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Posts Tagged ‘Central Amusement International’

Coney Island Parachute Jump

Coney Island Parachute Jump Lit at Dusk. October 17, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy

When the Parachute Jump’s dazzling new 8,000 LEDs debuted in June, Luna Park CEO Valerio Ferrari told ATZ the tower would be lit whenever the park was open. One of the things we’re thankful for this Thanksgiving is that after the park closed for the season at the end of October, the landmark tower’s light show has continued nightly. Photographers are jumping for joy. Coney Island’s Bruce Handy, whose photos are featured in this album, shoots the lighted Jump almost as frequently as he does sunsets.

Although there’s been no official announcement from the Parks Department or Luna Park, the unofficial word on the Boardwalk is the Jump is going to be lit year-round. This is exactly right considering the City’s stated goal ever since Mayor Bloomberg announced the Strategic Plan for the Future of Coney Island in 2005 has been to “transform the area into a year-round entertainment destination.”

Coney Island Parachute Jump

Coney Island Parachute Jump. November 4, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy

The Parachute Jump lights the way to Coney Island for visitors. Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower is visible from as far away as the Verrazano Bridge on the Belt Parkway. You can spot it from planes flying in and out of JFK. One of Bruce’s friends has taken photos of the Jump lights from his 37th floor of his office in lower Manhattan. “I also see it from the 71st St elevated D train platform,” says Bruce. “I’m sure it’s visible from the cruise ships leaving NY harbor every night and returning every morning at sunrise.” Currently, the Parachute Jump is lit nightly from 4:30pm until midnight or later (with the exception of random days when its timer is on the blink). Here’s hoping the Jump will remain lit year-round like the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower. Check the Coney Island webcam before you go.

Coney Island’s Parachute Jump first wowed visitors at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. Afterwards, the ride became the star attraction at Steeplechase, Coney Island’s world-famous amusement park, which closed forever in 1964. The pier and the Jump tower are the sole survivors of the park that once billed itself “Coney Island’s Only Funny Place, Where 25,000 People Laugh at One Time.”

Coney Island Parachute Jump

Coney Island Parachute Jump from Steeplechase Pier. November 4, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy

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October 30, 2013: Photo Album: Four Transformations, One Year After Sandy

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

June 21, 2013: Photo Album: Preview of Parachute Jump LED Lights

January 18, 2012: Video of the Day: Climbing Coney Island’s Parachute Jump

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Jones Walk

Long-shuttered storefronts on Thor Equities side of Jones Walk. Luna Park games on City-owned land on the Walk’s east side. June 21, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

With Mayor Bloomberg, Councilman Domenic Recchia and other electeds responsible for the rezoning of Coney Island leaving office in 120 days, and their would-be successors campaigning for the September 10th Primary, it’s time to look at the City’s accomplishments in Coney Island and what has yet to be done. The New Coney Island. We’ll also take a look at some of the casualties as well as some of the survivors of the July 2009 rezoning. ATZ hopes to cover these topics in a series of posts over the next couple of months.

Let’s start with the Surf Avenue side of Jones Walk, the last of Coney Island’s historic walks. Before Thor, it used to be a vibrant and authentic place, a midway of midways. Now “the Walk” looks like a victim of a split personality disorder. The City-owned east side of Jones Walk, re-activated by Luna Park with cute carnival games and a few food stands, and Thor Equities-owned west side, vacant since 2009, offers a stark contrast between Coney’s largest property owners. While the City has brought in replacement amusements, Thor–whose slogan for a time was “Coney Island, Retail Ride of a Lifetime”– has gotten rid of amusements.

Stinky Feet Water Race Game

Luna Park’s Stinky Feet Water Race Game, Jones Walk. Coney Island. May 27, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

You’d never know from looking at it, but the building on the west corner of the Walk is Coney Island’s oldest, the circa 1880s Grashorn Building. Originally Henry Grashorn’s hardware store, the building later housed shooting galleries, arcades, and cotton candy and taffy stands. Now it’s a victim of the continuing decimation of the amusement area by Thor CEO Joe Sitt. The Grashorn building fronts Surf Avenue and extends along the west side of the walk, yet this location has remained vacant and devoid of activity for five seasons. WHY? A 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.

