We’re marking the year’s end with a look back at ATZ’s Top 10 Coney Island News Stories of 2012 along with updates. Thanks to the writers and readers who linked to our posts this year. Thanks to everyone who shared comments, both online and in person. If you’re already subscribing to ATZ updates via Feedburner, the service is now virtually defunct since Google is in the process of shutting it down. Email updates have not been going out for several days though this one was sent. We recommend resubscribing via WordPress.com’s new “Follow Amusing the Zillion” widget in the right column. There’s also an RSS feed at the top of the page.
1. “Photo Album: Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath in Coney Island,” October 30, 2011 and “Photos of the Day: Hurricane Sandy Approaches Coney Island,” October 29, 2012
The biggest Coney Island news story of the year was of course Hurricane Sandy. Photos of the approaching SuperStorm in Coney Island and Sea Gate by Charles Denson and the day after in Coney Island by Jim McDonnell had the most visitors followed by updates on the storm’s impact in the amusement area. During the storm surge, Surf Avenue as well as Mermaid and Neptune Avenues and adjacent streets were submerged in 4 to 5 feet of water that came from the bay, the creek, overflowing sewers and the rising tide. Jim McDonnell’s photos from the day after Hurricane Sandy show the high water mark at Surf and Stillwell, the twisted sign on the landmarked Shore Theater and the damaged Steeplechase Pier.
Luckily, the landmark Cyclone and Wonder Wheel will be fine and the parks are scheduled to open as usual on Palm Sunday, which is March 24, 2013. However, cleanup and rebuilding is an ongoing effort for the parks, arcades and other businesses in Coney Island’s amusement area as well as for the neighborhood. For post-Sandy news, see “Update on Coney Island’s Amusement Area After Sandy,” November 9, 2012 and “Coney Island Post-Sandy: A Few Stores Reopen, Most Delayed by Damage,” November 24, 2012. How can you help? Read “Coney Island Nonprofits Begin to Raise Funds After Sandy,” December 10, 2012.
ATZ’s #2 news story based on page views was “Zip Line Coming to Coney Island’s Stillwell Avenue in July,” June 28, 2012. There was so much interest in this high-thrill attraction that managed to open only briefly, we’d be surprised if somebody didn’t open a zip line next season. The scaffolding remains standing behind Nathan’s, apparently undamaged by Sandy. Plans to install the 60-foot-high, 400-foot-long zip line in Coney Island first came to our attention in June via an introductory special on Pinchit of 50 percent off the regular price. Originally set to open on July 1, the zip line’s debut was rescheduled for late July and then August due to permitting delays. After umpteen updates to our original post, ATZ tweeted on September 12: “Wow, will the long delayed Coney Island Zipline open this weekend?!?! Right now people are zipping across in test runs #BetterLateThanNever.” Our final update: The ride was open for a day and a half before being closed by the City for permit issues and will not reopen. On October 8th, ATZ received an email from the BK Festival operators which said: “After a very long and difficult process the city still didn’t issue the permit needed to operate the zip line.”
3. In January, ATZ broke the news of the discovery of a “Remnant of Under Boardwalk Bar Found in Coney Island,” January 31, 2012. Menus of one of the rathskellers that thrived under the Boardwalk in the 1940s and ’50s were found on a basement wall by Maya Haddad of Brooklyn Beach Shop when she moved into the first floor. The name of the rathskeller remains unknown, but beer and milk were 10 cents, coffee was a nickel. The sandwich menu included hamburger, egg, cream cheese, American cheese, Swiss cheese, Sardine or Salmon, Ham, Salami or Liverwurst, Ham & Egg, and a Western. Could this be the place where the boy in the 1953 movie The Little Fugitive returned soda bottles to collect money to go on the rides?
4. “Opening Today: Coney Island Grimaldi’s Pizzeria,” June 23, 2012
After three months of construction, an outpost of the famed DUMBO pizzeria Grimaldi’s opened in Coney Island on Mermaid Parade Weekend. Located on the north side of Surf Avenue across the street from the amusement parks, its illuminated sign boasts a 3-D Brooklyn Bridge and a New York City skyline. Inside the cavernous space, vintage photos of old Coney Island and the City’s rendering of the new Coney Island line the brick walls. Despite Grimaldi’s policy of “No Credit Cards – No Reservations – No Slices – No Delivery,” the new restaurant quickly became a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Its success has helped make the north side of Surf attractive to national franchisees including a Johnny Rockets and an Applebee’s, who have snapped up leases on neighboring storefronts. Grimaldi’s is among the many local businesses that suffered flood damage from Sandy and is expected to reopen in the spring.
