Archive for the ‘Real Estate’ Category

Coney Island Bowery

On Coney Island’s Bowery, indie amusement operators put up pennants for Memorial Day 2015. Will they be back in 2016? May 23, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Thor Equities’ CEO Joe Sitt is expanding his Coney Island empire by buying up three Bowery lots on both sides of West 12th Street. ATZ has learned that longtime property owner Jeff Persily and partner Matthew Weinberg are in contract with Thor to sell their property at 1105 Bowery (309 W 12th St), 1205 Bowery and 1207 Bowery. According to the agreement, the scheduled closing date is December 18, 2015.

The acquisition has set off speculation that the Bowery buildings are destined for a date with the wrecking ball, as one of Thor’s long vacant lots on West 12th Street is zoned for a 30-story hotel. With the purchase of 1105 Bowery, which stretches from West 12th Street to Jones Walk, Thor will own the entire block bounded by Surf Avenue and the Bowery with the exception of one privately owned lot on Jones Walk. Apart from the current tenants of 1105 Bowery, the rest of the Thor-owned lots and buildings on the block are vacant due to rent increases, evictions and demolitions that began in 2007 and culminated in 2010.

1205 Bowery Coney Island

Water Race Game and Gyro Corner are among the tenants at 1205-1207 Bowery, which is being bought by Thor Equities. November 1, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

A few days before Halloween, Weinberg met with some of their Bowery tenants, which include a bar and grill, food stands, games and photo and souvenir booths. He informed them the property was sold and that a Thor rep would contact them, setting off rumblings in the Coney Island Rumor Mill. Who will get to stay, for how long, and at what price? Some tenants were told to expect “a moderate rent increase,” sources tell ATZ.

The block where 1105 Bowery is located includes the vacant lot on West 12th across from Coney Island USA where the demolished Bank of Coney Island stood from 1923 until 2010, and the lot where the boarded up Grashorn Building, Coney Island’s oldest building, remains. The bank lot was rezoned for a hotel up to 30 stories, effectively dooming the historic building. Despite public outcry and a NY Times editorial against a wall of hotels on the south side of Surf, which will cast long shadows on the amusement zone, the Bloomberg administration pushed it through. The big beneficiary was Thor Equities’ Joe Sitt, who owns two of the Surf Avenue lots zoned for hotels.

A Winner Every Game

A Winner Every Game. This Water Race on Jones Walk is one of the tenants at 1105 Bowery, Coney Island. June 21, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Tenants at 1205-1207 Bowery include Gyro Corner and neighboring games and souvenir stands on West 12th Street. At 1105 Bowery, tenants are Margarita Island Bar & Grill, the 5D cinema, frozen yogurt, a basketball and dart games, water races, a food stand on the corner of Jones Walk and a photo booth and tattoo shop. Gyro Corner was on the Boardwalk, where Nathan’s is now, until Thor sold the property to the City’s Economic Development Corporation, which turned it over to Zamperla. Gyro was among five Boardwalk businesses that got the boot. So did Beer Island, which was reborn last year as Margarita Island on the Bowery.

Margarita Island

On Coney Island’s Bowery, Margarita Island and neighboring games getting ready for Memorial Day Weekend 2015. May 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Margarita Island owner Carl Muraca is optimistic about being back in 2016. He said Thor’s rep told him that “Joe Sitt knows you love Coney Island as much he loves Coney Island and he’s glad to have you there. We had a very positive conversation,” Muraca told ATZ. He is also a former Thor tenant, having owned Faber’s Fascination in the Henderson Building, a year-round arcade which lost its lease when the building was demolished. Muraca later moved his arcade to another Thor building, now vacant, on Surf.

Thor Equities also owns the lots on the south side of the Bowery, from West 12th Street to West 15th Street. On the north side, Thor properties include the building housing the Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade and Thor’s new “Retail Ride of A Lifetime” building where the Brooklyn Nets Shop and Wahlburger’s represent the new Coney Island’s displacement of amusements for shiny new retail and franchises.

Jones Walk Coney Island

Still open for business: Airbrush Tattoo stand on Jones Walk is a tenant at 1105 Bowery. November 1, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the Bowery’s Mom & Pops will be able to afford to stay in their spots next season and get more than a one-year reprieve. All are survivors who’ve had to move multiple times due to changes in property ownership leading up to and since the City’s Coney Island Rezoning of 2009. With redevelopment on the horizon for these blocks, the Bowery could be the last stand for some of these small businesses. As we reported in “The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks” (ATZ, November 2, 2013), an amusement 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.