Grashorn

Thor Equities Vacant & Shuttered Grashorn Building. August 15, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Since then, the Grashorn has fallen victim to squatters, blight and burst water pipes. A parade of sideshow operators and arcade owners tried but failed to lease the Jones Walk space from Thor. The only use that it has seen since we started blogging in 2009 was as a set for HBO’s Bored to Death (2011) and an office for the production company filming Men in Black 3 (2012).

Meanwhile, on the east side of the walk are carnival games, including the comical “Stinky Feet” water race, newly installed this year by Luna Park on property leased by the City to Zamperla in 2012. The city displaced independent operators with an RFP for a single operator to renovate and re-activate the property. The result was a few unsavory operators got the boot while the good guys relocated to City-owned or private property elsewhere in Coney.

We’re lucky the Grashorn Building is still standing. Unlike the Bank of Coney Island, the Surf Hotel and the Henderson Building, which Sitt demolished, the Grashorn parcel at Surf Ave and Jones Walk was not rezoned by the City for a 30-story high rise hotel. There’s also the fact that the building is just a few doors away from Luna Park’s entrance. And there’s also the fact the City owns the east side of Jones Walk. The demolition of the Grashorn would have created a desolate empty lot right next to the City’s showcase amusement park and completely killed business on the Walk.

 New Games on Jones Walk

Luna Park’s New Games on Jones Walk. Coney Island. May 27, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In Coney Island: Lost and Found, historian Charles Denson writes that the building at 1104 Surf dates back to the 1880’s and the Grashorn hardware store served Coney Island’s amusement businesses for more than 60 years: “The clapboard façade, dormers, cast iron resting, chimneys and fish-scale shingles were removed when the building was renovated in the 1980s but the mansard roof retains its shape.”

What will be the fate of Coney Island’s historic Jones Walk and its oldest building under the next administration? Will Thor Equities’ property remain vacant? Will it be sold? Will Joe Sitt seek a zoning variance from the next administration for this property or for any of his vacant lots? To be continued…

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

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June 18, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Shoe Store Invades Amusement Area

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

October 7, 2012: ATZ’s Big Wish List for the New Coney Island

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

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Parachute Jump Lighting Tes

Parachute Jump Lighting Test, Coney Island. June 20, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy

On Friday night in Coney Island, the landmark Parachute Jump will be lit with 8,000 LED lights. Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower will have enough bling to be visible from outer space, advance reports claim. The lighting was installed by Zamperla’s Central Amusements International, which operates Luna Park. Last night, the crowd on the Boardwalk was treated to a dazzling preview of the light show and Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy took this series of photos. “Parachute Jump vibrating to the beat of mermaid’s soul vibrations,” he said, in anticipation of Saturday’s Mermaid Parade.

Parachute Jump Lighting Test

Parachute Jump Lighting Test, Coney Island. June 20, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy

Originally designed by a retired Naval commander to train military paratroopers in the 1930s, parachute towers were soon modified into amusement attractions when civilians clamored to ride. Coney Island’s Parachute Jump first wowed visitors at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. Afterwards, the ride became the star attraction at Steeplechase, the world-famous amusement park that opened on Coney’s fabled shore in 1897.

Parachute Jump Lighting Test

Parachute Jump Lighting Test, Coney Island. June 20, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy

Along with the pier, the Jump’s tower is the sole survivor of the park that once billed itself “Coney Island’s Only Funny Place, Where 25,000 People Laugh at One Time.” The city-owned landmark’s proximity to the Brooklyn Cyclones’ stadium gave it a new lease on life when the ballpark opened in 2001.

Parachute Jump Lighting Test

Parachute Jump Lighting Test, Coney Island. June 20, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy

Summer officially arrives this weekend. Friday night’s lighting ceremony will be followed by Coney Island’s first fireworks show of the 2013 season and Saturday’s 31st Annual Mermaid Parade.

Parachute Jump Lighting Test

Parachute Jump Lighting Test, Coney Island. June 20, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy

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June 4, 2013: Coney Island Fireworks 2013: Fridays, 6 Saturdays and More

May 26, 2013: A Portrait of Abe Lincoln on Coney Island’s B&B Carousell

April 29, 2012: Photo of the Day: Space Shuttle Over Coney Island’s Parachute Jump

January 18, 2012: Video of the Day: Climbing Coney Island’s Parachute Jump

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Bici Da Vinci

Zamperla’s Magic Bike Ride inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci. Photo via Italy in US 2013

On June 28th, Venice comes to Coney Island when Luna Park operator CAI Parks stages a Venetian “carnevale” on the Boardwalk and in the new Steeplechase Plaza. A Zamperla-designed amusement ride inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s designs for flying machines is set to be part of the festivities along with Friday night fireworks. The event is part of “Italy in USA 2013,” a year-long showcase of Italian culture, including art, music, cinema, stage, design, fashion and food, organized by the Italian government “to promote Italy as a whole in both the cultural thematics and the economic features of the Italian Brand.” The series of events has the hashtag #2013italianyear on twitter.

