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Magic Gyro

Magic Gyro to Reopen in Stillwell Terminal. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

A trio of big name businesses originally hoping to open in Coney Island by Mermaid Parade Day, which marks the start of summer, have now set their sights on July and in one case August. Wahlburgers, IHOP, and Boston Beer Corp’s Coney Island Brewery have held job screenings but remain under construction.

Amid the influx of new businesses, there is one that is returning to its Stillwell Terminal store more than 2-1/2 years after being devastated by Hurricane Sandy! Coney Island Gourmet, a Mom & Pop owned by Turkish Americans, is being renovated and expected to reopen as Magic Gyro in July. When ATZ reviewed the store in August 2012, it had a corner kitchen and a “Magic Gyro” sign on the Stillwell Avenue facade. In addition to chicken and veal sandwiches and entrees served with rice and salad, the menu offered falafel, hummus, babganoush, haydari (yogurt flavored with garlic, herbs and olive oil) and stuffed vine leaves, all very reasonably priced. The store will no longer feature a food shop and is being renovated as a restaurant.

Coney Island Brewery

Coney Island Brewery on Surf Ave in MCU Park Building

At 1904 Surf Avenue, the Coney Island Brewing Company, whose craft beers celebrate the iconography of Coney Island, hopes to officially open its doors in mid-July. The brewery is located in a retail space on the outside of MCU Park adjacent to Peggy O’Neill’s. “We’re excited about the opportunity,” Kathleen Barnes of the Coney Island Brewing Company told ATZ earlier this 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. The line of Coney Island beers was relaunched in 2013 after being sold to Alchemy & Science, a division of Boston’s Samuel Adams.

Further east on Surf Avenue, across from Luna Park, the construction of IHOP in a 5,400-square-foot store has been delayed by the slow approval process for building department permits. “While waiting patiently the franchisee is going forward with his soft core work. He should be open late August,” says Joe Vitacco, who leased the space to the pancake franchise in February.

Wahburger's

Under Construction: Wahlburgers in Coney Island. June 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Meanwhile, in Thor Equities “Retail Ride of A Lifetime” building on Stillwell, a quick peek inside Wahlburger’s Coney Island shows the 6,800 square foot Wahlburgers franchise to be far from finished. Asked when the celebrity restaurant would open a worker said, “Next month, by the Fourth of July.” The latest post on the eatery’s Facebook page says “The family is coming to town,” referring to actors Mark and Donnie Wahlberg and Chef Paul Wahlberg. The most recent photo is a snapshot of the view from their rooftop dining area. Can the A&E crew be far behind? Season 4 of Wahlburgers premieres on July 15.

UPDATE June 17, 2015:

The reality show comes to Coney! Wahlburgers Coney Island sent out an invite from the Wahlberg family to a private VIP Preview and Ribbon Cutting on June 23rd.

Wahlburgers

Related posts on ATZ…

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

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

April 27, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Update on Wahlburgers, Temporary Fair at Thor’s Vacant Lots

April 10, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Power Surge and Enterprise-Style Ride Set for Comeback

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

Coney Island Rabbit

This runaway rabbit survived 1-1/2 years and two winters under the Coney Island Boardwalk before being rescued on May 27. Photo © Tatyana Leonova


Coney Island was named Conyne Eylandt –Rabbit Island– by the Dutch after the wild rabbits that lived here in the 17th century, but for the past 1-1/2 years the only coney left in Coney has been a Californian breed of domestic rabbit living under the boardwalk. A few days ago ATZ received news of its capture from William Leung, whose previous rescue of a rabbit he would name Steeplechase after Coney’s famed park was featured in “Coney Island Bunny Rescued After 21 Days on The Run” (January 18, 2014).

The second bunny who ran off during the bulldozing of the Coney Island Community Garden was rescued on May 27 after surviving for 16 months and two winters under the Coney Island Boardwalk! It’s an amazing story of the compassion and tenacity of both William and Tatyana Leonova, a caretaker of the Boardwalk’s feral cats, who fed the rabbit vegetables as well as the dry food on which it managed to survive through the winters.

Rabbit Trio

William Leung’s Pet Rabbit Trio Duchess, Chad, and Steeplechase, who was rescued in Coney Island in 2014. Photo © Tracy Nuzzo

“It’s been almost a year and half now since Steeplechase was caught and has been living with me,” writes William. “She has bonded with my two little ones as seen in a pic taken a month ago, from left to right: Duchess, Chad, and Steeplechase. But there is another story to tell about Steeplechase’s siblings.” Since the garden was bulldozed in December 2013, William heard there were up to three rabbits in the garden from the time they were babies. In the summer of 2014 he learned of a rabbit sighting in the same general area where Steeplechase was caught and made the trip from his Queens home to investigate.