Jones Walk, Off season

Jones Walk, off season. The long vacant Thor-owned Grashorn building, Coney Island’s oldest on the right. November 4, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

October 29, 2015: Environmental Assessment Underway at Coney Island’s Shore Theater

October 20, 2015: Goodbye Ghost Hole, MCU Parking Lot? City’s Coney Land Grab Not Just Vacant Land

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

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

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Coney Island Colorado

Coney Island Colorado Diner, Bailey, CO. Photo © RoadsideArchitecture.com

The historic 1960’s hot-dog shaped Coney Island Boardwalk restaurant in Bailey, Colorado, is up for sale again. Somebody is going to be sorry they didn’t buy it in 2011. The asking price is triple what it was back then, making it perhaps the priciest hot dog ever. According to local news reports, owner Ron Aigner is retiring and has listed the property for $1,495,000.

The diner’s designer Marcus Shannon of Lakewood, Colorado, planned a chain of hot dog diners and filed a patent for the design in 1965. The eatery was originally located on West Colfax in Denver. Since 1970, the Coney Island Boardwalk has been on scenic US Highway 285, first in Aspen Park and then in Bailey, about 30 miles southwest of Denver. The bun is 35 feet long and the hot dog 42 feet. Made of concrete-and-steel, this fine example of novelty architecture weighs a hefty 18 tons.

The building has been hailed as “the best example of roadside architecture in the state” by Thomas J. Noel, a Professor of History and Director of Public History, Preservation & Colorado Studies at the University of Colorado. In reply to ATZ’s email when the hot dog diner first went up for sale, Noel (aka “Dr. Colorado”) wrote: “We Coloradans should rally to save one of our greatest culinary landmarks, a most delicious morsel of pop roadside art. Hot Dog! Don’t let the Coney Island die.”

The first photo in this post was taken by our friend RoadsideNut, a New Yorker who has extensively documented America’s roadside architecture on her website. Check out the Burgers and Hot Dogs page, where the Coney Island in Colorado appears along with Top Dog, Giant Burger and other architectural wonders.

Broker Jim Urban posted a video tour of the Coney Island Boardwalk diner property on YouTube:

Related posts on ATZ…

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

June 10, 2014: What’s New at Paul’s Daughter: Lobster Rolls, Mama Burger Fundraiser, LEDs

January 28, 2011: Colorado’s Hot Dog-Shaped Coney Island Boardwalk Diner For Sale

January 19, 2010: Nathan Slept Here! Coney Island’s Feltman’s Kitchen Set for Demolition

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Shore Theater

Coney Island’s Shore Theater in the days after Hurricane Sandy. November 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Can the Shore Theater, vacant for 40 years and designated a New York City landmark in 2010, be saved? On Monday, a group of people armed with bolt cutters cut the locks on a side door and went inside to find out. Sources on the scene told ATZ that one member of the group claimed they plan to buy and rehab the property as a hotel, restaurant and retail and need to find out if it is salvageable or beyond repair. Accompanying them was Kelly Floropoulos of Amiantos Environmental, whose firm does environmental site assessments. Reached by phone, Ms. Floropoulos told ATZ, “I can’t disclose any information. We’re still in the preliminary stages of assessment. It will take a few weeks.”

Shore Theater

Homeless encampment under the sidewalk shed at the Shore Theater. July 30, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

When the building was about to win landmark designation in 2010, we wrote “March 23: Rescuing Coney Island’s Shore Theater from 35 Years of Neglect” (March 8, 2010). However, five more years of neglect have followed. A sampling of complaints to the DOB since then has included homeless encampment residing on a regular basis on the sidewalk shed and inside the building accessing by a ladder, safety concerns for the homeless as well as the public, windows unboarded, doors ripped, scaffold area is dark and unmaintained, falling debris.

The mystery buyer said he was one of the owners of the lot on the north side of Surf across from the Cyclone. A phone call to PYE Properties, which has a sign up advertising Coming Soon Retail Stores for Rent on the undeveloped lot, yielded no info. “I don’t know what you’re referring to,” said a spokeswoman. “Call back in a month.”

Shore Theater

Shore Theater. June 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

September 29, 2015: Will 1938 Art Moderne Gem Become Coney Island’s Only Landmark Outside of Amusement Area?

