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Lola Star Boutique

Getting ready for Coney Island’s season at the Lola Star Boutique in Stillwell Terminal. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Never mind the snow, it’s only two weeks till spring! This week in Coney Island, the Boardwalk was alternately icy and snowy, and the majority of businesses in the amusement area were shut tight, but glimpses of spring could be seen. In Stillwell Terminal, Dianna Carlin was moving back into her Lola Star Boutique after spending the winter at a pop up shop in Williamsburg. Her second store is on the Boardwalk. Coney Island’s Opening Day is just a few weeks away on March 29 because Palm Sunday is early this year.

Eldorado Arcade

Getting ready for the season at the Eldorado Arcade on Coney Island’s Bowery. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The front of the Eldorado Arcade was open as workers readied the arcade machines for the first event of the new season–DJ Nicky Siano’s 60th birthday party on March 20. Siano, who was a resident DJ at Studio 54, was drawn to Coney Island by the Eldorado Auto Skooter’s legendary sound system built by Richard Long of the Paradise Garage and Studio 54. “We will be dancing on the floor (not riding),” say party organizers, who are selling advance tickets online for $25. The arcade will be operating and Nicky will be spinning all night.

Wonder Wheel cars

Freshly painted Wonder Wheel cars will soon be put back on the Wheel. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

At Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, the new Whip-inspired Speedway ride was being assembled while the freshly painted Wonder Wheel cars were lined up inside the shop. Spring officially arrives in Coney Island when the cars are put back up on the Wheel. As we’ve noted before, being here to see the 24 cars go up, the Swinging ones first and then the Stationary, is like seeing red, white and blue crocuses bloom before your eyes. The date the cars go up is subject to the vagaries of wind, weather and work schedules, but it’s usually a week or so before Opening Day.

Wahlburgers

Celebrity burger chain Wahlburgers is under construction and set to open in May. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The green sign on Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue storefront across from Nathan’s says “Coming Spring 2015 – Wahlburgers – Our Family – Our Story – Our Burgers.” Coney Island is getting a concentration of new franchises, including IHOP, Checkers and Subway Cafe, that threaten to turn Surf Avenue into Anytown USA. Wahlburger’s has a niche of its own. It will bring the celebrity brothers Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlberg to Coney Island to film the restaurant’s opening for their A&E reality show. When ATZ first reported the news last year of Wahlburgers coming to Coney, the post was nearly as popular as Friday night fireworks. The restaurant will be the first of seven Wahlburgers franchises slated to open in New York City. Construction is underway with a May 1st opening date announced.

Piece of Velvet

Cake pops at newly opened Piece of Velvet Cake & Cupcake Shop on Surf Avenue, Coney Island. March 2, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

An outpost of Piece of Velvet, a cake and cupcake shop with locations in Fort Greene and Harlem, opened in Coney Island on Valentine’s Day. The store is located on the north side of Surf across the street from Nathan’s and Williams Candy. Red velvet cakes and cupcakes are their specialty and are delicious. Check for introductory specials on Groupon.

While Nathan’s outdoor dining area is still covered in snow, plenty of indoor seating is available during the off-season. Last weekend, one of the first qualifiers for the July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest was held at the Florida Strawberry Festival. The winning contestants were Nasty Nate Biller of Texas, who downed 23 dogs in 10 minutes, and Mary Bowers of California, with 10.

Sign for Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

Sign for 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan’s Outdoor Dining Area. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

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

February 22, 2015: Coney Island Amusement Park Jobs from Entry Level to Managerial Up for Grabs

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

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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

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Astroland sign from Neptune's Flume

Astroland sign from Neptune’s Flume. January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

This set of photos was taken five years ago– January 31, 2009–on Astroland’s very last day. It was as bitter cold as it is today. In the months after the park closed in September 2008, the rides and games were dismantled and trucked away. According to the terms of Astroland’s lease extension with Thor Equities, the property had to vacated by February 1st. Amusing the Zillion did not debut until April 2009, but we posted these pix along with our thoughts on flickr:

I expected my Jan 28th visit to Astroland to be my last visit (see set). But I had some business in the area so I stopped by Astroland on Jan 31. By then there wasn’t much left and I didn’t have the heart to take more than a half dozen or so photos. Jan 31 was Astroland’s very last day, the day the lease expired and the property had to be vacated.

