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Posts Tagged ‘Coney Island Redevelopment’

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Thor Equities Demolition of the Henderson Building. January 5, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

Coney Island photographer Eric Kowalsky, who documented the demolition of the Bank of Coney Island in November, has eloquently captured the destruction-in-progress of the historic Henderson Music Hall in this series of images.

Eric put his camera through the gate on Henderson Walk to take the above photo of the crushed remains of part of the Henderson Building formerly occupied by Faber’s Fascination. “They took the front and side of the building down. The Bowery is still standing,” he said this morning.

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Thor Equities Demolition of the Henderson Building. January 5, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

Last week we posted historian Charles Denson’s video tribute to the Henderson Theater. As we previously noted, the City aided and abetted Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt by rezoning the Henderson parcel for a high rise hotel. There are however no immediate plans to build a hotel on the site. The City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission denied landmark designation and also declined to create a historic district, which would have created tax incentives to rehab the building.

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Thor Equities Demolition of the Henderson Building. January 5, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

The Henderson Building is the first sight you see on Surf Avenue when you step out of Stillwell Terminal. It is at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues. We should probably use the past tense, though the demolition is still underway. The first sight you see when you step out of Stillwell will soon be another empty lot to add to Joe Sitt’s collection of empty lots.

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Thor Equities Demolition of the Henderson Building. January 5, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

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Related posts on ATZ…

September 29, 2010: Saved or Not? Signs from Coney Island’s Henderson Building

September 24, 2010: Coney Island Cat Is Last Tenant of Henderson Building

September 12, 2010: Video: Coney Island’s Faber’s Fascination by Charles Denson

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

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Good riddance to the tube socks, cellphone accessories, shoe stores and automative supplies of Thor’s Flea in-fest-ation of last summer! Welcome back amusement rides on Coney Island’s Stillwell Avenue? We hope so….

New Sign on Stillwell. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

January 7, 2010: New Sign on Stillwell. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

On Thursday the Coney Island Rumor Mill was abuzz as new signage advertising the property “For Lease” was going up at Thor Equities flea market on Stillwell behind Nathan’s. Photographer and ATZ contributor Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 snapped a photo as dusk fell over the wind-ripped tenting that housed Joe Sitt’s flop of a flea last summer. “Maybe the second highest bidder for city land would be interested in this parcel,” Handy speculated. “Gets a lot of traffic from Nathans and the subway.”

Our guess is that several bidders, including the soon-to-be designated winner, have already made inquiries about leasing Thor’s Stillwell property. During the reply period for the City’s RFP for a Coney Island Amusement Operator to bring rides and attractions to land newly purchased from Joe Sitt, potential bidders asked the City about the adjacent vacant lots. The contact info for Thor Equities and Horace Bullard was posted on the City’s Q & A for all potential bidders to see.

NYCEDC map

Land for Lease by Thor Equities: The Stillwell parcels north of the city-owned Parcels B & C and south of the Bowery. Parcel A is the former Astroland, which is now owned by the City and was up for bid in the RFP. NYCEDC Map.

The timing of Thor’s signs couldn’t have been better. The short-listed respondents to the City’s RFP were reportedly in the City yesterday and today for meetings with the NYCEDC. If the bidders who didn’t make the short list have fire in their belly to come to Coney Island, now is the time for them to deal with Sitt or Bullard. Given Thor Equities’ history of sky-high rents and onerous lease terms, we think the parcels will go to the most highly motivated bidder.

We think the winner of the City’s 10-year lease on their newly acquired 6.9 acres will want to get control of all of Stillwell and keep other amusement operators from gaining a foothold in Coney Island. Joe Sitt sold approximately half of his Stillwell property to the City. But what good is half a sandwich? It’s not enough if you’re an amusement operator with ambitions of becoming the City’s single operator in Coney Island at the end of the 10-year lease.

