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HBO VINYL Coney Island

HBO’s Vinyl brought this portable Ferris Wheel to Thor Equities lot on 12th Street. Photo © Charles Denson. August 11, 2015

Nope, it’s not a mirage. A little Ferris wheel has been set up within sight of Coney Island’s mighty Wonder Wheel! For two days and nights, HBO’s new rock ‘n’ roll series Vinyl has transformed Surf Avenue, including Thor Equities’ long vacant properties, into a 1970s carnival. In prep for Tuesday night’s shoot, a portable Ferris wheel was set up on the West 12th Street lot across from Coney Island USA. The lot has been vacant since the Bank of Coney Island was demolished by Thor in 2010. A vintage sideshow bannerline featuring a gorgeous cavalcade banner by the legendary Fred Johnson was hung from the forlorn-looking Grashorn Building, Coney’s oldest, also owned by Thor. Historian Charles Denson shot these surreal-looking photos on Tuesday afternoon before filming got underway.

The HBO series from Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter is set to premiere in 2016. Surf Avenue businesses were reportedly paid several thou each to keep the lights blazing while the production company pulls an all nighter. What a bonanza! Too bad it’s only for a day and a night and the amusements can’t return for real to good ol’ Surf Avenue where they belong.

VINYL HBO Coney Island

Vintage sideshow banners emblazon Coney Island’s oldest building, the Grashorn, vacant since 2008. Photo © Charles Denson. August 11, 2015

The only use that the circa 1880’s Grashorn has seen since we started blogging in 2009 was as the Susquehanna Hat Company set for HBO’s Bored to Death (2011) and an office for the production company filming Men in Black 3 (2012).

The Jones Walk side of the Grashorn building has been vacant for several years, as ATZ reported in “The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks.” Why? A business owner who had leased a small stand on the Walk from Thor in 2008 told us in 2009 that the rent had tripled from $8,000 to $24,000. He declined the space and left Coney Island, never to return.

In the summer of 2010, Save Coney Island published renderings showing the potential of the building if restored, but their plan to create a Coney Island Historic District along Surf Avenue was crushed by Thor CEO Joe Sitt’s demolition of all but one of his historic buildings. Only the Grashorn remains. And apparently only HBO and Hollywood can afford the rent.

VINYL HBO Coney Island

Vintage sideshow banners on Coney Island’s oldest building, owned by Thor Equities. Photo © Charles Denson. August 11, 2015

Related posts on ATZ…

April 19, 2015: USA Network’s Mr. Robot is Filming Again in Coney Island

April 22, 2014: ATZ Review: ‘Famous Nathan,’ A Documentary by Lloyd Handwerker

November 15, 2012: ATZ Review: Coney Island Documentary ‘Zipper’ Debuts at DOC NYC

June 6, 2011: HBO’s Bored to Death Brings Susquehanna Hat Co. to Coney Island

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Arancini Bros

Arancini Bros. Rice Balls now available during Brooklyn Cyclones games at MCU Park. Photo via Arancini Bros.

Italian street food is popping up this summer in Coney Island’s amusement area. Bushwick’s Arancini Bros– whose motto is “We’ve got balls!”– is serving their Sicilian rice balls during Brooklyn Cyclones’ games at MCU Park. On the Bowery at Stillwell, Luzzo’s, which has an old-school pizzeria with a coal-burning oven in the East Village, is making wood-fired pizza from a mobile cart with a tiny oven.

We first tried Arancini Bros basil pesto ball at San Gennaro and went back for seconds, thinking all the while: this would be perfect for Coney Island. The business is owned by David Campaniello and his cousin Giulia Della Gatta, who says of the new Coney Island venture, “Arancini Bros. is honored to bring the best of Brooklyn, for the best of Brooklyn!”

Six varieties are offered at MCU Park, priced at three for $6 or six for $10. There’s Classic Ragu (saffron risotto with tomato meat sauce peace and mozzarella); Bianco Verde (Basil Pesto w Mozzarella); Buffalo Ball (Spicy Chicken with Gorgonzola Cheese); Philly Cheese-Steak (grilled rib-eye, caramelized onions, provolone cheese); Bucatini Fritti (Italian-style mac & cheese) and Nutella (Cinnamon risotto with chocolate hazelnut, rolled in cinnamon sugar).

We only wish they sold the rice balls outside the ball park too!