On Feb 1, 2009, the Astroland property became the former site of Astroland Park. Since then I refer to it as Thorland after Thor Equities. Others call it Sittville or Sittland East after Thor CEO Joe Sitt. The predatory real estate speculator who owns the 3-acre site is pressuring the city to allow for time-share high rises and shopping mall style retail. Astroland, and now the Boardwalk businesses threatened by huge Thor Space for Lease signs, are pawns or hostages in Thor’s high stakes game with the City. The City’s controversial rezoning of the C-7 amusement district is currently underway.

Abandoned old arcade machines

Abandoned old arcade machines on last day of Astroland. January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

Among the items that remained and were about to be thrown into a dumpster were these broken old arcade machines. Boxing machines manufactured by Zamperla! Ironically, the parks division of Zamperla would build Luna Park on the former Astroland site in 2010, after this lot and other boardwalk property was bought by the City from Thor Equities for $95.6 million.

Astroland's American flag

Rescuing Astroland’s American flag – where will she wave? January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

Jeff rescues Astroland’s American flag, which flew from the Astrotower, from soon to be Thorland. Astroland’s signs and rides are safe in storage. NOT sold to Australia or anywhere else, not yet! Perhaps the reconfigured “Astroland,” signs and all, will be able to return to a new location or its old location (if Sitt sells to the city) in Coney Island? That would be a “long shot” (Astroland owner’s words in the press). But I don’t think we should give up hope completely if the owner still has hope. Some of Astroland’s historic signs were rescued today by the Coney Island History Project.

Astroland signage

Rescuing signage from Astroland’s water flume. January 21, 2009

Home of the hot dog? This building has been used as a workshop for the last forty-some years. Astroland workers swept up for the last time on Jan 31, 2009 before vacating the property. I took these photos for my friend “Coney Islander.” who says the tiles are not only Coney Island history, but American history too. He wanted a tile as a keepsake, but we couldn’t find a loose one.

tile floor in the old Feltman's Kitchen

Home of the hot dog? The tile floor in the old Feltman’s Kitchen Bldg was swept on Astroland’s last day. January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

Of course “the first hot dog” was invented when Feltman was pushing a pie wagon in the 1860s. But the building is all that remains of Feltman’s empire in Coney Island. The floor definitely has character. It has a story to tell. We just have to figure out what it is. Sometimes if the true story isn’t known, an apochryphal one fills the vacuum. The floor looks so old it’s easy to imagine the original hot dog falling on it. It may be doubtful as history goes, but captures the imagination.

The story unfolded a year later, when the building was being demolished to make way for Luna Park: Nathan Slept Here! Coney Island’s Feltman’s Kitchen Set for Demolition, (ATZ, January 19, 2010)

Tile floor in Feltman's Kitchen, Coney Island

Tile floor swept clean in historic Feltman’s kitchen on Astroland property. January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

July 17, 2013: Astroland Rides Find Homes in Brooklyn, Costa Rica and Australia

March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

December 16, 2010: Blast from the Past: LFO’s Summer Girls Music Video

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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Photo © John Huntington

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

When Brooklyn photographer John Huntington took the subway to Coney Island at the start of the “Blizzard of 2015,” it was just before dusk and he had a subway car all to himself. He saw a few people heading home along Surf Avenue and a solitary figure seated on a bench looking out at the ocean. On the boardwalk, the patterns of freshly fallen snow on the slats are a lovely sight to see and to photograph, and one that will soon disappear if the Parks Department is allowed to continue replacing the wooden boards with concrete and plastic. The hibernating amusement parks and attractions provide a colorful backdrop for this storm chaser’s photos.

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard,

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

“Storm chasing requires knowledge of weather, mobility, and patience. I shoot any storm I can here in New York City, and in the spring I often chase across the great plains and beyond,” says the intro to a page with storm photos on Huntington’s blog. Among his photos are images of tornadoes in Kansas and Texas, and Coney Island and the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy.

Photo © John Huntington

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

“I’ve been chasing probably since the 80’s–my first chase was Hurricane Gloria,” Huntington told ATZ. The photographer hoped to go back to Coney on Tuesday. “I won’t be able to get out there tomorrow with no subway. This is apparently the first time they EVER shut the trains down for a snow storm,” he said. According to a popular post last night on the blog Second Avenue Sagas, the closing of the subway for a blizzard was ironic because it was built in response to people not being able to get around during the Blizzard of 1888.

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

Coney Island’s Parachute Jump, also known as Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, is lit nightly from dusk until midnight or later. Its 8,000 LEDs, which are said to be visible from Mars and are definitely visible on the Coney Island Cam, remained a beacon during the storm.