At Thor Equities Flea by the Sea, Tons of Fun = Lots of Schlock. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Summer 2009: At Thor Equities Flea by the Sea, "Tons of Fun" = Lots of Schlock. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

A RECAP OF THOR’S UNAMUSING FLEA IN-FEST-ATION

After we reported “Memorial Day Weekend Mania: Thor Equities Coney Flea In-Fest-ation Is a Flop” (May 27, 2009), Thor brazenly went back to calling the so called fest “Flea by the Sea,” both on their website and ads. And why not? “Festival by the Sea” was indeed a flea market by the sea. Even though the permit was for a “temporary fair” because the original application for a flea market was disapproved by the DOB, the City did not enforce its own zoning against the illegal flea market in the amusement zone. “Tons of fun” it was not. A salsa band playing two sets on Saturday and Sunday was the sole entertainment at what was wrongfully billed as “A uniquely entertaining and amusing flea market in Coney Island.” We are not exaggerating. If you can stomach it, please view our complete flickr set of Thor Equities Flea Market.

We were not amused by auto supplies at Thor Equities Flea Market in Coney Island.  Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

May 31, 2009: We were not amused by auto supplies at Thor Equities Flea Market in Coney Island. In the background: Shuttered Balloon Racing Game in Thor-owned Henderson Bldg. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Yet we saw police towing away ice cream carts belonging to vendors who lacked licenses. The little guys get their businesses shut down while Thor gets this incubator project for his shopping mall. To people who say to us, the tents are pretty or it’s better than an empty lot, we say Thor Equities deliberately created the empty lots on Stillwell in 2007, when they evicted or bulldozed thriving amusements. Remember the batting cages, go karts, bumper boats, mini golf, and climbing wall? Let’s bring ‘em back to Coney Island in 2010.

Shoes Galore at Anchor Store # 7 at Joe Sitt's Flea by the Sea.vPhoto © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

July 12, 2009: Shoes Galore at Anchor Store # 7 at Joe Sitt's Flea by the Sea. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ...

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

February 10, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Amusement Operators Balk, Money Talks at Stillwell

June 4, 2009: Coney Island Ride Count: Veteran Ride Ops 40, Joe Sitt 10!

May 27, 2009: Memorial Day Weekend Mania: Thor Equities Coney Flea In-Fest-ation Is a Flop

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Shore Hotel Nature's Paradise by the Sea. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Shore Hotel Nature's Paradise by the Sea. April 26, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In an exclusive interview this week on Fox Business News, Joe Sitt, the real estate speculator who’s been holding Coney Island hostage in his battle to turn it into a shopping mall dotted with high rises, had this to say: “The way I look at it you’ve got to let other people play in the sandbox and be a good friend to folks. I’m looking forward to working with the Mayor of New York and sharing the development of Coney Island and hopefully seeing some hotels come to that marketplace.”

Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt sharing? We’re deeply cynical. Sitt’s history in Coney Island has consisted of buying and flipping property (Washington Baths bought for $13 million, sold for $90 million), keeping historic properties vacant or underutilized by evicting longtime tenants or tripling the rent (Astroland, Boardwalk, Grashorn Building, Shore Hotel, west side of Jones Walk), and bulldozing thriving amusements on Stillwell to create empty lots and a failed flea market.

The Coney segment is at the tail end of a conversation about “Rebounding Real Estate?” 4:10 to be precise. Watch it here…

The clip begins with the reporter asking: “What does somebody who owns more than $3 billion dollars worth of property in the nation’s most populated cities have to say about the real estate market and where it’s headed?” As Sitt yaks about investment opportunities in commercial real estate, a caption reminds the viewer that “Thor Equities owns 11 acres of Coney Island Amusement Park.”

Fox didn’t show any pix of Sitt’s property, so here’s a few shots from my Thorland set on flickr (photodocumentation from between 03 Sep 2007 & 18 Jul 2009). In the pic below, note unused tables due to lack of vendors. Note shuttered water race game across the street in the Henderson Building aka the historic Henderson’s Music Hall. Gee that’s funny, didn’t Sitt’s pr flack say Thor Equities property was 100% active in 2009?

