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Posts Tagged ‘Brighton Beach’

Brooklyn Theatre Index Vol III“Henderson’s and Inman’s still offer the cream of the vaudeville acts to be seen at Coney Island…” according to a story in The New York Dramatic Mirror back in the summer of 1898. Both music halls are long gone from Coney Island’s Henderson’s Walk and the Walk itself is now a private parking lot thanks to property owner Joe Sitt’s demolition of the Shore Hotel and the Henderson Building. Henderson’s and Inman’s are among dozens of entertainment venues in old Coney Island catalogued in the newly published The Brooklyn Theatre Index Vol III. The third volume of theater historian Cezar Del Valle’s borough-wide opus covers Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach.

Del Valle’s area of expertise is New York City popular entertainment between 1850 and the 1950s, including special emphasis on actual theater buildings. The book project began with listings compiled over a 25-year-period by Dario Marotta, whose interest in theater history was inspired by a photo of his late uncle standing in front of his nickelodeon in Williamsburgh circa 1912. Marotta never discovered the location of his uncle’s theater, proving the ephemeral nature of many of these venues. In 2002, he gave his research to Del Valle, who kept the information on file for use in articles, talks, and walking tours. Eventually he began adding to the listings with library and internet research of his own at the Theatre Historical Society of America’s Michael Miller Collection.

Del Valle also pored over newspaper clipping files in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle “morgue,” which is housed in over 150 filing cabinets at the Brooklyn Public Library. “Both Marotta and Miller had problems researching Coney Island. I was fortunate because more and more publications became available online, between 2010-2014, and these were searchable,” Del Valle told ATZ. “Trade publications like Variety and The New York Clipper are now available along with a staggering number of newspapers.”

Henderson's Music Hall

Henderson’s Music Hall. Staley’s Views of Coney Island by Frank W. Staley, 1907. Cezar Del Valle Collection

The 250-page book is organized alphabetically by street name with the Bowery and Surf Avenue having the lion’s share of performing venues. Among the quaintly named places are Perry’s Glass Pavilion, a music hall and (more…)

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Friday’s forecast of snow showers with accumulations of less than an inch makes us feel nostalgic for the snowstorms of past years. Jonathan Pineau Bonetti shot “Coney Island Song of the Silent Snow” in Coney Island and Brighton Beach on Christmas Weekend 2010. That was the year the Polar Bears, who appear in the film, got a snow swim as a Christmas present! Time to bring in the snow machines?


Related posts on ATZ...

January 1, 2013: Videos of the Day: Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge 2013

December 28, 2012: Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island Videos of 2012

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

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Boardwalk Not Sidewalk

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk/No Concrete. Sign on Building Facing Boardwalk East of Ocean Parkway in Brighton Beach. Photo © Bruce Handy

Over the weekend, Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy spotted these protest signs on a building facing the Boardwalk on the east side of Ocean Parkway in Brighton Beach. “The sign is located on the wooden boardwalk just east of the concrete ‘boardwalk.’ It will probably be the next section converted to concrete,” he said.

Last week, ATZ had a bad Monday and so did New York City. I wasted 5 hours of my life at the Public Design Commission’s charade of a public hearing about the reconstruction of the Coney Island Boardwalk. A ten-foot-wide Concrete Lane for so-called “emergency vehicles” and an adjoining Plasticwalk were unanimously approved by the Commissioners for a pilot project in Brighton Beach. Every news reporter who covers Coney was there and stayed till the bitter end, so in all likelihood you’ve seen the headlines: “Pave Paradise and Put Up a Sidewalk: City Approves Concrete Coney Island Boardwalk” (New York Observer) and “New York City To Take The Board Out Of Fabled Coney Island Boardwalk” (WPIX).

As one of the 48 people who stayed to testify–some of my fellow citizens had to leave to go back to work–I have to say the way the meeting was conducted made a mockery of democracy and public hearings. Earlier this month, ATZ wrote “The Ten People Who Will Decide the Fate of the Boardwalk.” Well, only seven commissioners showed up and one–Alice Aycock–left early, kissing her colleagues goodbye in the middle of someone’s testimony.

