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Eric Adams Mark Treyger

Borough President Eric Adams and Councilman Mark Treyger and officials at Dec 18 Announcement for New Year’s Eve Celebration in Coney Island. Photo via Coney Island Facebook

Today’s 1pm rally moved to Boardwalk pavilion at Brighton 4th St, few blocks west of Coney Island Ave, if still raining. Please spread the word!

Borough President Eric Adams, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and possibly Senator Chuck Schumer are scheduled to join the January 18th community rally to save the historic Riegelmann Boardwalk. Councilman Mark Treyger and Councilman Chaim Deutsch, whose districts include the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Boardwalk, organized the rally, which is at 1pm on the Boardwalk at Coney Island Avenue in Brighton. Take the Q train to the Brighton Beach stop and then walk one block to the Boardwalk.

“I share their views on the Boardwalk,” Borough President Eric Adams said in a sitdown with the Brooklyn Daily last week. “We do need to protect Coney Island and what makes it so special — its history and traditions — and I think a wooden Boardwalk is a part of that.”

We hope YOU will join the rally, too. It’s not an exaggeration to say this may be our last chance to save the Boardwalk. Last month, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission used a form letter from 2012 and incorrect info to reject the Council Members’ petition, according to “Coney’s Boardwalk Should Be a Landmark,” an essay by historian Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project. Meanwhile, the City’s Parks Department and its commissioner Mitchell Silver are going ahead with a project to make a concrete roadway for so-called “emergency vehicles” (garbage trucks, Parks Dept vans etc.) on the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach, a pilot project approved in 2012 by six appointees of Mayor Bloomberg.

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk/No Concrete. Sign on Building Facing Boardwalk East of Ocean Parkway in Brighton Beach. Photo © Bruce Handy

The Borough President co-sponsored Coney Island’s first New Year’s Eve celebration including an LED light show and fireworks at the Parachute Jump, fulfilling a promise he made during the campaign. “The Riegelmann Boardwalk is imprinted with over 90 years of history, helping to establish Coney Island as America’s playground,” Adams said in December, in support of CM Treyger and Deutsch’s petition to make the boardwalk a Scenic Landmark.

“Millions of visitors have made the pilgrimage to southern Brooklyn, and we want to see millions more enjoy its unique, iconic character in the decades to come,” said the Borough President. “I support a scenic landmark designation for the Riegelmann Boardwalk because I believe it is in the best interest of Brooklyn’s cultural and economic well-being. I look forward to working with my elected colleagues and local stakeholders to advance this proposal.”

Boardwalk renovation 1934

The Boardwalk opened in 1923 and was already undergoing renovation in 1934: Group of men ripping up old planking on Coney Island boardwalk near Half Moon Hotel. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection

Mayor Bill de Blasio has not only continued the Bloomberg-approved Concretewalk but failed to listen to local council members and the community. All year, letters and requests for an environmental study and a meeting to discuss the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Boardwalk with Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver were rebuffed. A stakeholders’ meeting was belatedly arranged on the day before New Year’s Eve, according to a report by the NY Daily News titled “City won’t budge on plan to change Coney Island Boardwalk’s wooden planks to used plastic and concrete.”

“The fate of the Boardwalk is in your hands,” Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance president Rob Burstein wrote today in a letter calling for a huge turnout. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is our make or break moment! Please contribute to our common effort in the one way that you can make a difference- Show up and stand with us! I know that you believe that the Boardwalk is worth saving – for ourselves and for future generations – and should not be destroyed by uncaring bureaucrats. You must show up and say so!”

save the boardwalk

Related posts on ATZ…

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

March 22, 2012: The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues

March 9, 2012: The 10 People Who Will Decide the Fate of Coney Island Boardwalk

December 27, 2010: Photo of the Day: First Snow on Coney Island Boardwalk

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Coney Island Kittens

Coney Island Boardwalk Kittens, September 28, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Since the dramatic rescue of Coney Island cat Snow Coney in November, we’ve written about model programs to manage feral and stray cats at Disneyland and the Atlantic City Boardwalk and asked – Why not Coney Island? It’s about to be launched.