May 4, 2015: Boardwalk Bunco: Milan Expo’s USA Pavilion Has Boardwalk from Coney Island, Brooklyn to Get Plastic & Concrete

March 11, 2015: In Coney Island, Two Stores and One NYC Landmark Mark 95th Year

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

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1315 Surf Avenue

Vacant since Sandy, 1315 Surf Avenue will be the site of an Italian fast food restaurant. The Shore Theater building next door, owned by the Bullard family, has been vacant for 40 years. May 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

What’s new on the north side of Surf, the mecca for franchises in Coney Island? At 1315, where Cha Cha’s relocated from the Boardwalk until calling it quits after being devastated by Sandy, a permit has been taken out for interior renovations. A new eatery is going there and thankfully it won’t be another franchise or chain.

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, according to Anthony Russo. Pizza, veal parm and fried calamari will be among the offerings Russo told ATZ. No opening date has been set, but construction is expected to get underway as soon as permits have been approved.

Gargiulo's Way

Gargiulo’s Way, West 15th St between Surf and Mermaid Avenues, Coney Island. November 16, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Russo brothers own the building as well as the adjacent one where tenants include Piece of Velvet Bakery and Rita’s Italian Ice on the corner of 15th Street. In 2007, West 15th Street between Surf and Mermaid Avenues was designated Gargiulo’s Way to mark the 100th anniversary of Gargiulo’s Restaurant. Founded by Gus Gargiulo and owned by the Russo family since 1965, the Coney Island landmark at 2911 West 15th offers classic Neapolitan cuisine.

According to broker Joe Vitacco, who leased the storefronts to Rita’s and Piece of Velvet, there are very few remaining vacant spaces for lease on the north side of Surf. At 1223 Surf Avenue, he has 2,100 square feet on the first floor and 5,000 square feet plus 1,900 square foot terrace on the second floor and 4,000 square feet rooftop dinning for $45-$50 per square foot.

The first floor of that address next to Stillwell Terminal was also leased to a Johnny Rockets (6000 sf) and Red Mango (2.000 sf) franchisee in 2012, but construction has been delayed by new and ever-changing post-Sandy building regulations. Among the stores Vitacco is offering are 1,450 square feet at 1019 Surf Avenue next to the new Subway Cafe and across the street from Luna Park.

Related posts on ATZ…

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

January 3, 2014: New Year, New Franchise: Rita’s Italian Ice Coming to Coney Island

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


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805 Surf Avenue

Lot on the north side of Surf Avenue adjacent to the West 8th Street subway station in Coney Island. May 5, 2015. Photo © anonymouse via AmusingtheZillion.com

The new owners of a long vacant lot on the north side of Surf Avenue directly across from the Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island are seeking ideas for seasonal use. “We’re looking to do something in the short term,” Igor Oberman of PYE Properties told ATZ. Arts and crafts, food market, food trucks, and amusement attractions are a few of the possibilities.

“We’re brainstorming ideas as to what uses we could put the site this summer. It looks like Thor has got the food vendors to come out,” said Oberman, referring to the Smorgasburg vendors coming to Stillwell Avenue. “Any of your ideas would be appreciated.” Oberman may be reached at PYE Properties at igor[AT]pyeproperties[dot]com.

Over the past decade, the vacant lot, which has 140 feet of frontage on Surf and is 90 feet deep, has occasionally been used as a parking lot. For one day in 2011, the lot briefly hosted John Strong’s sideshow until the previous property owners abruptly did an about-face and went back to parking cars.

A kiddie ride park,a go kart track and a flea market housed in shipping containers have occupied the lot in the past. Bumper cars and other amusements were in the building on the site which was torn down in the 1950s. Until the early ’80s the north side of Surf Avenue was home to individually-owned penny arcades and a variety of rides including carousels and even a Jumbo Jet-style coaster.

805 Surf Avenue

Vacant lot at 805-825 Surf Avenue, on the north side of Surf across from the Cyclone in Coney Island, May 5, 2015. Photo © anonymouse via AmusingtheZillion.com

The Surf Avenue lot at 805-825 Surf Avenue is Brighton Beach-based PYE Properties’ first acquisition in Coney Island. “We’re looking to develop it shortly,” Oberman said. According to the development company’s website, “PYE Properties is a full-service development company guided by our in-house team of result-driven real estate professionals whose expertise includes acquisition, design, development, construction and property management.”

