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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

Photo courtesy of Grucci

Photo courtesy of Fireworks by Grucci

On Tuesday, February 17th, there will be a three-barge Grucci Fireworks spectacular on the Hudson River in celebration of the Chinese New Year. The 20-minute show off Pier 84 (West 44th Street) is scheduled to start between 7:30-8:00pm, weather permitting. The rain/snow date is February 18. According to the event’s organizer, the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, this is the first time in U.S. history that a large-scale fireworks show will celebrate the Lunar New Year and it will nearly equal the iconic Macy’s Independence Day Fireworks Spectacular in scope.

“We have joined creative minds and talented teams to really accentuate this remarkable event,” says Phil Grucci, whose pyrotechnicians have choreographed the fireworks to Chinese and Western music recorded by the China National Symphony Orchestra.

Tuesday’s fireworks will launch “Happy Chinese New Year: Fantastic Art China,” a series of concerts, art exhibits and community events through February at the New York Philharmonic, Avery Fisher Hall, and the New-York Historical Society, as well as the Lunar New Year lighting of the Empire State Building from February 17-19.

UPDATE February 19, 2015:

Check out Jim Levine’s gorgeous photos and video of the fireworks here.

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 19, 2015: Video & Photos of the Day: Grucci Fireworks for Chinese New Year in New York City

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

May 19, 2014: New Thunderbolt Loops the Loop Again in Coney Island

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

Bumble Bee Ride

Bumble Bees and Herschell Carousel at McCullough’s Kiddie Park, Coney Island, September 3, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Remember Coney Island’s Bumble Bees? The popular kiddie ride in McCullough’s Kiddie Park left its spot on the Bowery when the family closed their park in 2012 after being unable to extend the lease. In April, the Bees will once again be awhirl after finding a wonderful new home in Canada.

ATZ learned the good news from the ride’s new owner, Jim Mills, who operates Select Shows, a traveling carnival based in Manitoba. “This past fall I purchased the Bumble Bee ride from McCullough’s Park in Coney Island,” Mills told ATZ. “During the past winter it has been totally rebuilt and going to hit the road this spring on my show.”

Coney Island Bumblebee

Coney Island Bumblebee under Restoration. Photo © Select Shows, Manitoba

Mills, whose family-run carnival operates from mid-April through the end of September in Manitoba and Ontario, sent us photos of the rehab. “There is a picture of the beginning of the make over and the rest are showing the painting of the last two as well as the new sweeps, all new hydraulics, electrical and complete body work, which alone for the Bees is about 400 man hours. We have put approximately $30,000 into this project so far,” says Mills, who promises to send more photos once the redo is completed and the ride is set up. He has put up a page on the show’s website about the history of the ride, which survived Hurricane Sandy. SO happy to see the Bees lovingly restored and ready to begin their new life on the road!

Coney Island Bumblebee under Restoration

Coney Island Bumblebee under Restoration. Photo © Select Shows, Manitoba, Canada

The McCullough family operated amusements in Coney Island for four generations and their kiddie park had been on 12th Street and the Bowery since the 1960s. The often-photographed Bumble Bee ride was emblematic of Coney Island and frequently photographed with the Wonder Wheel or Parachute Jump in the background. When Astroland closed in 2008, some photographers’ captions said it was the end of the Bees because they did not realize the ride was part of a different park.

On Flickr we posted: Please note the Bumblebee ride on the Bowery and the kiddie rides surrounding it are NOT part of Astroland. McCullough’s Kiddie Park has 12 kiddie rides and is open for the 2009 season. The McCullough family is related to the Tilyous and have owned and operated rides in Coney Island for many years and we hope many years to come!

Coney Island Bumblebee

Coney Island Bumblebee under Restoration. Photo © Select Shows, Manitoba, Canada

Fun Facts about the Bumble Bees:

The ride’s trademark name Bumble Bee Bop was first used in 2001. This aerial kiddie carousel was designed and manufactured by Sellner, the inventor of the Tilt-A-Whirl.