Luzzo's Pizza

Luzzo’s Pizza Cart on the Bowery at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. July 4, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Luzzo Group headed by Neapolitan pizzaiolo Michele Iuliano operate a quintet of restaurants as well as pizza carts in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Their cart in Coney Island debuted over the July 4th weekend and is set to stay the summer, according to its manager Anisa. Luzzo’s is located on Thor Equities property on the Bowery, across from the Brooklyn Nets Shop and the yet-to-open Wahlburgers, and has a roped-off seating area. The personal-size pizza comes in two varieties: the Margherita, with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella ($6.00), and the Diavola with spicy salami ($8.00). Also on the menu for $2 each are Rice Balls (rice, meat, fresh Mozzarella) and Potato Croquettes.

While new is news and street food is convenient, if you’re looking for an Italian sit-down restaurant in Coney Island, you should keep in mind two of the City’s and the neighborhood’s oldest and most revered: Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana on Neptune Avenue since 1924 and Gargiulo’s on West 15th Street since 1907. As ATZ previously reported, the Russo Brothers, owners of Gargiulo’s, which is Coney Island’s bastion of fine dining, are planning to open a fast food Italian restaurant on the north side of Surf.

Luzzo's Pizza

Seating area at Luzzo’s Pizza Cart on the Bowery at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. July 4, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

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

May 14, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Red Doors Bar & Grill Opens on North Side of Surf Ave

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

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

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Chinese-style cotton candy

Rocky makes Chinese-style, flower-shaped cotton candy in a booth on Coney Island’s Bowery. May 30, 2015

Chinese-style cotton candy has come to Coney Island’s Bowery, where a friendly vendor nicknamed Rocky spins and shapes the flossy threads into a multi-colored pastel flower. In the video that we shot it takes him just one minute and several seconds to create the amazing confection. Rocky says this style of cotton candy is popular in southern China and that he learned the technique by watching videos on the web. Videos shot in China of street vendors making the flower-shaped cotton candy are prolific on YouTube but it’s our first sighting of the phenom in New York City.

The quintessential carnival food debuted as “fairy floss” at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, where it was served in a wooden box and took in more than $17,000 over the fair’s six-month run. The new booth on the Bowery at West 12th street has also introduced frozen yogurt with toppings sold by the ounce to Coney Island. It is owned by 5D Cinema proprietor Terry Zheng and located next-door to his theater.

Related posts on ATZ…

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

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

May 14, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Red Doors Bar & Grill Opens on North Side of Surf Ave

May 5, 2015: New Owner of Surf Ave Lot Across from Coney Island Cyclone Seeks Ideas for Seasonal Use

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New York City Air Show

It’s been 15 years since Coney Island’s last air show but 2015 won’t be the year for a long-awaited comeback after all. ATZ has learned the New York Air Show that was planned for Coney Island on August 29 and 30 is being moved 60 miles north of New York City, to Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, NY! On Monday, ACC Aerial Events wrote on the forum at Fence Check, an aerial photography site: “In case you have not heard the Brooklyn show has moved to Stewart IAP in Newburgh, NY.”

Air Combat Command Aerial Events is responsible for scheduling the public display of the USAF F-22A Raptor Demo and manages the USAF Heritage Flight program, both of which are scheduled to appear in the show. Kathy White, Chief of Civic Outreach Division of ACC Public Affairs replied to ATZ’s query for confirmation with a note that the show was indeed moved to Stewart International Airport.

The New York Air Show, whose logo incorporates images of the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel, and was set for Coney Island’s MCU Park, has not announced the change of venue, nor has it updated its website or Facebook page. ATZ did not receive a reply to a request for comment. The next question is will “The New York City Air Show in Coney Island” on the Blue Angels schedule for August 20-21, 2016″ be in Brooklyn or Newburgh?

In 2010, another producer’s Coney Island Air Show planned for late August and featuring the USAF Thunderbirds could not get all of the necessary permits–a complicated situation by all accounts– and was cancelled. The high cost of police security for the event was also rumored to be a factor. The Thunderbirds finally removed “Brooklyn, NY” from their schedule and Air Force Week NYC went on without a Coney Island Air Show.

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.

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. 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, which was the last year that Coney had an air show. The walls of Astroland’s office were emblazoned with dramatic news photos of these annual events.

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…

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

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

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

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

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Repair crew on Coney Island Boardwalk

Repair crew on Coney Island Boardwalk. March 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

With Coney Island’s Palm Sunday season opener a mere 10 days away, the amusement area is a flurry of activity. New signage and work permits are affixed to buildings, job trainings and Boardwalk repairs are underway. Trenches are being dug along the Bowery and Jones Walk to lay new gas lines before the area comes fully awake from its winter slumber. City ride inspectors were on site on Wednesday inspecting rides that are ready to spin while both new rides and old favorites are still being set up in Coney Island’s amusement parks.