Since the rezoning of Coney Island, the north side of Surf has seen restaurants such as Grimaldi’s, Applebee’s, and Subway Cafe rapidly replacing furniture stores and vacant lots. A Johnny Rockets franchise is under construction and IHOP signed a lease in February. Mom & Pops on the north side include Chill party space, Red Door Bar & Grill (formerly Coney Island Bar & Grill), and Piece of Velvet Cupcakes.

Related posts on ATZ…

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

April 20, 2015: Art of the Day: “Greetings from Coney Island” Blends Past & Present

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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Sleep Inn Hotel Stillwell Avenue

Sleep Inn Hotel nearing completion on Stillwell Ave and Avenue Z. Photo © Diana Baggott

A Sleep Inn Hotel, the Coney Island area’s first new hotel in many decades, is nearing completion at Stillwell Avenue and Avenue Z, just north of Coney Island Creek. Mahesh Ratjani, one of the partners in the project, tells ATZ they hope to open in three months. Under construction since the last quarter of 2013 and originally projected to open by the beginning of 2015, the hotel awaits a certificate of occupancy. According to DOB records, the 12,989 square foot, four-story hotel occupies a 13,000 square foot lot. Sleep Inn is a member of the Choice Hotels Group.

As we noted in a post that was the first to report the new construction in December 2013, there are currently no hotels in the Coney Island area and it’s been many decades since a new one opened. The long-shuttered, 110-year-old Terminal Hotel across from Stillwell Terminal was destroyed by fire last year. The grand Half Moon Hotel, built on the Boardwalk in 1927, was later turned into a geriatric center before being demolished in 1996.

Sleepi-Inn Hotel

The City’s rezoning of Coney Island included the upzoning of three Thor Equities-owned properties on the south side of Surf Avenue between Stillwell and Jones Walk for hotels up to 30 stories. In public hearings, we argued against high rises — including hotels — on the south side of Surf, saying it would destroy instead of enhance Coney Island’s economic potential as an amusement and tourism destination. As it turns out, a hotel has yet to be built on Surf Avenue and we can only hope it never will be. Instead, the Coney Island area’s first new hotel in decades is located in a much more suitable location north of the amusement area with easy access to the Belt Parkway.

Ratjani and his partners own 15 hotels in New York and New Jersey, including the Comfort Inn off the Gowanus Expressway in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. The vacant lot at 2590 Stillwell Avenue was purchased for $1.9 million in 2007, according to Property Shark. The property is conveniently located off the Cropsey Ave/Coney Island exit of the Belt Parkway. The area is technically on the border of Gravesend and Bath Beach, though frequently identified as part of Coney Island. The closest subway stop is Bay 50th, one stop from Coney’s Stillwell Terminal, on the D line.

UPDATE October 25, 2015

Our first report of the new construction, in December 2013, and this one posted last spring, have been appearing in our Top Ten Posts over the past week or so. Sleep Inn Coney Island, as the new hotel is called, finally opened 10 days ago. Rates start at $119 per night and include free breakfast, wi-fi, and other amenities.

Sleep Inn Hotel

Sleep Inn Hotel nearing completion on Stillwell Ave and Avenue Z. Photo © Diana Baggott

Related posts on ATZ…

February 13, 2015: Coney Island 2015: IHOP Franchisee Signs Lease for 5,400-Square-Foot Surf Ave Store

January 21, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Wahlburgers Signage Goes Up at Thor’s Retail Building

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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Brooklyn Rock

Display of Paintings of the Elephant Hotel and the Parachute Jump by Yukiko Wada, hand-screened Tees by Wada and husband Chris Smith at Brooklyn Rock. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Mom & Pop art T-shirt shop Brooklyn Rock is out but not down. After 21 months in Coney Island, the arrangement they had with Thor Equities for space in the developer’s retail building at Surf and Stillwell has come to an end. The 1,500-square-foot store, for which they paid a percentage of income as rent, will be partly taken over by celebrity burger chain Wahlburgers, which is set to open its first New York franchise in May in the vacant restaurant space next door.

As ATZ reported earlier this month, the one-of-a-kind Brooklyn Rock shop was open daily regardless of the season or the weather, and was one of the few places in Coney to buy a souvenir tee in February. “At the end of the proverbial day, it was a pop-up shop and we had a good run,” says Brooklyn Rock brand manager Seth Braunstein, who doesn’t want people to feel sorry for them or villainize Thor, with whom they parted on good terms. “I might get a call at some point to do a pop up in another of their Brooklyn locations. Who knows?”