“But this time of the summer, the grass and brushes were as tall as me, and as I peered through to where the garden used to be, there was no way anything could be seen,” William recalls. “But as luck or fate would have it, Tatyana Leonova, one of the dedicated feral cat care givers passed by and got curious about me poking at the fence. She told me about the sighting of a rabbit running around and said she had been trying to feed it, but didn’t see the rabbit regularly. I asked her if there was a way to trap the rabbit, if they do I will take it.” Tatyana agreed, but as the months passed and winter came to the boardwalk, there was no word.

Coney Island Rabbit

Runaway rabbit dining on vegetables under the Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tatyana Leonova

“When I reached out to Tatyana she said they had not been able to catch the rabbit so I made a trip out in January of 2015 to make an attempt. As soon as food was put down he was in the box eating, he was so hungry in winter cause there was no grass to eat. But as I pulled up the simple trap I had, the rabbit jumped right out and never came back out again.”

“A few more months passed by before an opportunity in between jobs allowed me two weeks off and I started to make attempts to catch the rabbit again. The first day I was able to get it within netting range but I made the mistake of trying to catch it by lifting it up around it instead of over it. Long story short, the net wasn’t big enough and wasn’t positioned right. The net bent under the weight and it got away again. On the second time, I did not see the rabbit.”

“On the third time I went out there, the rabbit was lounging around but out of reach so I decided to set up a live trap. The rabbit was hanging out in an area now that was finally big enough to fit a large size trap through the fence and under a walkway but he didn’t go in to eat the food. So as my vacation ended, I met with the cat caretaker and asked her to help by keep putting food into the the trap so the rabbit would go in to eat from inside and catch it in the act and manually pop the trap.”

Coney Island Rabbit

Coney Island Rabbit finally captured in trap after many failedattempts. Photo © Tatyana Leonova

“After 5 days and still no luck, Tatyana was getting worried as she thought the rabbit seemed sluggish and was sick but there was nothing I could do, as I was out of ideas. But the very next day, on Wednesday night the 27th of May, I got a series of panicked calls that she had caught the rabbit but couldn’t get the trap out thru the fence.” William drove to Coney Island as soon as he could to fish the trap out.

At home, he fenced off the rescued bunny, which has a severe ear mite infestation, from his other rabbits. “Of course, my rabbits were curious, but the first to show interest was Steeplechase! She looked back at me as if to say, what’s this all about? I cannot be sure if she can remember her sibling after a year and half apart, or if that rabbit was even a sibling, though they are both the same breed.”

Coney Island Rabbit

Natalie the Coney Island Rabbit’s first trip to the vet. Photo © William Leung

The next day he met with a rabbit rescue volunteer to get a dose of medicine for the ear mites. “As I didn’t want to handle it too much and infest my rabbits, I waited until Saturday, the vet visiting day, to find out if it was a girl or boy,” says William. “And it’s a girl! I named her Natalie, after Nathan’s hot dogs. The vet couldn’t do a full exam as she was still not used to human touch so for now she is getting some R & R and her future is hopefully to join my warren but my rabbits have the final say.”

Related Posts on ATZ…

May 29, 2015: Pet Day in Coney Island Offers Costume Contest, Rides on Wonder Wheel

January 8, 2014: Bunny Returns to Bulldozed Coney Island Garden, Kitten Euthanized

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

April 1, 2013: Sea Rabbits Swim Ashore in Coney Island, Up For Adoption

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

Soapy the Pointer Rides the Wonder Wheel

Soapy the Pointer Rides the Wonder Wheel. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Dogs, parrots, parakeets, snakes, lizards and other pets regularly visit the Coney Island boardwalk with their humans, but this Saturday, May 30, is their special day. On Pet Day at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, your pet is invited to ride the Wonder Wheel’s stationary cars for free (only people require tickets). Dogs especially enjoy the ocean breezes and the passing scenery — it’s similar to riding in a car, except the Wheel moves slowly.

The 5th Annual Pet Costume Contest emceed by the World Famous *BOB* begins at 1pm and is a chance to win prizes as well as a fun photo op. Registration is online at wonderwheel.com or from 11:30-12:30 on the boardwalk across from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, next to the stage. The registration fee is two cans of cat or dog food, which is donated to Sean Casey Animal Rescue. You may also adopt a pet in Coney Island on Pet Day. Sean Casey’s adoption vehicle will be on West 12th Street for the day.

Paquito the Chihuahua and Fluffy the Guinea Pig were among the winners of the Pet Costume Contest in 2012. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Paquito the Chihuahua and Fluffy the Guinea Pig were among the winners of the Pet Costume Contest in 2012. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Related Posts on ATZ…

May 22, 2014: Video of the Day: Parrots Visit Coney Island

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

June 17, 2013: Photo of the Day: Paquito the Chihuahua in Coney Island

May 8, 2013: Traveler: The Cats of Rimini’s Italia in Miniatura Park

Power Surge

Power Surge returns to Coney Island opened for business on Memorial Day Weekend. May 23, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Zamperla’s Power Surge, one of the ride manufacturer’s signature rides, opened at Coney Island’s Luna Park over Memorial Day Weekend. The big surprise is that we’re told it’s the very same ride that debuted in Astroland in 2001! As ATZ previously reported, when the Power Surge first came to Coney’s Astroland in time for Fourth of July in 2001, its photo was featured on the cover of Time Out New York. The ride remained in Astroland until 2006 when it was sold to Australia. Zamperla bought it back and refurbished it.