How does it happen that in a city of more than 8 million people, six people get to decide the fate of the Coney Island Boardwalk and appear to have decided in advance of the so-called public hearing? They are Mayoral appointees. The local Community Board 13 voted against this proposal 21 to 7, but their vote was ignored because it’s “advisory.” One of the public comments at the hearing was that the Boardwalk should be renamed the Public Design Commission Concretewalk because it will no longer be the Riegelmann Boardwalk. After the vote, Commissioner Signe Nielsen turned around in her chair to say defensively to the shocked audience that the commissioners were New Yorkers who’d been to Coney Island and not aliens from outer space.

on the boardwalk

The protest signs are located on this building facing the wooden boardwalk just east of the concrete boardwalk in Brighton Beach seen in the photo. Photo © Bruce Handy

It was a bad sign at the start of public testimony when the commissioners arbitrarily lopped off the usual 3-minute speaking time for each member of the public to 2 minutes. I felt sad for the people who’d taken the time to prepare written statements that were precisely 3 minutes long. A firecracker of a woman from Brighton Beach exchanged a few words of Yiddish with the commish who said she had “20 seconds” left. Yiddish is a great language to be pissed off in, one of my twitter followers says. The leaders of the Coney Brighton Boardwalk Alliance were pissed off too. Here are a couple of excerpts from Christianna Nelson’s report on the hearing on CBBA’s website:

Mike Caruso traveled all the way from West Virginia just to attend the hearing and speak about black locust wood, a rainforest wood alternative with longevity similar to ipe. This wood expert was only allowed two minutes to share his information. The Parks Department spent a lot of time wringing their hands that there is no black locust wood available when there was an expert in the room who said he has this wood available and would be willing to work with them on providing it to their specifications. When Commissioner Byron Kim suggested pursuing this, the other Commissioners ignored this suggestion and moved on.

Several of the most intelligent questions were never fully answered or explored. For example, Commissioner Byron Kim asked several questions about the concrete strip down the center of the boardwalk. He wondered why, if this is a pilot program testing a new material, they couldn’t use RPL for the whole decking to see how it fared. The Parks Department answered that they had found that RPL was too slippery for vehicles. Kim pointed out that he had seen numerous photos of ice building up on concrete sections of the boardwalk, yet the Parks Department was proposing concrete for the vehicle lane. “Isn’t ice more slippery?” he asked. The Parks Department replied that most emergencies happen in the summer. And the Design Commission left it at that.

The fight goes on to save other parts of the Boardwalk. Please write to the Mayor’s office and tell New York City that you don’t want to see any more of the historic Coney Island Boardwalk destroyed. Please also sign the online petition, if you haven’t already, and continue to circulate it to friends.

As I headed into the elevator, another person who’d wasted the day at the Public Design Commission said into a cell phone: “They approved a bad plan for the Boardwalk. They blew it.”

Since the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues has yet to be composed, here’s Counting Crows version of “Paved Paradise…” filmed on location in Astroland and the Coney Island Boardwalk in 2002. Hat tip to @eastcoastimages.


Related posts on ATZ…

December 8, 2014: City Councilman’s Proposal to Landmark the Boardwalk Could Halt Concretewalk

September 8, 2012: October 4: Coney Island’s Endangered Boardwalk to Get its Day in Court

March 9, 2012: The 10 People Who Will Decide the Fate of Coney Island Boardwalk

February 29, 2012: Exclusive: Coney Boardwalk Group’s Letter to PDC Rebuts Parks

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Coney Island Boardwalk

Photos from Friends of the Boardwalk's website show the results of prior projects where the NYC Parks Department used concrete. Photos © Mary Ann De Luca via FOBConeyIsland.com

UPDATE…February 17...The Parks Department has once again postponed the date– February 21 — that they requested to present the Concretewalk plan to the Public Design Commission! We have no idea why–Perhaps they’re not ready? Perhaps they’re busy lining up support from the PDC commissioners? Perhaps they’re trying to throw off the grassroots opposition? The online petition to “Keep the Boards in the Coney Island Boardwalk – -No Concrete! and Save the Rainforests” continues to collect signatures.

UPDATE…January 23...The Parks Department has postponed the Concretewalk hearing date to February 21, says Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance’s Rob Burstein: “I just received an e-mail from the Parks Department’s liaison to the Design Commission informing me that they have postponed the date that they intend to present their proposal to the Design Commission. They will not present on January 30th, as we were originally told, but have tentatively rescheduled for February 21st.” Since the Parks Department initiates the date when they are ready to make their presentation, it appears that they are not yet ready to prove the case for concrete

On January 30 February 21, New York City’s Parks Department is expected to go back to the Public Design Commission to try again to win approval for its controversial plan to pave all but four blocks of the 2.7 mile Coney Island Boardwalk with concrete and plastic wood. At the last meeting in October, proponents of keeping the boards in the Boardwalk won a temporary victory when the PDC refused to approve the plan. The PDC commissioners, a distinguished group of architects, artists and representatives of the City’s cultural institutions, were skeptical of the need to use concrete. They also said that more environmental and engineering studies were needed to address the questions that they had.