More used DVD's at Joe Sitt's Flea Flop. July 12, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

More used DVD's at Joe Sitt's Flea Flop. July 12, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The reporter finally asks Sitt if “you guys” –Joey Coney Island and Mayor Mike– are close to resolving their differences. It’s the question on everyone’s mind. When the City Council passed the Coney Rezoning on July 29, there was some serious wheelin’ and dealin’ going on behind closed doors. Charles Bagli’s article in the New York Times had us on the edge of our seat: “Under the tentative deal, according to officials and executives involved in the talks, the city will buy six of Mr. Sitt’s 10 acres, leaving the remaining property on Surf and Stillwell Avenues for him to develop.” The City and Sitt’s attorney were said to be negotiating till 11 pm on the night before the hearing and through the Council meeting. Evidently the two sides never sealed the deal, or perhaps the selling price was deemed too exorbitant to make public before the election? Oh, if we were a fly on the wall at these so-called negotiations, what a delicious tell-all this would be!

Now Sitt is telling Fox News that there have been bumps in the road, but he and “Mayor Mike” are closer than they’ve ever been to a deal. Well, this is not exactly news because Bloomberg said what amounts to the same thing in a sit-down with the Brooklyn Paper back in August: “Fundamentally, the deal with him is done.”

Thor Equities Space for Lease. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Thor Equities Space for Lease Sign on the Still Vacant Bank of Coney Island Building. August 8, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

For the past four months, it’s been awfully quiet on the Coney Island redevelopment news front. It’s as if all of the usual sources had been told to keep their lips zipped till after the election. Yet the Coney Island Rumor Mill is abuzz. Rumors come and go, but the one that sticks around is that the City is buying the Astroland site and will close on it after Bloomberg wins a third term.

Unanswered questions: Is the City buying more than the Astro site from Sitt? What happened to the now three-month-old, 6 out of 10 acres deal? Or will the City go all out and buy the Stillwell lots as well? What will happen to the former Bank of Coney Island building on 12th Street and the Henderson Music Hall at Stillwell and Bowery. Both historic buildings occupy lots rezoned for the proposed high rise “hotels.” Will Sitt keep ‘em and flip ‘em in 2010? In the vid, the Thor CEO describes 2010 as the magic year he’s been waiting for patiently.

The Grashorn, Coney Island's Oldest Building. Shuttered and Destined for Demolition. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Grashorn, Coney Island's Oldest Building. Destined for Demolition? April 18, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

As for “seeing some hotels come to that marketplace”… We’ve never heard anyone but Sitt refer to Coney as a marketplace. Thor Equities falsely advertised the flea fest as “the most thrilling open air market on the planet” and “a uniquely entertaining and amusing marketplace in Coney Island.” Instead it was a desecration of the C-7 amusement zone. This property is where amusements such as batting cages, go karts, bumper boats and mini golf thrived until Joe Sitt bulldozed them in 2007 to make way for “site preparation.”

Forget sharing. We recommend that Mayor Mike buy out Joe, no matter what it costs. The Mayor has spent $85 million to win a third term, he can afford to buy back Coney Island. If re-elected, Bloomberg is destined to go down in history as the Mayor Who Saved Coney Island or the Mayor Who Killed Coney Island by Letting Joe Sitt Get Away with Murder. As for Joe Sitt, we recommend that he take his own advice about the rebounding real estate market. At one point in the video he says “I think Brazil is the single biggest opportunity…” That’s great, Joe. Please move there. Permanently. Here’s an airline schedule. Adeus.

The Henderson Building: Thor Equities banner dwarfs Shoot out the Star. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Henderson Building: Thor Equities banner dwarfs Shoot out the Star. January 1, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ...

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

February 10, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Amusement Operators Balk, Money Talks at Stillwell

January 8, 2010: Coney Island 2010: Good Riddance to Thor Equities Flopped Flea Market, Hello Rides?

June 4, 2009: Coney Island Ride Count: Veteran Ride Ops 40, Joe Sitt 10!

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