5. “Thor’s Coney Island: Generic New Building at Surf & Stillwell,” February 2, 2012
After seven years of real estate speculation and many grandiose renderings, the construction fencing came down from Thor Equities first-ever new construction in Coney Island (flea market tents don’t count) to reveal a sterile-looking building suited for a suburban mall. The site is on the southeast corner of Surf and Stillwell, the gateway to Coney’s Beach and Boardwalk as well as Scream Zone’s roller coasters and thrill rides. A few weeks later, the vacant building was encased in plywood. Just before Christmas, Thor Equities announced a plan to lease space in the building to Brooklyn business owners at a 40% rent reduction for a one-year lease term, which makes us think it’s best suited for a “pop-up store.” As much as the building looks out of place in Coney Island, we hope it can be activated for some kind of creative use this summer.
6. “Thor Destroys 119-Year-Old Relics of Coney Trolley History,” February 21, 2012
When Thor Equities laid a new sidewalk on Surf Avenue in front of the building pictured in #5, two trolley utility poles which date back to the 1890s and had been documented in previous photos were demolished. What is the history of these humble artifacts? ATZ learned that when trolley service on the Surf Avenue-Seagate line ended on December 1, 1946, the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce requested that the poles on both sides of Surf Avenue be left in place in the amusement area to be used for holiday decorations. Ten years ago, 64 poles were counted. There are currently 43 poles along Surf Avenue, including the ones in front of Luna Park pictured above, which are painted red, white and blue.
7. “Summer Jobs: From Coney Island to the Carnival Midway,” February 24, 2012
While we got hits on this post throughout the year, February is the time to begin applying for a job if you’d like to work in Coney Island or travel across the country with a carnival. In 2012, Central Amusement International, operator of Coney Island’s Luna Park and Scream Zone, and Nathan’s Famous, together with the Coney Island Development Corporation, announced their first recruitment event for seasonal positions at the end of February with subsequent events in March and April. Seasonal jobs include Ride and Game Operators, Food and Beverage Service, Park Service, Customer Service/Retail Sales and Ticket Sales Associates/Cashiers. 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.
8. “60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado,” March 20, 2012
In March, Sheila Buxbaum Fitlin and Sandy Fitlin, whose families have operated businesses in Coney Island for more than six decades, sold the building that houses the Eldorado Auto Skooters and Arcade on Surf Avenue to Thor Equities. Their son Scott Fitlin was the DJ extraordinaire of Surf Avenue’s legendary disco palace of “Bump, Bump, Bump Your Ass Off” bumper cars and his untimely death at the age of 48 had left the attraction’s future in question. As it turned out, Gordon Lee who managed both the bumper cars and the arcade for the Fitlins after their son’s death, was able to negotiate a one-year lease with Thor and operated the business for the season. After a “Last Ride 2012 Party” on the eve of Hurricane Sandy, the Eldorado is expected to ride again this summer. The good news is Lee, who bought the equipment from the Fitlins last year, won a lease extension with reduced rent from Thor. The bad news is flooding from the storm soaked both the ride and the arcade, which will need costly repairs. Check out our original post to see the last music video shot at the Eldorado Auto Skooters just a few weeks before the storm.
9. “The 10 People Who Will Decide the Fate of Coney Island Boardwalk,” March 9, 2012
When we wrote this post to alert readers to the twice-postponed hearing before the City’s Public Design Commission to decide the fate of the Coney Island Boardwalk, we naively believed that the PDC would conduct a fair hearing, despite the fact that quotes in a New York Times article indicated two of the Commissioners had been persuaded by Parks to support the plan in advance. At the previous hearing in October, they refused to approve the Parks Department’s plan and said that more environmental and engineering studies were needed to address the questions that they had. A few weeks after the hearing we wrote this follow-up post titled “The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues,” March 22, 2012:
“The way the meeting was conducted made a mockery of democracy and public hearings. 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?” 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. In December, Judge Martin Solomon, who self-importantly told the courtroom that he knew “more about the boardwalk than probably anybody here,” ruled that the Parks Department could go ahead with the plan without doing additional environmental studies requested by Boardwalk advocates in a lawsuit. If you count the judge, seven people got to decide the fate of the Coney Island Boardwalk.
10. “Photo Album: Coney Island Lights & Signs of the Times,” May 29, 2012
Memorial Day Weekend in Coney Island saw the debut of new lights and signage as well as the return of some old favorites. Making their debut were the Coney Island Raceway Sign for Scream Zone’s Go Karts and the solar-powered lights on Deno’s Wonder Wheel. Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter opened their renovated stores on the Coney Island Boardwalk and brought back some of their hand-painted signs advertising clams and fried shrimp. The new look for the Boardwalk includes lighted custom signs replacing much of the vernacular signage of recent decades. One of the Boardwalk’s new stores, the Brooklyn Beach Shop, features a glass-fronted storefront with custom brickwork and a 6-foot-tall stone Steeplechase face. Lola Star’s fashionably skinny boutique on the Boardwalk is crowned with a dazzling sign of blinking white lights encircling a pink neon “Lola Star” designed by the shop’s eponymous owner.
Related posts on ATZ…
December 28, 2012: Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island Videos of 2012
December 30, 2011: Amusing the Zillion’s Fave 11 Posts of 2011 – Part 1
December 27, 2011: Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island News Stories of 2011
January 1, 2011: Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island News Stories of 2010