Three months later, the PDC will likely be asked to reconsider the Parks Department’s plan at the January 30th February 21st meeting, according to Coney Brighton Boardwalk Alliance’s Rob Burstein. He is asking “others that care, to join us and speak against the plan at the Design Commission. I know that many people are with us in spirit, but we need them with us in body, as well as in soul. It’s only by showing up, that we have any chance of stopping this plan!”

On Saturday, January 21st and January 28th at 3pm, Burstein’s group and Friends of the Boardwalk are having informational meetings at Brighton Beach Library. An online petition to “Keep the Boards in the Coney Island Boardwalk” launched this month has several hundred signatures and comments like this one from Linda Distasi: “I grew up in Brooklyn. I think we should keep the Boardwalk as it was intended. There are other alternatives to concrete. Use them!!!!” (Only 700-and-something signatures? If you didn’t sign yet, don’t complain when it’s concrete.)

concrete boardwalk

Slab Walk: The new concrete slab section of the Coney Island boardwalk in Brighton Beach. October 26, 2011. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved

The photo mosaic at the top of this post is from a slide show on FOB’s website showing the results of prior Parks Department projects using concrete on the Boardwalk: the concrete substructure under recycled plastic lumber on Steeplechase Pier, concrete under wood in the amusement area and the concrete slabs replacing sections of the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach and in the West End of Coney Island, from West 33rd to West 37th Streets. The other two photographs by silversalty show the same spot on the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach. In 2009’s “A Walk in the Mist,” the Boardwalk is wood; in 2011 it is slabs of concrete.

Todd Dobrin, founder of Friends of the Boardwalk, who along with fellow members of Community Board 13 voted 21-7 last May against the Concretewalk, said in a statement:

The Parks Department has wasted millions of dollars on projects that were built through trial and error at the expense of NYC taxpayers. Instead of admitting to the public, the NYC Design Commission and the NYC Parks Commissioner the fact that the use of concrete has proven to be the root cause of these design flaws, they will attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the NYC Design Commission with questionable facts and a smoke and mirrors art show. I believe the Design Commission saw through the Parks Department’s blatant misinformation at the past meeting and will come to the same conclusion on January 30.

Public testimony at the NYC Public Design Commission meeting is limited to three minutes per person. The PDC office is in Manhattan at 253 Broadway, Fifth Floor, near the City Hall subway station. For information on the time of the January 30th February 21st meeting, which is set one week in advance, email Rob Burstein at robburstein[AT]Hotmail[dot]com or check the Boardwalk Alliance’s Facebook Page for updates.

Brighton Beach

A walk in the mist, Brighton Beach. April 3, 2009. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved


Related posts on ATZ…

January 5, 2012: New Year, New Push to “Keep the Boards in the Coney Island Boardwalk”

December 4, 2011: Brass Ring Dept: Coney Island “Carousell” RFP Up for Grabs

October 25, 2011: Coney Island 2012: Go Karts Return, Concretewalk Stopped

November 15, 2010: Nov 16: Concrete, Wood or Plastic? Discussion on Future of Coney Island Boardwalk

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concrete boardwalk

Slab Walk: The new concrete slab section of the Coney Island boardwalk in Brighton Beach. October 26, 2011. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved

The New Year brings a new petition from concretewalk opponent and founder of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance Rob Burstein. “Keep the Boards in the Coney Island Boardwalk–No Concrete! and Save the Rainforests” is circulating among our Coney friends on Facebook and has already gathered more than 365 signatures out of goal of 5,000. Addressed to 23 elected and appointed officials, the petition’s goal is to put a stop once and for all to the Parks Department’s plan to pave all but four blocks of the 2.7 mile Boardwalk with concrete and plastic wood. Some parts of the Boardwalk, like the spot in the above photo, have already been paved as part of a pilot project. The petition says in part:

If the Parks Department has its way, the Boardwalk will be turned into a concrete sidewalk! Their explanation for this choice is the citywide dictate to limit the use of rainforest wood, but there are in fact many other options available. Send a message to New York’s Parks Department to tell them that the choice is not between saving the rainforest and saving the Boardwalk — the correct choice is to do both! Stop the use of rainforest wood, and replace it with one of the available sustainable domestic hardwoods such as Black Locust or White Oak for the surface decking (the part that we all see and on which we walk). The support structure underneath should be made from recycled plastic lumber, which the U.S. Army has used to build bridges that support tanks and locomotives. This design would be both cost-effective and desirable, and, most importantly, would preserve the basic elements of what makes the wondrous Coney Island Boardwalk a boardwalk.