McCullough’s Bumble Bee ride inspired Galloping Boy Designs T-shirt of an adventurous tabby seeing the sights of Coney Island from the back of a bumble bee. The Bees can also be glimpsed in numerous films and music videos shot in Coney.

Artist Chris DAZE Ellis, who painted a mural adjacent to McCullough’s Kiddie Park for the Dreamland Artist Club in 2004, pays tribute to the Bumble Bees in his painting Kiddyland Spirits. The 1995 painting is among his works currently on view in the touring exhibit Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland at the Wadsworth Atheneum.

Chris DAZE Ellis

Kiddyland Spirits, 1995, oil on canvas. Painting copyright Chris DAZE Ellis

Related posts on ATZ…

June 4, 2014: Astroland Rocket Finds New Home Beside the Wonder Wheel

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

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

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

PinballNYC

Each player is allowed to use one flipper in the Split Flipper Valentine’s Day Pinball Tournament at Reciprocal Skateboards. Photo via PinballNYC.com

Happy Valentine’s Day! One of the day’s most playfully romantic events is New York City Sport Flipper Association’s Split Flipper Valentine’s Day Tournament for Couples. According to PinballNYC.com, the event starts at 4:30pm at Reciprocal Skateboards in the East Village.

This is a couple’s tournament and competitors will play with a partner. Each player is allowed to use one flipper button during the game. The qualification period will start at 4:30pm will end at 9 pm (and will run concurrently with NYCFSA Winter Pin-Golf). The cost will be two dollars for each qualifying attempt. Each qualifying attempt is for a high score with no extra balls played.

The top four qualifying pairs will advance to the finals and play a best of four games series for high score with no extra balls played.

The format for the finals: 3 points for a win 2 points for second 1 point for third 0 points for fourth.

The partners with the most points at the end of the four matches will win the prize pool. If there are ties for first place, then a single tie-breaker match will occur.

Located at 402 East 11th Street, Reciprocal Skateboards has nine pinball machines including the Who’s Tommy Pinball Wizard, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Revenge from Mars and Spider-Man.

Study up on flipper techniques via rocketcarmike’s video:

Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2014: Spring Reading: “Automatic Pleasures: The History of the Coin Machine”

February 5, 2014: National Pinball Museum Founder’s Vintage Games Up for Auction

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

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

IhopAfter weeks of rumors and negotiations, it’s finally official: the lease for a 5,400 square foot IHOP at 1019 Surf Avenue in Coney Island was signed on Thursday, broker Joe Vitacco told ATZ. The franchisee who will be operating the restaurant is Bryan McKenzie, who owns an IHOP in New Jersey. Construction is expected to take about four months after the landlord completes the vanilla shell.

The one-story building at 1019 across the street from Luna Park is a longtime furniture store, which is not among the use groups permitted by the zoning. The space is being subdivided into six storefronts by the landlord and the stores are in the process of getting new street numbers. IHOP will combine the three stores on the far left and the soon-to-open Subway Cafe has the one on the right. Two remaining storefronts totalling 3,000 square feet are expected to be snapped up by another franchisee.

Why is Surf Avenue becoming a mecca for franchises? “The franchise is a preference of the landlords in Coney Island,” says Vitacco, who has leased space on Surf Avenue to Johnny Rockets, Subway Cafe and Rita’s Italian Ice, as well as to Brooklyn-based bakery Piece of Velvet for their third store. On Mermaid Avenue, he has leased to such Mom & Pops as a fish store and a Chinese bakery, as well as a Jamaican patty store franchisee.

Surf Avenue

1209 Surf Avenue in Coney Island. Store with shuttered gates is the future home of IHOP. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

“First of all, the franchisees are better funded. They are required to have half a million to two million in assets. They are trained and helped by the franchise company and have a high chance of success.” Many also own multiple businesses, which enables them to spread the risk. The Johnny Rockets franchisee owns several other franchise restaurants, Vitacco says.