“Antonio Zamperla S.p.A and Central Amusement International LLC (CAI) recreate the magical atmosphere of ‘Carnevale’ in Venice with masks, gondolieri, acrobats and street artists,” according to the calendar of events.

Rendering for Parachute Jump Lighting, Steeplechase Plaza

Rendering for Parachute Jump Lighting, Steeplechase Plaza. Photo via Italy in US 2013

“There will also be a virtual tour of Venice throughout various eras called the Venice Imago Project in collaboration with Università Ca’ Foscari of Venezia where spectators can see the city and its works of art created by famous artists like Bellini, Giorgione, Tiepolo. The Boardwalk on Coney Island will be reminiscent of the Venetian streets during Carnevale with face painting activities for the children and contests for best Venetian masks.”

The Magic Bikes amusement ride pictured in the event calendar is Zamperla’s “Bici Da Vinci,” which was originally designed for Leonardo Land at Minitalia Leolandia. The Italian park was formerly owned in part by Zamperla, which is based in nearby Vicenza. “We came up with the story that we have found a secret book by Leonardo Da Vinci in which he designed an amusement park for the prince,” said Alberto Zamperla in an interview with Park World in 2009. “That is how we themed some of the rides.” The program listing for the Coney Island event says the Magic Bikes will be placed near the entrance to Luna Park. The ride is said to reproduce the design and the operating method of Leonardo Da Vinci’s studies of the flight of birds and his sketches for flying machines.

The new Steeplechase Plaza, where Zamperla won the contract to operate the historic B&B Carousell and light the landmark Parachute Jump, is scheduled to open on Memorial Day Weekend. The June 28th Venetian Carnevale will be six days after Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade, which is on June 22, the first Saturday of summer.

UPDATE 2:45 pm

Whoops! It turns out the info posted on the Italian Foreign Ministry’s Italy in USA 2013 event page is not completely accurate! According to an email from Luna Park online coordinator Rob Blatt: “Some of the information about the Venice in Coney Island event is incorrect on the Italy in the USA site. The actual event that was supposed to be on June 28 was moved to a different date, and will now be a private event, not something public.” It’s too bad a Venetian Carnevale in the People’s Playground, which sounds like a fun addition to Coney’s schedule, went from being a public to a private event. If you get an invite, let us know! (Update May 24th: The mystery private event was apparently the Venetian Carnevale-themed, invitation-only party with masked dancers held at the B&B Carousell on its official opening day.) The good news is Leonardo’s Magic Bikes are still coming and will be one of the new rides in Luna Park along with Water-mania.

Bici Da Vinci at Minitalia Leolandia Park

Bici Da Vinci at Minitalia Leolandia Park via Facebook

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March 31, 2013: Surf’s Up for CAI Foods in Coney Island, Sodexo Is Out

March 11, 2013: Luna Park’s Pinwheels Go Up on Coney Island Boardwalk

August 10, 2012: Steeplechase Plaza Under Construction in Coney Island

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

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SkyCoaster Construction

SkyCoaster Under Construction at Scream Zone, May 11, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy. All Rights Reserved

Zamperla’s plans for Go Karts and a SkyCoaster on City-owned “Parcel C” in Coney Island were unveiled last November and on Friday the launch tower of the new thrill ride was put into place with a crane. Coney photographer Bruce Handy’s stunning photos juxtapose the SkyCoaster with the great-granddaddy of vertical thrill rides– the 250-foot tall tower of the landmark Parachute Jump. From the 1940s until it closed in 1964, the Jump was the high thrill in Coney Island and to this day it has supporters who clamor for it to be retrofit and made operable again. Will the new high thrill ride on the Boardwalk win them over?

