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Posts Tagged ‘Coney Island 2013’

Boardwalk at Dusk

Coney Island Boardwalk at Dusk, July 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

We’re marking the year’s end with a look back at Coney Island news reported by ATZ in 2013, including wins, losses, entrances, exits and silver linings. In past years, we’ve focused on Top 10 lists, but this year’s top news included multiple posts about successful efforts to rebuild and reopen after Superstorm Sandy, as well as new construction and last goodbyes. We’ve also selected the most overlooked news story and our favorite post of 2013.

WINS
Ever since The Parachute Jump’s dazzling new 8,000 LEDs debuted in June, the landmark tower’s light show has continued nightly except for a few computer glitches. 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. The Christmas lighting scheme spells “Happy Holidays!” [Update: Check the Coney Island webcam before you go.] Another bright spot in 2013 was Luna Park’s Boardwalk gate, where pinwheels and crescent moons similar to the design that graces the Surf Avenue entryway debuted in March.

Lead Horse on B&B Carousell

Lead Horse ‘Built by MC Illions’ on the B&B Carousell, Coney Island. May 24, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

The lead horse on the beautifully restored B&B Carousell, which reopened in May in the new Steeplechase Plaza, is a rare steed. Sumptuous detailing on its trappings includes a relief of Abe Lincoln and the Coney Island carver‘s signature “Built by MC Illions.” According to carousel historian Marianne Stevens, the horse was one of four carved in 1909 in honor of the Centennial of Lincoln’s birth and the only one remaining on a working carousel. Now if only the B&B were open year-round as it used to be, we would once again go for a spin on New Year’s Day!

SILVER LININGS

Steeplechase Pier

Coney Island’s Reconstructed Steeplechase Pier. October 2, 2013. Photo © Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project via flickr

The silver lining to Sandy was that some of the public amenities and amusement park icons ravaged by the storm were not only rebuilt but have also undergone a dramatic improvement from the way they looked before (“Photo Album: Four Transformations, One Year After Sandy,” ATZ, October 30, 2013). Steeplechase Pier, a popular spot for strolling, sunbathing, fishing and watching the fireworks, finally reopened on October 2nd after several months of reconstruction by T.B. Penick and Triton Structural.

New features include a wave-shaped communal lounger and a shade structure with letters spelling out CONEY ISLAND. LTL Architects redesign for the reconstruction of the pier won Special Recognition at the 31st Annual Awards for Excellence in Design by the New York City Design Commission.

The Coney Island Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library has also made a remarkable comeback from Sandy. Built in 1956, the library not only has new books and DVDs, the interior was beautifully redesigned to reflect the history of the neighborhood and meet the 21st century needs of the community.

Spook-A-Rama

Rebuilding Spook-A-Rama, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. February 22,2013. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Spook-A-Rama, Coney Island’s oldest dark ride, which dates back to the 1950s and is part of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, was severely damaged due to flooding during Superstorm Sandy. When the park opened in March, new ghouls mingled with old inside the carefully rehabbed ride, winning high marks from ride aficionados. The eye-popping exterior artwork and restored Pretzel cars and tracks survived. Grandma’s Predictions, a rare 1920s fortunetelling machine under the Wonder Wheel, was rejuvenated by “eye surgery,” new wax hands cast from the original mold and a handcrafted cabinet based on the original design.

Grandma's Predictions

Grandma’s Predictions, newly restored 90-year-old fortunetelling machine under the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island. May 12, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

LOSSES

During the Coney Island rezoning hearings, the Municipal Art Society said the 1964 Astrotower was eligible for the State and National Registers. This year, over the July 4th holiday, the last vestige of Astroland on the Coney Island skyline met a spectacularly sad end. Reports that the tower was swaying more than usual caused the City’s Office of Emergency Management to shut down Coney Island’s amusement parks. The top of the tower was removed, a more than 12-hour operation that enabled the surrounding rides to reopen at 3 PM on the 4th of July. Over the next two days, the rest of the tower was chopped down and hauled off to the Cropsey Avenue junkyard.

