coney Island USA to manage the programming.

As we noted last summer, it’s been sad to see Coney Island’s terracotta palace by the sea boarded up for the past few years after being enlivened by the Mermaid Parade Ball and Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Rink. Yet it’s hard to pass by without taking photos of its ornamental ships, seashells, fish and King Neptunes. When a tourist recently tweeted a photo describing the Childs as “the ruins,” we didn’t have the heart to respond. The 1923 Spanish Colonial Revival style building was designated a City landmark in 2003.

UPDATE December 20, 2013:

The City Council approved the development of the Seaside Park and Community Art Center, an entertainment complex and public park at the site of the Childs Restaurant Building. The approval by the City Council was part of a public review process that also involved approvals by the City Planning Commission, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Public Design Commission.

The project will be developed and operated by a partnership between an affiliate of Coney Island Holdings LLC, and non-profit Coney Island USA, Inc., with $53 Million in city capital funds to develop the project, which involves the restoration and adaptive reuse of the Childs building as well as the development of a 5,100 seat amphitheater with a neighborhood park and playground overlooking Coney Island beachfront. Completion of the project is slated for June 2015.

UPDATE October 21, 2013:

There’s a public hearing on Wednesday, October 23rd, at 10:00 AM in Spector Hall, at the Department of City Planning (22 Reade Street, in Manhattan) to receive comments related to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Seaside Park and Community Arts Center project. According to the posted notice:

Comments are requested on the DEIS and will be accepted until 5:00p.m. on Monday, November 4, 2013. The Applicant, Coney Island Holdings LLC, is proposing a number of land use actions to facilitate the development of the Seaside Park and Community Arts Center (the “proposed project”) in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn. The proposed project involves the development of approximately 2.41-acres of publicly accessible open space, which would include an approximately 5,100-seat seasonal amphitheater for concerts and other events. The proposed project also includes the landmarked (Former) Childs Restaurant Building, which would be restored for reuse as a restaurant and banquet facility and renovated for adaptive reuse to provide the stage area for the open-air concert venue and use as an indoor entertainment venue during the off-season months. The Seaside Park and Community Arts Center would be a temporary use of the development site for a term of ten years from completion of construction.

The New Childs Restaurant

The New Childs Restaurant on the Riegelmann Boardwalk, August 1924. Eugene L. Armbruster Collection, New York Public Library

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August 24, 2012: New Life for Coney Island’s Terracotta Palace by the Sea

August 1, 2012: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Sunflower

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