Brighton Beach

A walk in the mist, Brighton Beach. April 3, 2009. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved

The last time ATZ wrote about the proposed concretewalk was in October, when the City’s Public Design Commission refused to approve the Parks Department’s plan. The PDC, a distinguished group of architects, artists and representatives of the City’s cultural institutions, told Parks that more environmental and engineering studies were needed to address the questions that they had.

According to a report on the blog A Walk in the Park, no one on the commission supported the use of concrete. “Why do we need the concrete at all,” one commissioner said. It was a victory for concretewalk opponents, winning time to organize more support for keeping the boards in the Coney Island Boardwalk.

UPDATE, March 13, 2012…

For an update read “The 10 People Who Will Decide the Fate of Coney Island Boardwalk” (ATZ, March 9, 2012)

The Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance’s website http://savetheboardwalk.wordpress.com went live on March 5, 2012 while an online petition continues to gather signatures.


Toeing the Line. Brighton Beach, New York. October 26, 2011. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved


Related posts on ATZ…

February 29, 2012: Exclusive: Coney Boardwalk Group’s Letter to PDC Rebuts Parks

December 4, 2011: Brass Ring Dept: Coney Island “Carousell” RFP Up for Grabs

May 5, 2011: May 7: Coney Island Boardwalk Trash Can Art Contest

November 15, 2010: Nov 16: Concrete, Wood or Plastic? Discussion on Future of Coney Island Boardwalk

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Boardwalk Sunset Cruise

Boardwalk Sunset Cruise. October 13, 2008. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved

Coney Island’s world-famous, 2.7-mile Boardwalk is listed among America’s Best Beach Boardwalks by the travel editors at National Geographic, Travel + Leisure and USA Today. Will it qualify for this honor if only four blocks in the amusement area remain wood and the rest is paved with concrete and plastic wood? A Parks Department spokeswoman told Brooklyn’s Courier News that concrete was chosen because it’s about $40 per foot cheaper than real wood.

The Bloomberg administration’s plan to pave the Coney Island Boardwalk will be voted on by the City’s Public Design Commission. A friend forwarded the info that the PDC hearing is at 10:30 am on Monday, October 24th. It is recommended that you get there at 10 am to sign in. “Please bring others if you can as this is our best chance to defeat this,” writes Rob Burstein of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance. The local Community Board voted 21 to 7 against the plan in May, but their vote was ignored because New York City’s CBs are advisory boards.

News stories about the Boardwalk redo gave the impression that the Public Design Commission vote was a foregone conclusion, possibly because the members are all Mayoral appointees. However, after reading the letter from Burstein and Friends of the Boardwalk’s Todd Dobrin, we took a closer look at the Design Commission. “The Gatekeepers,” a report in the Architect’s Newspaper, described the PDC as “little known to the public and a mystery even to many architects.” Commission members are a distinguished group including architects, artists and representatives of the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Public Library. They serve pro bono. Hey, we think it’s worth a shot. It could be your last chance to save Coney Island’s Boardwalk from becoming a Concretewalk.

253 Broadway (opposite City Hall), 5th floor, New York, NY

Dear friends and neighbors:

I’m writing to ask you to join us on Monday, October 24th, at the NYC Design Commission. There will be a hearing about the proposed plan to replace the iconic Brighton Beach and Coney Island boardwalk with concrete slabs. A small group of us showed up a few weeks ago to express our displeasure with this Parks Department’s proposal so the hearing was changed to the date above. This was so that the Commission could hear our objections regarding this plan for the boardwalk.

THIS IS OUR BEST CHANCE FOR DEFEATING THIS PLAN!We need a substantial number of people at this hearing to express their displeasure with the proposal. The people on this Commission have no idea what impact their decisions have on this community. As neighbors who enjoy the boardwalk and don’t want it turned into a sidewalk or driveway, I’m hoping to prevail upon you to join us and express your outrage at this horrendous plan. We all have too many responsibilities and too little time, but many of us are taking off from our jobs yet again in order to attend this most important meeting. Won’t you join with us? Your presence is important! This Commission is not an advisory body. They make the final decision as to whether or not this project goes forward. Please don’t let cynicism about the good it does to show up at a hearing such as this stop you from coming. It CAN make a difference! Look at what happened when enough of us showed up to object to construction of the proposed amphitheater in Asser Levy/Seaside Park. This Commission stopped the plan because enough community members showed up to object. Please support us and our community once again. Please attend and tell your friends and neighbors to join us!