Astrotower

Local resident Rochelle Goldman, who live-tweeted the last hours of the demolition, posing with section of the Astrotower, July 5, 2013. Photo © Rochelle Goldman

In August, Jimmy McCullough, 84, whose family has operated amusements in Coney Island for four generations, passed away at his home. ATZ wrote about the McCullough family’s history in Coney when their 50-year-old kiddie park at the Bowery and 12th Street closed at the end of the 2012 season after a lease renewal with Thor Equities fell through. The lot has stood vacant ever since. Jimmy McCullough also owned and operated three historic carousels in Coney Island, including the B&B Carousell, which are now in City parks and are the family’s lasting legacy to the people of New York City.

Playland Arcade Mural

The Curious Playland Arcade Art of Larry Millard at the Coney Island History Project. Photo © Charles Denson

On Valentine’s Day, the Playland Arcade building, which had been vacant for the past thirty years, was finally demolished. Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project managed to save the remaining letters on the facade– L, N and D– and several of the whimsical yet deteriorating murals, which were featured in the exhibit “The Curious Playland Arcade Art of Larry Millard.”

EXITS and ENTRANCES

Mangels Shooting Gallery

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

Among the stores that closed forever due to damage after Sandy were Cha Cha’s of Coney Island, which had relocated to Surf Avenue in 2012 after losing their lease on the Boardwalk. Denny’s Ice Cream, the beloved ice cream shop established in 1978 was replaced by a rare 1940s Mangels Shooting Gallery on loan from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and restored and operated by Coney Island USA.

Shooting galleries enjoyed a revival this past season in post-Sandy Coney Island. At Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, a haunted parlor-themed shooting gallery with animated targets made by ScareFactory replaced the flood-damaged Scarface gallery. Shoot the Freak was reborn on the Bowery as Shoot the Clown. Luna Park brought loo-nacy to Jones Walk with Stinky Feet, a multi-target water-race game with guns that are replicas of bathtub faucets and seats that look like toilets!

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

The opening of Place to Beach Bar and other CAI Food LLC eateries marked Luna Park operator Central Amusement International’s first foray into the food business in Coney Island. French food service giant Sodexo had been their partner for “On Site Service Solutions” since 2010 and their departure was something to cheer about.

In December 2012, ATZ asked “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” A few more chain stores have opened on Surf and Stillwell since we wrote about three national franchises– Applebee’s, Johnny Rockets and Red Mango–signing leases for the north side of Surf Avenue.

Surf and Stillwell

Thor Equities Retail Building at Surf and Stillwell, Coney Island. May 29, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

After eight years of real estate speculation and the rezoning of Coney Island, Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt’s “Retail Ride of a Lifetime” (ugh) finally began in 2013. In February, ATZ learned from sources that candy retailer It’Sugar would be the first tenant at Thor’s new retail building at Surf and Stillwell. The glitzy candy emporium is open year-round unlike the Rainbow Shop and Brooklyn Nets Store, which were seasonal. The transformation of Surf Avenue into a mecca for chains and franchises is well underway, with Johnny Rockets and Subway Cafe currently under construction on the north side of Surf (on properties which are not owned by Thor) and slated to open in 2014.

Under Construction: Jimmy Balloons New Balloon Dart. March 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

While franchises and chains are expected to attract more of the same to Surf Avenue, a dwindling number of independent operators struggle to keep a foothold in the amusement area. In 2013, Jimmy Balloons built a new booth on Jones Walk under the Wonder Wheel’s neon sign. The lease on his longtime location on the Bowery was held by Manny Cohen of Coney Island Arcade, who was evicted after 22 years and moved his business to Vegas taking Target the Coney Island Cat with him.

