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

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year 2015

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

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

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year 2015

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

Grucci Fireworks Spectacular on Hudson River for Chinese New Year 2015

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

Related posts on ATZ…

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

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

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

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

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Hello Kitty and Honey Bear at Nathan's Famous in Coney Island

Hello Kitty and Honey Bear at Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island, August 30, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita


Nothing beats taking a break from trudging though the snow and cleaning up after burst water pipes like dawdling over photos from the last days of summer. Today’s fave was taken on the last Saturday of August of a couple enjoying a bite to eat at Nathan’s at dusk after a day at the beach and amusement parks. It was their parked prizes, Hello Kitty and Honey Bear, that caught our eye on the way to the station. Hello summer, goodbye winter can’t come soon enough.

Related posts on ATZ...

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

April 20, 2013: Photo of the Day: Moon Viewing in Coney Island by Bruce Handy

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

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

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In this home movie shot in Coney Island in March 1973, a group of kids climb through a broken fence and cheerfully ride the heck out of an abandoned giant slide. The cameraman even manages a few POV shots and pans up at the abandoned Parachute Jump next door. The derelict attractions were their playground. The short film, which was posted by YouTube user huntersgodfather, brings to life scenes glimpsed in remarkable documentary photos from the same year by Charles Denson.

Retired arcade operator Stan Fox tells AtZ the Giant Slide was operated for only a few years by longtime Island concessionaires the Garto brothers, who also had rides at Wonderland, the predecessor to Astroland Park.

Arthur Tress Coney Island

1973 Photo by Arthur Tress for Environmental Protection Agency Project DOCUMERICA of abandoned slide in Coney Island


“It was an abandoned slide that went in after Steeplechase was demolished. Please don’t confuse with the original Steeplechase!,” says Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project, who grew up in the neighborhood and recalls the Slide and the Jump being wide open. His photo of kids climbing the stairs to the slide against the backdrop of the neglected and vulnerable Jump appears in his book Coney Island: Lost and Found.

“I first attempted to climb the Parachute Jump in 1973, when it was a rusting, abandoned ruin. It was too dangerous,” says Denson in an intro to his film Climbing the Parachute Jump.

Parachute Kids. Photo ©  Charles Denson

Parachute Kids. Photo © Charles Denson

“In 2002 I finally realized my childhood dream and got to climb to the top of the tower. The Jump was a nature preserve. The motor room base was filled with pigeon nests and covered with muddy footprints of the raccoons who fed on the eggs. A raptor circled us at the top as we disturbed its perch, and the feet of the many small birds it had caught and devoured were spread out across the catwalks.”

Related posts on ATZ…

May 5, 2014: Up for Auction: Andreas Feininger’s Time Lapses of Coney Island Rides

April 18, 2014: British Pathé Releases Historic Newsreels of Coney Island

August 27, 2012: Video of the Day: Raw Footage of 1960s Coney Island

January 13, 2012: Rare & Vintage: Reginald Marsh Photos of Coney Island

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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!

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

First Snow Coney Island

First Snow at Coney Island. January 6, 2015. Photo © Bruce Handy

A snowy night in Coney Island illuminated by the Parachute Jump is as much of a photo op as the beach and boardwalk on a summer’s day. Coney possesses a quiet beauty on a snowy day or night. This week’s first snowfall of the winter was photographed from the shore by Coney Island resident and Polar Bear Club member Bruce Handy. In past years, ATZ has posted Bruce’s first snow of the season photos in late January, December and in October 2011 during the rare weather event known as Snowtober.

Related posts on ATZ...

April 20, 2013: Photo of the Day: Moon Viewing in Coney Island by Bruce Handy

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

February 26, 2010: Photo of the Day: Snow Mermaid on Coney Island Beach

December 20, 2009: Coney Island Photo of the Day: First Snow on the Cyclone

Read Full Post »

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