Unlike Manhattan, where Mom and Pops are being forced out by landlords who triple the rent and then turn around and lease to chains or upscale businesses, many of the new franchises on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue are replacing illegal furniture stores which have existed for years in defiance of the zoning. Amid the influx of already opened national chains and franchises such as It’Sugar, Applebee’s, Rita’s Italian Ice, and Dunkin’ Donuts on Surf Avenue, there have also been a few new Mom & Pops like Lunatics Ice Cream and Luna Park Cafe, which have no connection to Luna Park.

The relatively large size of the stores is also a factor. The average price per square foot on the north side of Surf is $50.00 per square foot, Vitacco tells ATZ. On Mermaid Avenue it is $45 per square foot. “The difference in price from space to space depends upon the amount of landlord work. A space can be rented in ‘as is condition,’ as a Vanilla Box or as built to suit. The conditions will affect the rent.”

Asked why we aren’t seeing more a diversity of businesses instead of all restaurants and food? Is it too expensive? Vitacco says, “Because food pays the highest per square foot. Remember on Surf Avenue we are limited by the Coney Island C7 special zoning.”

Sky Rapids Ride

Sky Rapids Ride at 1223 Surf Avenue and Arcade at 1217 Surf Ave. Coney Island. January 1, 1979. Photo by Abe Feinstein via Coney Island History Project

According to the rezoning of 2009, permitted uses include:

–Open and enclosed amusements with limited accessory retail. Amusement uses would also include virtual reality and simulated gaming, dark rides, recreational sports facilities and water parks.

–Restaurants of any size, including those with entertainment and dancing. It would also include other complementary uses to amusements uses such as performance venues, bathhouses, breweries, tattoo parlors or wedding chapels.

–Retail and service uses complementary to amusement uses and beach activities such as arts and crafts production and sales, bicycle sales and repair, gift shops, and beach furniture stores. These uses would be limited in size and frontage.

Related posts on ATZ…

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

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

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

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

Schweikerts Walk

The sign for Schweikerts Walk, an alley adjacent to Nathan’s, had vanished from its bracket. November 16, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

What’s missing from the above photo of Nathan’s taken last November? The street sign for Schweikerts Walk, the alley where Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest was originally held. In the late ’90s, either 1997 or 1998, the contest moved to Stillwell Avenue, Nathan’s spokesman George Shea tells ATZ. Happily, a brand-new street sign was spotted at this historic site on Saturday, as you can see in the photo below by Magicalthemeparks.

ATZ noted the missing sign while researching ATZ’s Guide to Coney Island’s Honorary Walks and Places (November 18, 2014), which includes stops at Milton Berger Place, Jones Walk and Granville T Woods Way. We reported it the next day via the City’s Street Sign Defect Complaint page for dangling, damaged or missing signs. The response time is said to be 30 days. On January 29, we finally received an email saying “the Department of Transportation has inspected the condition you reported and a repair order has been issued for the signs to be manufactured and replaced.” And here we are at Schweikerts Walk, which was named after Philip Schweikert, a local bottler whose mineral water bottles are highly collectible today.

Schweikerts Walk

Schweikerts Walk Sign Replaced by DOT. February 7, 2015. Photo © Magicalthemeparks

No word yet from D.O.T. on two other signs missing from Coney Island for which we also filed reports: Henderson Walk and the Dewey Albert Place sign at the Boardwalk. In June 1997, 10th Street between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk was named Dewey Albert Place in recognition of the work and life of the founder of Astroland and in celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Cyclone Roller Coaster. The sign on Surf Avenue is intact but construction underway at 10th Street and the Boardwalk may impede the replacement of the second sign.

Henderson Walk seems to be out of luck because there’s no longer a street pole for the sign. When Thor Equities put in a new sidewalk on Surf Avenue in 2012, the street pole was removed as well as two 119-year-old trolley utility poles. The former Henderson Walk is fenced off by Thor and used as a parking lot. As far as the City is concerned, has Henderson Walk ceased to officially exist? The Kensington Walk sign remains on Surf Avenue, though the Walk itself is no more.

Related posts on ATZ…

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

April 4, 2012: Photo of the Day: Granville T. Woods Memorial Trolley Pole

February 21, 2012: Thor Destroys 119-Year-Old Relics of Coney Trolley History

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

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