Scrambler Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

Astroland’s Scrambler is back in Coney at the Wonder Wheel. Photo © Tricia Vita

The cars are expected to go back up on the Wonder Wheel any day now — the official first sign of Spring. Among the season’s three new family rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park is the Speedway, a Nascar-inspired ride with a Whip-like twist, which ATZ previewed earlier this month. A new Drop Tower arrived on Monday, as per this photo shared via twitter…

Astroland’s popular Scrambler has been refurbished and brought home to Coney Island. The ride is now being assembled in its new spot beside the Wonder Wheel. In Luna Park, Zamperla’s Rockin’ Tug has replaced the Beach Shack, and more new rides are yet to come.

Luna Games

New ‘Luna Games’ Signage Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita

Luna Park is increasing its presence on the Boardwalk with bold electric signage for “Luna Games” and additional pinwheels, which are the park’s logo. ATZ has learned exclusively that the owner of Coney’s Cones sold his small business to landlord Central Amusements International, which operates Luna Park. The ice cream shop had one year remaining on its five-year lease. The other independent businesses on the Boardwalk including Tom’s, Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter have eight-year leases. Sources say that Zamperla will bring an Italian gelato shop to Coney Cone’s location, which is adjacent to the park’s boardwalk gate. The park is also debuting ticketbooths on the Boardwalk.

Luna Park Pinwheel

New Pinwheel, Luna Park’s logo, on the move in Scream Zone. Photo © Tricia Vita

In the Strange & Unusual Department: A giant skull long retired from duty at Wonder Wheel Park’s Spook-A-Rama dark ride was pulled out of storage and wheeled over to the Coney Island History Project. This fantastic creature will be on display this season, replacing the Cyclops head which is on loan to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art for a traveling art exhibit. Like the Cyclops, the skull’s eyes light up and move, promising some terrific selfies. The skull was a stage prop in Harvey Fierstein’s 1984 play Spookhouse and a denizen of the Coney Island Hysterical Society’s Spookhouse in the former Dragon’s Cave on the Bowery.

Skull from dark ride

Skull from dark ride en route to Coney Island History Project Photo © Tricia Vita

In Thor Equities’ building on Stillwell Avenue, work permits are posted and construction is underway on Wahlburgers, which is expected to open in May. The permits cover general construction on the first floor and the roof, where outdoor dining will be available for the celebrity burger chain . The roof currently overlooks an empty lot but as ATZ wrote in January: “Coney Island Rumor Mill: No Rides But Games, Food & Merch Coming to Thor’s Lot.”

There could be some truth to the rumor. Earlier this month, electrical service was installed on the lots. Since Thor bought the property in 2006 and evicted amusement operator Norman Kaufman, the Stillwell lots have occasionally hosted flea markets or carnivals. The lots were 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.”

Wahlburgers Coney Island

Building permits posted on window of future Wahlburgers on Stillwell Avenue, where construction is underway. Photo © Tricia Vita

Check our post on “Coney Island Amusement Park Jobs from Entry Level to Managerial Up for Grabs” for updates. New jobs being advertised included Brand Ambassadors for Luna Park, Marketing and Events Coordinator for Wahlburgers, and account Manager for Coney Island Brewing Company. Game of skill operators are needed for the 2015 season at the independent games on West 12th street off the Boardwalk. Apply in person or message @MissConeyIsland via twitter.

Luna Park Job Screening

Luna Park Job Screening at B&B Carousell. Photo © Tricia Vita

After the March 29th season opener, Coney Island’s amusement parks are open weekends and school holidays until the daily schedule kicks in Memorial Day Weekend.

More photos from this set may be viewed on flickr.

Polar Express

Polar Express, famed for its mega sound system and live DJs, getting ready for Coney Island’s Opening Day, 12th Street Amusements. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

March 6, 2015: Photo Album: Glimpses of Spring in Coney Island

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

Landmark Childs Building

Landmark Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Tourists often ask “what are those ruins on the Boardwalk?” Some locals tell them the crumbling palazzo by the sea is an old bathhouse. The former Childs Restaurant building has been been vacant for so long, between stints as a chocolate factory, a roller rink, and a warehouse, most people have no memory of its glory days.

Last weekend, ATZ took these photos of the 1923 landmark, which is now in hibernation, awaiting restoration as part of a $53 million dollar City project. Terra-cotta fish and seashells and Neptune the god of the sea peek out from above the sidewalk shed and plywood fencing, which was recently installed around the property.

Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk

Detail of terracotta ornamentation on Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The construction of the shed and fencing and work on the floors are the only permits currently approved by the Department of Buildings. Several other permits are still listed as on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit by the New York City Community Garden Coalition (NYCCGC) and the Coney Island Boardwalk Community Garden members vs the City and developer iStar Financial. The clerk for Judge Peter Sweeney, who got the case after a prior judge recused himself, told ATZ last week that the judge has not yet made a decision. At a hearing in December, Judge Sweeney asked both sides to submit briefs arguing for or against a jury trial.

“There is a chance that, given his willingness to bring the parkland issue before a jury, he might break up the case along its two issues and rule separately on each,” writes Aziz Dekhan on the NYCCGC’s website.”Or he might wait to rule on either issue until after he or a jury decides on the parkland issue.”

Former Community Garden on the Boardwalk

Site of former community garden adjacent to the Childs Building. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The crux of the suit is the gardeners’ claim the land is public parkland and that the development project is an alienation of parkland without the required approval of the state legislature. In December 2013, the garden was razed without warning to make way for construction of the seating area for the amphitheater, which was initially expected to open in June 2015.

ATZ previously wrote about the project when it was under consideration (Clock Ticking on Plan for the Landmark Childs Building, September 25, 2013) and after the razing of the garden (Pre-Dawn Bulldozing of Coney Island Community Garden, December 29, 2013).

Neptune

Neptune medallion on Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Designated a landmark nearly twelve years ago, on February 4, 2003, the building operated as a restaurant until the early 1950s. Childs was one of the largest restaurant chains in the country with 107 restaurants in 33 cities in the U.S. and Canada by the 1920s, but it was not a formula business. According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission report, the Boardwalk restaurant was designed specifically for Coney Island “in a fanciful resort style combining elements of the Spanish Colonial Revival with numerous maritime allusions that refer to its seaside location.”

Childs Building

Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

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

January 19, 2015: An Historic First As Elected Officials Join Community’s Fight to Save Coney Island Boardwalk

December 20, 2014: Save the Boardwalk for Future Gens! Sign Brooklyn Pols Petition to Make it ‘Scenic Landmark’

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

Read Full Post »

coney Island Brewing Co.

Coney Island Brewing Co, and The Plunge, a Belgian-style Ale, were among the sponsors of this year’s Polar Bear Plunge. Photo via Coney Island Brewing Facebook.

The Coney Island Brewing Company, whose craft beers celebrate the iconography of Coney Island, may soon have a place to call its own on Surf Avenue. Boston Beer Corporation, which applied in September for a license to open a brewery under the trade name Coney Island Brewing Company at 1904 Surf Avenue, received a conditional letter of approval from the NY State Liquor Authority last week.

The line of Coney Island beers was relaunched in 2013 after being sold to Alchemy & Science, a division of Boston’s Samuel Adams. The brewery will be located in a retail space on the outside of MCU Park formerly occupied by Danny Boy’s Pizza and adjacent to Peggy O’Neill’s and the MCU Credit Union.

1904 Surf Avenue

Coney Island Brewing Co has applied for a brewer’s license at the 1904 Surf Ave store formerly occupied by Danny Boy’s Pizza. November 16, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

A conditional approval letter is issued upon completion of the license application process but prior to approval of the premises. According to the NYSLA, after a brewer’s license is granted, the permittee has the option of applying for a retail license and tasting permit.

“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Kathleen Barnes of the Coney Island Brewing Company told ATZ last year. She said they’re planning to have a tasting room, retail space, a community center, and tours of the brewing process. Draft beers will be sold in growlers. Retail items include Coney beer-themed tap handles, coolers, beach towels, T-shirts and trucker hats currently sold on the company’s online store. Asked if the brewery would be applying for a permit to operate a brew pub or restaurant at the location, Barnes said they were not.

The new brewery will mark a return to Coney for the namesake brand, which under Shmaltz Brewing ownership operated the “World’s Smallest Brewery” in a tiny storefront next to the freak show. That brewery was part of Coney Island USA’s small business incubator program from 2011 until it got washed away by Sandy.

New graphics on display

New graphics on display at Brass Monkey Launch Party, November 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

November 19, 2014: Coney Island Brewing Co. Applies for License for Surf Ave Brewery

November 25, 2013: Coney Island Freak Show-Inspired Beer Takes A New Ride

January 31, 2012: Remnant of Under Boardwalk Bar Found in Coney Island

October 11, 2011: Photo of the Day: Butterflies & Beer Island by Bruce Handy

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