The Coney Island SkyCoaster will be called Boardwalk Flight, according to Luna Park’s website: “Take flight over the Atlantic Ocean at heights of over 200 feet. Not thrilling enough? Try it at over 60 mph! This Sky-Coaster will propel you mid-air giving you a sky-diving sensation.” A SkyCoaster combines elements of skydiving and hang-gliding. Riders are harnessed into “flight suits,” winched to the top of a tower and then swing through the sky as they drop towards the ground. From the time you’re strapped in to the finish, each “flight” lasts about five minutes. At Scream Zone, the cost of the new ride will be 25/20/15 credits, which at $1 per credit equals $25/$20/$15, though bonus credits are available with the purchase of a Luna Card. (Update: When the ride opened on Memorial Day Weekend, the charge for riding was a flat fee of $20.)

SkyCoaster Coney Island

SkyCoaster Under Construction at Scream Zone, May 11, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy. All Rights Reserved

A spokesman from Luna Park told ATZ the price of riding the SkyCoaster depends on the number of riders–one, two or three–since up to three people can ride at a time. A solo skydive over the Boardwalk will cost you $25, but if you ride with two friends you’ll each pay $15. Manufactured by SkyCoaster Inc., the ride debuted in 1993 and can be found at over 75 parks around the world, from the Jersey Shore to Brazil and South Korea. In gated amusement parks, it’s typically an “upcharge attraction,” meaning that an additional fee is charged to riders who have already paid general admission to the park. Here’s the official video. And here’s a vid of three guys riding the 180-foot SkyCoaster at Six Flags Darien Lake.

Along with the Coney Island Raceway–as the Go Kart track will be called–Boardwalk Flight will be part of an expanded Scream Zone. Earlier this year Central Amusement International, the park division of Zamperla, shelved the idea of creating a third Coney Island park called “Speed Zone” on Parcel C. In March, Scream Zone manager Beau Berni told ATZ that the new rides will instead operate as part of Scream Zone, which is just across Stillwell Avenue and has four rides, including two Zamperla coasters. The SkyCoaster and Go Karts are scheduled to open on May 25th.

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April 26, 2012: Coney Island Carousel Vying for Online Votes to Win Grant

January 18, 2012: Video of the Day: Climbing Coney Island’s Parachute Jump

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

April 22, 2011: Coney Island Has 64 Rides and 30 Weekends of Summer!

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Employees at Luna Park Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Running away with the carnival is easy but sticking with it through the end of the season is hard work. Once upon a time it was a rite of passage for American kids who wanted to see the world beyond their hometowns. Nowadays, the amusement industry still recruits high-school grads and college students, as well as retirees and others with merry-go-round memories and itchy feet. If you’d like to work in Coney Island or travel across the country with a carnival, now is the time of year to apply for a job.

Next week, Central Amusement International, operator of Coney Island’s Luna Park and Scream Zone, and Nathan’s Famous, together with the Coney Island Development Corporation, will begin recruiting for seasonal positions. “This is a unique opportunity to become a part of ‘The One and Only Coney’ by joining the team of dedicated employees that make Coney Island an entertainment destination worldwide,” says the CIDC event flyer for the upcoming screenings. (Update: If you are viewing this post in 2014, check out this season’s job information at “A Head Start on Summer Jobs in Coney Island”

The job screenings are February 28, March 1, April 24 and April 26, 2012 from 12 noon till 6 pm at the Brooklyn Cyclones’ MCU Park, 1904 Surf Avenue in Coney Island. In past years, nearly a thousand people have shown up on a single day, so we recommend getting there early. Qualified candidates, who must be 18 years of age or older, will be referred for an interview. Seasonal jobs include Ride and Game Operators, Food and Beverage Service, Park Service, Customer Service/Retail Sales and Ticket Sales Associates/Cashiers.

Lunatic Dance Team, Luna Park Coney Island. July 15, 2011. Photo © Jim McDonnell. All Rights Reserved.

If you’re reading this after the screening events have taken place or can’t make it, visit the Career Opportunities pages at Nathan’s Famous and Luna Park and also check Craigslist. Luna Park currently has an ad on Craigslist for dancers and performers for the Lunatic Promotion Team, which pays $10 per hour. According to the ad, “the team will attend offsite promotions to inform new guests about the park and all the amazing things Coney Island has to offer. The second task will be to handle on-site events, promotions, photo opportunities and guests experience surveys.” Performers, including singers, dancers and DJs, will take part in the Cyclone roller coaster’s 85th birthday celebration and Coney Island’s first end of the summer concert.