Manny Cohen and Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat

Manny Cohen and Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat. April 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

We’re thankful to all the blogs and dailies who have linked to ATZ over the past year. But there’s one story that we wish had gotten picked up by other media outlets. ATZ’s vote for our most under-appreciated or overlooked Coney Island news story of 2013 goes to our posts about Thor Equities dummy arcades. All season long, flashy signs for an ARCADE fronting empty space with “Retail Space Available” signs have made a mockery of the City’s 2009 rezoning requiring a percentage of amusements on the property. (“The New Coney Island: Thor Equities Vacant Lots, Dummy Arcades,” ATZ, October 17, 2013); “Thor’s Coney Island: Retail Ride of a Lifetime’s Phantom Arcade,” ATZ, June 12, 2013).

Thor Equities

Thor Equities Retail Building with Tenants It’Sugar and Rainbow Shops and Dummy Arcade Sign Where No Arcade Exists. September 29, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The fact that Thor CEO Joe Sitt can’t be bothered to install the minimum amusements required by the new zoning — a couple of tiny arcades – in his first new construction in Coney Island does not bode well for the future of any type of amusement on his long-vacant property, from which he has previously evicted all amusement operators. Will Sitt try to win a zoning variance to get rid of the amusement requirement from the City’s Board of Standards and Appeals in the next administration?

Finally, our fave post of 2013 – ta da da da!– is “Sea Rabbits Swim Ashore in Coney Island, Up For Adoption,” posted on April 1st. It is quite possibly yours too, since this post is among ATZ’s Top 5 posts of 2013. Greetings and Happy New Year from Coney Island!

sea Rabbits

Sea Rabbits. Photo © Dr. Takeshi Yamada at the Coney Island Sea Rabbit Repopulation Center

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Friday Night Fireworks

Friday Night Fireworks with Wonder Wheel in Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy

UPDATE May 10, 2014: Readers are already starting to ask about this year’s fireworks, so here you go: The first Friday night fireworks show of Coney Island’s 2014 season will be on June 20, the eve of both the first day of summer and the Mermaid Parade. Schedule for 2014 fireworks is here.

The first Friday night fireworks show of Coney Island’s 2013 season will be on June 21, the first day of summer and the eve of the Mermaid Parade. This free weekly event continues every Friday through August 30. Sponsored by the Alliance for Coney Island, the pyrotechnic extravaganza starts at 9:30 pm. Best viewing is on the Boardwalk from West 10th to West 12th Streets or from the Wonder Wheel. Another popular viewing spot, Steeplechase Pier, is currently under renovation after damage from Superstorm Sandy and expected to reopen in July.

The Brooklyn Cyclones have also scheduled fireworks on the following six Saturdays after their home games as well as on one Tuesday – the team’s opening day, June 18th –and one Wednesday, which falls on July 3rd. This year every Saturday night fireworks show will have a special musical theme, including Jimmy Buffett, Bruce Springsteen and the Beatles. Ebbets Field 100th Anniversary, an old-time baseball exhibition, Scout sleepovers and other special events as well as the starting times for the games are listed on the Cyclones promo schedule.

Tuesday June 18 – BROOKLYN CYCLONES OPENING DAY – vs. Staten Island Yankees – Homecoming Fireworks
Saturday, June 22 – vs. Aberdeen IronBirds – Jimmy Buffett Fireworks
Saturday, June 29 – vs. Hudson Valley Renegades – Girl Power Fireworks
Wednesday, July 3 – vs. Staten Island Yankees – Patriotic Fireworks
Saturday, July 20 – vs. Batavia Muckdogs – Springsteen Fireworks
Saturday, Aug 10 – vs. State College Spikes – Billy Joel Fireworks
Saturday, August 17 – vs. Vermont Lake Monsters – Disney Fireworks
Saturday, August 31 – vs. Aberdeen IronBirds – Beatles Fireworks

The fireworks after the home games are shot off from MCU Stadium located between West 16th and West 19th Streets and are best viewed inside the ballpark or from the Boardwalk or adjacent streets.