There will be an organizational meeting on April 15th at 6:30pm at the Coney Island YMCA Community Room located on West 29th Street at Surf Avenue. Hosted by Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella, the purpose is to organize volunteers and support to help the stray and feral cats on the Coney Island Boardwalk. You must register via eventbrite since seating is limited. If you can’t make it on April 15th, follow the project’s new Facebook page or send a note to brooklyn.rescue.umbrella[AT]gmail[DOT]com indicating your interest to be contacted for the next meeting.

You’re invited to an organizational meeting to start a pilot program in Coney Island similar to Alley Cat Allies’ successful Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats Project to care for feral and stray cats. The program would utilize feeding stations, shelters and TNR—Trap Neuter Return – a humane and effective method of feral cat management that stabilizes the size of the colonies and reduces nuisance behaviors.

In Atlantic City, where the city-approved project was started in 2000, Alley Cat Allies Boardwalk Cats draws visitors from all over the country. Disneyland in California also has a managed colony of 200 feral cats who dine at five discreet feeding stations and receive medical care. The bonus for the community is the rodent population is kept under control and calls to public officials about cats are eliminated.

Meeting organizer Josie Marrero will talk about the feral and stray cat population along the Coney Island Boardwalk, where demolition and redevelopment have displaced some colonies and thrown others into crisis. A video of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats Project will be screened. A representative of the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, a program of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals committed to solving NYC’s feral cat overpopulation crisis through TNR, will attend to answer questions.

Coney Island Boardwalk Kitty

Coney Island Boardwalk Kitty, September 28, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Immediate Needs

–Volunteers to assist with trapping, recovery, and transportation. Let us know if you have TNR certification or experience with feral cats or cat rescue.

–A volunteer coordinator as well to help with social media and fundraising. We would like to raise funds via Indiegogo or Kickstarter and also ask local businesses and property owners for support.

–Recovery space is needed for the cats immediately after trapping and post surgery. It should be a safe, quiet space. Male cats may be released after 24 hours, female cats after 48 hours.

–Approval of pilot program, including feeding stations, shelters and TNR, by the Parks Department and other City agencies, and property owners. Over the winter, BRU volunteers put out shelters, straw and food, only to be admonished and the shelters removed.

Coney Island Boardwalk Cats Project – Organizational Meeting hosted by Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella, Coney Island YMCA Community Room, 2980 W 29th St, Brooklyn, NY 11224. Tuesday, April 15, 2014 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

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March 16, 2014: Coney Island Bunny Makes Broadway Debut at Union Square Petco

January 27, 2014: AC Boardwalk, Disneyland Have Model Programs for Feral Cats–Why Not Coney Island?

December 10, 2013: Update on Coney Island Cat ‘Snow Coney’ & His Family

September 19, 2013: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Parakeets Go for a Walk

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Friede Globe Tower

1907 Postcard for Friede Globe Tower, which was never built. The Strong Museum

More than a century after it was first announced and subsequently declared a swindle, the Friede Globe Tower is once again being proposed for Coney Island’s Surf Avenue. ATZ received a translated copy of an offering to investors for “a ground floor chance to share profits” in the project which is expected to cost $2 billion and pay up to 100% interest. A Russian billionaire plans to erect the 700-foot-tower on one of the lots on the south side of Surf rezoned for high-rise hotels.

Dubbed “The Globe Tower 2.0,” the structure will house a luxury hotel instead of the world’s largest amusement park of the original proposal. In order to comply with the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009 requiring a percentage of the property be used for amusements, Globe of Death Motorcyclists will perform a free act in the globe twice daily, weather permitting.

According to the offering, the hotel rooms will be small but luxuriously appointed and padded with sound proofing for undisturbed sleep despite the roar of the motorcycles. The tower will be crowned with the largest revolving searchlight in the world and lit by thousands of LED lights, making it visible from Mars.