Game operator

Game operator with North American Midway Entertainment. Via Facebook.com/Namidway

A dozen years ago, homesick for the midways of my carnival childhood, I went on the road with S & S Amusements, touring the Pennsylvania fairs. Since then, I’ve worked as a game agent with Wade Shows at New York City’s “Big A” Fair, the Delaware State Fair, the Michigan State Fair and the Central Florida Fair, and on Coney Island’s Jones Walk. One advantage to working in Coney is being able to sleep in my apartment at night, though when I got home from being on the road all summer it took a bit of getting used to having townhouses across the way instead of a Tilt-A-Whirl.

“The carnival business, which supports America’s state and sounty fairs, festivals and community events, needs seasonal workers who are willing to travel, work nights, weekends and Holidays,” Bob Johnson, President of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association tells ATZ. A look at the websites of OABA member carnivals shows that these carnivals are hiring ride operators and attendants, food and game agents, maintenance, electricians and welders. “Weekly pay is based on State and Federal minimum wage rates, and other State regulations, such as overtime pay,” notes Johnson “Over 5 million seasonal workers support this industry and many come back year after year as they love to travel and entertain over 300 million patrons who visit the carnival midways.”

North American Midway Entertainment

Ride operators with North American Midway Entertainment. Via Facebook.com/Namidway

If the idea of traveling to 20 states and 4 Canadian provinces, including 10 of the top 50 fairs in North America is appealing, then you may want to check out North American Midway Entertainment’s Careers page.

ATZ talked with Ed Dame, Director of Operations for NAME, “the world’s largest traveling outdoor amusement park,” about opportunities with his company. “Eighty percent of our employees are locals,” he said. “We advertise in newspapers and state workforce agencies.” The carnival company has an Employee Appreciation Program, which rewards workers with gift certificates, iPads and computers.

Group activities include day trips to Major League baseball games, Banff, Niagara Falls and New York City, as well as BBQs, bowling nights and jamborees. Among the fairs played by NAME are The Eastern States Exposition in Massachusetts, Toronto’s CNE, the Calgary Stampede, Miami-Dade County Fair & Expo and State Fairs in Mississippi, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

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January 10, 2014: A Head Start on Summer Jobs in Coney Island

February 2, 2010: Traveler: North American Midway’s Giant Vertical Swing at Super Bowl!

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January 26, 2010: Scoop: Zamperla’s $24M Coney Island Park to be Named Luna Park!

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1959

1959: Paul's wife and daughter visit him on the Bowery. Photo © Tina Georgoulakos via Paul's Daughter Facebook

We’re thrilled to report that this afternoon, Tina Georgoulakos of Paul’s Daughter, formerly known as Gregory & Paul’s, signed an 8-year lease for her family’s restaurant on the Coney Island Boardwalk. “I’m happy because the Burger statues wanted to stay where they belonged,” she told ATZ wryly. “Now they will get a new sign.”

In October, Papa Burger, a fiberglass figure on the restaurant’s roof, sported a sign that said “Looking for a New Beach.” The 49-year old Mom-and-Pop had been evicted along with seven others by Zamperla, which runs Luna Park. In a surprising about-face, the amusement operator invited two of the businesses–Paul’s Daughter and Ruby’s Bar–to stay and negotiations have been going on for weeks.

Both Papa and Mama Burger and a mix of new and old hand-painted signage as well as a neon sign are expected to be part of the new Paul’s Daughter when it reopens in April 2012. Tina’s father, 82-year-old Paul “The Chief” Georgoulakos, the oldest operator on the Coney Island Boardwalk, will be back too. It appears that our habit of taking photos of “The Last French Fry” as a good luck charm worked two years in a row!

UPDATE December 12, 2011…Zamperla’s Boardwalk line-up for 2012 is now set. As we noted in the comments, Ruby’s Bar signed an 8-year lease, as did another Boardwalk veteran, the Lola Star Boutique. Tom’s of Prospect Heights will open a second restaurant on the Coney Island Boardwalk, at the corner of Stillwell where Nathan’s and Cha Cha’s were located. See “Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk” (ATZ, November 15, 2011) for details and renderings of the new stores, including Nathan’s, Brooklyn Beach Shop, Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter, as well as the new Sky Coaster and other rides.

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November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

November 13, 2011: The End of Paul’s Daughter As We Know It–Will They Return?

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