UPDATE: A special Fourth of July Celebration and Fireworks Show was announced this week. The Brooklyn Cyclones and the Alliance for Coney Island are hosting the event at MCU Park. This means that Coney Island will have fireworks three days in a row — on July 3, 4 and 5! According to the news release for the July 4 event:

Admission is free, however donations will be accepted to benefit the Brooklyn Public Library and #ConeyRecovers, an initiative of local organizations working in partnership to assist with the recovery of the Coney Island community.

The gates will be open at 4:30 p.m. and all ballpark concessions and restrooms will be available to the public.

During the event, attendees can enjoy:
• A pig roast presented by Thomas Joseph Catering
• “Beers of New York” Beer Garden
• A special performance by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn
• Live music from oldies and Top 40 cover bands
• Family activities including the “Fastest Arm in Brooklyn Competition” on the Brooklyn Cyclones speed pitch

The event will culminate with a tremendous Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza at 9 p.m., preceded by a performance from the Brooklyn String Orchestra.

Fourth of July in Coney Island kicks off with the world-renowned Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest beginning with the women contestants at 11:30AM and the men at 12 noon at the Original Nathan’s of Coney Island located on Stillwell Avenue. Pre-show entertainment begins at 10:30AM

For more information, please call 718.37.BKLYN

When the weather is iffy on a day that fireworks are scheduled, check the Coney Island tweeters on Coney Island Fun’s list for updates. Thanks to People’s Playground photographer Bruce Handy for his splendid photo of one of last summer’s fireworks shows.

Related posts on ATZ…

May 29, 2013: Coney Island Flicks on the Beach Opens July 1 with Little Fugitive

May 13, 2013: Grimaldi’s Rings in Coney Island Comeback with Dreamland Bell

April 16, 2013: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Sunset by Bruce Handy

April 2, 2013: Shoot the Freak Reborn in Coney Island as Shoot the Clown

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Mermaid Parade Kickstarter

In an article about Coney Island for Islands Magazine’s “Best Beaches” issue in 2000, I asked “How are mermaids different from mortal women?” A siren wearing little more than a sequined fishtail and a sprinkling of glitter looked me in the eye and said, “Mortal women don’t have the boom-boom shimmy-sham that mermaids possess. For another thing, we have all that fantasy on our side.” Everyone who comes to Coney Island partakes in that fantasy. It’s hard to imagine kicking off the summer in Coney Island without the Mermaid Parade, but it could happen for the first time in 31 years unless $100,000 is raised via Kickstarter by June 3rd.

Best Mermaid Kate Dale

Three-time “Best Mermaid” Kate Dale on Purple Sofa Float in 2008 Mermaid Parade. June 21, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island USA, the non-profit arts organization that puts on the free parade, was devastated by Superstorm Sandy. Its sideshow, burlesque shows and Freak Bar have yet to open for the season as renovation of the flood-damaged first floor is underway. While Coney Island’s rides, games and Boardwalk shops and eateries opened as usual on Palm Sunday, Coney Island USA’s theater has remained dark. With no revenue coming in, there’s a budget shortfall in the mermaid department.

Amy Winehouse Mermaids

Amy Winehouse Mermaids sing They Wanted Me to 2 Go CONDO but I said NO NO NO in 2008 Mermaid Parade. June 21, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

“A free parade is expensive,” says the intro on Kickstarter. “As the crowds have grown to 750,000 people over the past years, we’ve had to contend with more regulations and restrictions that have sharply increased the cost of the event.” The good news is the crowdfunding campaign to save the June 22nd event has already raised one-third of the $100,000 goal with contributions ranging from $1 to $250. But Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing funding model. The project must be fully funded for the parade to be saved. Thank you gifts include freak flags ($5 or more), pasties and tote bags ($40 or more), and a VIP spot on an elevated roof deck to watch the parade ($150 or more).

Lollipop and Candy Memaids

Lollipop and Candy Mermaids in 2009 Mermaid Parade. June 20, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

April 2, 2013: Shoot the Freak Reborn in Coney Island as Shoot the Clown

February 28, 2013: Coney Island Shooting Gallery from 1940s Makes Comeback

April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

January 3, 2012: Record 3,000 “Do It” at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

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