Friede Globe Tower

Cover, illustrated supplement of the New York Tribune. January 20, 1907

When ATZ expressed skepticism that the new offering, which contained wording similar to Samuel Friede’s 1906 ad in the New York Herald, was genuine, the source replied that the Globe was an architectural wonder that had captured the developer’s imagination. He plans to make the penthouse his home away from home. “Remember when your Mayor Bloomberg said ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could get all the Russian billionaires to move here?'” Then he quoted the popular adage: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

The ceremony for laying the cornerstone is expected to be on May 26, 2014, on the 108th anniversary of the Globe’s original groundbreaking, and will feature a band concert, speeches and fireworks.

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February 25, 2014: For Sale in Coney Island: 3 Blocks of Vacant Land Across from MCU Park

December 7, 2013: New Construction: Coney Island Area’s 1st Hotel in Decades

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

February 17, 2011: New Construction: Coney Island’s 1st Private Beachfront Condos on Boardwalk

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Rsuh Aaron Hicks

Sideshow performer Rush Aaron Hicks. Photo via Facebook

Black history month is over and guess what? There are people who still don’t know blackface is never okay. Last year, it was Brooklyn State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who wore an afro wig and brown makeup to a Purim party, and whose apologies showed his ignorance. Now New York’s sideshow and burlesque community is in a furor over the news that rubber skin man Rush Aaron Hicks did his act in blackface at the Lower East Side’s Palace of Variety, the Slipper Room, on Friday.

Initially, the performer tried to brush off criticism by posting that he did it “at random” and wasn’t racist because he “slept with two black girls this year,” which only made matters worse and provoked a rebuke on the blog Jezebel. Since then, all posts on his Facebook page that are critical of him, including outraged comments as well as friendly advice from members of New York’s sideshow and burlesque world, are being deleted.

Al G Field Minstrels

Circa 1910 Poster for Minstrel and Vaudeville Comedian Nick Hufford. Al G Field Minstrels, Otis Lithograph Co. Library of Congress Collection

What’s next for this young performer? An apology followed by an assignment to read a few books on the history of blackface and minstrelsy and write a report on what he has learned would be in order. James Habacker, artistic director of the Slipper Room, told ATZ:

The Slipper Room has always been a place that has welcomed diversity. Over the years our stage has been graced by people of every ethnicity, sexual orientation, body type, and proclivity. We do not now, nor will we ever have, a policy of telling artists what they can and can’t do in their acts. Rush Hicks made a poor choice in doing blackface. His unfortunate comments after the fact have only served to make matters worse for him. We had a few bookings with him for this spring, which we have cancelled, to give him time to reflect on his actions and their consequences.

Last season, Hicks was in the cast of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow but his scheduled appearance at the organization’s Gala later this month has been cancelled. Coney Island USA artistic director Dick Zigun told ATZ in an email:

Yes I am aware of this sad controversy. Rush is not currently under contract with CIUSA. His questionable performance took place at the Slipper Room and he was in no way there on behalf of CIUSA . He was scheduled to perform with us in a few weeks and that appearance has been cancelled.

No performer has ever appeared on any CIUSA stage in blackface. Whether or not Rush ever appears with us again will depend on his apologies and actions regarding this incident. I will personally be monitoring his personal and performance statements

William H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

Circa 1899 Poster of Carroll Johnson as himself and in blackface. William H. West’s Big Minstrel Jubilee. Strobridge Litho. Co., Library of Congress Collection

The Brooklyn-based performer was born with vascular Ehlers Danlos syndrome, a condition that gives him hypermobile joints and the ability to stretch his skin in the tradition of classic sideshow acts like The Rubber Skin Man and The Elastic Man. Hicks usually appears in whiteface, as seen in photos on his Facebook page. On Friday night at the Slipper Room, after showing up without a costume and white greasepaint, he decided on the spur-of-the-moment to do his act nude and in black makeup, according to a YouTube video which is now “private.”