The time on the 24th will be announced in the next day or two and I will forward it on once it’s been set. Thanks for your consideration and support!

Rob Burstein, Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance
Todd Dobrin, Friends of the Boardwalk

UPDATE March 7, 2012:

The next public hearing at the Design Commission is set for Monday, March 12. For more info, see the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance’s new website.

UPDATE October 25, 2011:

Victory! ATZ is happy to report that the Design Commmission has stopped the Parks Department from going ahead with the concretewalk. NY1 covered the hearing — watch the video here. As Todd Dobrin of Friends of the Boardwalk says in the vid: “I think that it’s great that the Design Commission has come to the conclusion that more environmental and engineering studies are required before this project goes forward.”


Related posts on ATZ…

February 29, 2012: Exclusive: Coney Boardwalk Group’s Letter to PDC Rebuts Parks

May 5, 2011: May 7: Coney Island Boardwalk Trash Can Art Contest

November 15, 2010: Nov 16: Concrete, Wood or Plastic? Discussion on Future of Coney Island Boardwalk

January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010

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The Rabbi

Rabbi Abraham Abraham & Bob Stewart of the Coney Island Ice Breakers, 2009 Mermaid Parade. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Rabbi Abraham Abraham, the leader of the Ice Breakers Winter Ocean Swimmers of Brighton Beach, died on May 18, according to club spokesman Bob Stewart. “The Rabbi,” as he was called by his fellow swimmers, was a longtime member of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club until the 1990s when he broke away after a dispute and formed a club called the Ice Bears and then the Ice Breakers. The funeral will be held on May 19 at 2 pm at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, Queens.

The elaborately mustachioed and white-bearded Rabbi was a colorful Coney Island character famous for his daily swims and annual New Year’s Day Swim at Brighton 6th Street. The Ice Breakers boast of having the largest number of active swimmers over 70 years of age (10 swimmers) and four members over 80 years of age. Stewart estimates that the Rabbi was 83 or 84, though he would never admit exactly how much over 80.

Rabbi Abraham Abraham’s zaniest personal accomplishment was probably living in an ice house for 110 hours (Guinness record ID 12729 claimant 12524) on the beach. We’ll never forget his royal antics as King of the Mermaid Parade in 1999. He was so full of fun that he kept jumping out of his rolling chair to dance a jig, which is something we haven’t seen a king do before or since. Photographers loved him, of course. With his white hair and flowing beard, the Rabbi was probably the king who most resembled Neptune. In this 2009 video he extols the health benefits of eating organic kosher food and winter swimming in the frigid waters of the Atlantic.

In the above photo taken by ATZ at the 2009 Mermaid Parade, the Rabbi rode in a pedicab due to a leg injury from what he said at the time was a parachute skydiving accident. “But it was bone cancer,” Stewart reveals. “They removed his thighbone and replaced it with a titanium rod.” The next year, he was once again walking the length of the parade route.

“He’s such a positive guy,” says Stewart. “He called me two weeks ago and said, ‘Bob, I’m dying. I need to see you.’ So I went over to his house. And then he said ‘listen, do you think we can do one more gig before I die?’ Here’s a guy on his deathbed and he wants to do one more something–swim, Mermaid Parade…” They agreed to ride the pedicab again in the Mermaid Parade, which takes place this year on June 18th. “But we knew it was getting close, it was day by day,” Stewart adds. The Ice Breakers are planning to march in the Parade with a photo of their departed leader.

But was he a real Rabbi? “He was able to show me his credentials–his clergy documents,” says Stewart, a Brighton Beach native who took up winter swimming as a teen without being part of an organized group. After getting to know the Rabbi as one of “the beach people,” Stewart joined the Ice Breakers. The Rabbi will be missed. “He was a very happy-go-lucky guy who didn’t preach in any synagogue. His place to preach was the beach.”

Rabbi Abraham Abraham

Rabbi Abraham Abraham Rings the Dreamland Bell at the Coney Island History Project. September 13, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita


Related posts on ATZ…

May 19, 2013: Rest in Peace: Steve Bitetzakis of Steve’s Grill House

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

July 27, 2011: Coney Island Lost A Good Friend: RIP Andy Badalamenti

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

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