Brooklyn Rock

Brooklyn Rock’s pop-up store at 3015 Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island closed in February. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Brooklyn Rock’s tees, hoodies, aprons and other items are hand-dyed in unique colors and hand-printed from hand-drawn designs by artists Chris Smith and Yukiko Wada, the couple who founded the business in their Bushwick apartment in 2002. Braunstein says they’re relocating the wholesale print operations to a mezzanine space within a larger retail environment in Greenpoint called the Flying Squirrel. “It is an amazing children’s shop that we’ve wholesaled our gear to since they were located on North 6th in Williamsburg. We’re excited at the huge wholesale opportunities ahead and are gratified at the run we enjoyed in Coney.”

Before opening their Coney Island store in May 2013, the Brooklyn Rock team also wholesaled their merchandise to Coney Island USA’s gift shop, which they hope to do once again. Their previous retail shops include a street kiosk on Bedford Avenue, a shipping container at the now defunct DeKalb Market where Century 21 was built, and a Pintchik property across from Barclays Center, where foot traffic turned out to be slow. “When you’re an independent little guy, you’re swimming with sharks. We’re still swimming. We’re good. Ultimately we’re survivors,” says Braunstein.

Brooklyn Rock Larry David

Audrey Jakeway wearing Brooklyn Rock’s Larry David tee at preview performance of his new Broadway show “Fish in the Dark.” February 5, 2015. Photo via Brooklyn Rock Facebook

When ATZ interviewed Braunstein for the post that ran earlier this month, the shop had already received the vacate notice, but we did not mention it because they were hoping for an extension from Thor, as had happened last year. At that time, Luna Park offered them a kiosk in the amusement park, but they declined since they were able to keep their store. As for the vacant stores on the north side of Surf, where property owners have leased to restaurant and food businesses, Braunstein doesn’t think the location would bring them as much foot traffic as the south side of Surf.

While Brooklyn Rock is confident about landing a better spot, this story underscores the dim prospects for Mom & Pops hoping to come to Coney Island amid the influx of chains, both at Thor’s property on the south side of Surf and with the property owners on the north side. Currently there are a dwindling number of spaces for lease and Coney Island’s risk-averse landlords prefer the better-funded chains and franchisees. Brooklyn Rock’s lucky break came when Braunstein saw a news article about space for lease in Thor’s then-vacant new building and sent them a proposal. Thor Equities had sent out a press release that said: “Thor To Add Local Flavor To Coney Island By Leasing Major Surf Avenue Parcels To Local Brooklyn Merchants At Reduced Rents For 2013.”

Tenants at Thor’s now fully-leased “Retail Ride of A Lifetime” building across from Stillwell Terminal include candy chain It’Sugar, apparel chain Rainbow Shop, the Brooklyn Nets Shop, Brooklyn Beach Shop spin-off Surf and Stillwell, and the soon-to-debut Wahlburgers. The building also had a Little Caesars Pizza pop-up last summer and two incredibly tiny mini-arcades, which are the shameful extent of the amusements required by the City’s Coney Island Comprehensive Rezoning Plan passed in 2009.

Thor Equities mini-arcade

The only amusements in Thor’s retail building are two mini-arcades, the size required by the City’s Rezoning Plan. One arcade is next door to the apparel chain Rainbow Shops. august 16, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

It’s telling that in recent weeks ATZ’s top ten posts have been about IHOP, Wahlburgers and other chains coming in 2015. In addition to the already opened national chains and franchises such as Applebee’s, Rita’s Italian Ice, and Dunkin’ Donuts on Surf Avenue, a few new Mom & Pops like Lunatics Ice Cream and Luna Park Cafe opened last season. An outpost of Piece of Velvet, a cake and cupcake shop with locations in Fort Greene and Harlem opened on Valentine’s Day. On the north side of Surf, IHOP recently signed a lease to open a restaurant while Johnny Rockets remains under construction and Subway Cafe and Checkers have put their signs up and are almost ready to open.

Related posts on ATZ…

February 4, 2015: In Wintry Coney, Brooklyn Rock’s Hand-Printed Tees Keep Summer Dreams Alive

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

December 5, 2014: Wahlburgers Burger Franchise to Open in Coney Island

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

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