Despite the furor on social media, Hicks is not without supporters. One friend recommends that Hicks’ critics should “get so excited about police surveillance, NSA encroachment, violent hate crimes, genetic modification of food, pollution, pay inequality and other things that actually call for 700 comments on a Facebook page and an article in Jezebel and others.” Steve Peluso, who produces a show at Lucky 13 Saloon, thinks the controversy will be good for business. As he says on Facebook:

Congratulations Rush Aaron Hicks. You are doing exactly what any good clown should. Playing the fool to expose the foolishness of others. Plus you got LOADS of FREE advertising for yourself, The Slipper Room and every other venue and performer/producer who works with you. Including me!

Thanks for saving me the expense of a full page layout in the Voice for our shows. I’m one of the few producers who understand that in showbiz Controversy like this is simply… GOLD!

The vintage posters shown above are from the Library of Congress’s collection of more than 175 original lithographs documenting the history of 19th and early 20th century minstrel shows.

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November 7, 2013: Photos from the Glory Days of the Sideshow Banner

June 27, 2013: Photo Album: The Front of the Show at Meadowlands Fair

February 4, 2013: Rare & Vintage: Girl to Gorilla Sideshow Banner

November 4, 2011: Up for Auction: Ringling Bros Circus Side Show Poster

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Pinball at The Creek and The Cave

Pinball Machines at The Creek and The Cave in Long Island City, Queens, which is hosting their first Annual Pinball Tournament on February 16. Photo by Val Cihak

Queens’ first-ever pinball tournament is coming up on Sunday at The Creek and The Cave in Long Island City. The bar, restaurant, lounge and comedy theater has seven pinball machines, including Star Trek Limited Edition, X-Men Pro and the Wizard of Oz. The club’s first annual pinball tournament on February 16th from 12 noon till 8pm was organized by Francesco La Rocca, who pioneered tournaments at New York City bars starting in 2009. For Sunday’s event, Francesco teamed up with Rebecca Trent, the owner of Creek and Cave and the owner/operators of the pinball machines.

The entry fee for the International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA) sanctioned tournament is $10, with all money plus prizes paid out to the top 4 finishers. “It could be more if we have big turn out,” said Franceso, who told ATZ that 70 players had registered in advance. Of that number, more than half are newcomers to the NYC tournament circuit. The fact that their names are unfamiliar to the longtime New York City league player and tournament organizer points to the resurgence of pinball. From Modern Pinball NYC’s interactive showroom in Manhattan to New York City bars with one to several pinball machines, there are new opportunities for first-timers to become pinball wizards.

Among the local venues with pinball machines where Francesco has helped organize tournaments are Modern Pinball (32 tables), Reciprocal Skateboards and Pinball (11) and Pioneers Bar (4), all in Manhattan, and Jackbar (9) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Current and upcoming events include Modern Pinball’s Pin-Golf tournament on Mondays-Wednesdays through March 11, and Pioneers First Annual Pinball Tournament on March 16.

Jackbar

One of nine pinball machines at Jackbar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo via Jackbar

Qualification for Sunday’s Creek and Cave tournament will consist of one game on each machine (you must play with at least two other players), where top score overall will get 100 points, 2nd place 90 points, 3rd place 85 points, 4th place 84, etc. Each individual’s five scores (assuming there will be five machines in play) will be combined to determine their total point score. The top 16 players will go on to the next round and will be split in 4 groups of 4 players by their seeds. Players will then compete in a survival format until only one player is left in each group.

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February 5, 2-14: National Pinball Museum Founder’s Vintage Games Up for Auction

November 15, 2013: Modern Pinball NYC Opens with New Arcade Business Model

October 23, 2012: Playland Arcade Demolition Under Way in Coney Island

November 29, 2011: Fascination: From Coney Island to Nantasket Beach

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 City Councilman Mark Treyger

Newly Elected City Councilman Mark Treyger at Coney Island Alliance Meeting. November 15, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Wednesday, City Council committee assignments were given out and Councilman Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island, Gravesend and Bensonhurst, was selected as Chairman of the new Committee on Resiliency and Recovery. In December, the newly elected councilman, together with Councilman Carlos Menchaca, whose neighborhood of Red Hook was also devastated by the storm, called for the creation of a committee dedicated to the oversight of Sandy recovery efforts.