Located in Luna Park’s Scream Zone against the back wall of the Boardwalk Nathan’s, the scream machine was awhirl for most of the weekend. The Power Surge is not the only Astroland ride to come home to Coney Island. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park brought back and refurbished Astroland’s Scrambler and Barbieri Bumper Cars, and together with the Coney Island History Project, the historic 1962 Astroland Rocket.

Arcade

Over Memorial Day Weekend, Arcade Replaces Rainbow Shop in Thor Equities Building. May 23, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Friday we were delighted to find out that Coney Island has one less chain store and one more arcade. Rainbow Shops, a retail chain featuring discount clothing and shoes, will NOT be returning for a third season to Thor Equities retail building in Coney. Gordon Lee of Eldorado Arcade has moved arcade machines into the 2,500 square foot space, which still has the word Rainbow over its door.

It’s surprising news because until last July, Thor’s retail building flaunted two ARCADE signs but no arcades, despite the fact that 15% of amusement frontage was required by zoning regulations to obtain the Certificate of Occupancy from the City. For a long time, it was one of our pet peeves. ATZ wrote about this sham here and again here. Now the two mini-arcades, the minimum required by Bloomberg’s rezoning of Coney Island for this building, have an actual arcade to keep them company.

mini arcade

One of two mini arcades installed in July 2014 at Thor Equities retail building at Surf and Stillwell. May 27, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

We’re sad to report that Coney Island USA’s 1940s Shooting Gallery at 1214 Surf Avenue has been closed. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the nonprofit arts organization is offering the 3,500 square foot Shooting Gallery Arts Annex building for lease at $50 square foot or approximately $175,000 per year. “When a lease is signed we will return it to Deno’s,” Coney Island USA’s Dick Zigun told ATZ. “Until then it might reopen if we can afford machine gun maintenance.”

Made in Coney Island by William F. Mangels, the vintage shooting gallery is the only publicly operating one of its kind that we’re aware of. The gallery restored by Coney Island USA in 2013 is on loan from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, where it had operated for decades next to Spook-A-Rama and was uncovered during post-Sandy renovations.

Mangels Shooting Gallery

1940s Mangels Shooting Gallery, Coney Island USA. August 3, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Intact Mangels shooting galleries are exceptionally rare since most were long ago sold for scrap metal or broken up by antique dealers who sell the targets individually. It brought an authentic, old-timey ambiance to Surf Avenue that will be missed.

CIUSA bought Denny’s ice cream shop and building next door to their headquarters in 2012 for $1.3 million. Unfortunately, Denny’s was one of the first casualties of Superstorm Sandy in Coney Island’s amusement area. The building had to be gutted and at first there was talk of replacing the ruined ice cream machines with a paintball game, mini-golf or a roller rink. What will it house next?

When Coney Island USA bought the building, Dick Zigun told ATZ: “Some day we can transfer air rights from the landmark Childs Building, match the two-story front of Childs then do a setback with an additional five to seven story tower on top of the base,” Zigun noted. The renderings that he showed at a Coney Island presentation at the AIA included a whimsical homage to the Elephant Hotel.

Shooting Gallery

Shooting Gallery building at 1214 Surf Avenue. May 26, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

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

May 6, 2015: New Owner of Surf Ave Lot Across from Coney Island Cyclone Seeks Ideas for Seasonal Use

April 7, 2015: Coney Island Area’s 1st Hotel in Decades to Open This Summer

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

Miss Colombia

Miss Colombia and Friends in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s amusement parks kicked off the Memorial Day Weekend on Friday and starting now through Labor Day are open daily. Beach season begins on Saturday when the lifeguards return to their chairs for the summer. ATZ’s personal must-see-and-do list this weekend includes taking photos, having the first lobster roll of the year and a cold beer at Paul’s Daughter on the Boardwalk, peering through an antique stereoviewer at the Coney Island History Project’s exhibit of stereoview photography, checking out the street art-in-progress at Coney Art Walls, taking more photos, and singing Happy 95th Birthday to the Wonder Wheel, which opened on Memorial Day in 1920. One thing we’ve yet to experience in Coney Island is boredom, but tonight at Coney Island USA, we look forward to seeing Dick Zigun’s play “Boredom,” adapted from Maxim Gorky’s essay about his trip to the Electric Eden in 1904. As the original intro to the essay wisely noted: “What is seen depends upon the eye that sees it.” Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Related posts on ATZ…

May 18, 2015: Zamperla’s Power Surge Set to Make A Coney Island Comeback

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

April 21, 2015: Coney Island 2015: New York Air Show Set For August 29-30

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

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