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

Nathan’s, which usually closes at 1 am, was one of the few places open on Monday evening. “I actually first told them trains were shutting down,” tweeted Huntington. “Kid behind the counter said he might sleep there and work tomorrow.”

How much snow did he predict for Coney? Some forecasters had begun revising projected snow totals downward.

“I won’t even guess :-) NWS is sticking to 18″ +.”

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

Related posts on ATZ…

December 29, 2014: Parachute Jump ‘Ball Drop,’ Sideshow & Fireworks at Coney Island on New Year’s Eve

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

March 10, 2014: High Hopes for Coney Island’s New Thunderbolt Coaster

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

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Deno's Wonder Wheel Park Carousel

Deno’s Carousel being dismantled for the winter, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. October 29, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

After closing for the season on October 26th, the carousel at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park was partially disassembled and the horses were put to bed for the winter. Luckily, ATZ happened to be there to snap a few shots. Who knew that the ponies spend the off-season hibernating inside the dark ride Spook-A-Rama?! (more…)

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Coney Island Skyline

First Tower of Luna Park’s New Thunderbolt Roller Coaster on the Coney Island Skyline. April 23, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

While Coney Island’s amusement parks are already open for fun in the sun on Saturdays and Sundays, these photos provide a glimpse of some of the new construction underway this month. Zamperla’s Thunderbolt roller coaster, which is set to debut on Memorial Day weekend, is rising on the skyline. In the above photo the first tower can be seen alongside the Parachute Jump, SkyCoaster, PTB Bar’s lighthouse and the Boardwalk’s ornamental lamp posts. Isn’t it a beautiful sight?

Here’s a rendering of how the steel coaster will look when completed. The $10 million dollar ride is Coney Island’s first custom-built coaster since the Cyclone debuted in 1927 and is named in honor of the demolished 1925 Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt Roller Coaster Under Construction

Luna Park’s New Thunderbolt Roller Coaster Under Construction, Coney Island. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Luna Park has also built new booths for water race, basketball and balloon games on the Boardwalk next to Scream Zone’s SkyCoaster. The stands will house the first games on the Boardwalk, which historically had arcades and games galore, since Shoot the Freak lost its lease in 2010.

Game booths Coney Island

New game booths under construction on the Boardwalk. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Friday, ATZ posted photos of two new mom & pop businesses under construction on Surf Avenue and also set to open in May. Lunatic Ice Cream will occupy the former Island Grocery and Luna Park Cafe is across the street from the Cyclone. Next to Stillwell Terminal, a new building is going up to house a Johnny Rockets franchise, but the “Coming Soon” sign may be overly optimistic considering the slow progress of construction at the site. Coming in 2014?

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Related posts on ATZ…

April 25, 2014: Under Construction: New Mom & Pops Coming to Coney Island’s Surf Ave

March 10, 2014: High Hopes for Coney Island’s New Thunderbolt Coaster

December 2, 2013: New Construction: Coney Island Area’s 1st Hotel in Decades

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

Read Full Post »

1957 Chevy Bel Air

1957 Chevy Bel Air in front of the Original Nathan’s, Coney Island. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On Saturday in Coney Island, two classic Chevrolets in front of the original Nathan’s Famous were the center of attention for tourists and locals alike. The 1957 Bel Air and the 1963 Impala were parked on Stillwell Avenue while their owners were inside ordering lunch.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

Car show trophies won by 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air displayed in back seat. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

The rolled down windows of the Bel Air afforded a glimpse of trophies from classic car shows and souvenirs. Tourists from France, Scotland and Manhattan took advantage of the photo op while we were there.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1957 Chevy Bel Air in front of the Original Nathan’s, Coney Island. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

The Bel Air was graced with a SATCHMO license plate, though a statue of Elvis Presley rested in the back seat. The Impala had a miniature version of itself in the back window…

1963 Chevy Impala

1963 Chevy Impala parked in front of Nathan’s. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Here’s another photo that shows both classic cars. One of our friends shot virtually the same photo in black and white, lending it the look of a photo taken back in the 1960s. The original Nathan’s opened at this location in 1916.

1963 Impala and 1957 Bel Air

1963 Impala and 1957 Bel Air in front of the Original Nathan’s, Coney Island. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 6, 2014: Tribeca Film Fest to Premiere ‘Famous Nathan’ Doc by Grandson Lloyd Handwerker

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

March 14, 2013: “Notorious BOB” and Larell Marie Win Nathan’s Hot Dog Qualifier

June 9, 2011: Photo of the Day: Mango Vendor in Coney Island

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