Treyger was also selected to be a member of five other committees whose issues are crucial to Coney Island: Land Use, Parks & Recreation, Education, Aging, and Plannings, Dispositions and Concessions.

“I am honored to have been selected to chair this new and vital committee and I take this post very seriously” said Councilman Mark Treyger. “This new committee will create a mechanism for greater oversight of Sandy recovery efforts in our city and ensure that allocated funds are spent on rebuilding impacted communities, strengthening our infrastructure to build up our resiliency, and preparing our coastal communities for future storms. The city’s recovery efforts thus far have simply not been fast enough.”

Last June, the City released “A Stronger, More Resilient New York,” a comprehensive plan for rebuilding the communities impacted by Sandy and increasing the resilience of infrastructure and buildings citywide.

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Frozen custard

Frozen custard from Rita’s Italian Ice. Photo via Facebook.com/RitasItalianIceCompany

The year is only three days old and already another new franchise is set to come to Coney Island in 2014. Rita’s Italian Ice, a company whose tag line is “Ice, Custard and Happiness” will open a store on Surf Avenue in Coney Island. Broker Joe Vitacco tells ATZ he signed a lease with a Rita’s franchise owner for the 1,500 square foot space at 1329 Surf Avenue, on the corner of Surf and West 15th Street. The store is located across the street from Nathan’s and Williams Candy and is expected to be open seasonally, probably from March through October. The current tenant, a social club, will move next door.

Rita’s menu offers Italian ice, frozen custard, layered gelati, sundaes with a choice of 20 toppings, sugar-free treats, and trademark items that blend Italian ice with frozen custard.

Frozen custard is of course one of the lost delights of Coney Island. The dessert made its debut in 1919 when the Kohr brothers opened a stand on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The nickel treat was a sensation, selling 18,460 cones on the first weekend!

sundae with toppings

Frozen custard sundae with toppings from Rita’s Italian Ice. Photo via Facebook.com/RitasItalianIceCompany

Kohr’s Frozen Custard is still in business on the Boardwalks at Seaside Heights and Casino Pier on the Jersey Shore but Kohr’s has shown no interest in making a Coney Island comeback. Businesses in Coney Island which sell ice cream, gelato and soft serve haven’t made any move to bring back frozen custard either, despite the recommendations of old-timers. It’s ironic that thanks to a popular international chain headquartered in Trevose, Pennyslvania, we can look forward to the return of this treat to its place of origin and the celebration of National Frozen Custard Day on August 8th.

Rita’s has over 600 outlets in 21 states and is the latest of a growing number of national and international franchises and chains leasing space on high-priced Surf Avenue in the new Coney Island.

Back in 2012, ATZ asked “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” (December 19, 2012). Clearly, the answer is yes. Like attracts like. In 2014, Johnny Rockets, Red Mango and Subway Cafe, which are currently under construction, will join It’Sugar, Applebee’s, Popeye’s, Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins and Subway on the main drag of Coney’s amusement district. Also on Surf and in a category unto themselves are Nathan’s original 1916 store, which is a year-round magnet for tourists, and Brooklyn-grown Grimaldi’s Pizzeria.

According to the franchise’s website, Rita’s is the world’s largest Italian ice concept and opened its first international outlet in October in Shenzhen, China. The franchisor for Southern China plans to open 31 outlets over 10 years.

Rita's Italian Ice

Rita’s Italian Ice, Yonkers, NY Store. Via Facebook.com/RitasItalianIceCompany

In the New York metro area, Rita’s year-round locations are on Broadway at 92nd Street in Manhattan –the only store in New York City–and several locations in New Jersey, including Hoboken, and the Izod Center and MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. The majority of stores in New York and neighboring states such as New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennyslvania are open seasonally from March through October. Investment firm Falconhead Capital LLC owns a controlling interest in Rita’s, which was founded in 1984 as a Mom-and-Pop product sold from a porch window in Philadelphia.

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December 31, 2013: Amusing the Zillion’s Coney Island 2013 Year in Review

September 11, 2013: Subway Cafe to Replace Furniture Store on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

January 28, 2012: Lost Delights of Coney Island: Frozen Custard

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