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Posts Tagged ‘demolition’

Surf Avenue

Guys in Hazmat suits doing interior demo work at Thor Equities-owned building at 1106 Surf Ave, December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

On Saturday, we were alarmed to receive a call about men in hazmat suits starting interior demolition on Thor Equities-owned Grashorn, Coney Island’s oldest building. Asked by a pedestrian if there was danger, a worker replied they were doing demolition. The work continued through the weekend. A dumpster in front of the building filled up with sheetrock, ductwork insulation, and mattresses. There are no permits posted, nor are there any work permits on the DOB website for the buildings at 1102-1106 Surf Avenue. Anonymous tipsters sent us these photos.

Last month ATZ posted “Rumor Mill Says Coney’s Oldest Building To be Demolished” (ATZ, November 15, 2013). Was the Rumor Mill right? As it turns out, the demo crew was working next door to the Grashorn building where Henry Grashorn’s hardware store was in the 1880s. They are doing interior demo in the neighboring space that was G. Grashorn’s Groceries. The buildings also housed the Grashorn family’s hotel but due to alterations to the facade were not considered eligible for landmarking by the City’s Landmark’s Commission.

Surf Avenue

Thor Equities-owned buildings on Surf Ave, December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

We’ll look into the matter of the permits this week. In the past, there’s been a lag on updates to the DOB site. In 2010, Thor’s teardown of the Henderson Music Hall caught people by surprise as the asbestos abatement that preceded the demo got underway. Also without any permits posted, it should be noted.

The storefronts at 1106 Surf Avenue are newly vacant, having been occupied by Gameworld arcade, a pina colada stand and other concessions for the past four seasons. The neighboring Grashorn building at 1102-1104 Surf Avenue, which also has frontage on Jones Walk, has been vacant since 2008 as ATZ reported in “The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks” (ATZ, Sept. 2, 2013).

The Grashorn no longer has a C of O after having been gutted, though it looked great as the Susquehanna Hat Company in an episode of HBO’s Bored to Death in 2011. Save Coney Island has published renderings showing the potential of the building if restored. Henry Grashorn was a founding director of the Bank of Coney Island, the Mardi Gras Association and the Coney Island Church and Rescue Home. His hardware store catered to Coney Island’s amusement businesses for six decades and the building later housed shooting galleries, arcades, and cotton candy and taffy stands.

Surf Avenue

Dumpster at Thor Equities Building on Surf Ave, Coney Island. December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

In addition to the Henderson, Thor CEO Joe Sitt demolished two other historic Surf Avenue properties–the Bank of Coney Island and the Shore Hotel in 2010, after his lots on the south side of Surf were rezoned by the city for 30 story hotels. Only the buildings that once housed the Grashorn hardware and grocery store remain. If Coney Island’s oldest is going down to become another empty lot to add to Joe Sitt’s collection of empty lots in Coney Island, it won’t happen unnoticed. We promise to make a lot of noise.

Thor Equities purchased the Grashorn (1102-1104 Surf Ave.) for $1.4 million in 2005 and the adjacent building at 1106 for $2.2 million in 2006, according to Property Shark.

UPDATE December 9, 2013:

Sources say the FDNY inspected the building last week and the property owner was fined and required to clean the fire hazard caused by squatters. Squatters have been living there since at least 2010. It takes the FDNY to get Thor to maintain their property and keep it safe? The public cannot access the FDNY’s database but has to put in a request for a search which takes 10 days and costs 10 bucks. Betcha 20 we’ll have more info from the Rumor Mill sooner than that!

Surf Avenue

Thor Equities-owned buildings at 1102-1106 Surf Ave, Coney Island. December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

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October 17, 2013: The New Coney Island: Thor Equities Vacant Lots, Dummy Arcades

September 2, 2013: The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks

September 9, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Faber’s Fascination Goes Dark After 50 Years

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

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The Remains of the Astrotower

The Astrostump is all that remains of the 275-foot Astrotower. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

After the nightmarish July 4 Holiday Weekend demolition of the Swaying Tower of Coney Island, all that remains in Luna Park are a few feet, shown above, covered with tarp. It looks like a grave. The media appear to have lost interest in what they called “the iconic Astrotower” as soon as it was chopped down to about 90 feet, a third of its original size.

News reports that “Officials have not said yet whether the tower will be reassembled or if it’s gone for good” are ridiculous. The tower was not dismantled, bolt by bolt. It was cut apart with a blowtorch and the pieces were hauled off to the Cropsey Avenue scrapyard, where fans rushed to photograph it and salvage pieces as a souvenir.

Coney fans on social media are referring to what’s left of the tower in Coney Island as the Astrostump or the Lunastump. Some of our friends who live in nearby high rises and for whom the Astrotower was an intrinsic part of the skyline say something’s missing and they feel sad.

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

It is more than sad. The Parachute Jump, sole survivor of Steeplechase, endured years of neglect and threats of demolition before being landmarked in 1988 and rehabbed in 2002. Astroland, Coney’s Island’s Space-Age theme park, opened in 1964, which was Steeplechase’s final season. For children of the late 60’s and the 1970’s and beyond, Astroland Park was Coney Island.

The tower was all that remained of Astroland in the new Coney Island and now it’s gone.

Astrotower

Astrotower, September 9, 2007. Photo © Adrian Kinloch via britinbrooklyn.net

This photo and the one below were snapped by photographer Adrian Kinloch on the last day of the 2007 season, when the observation tower last operated as a ride.

Astroland was built on the site of Feltman’s, the restaurant and amusement park complex owned by Charles Feltman, the inventor of the hot dog. When the Albert family decided to develop the park, Jerry Albert began making trips to the West Coast and Europe to seek out state-of-the-art rides. Designed and built by Willy Bühler Space Towers Company of Switzerland with cabins by Von Roll, the $1.7 million dollar Astrotower was the first of its kind in the U.S. when it was installed.

“Who Wants An Outlandish Astrotower? Who Wants A Big Bagel in the Sky?” said an editorial in the World Telegram and Sun when the Astrotower made its debut in 1964, according to the book “Coney Island and Astroland” by Charles Denson. “There’s only one place where anyone would dare to put up such a thing, and that’s Coney Island, that land of the frivolous, where gaiety and fun have reigned for years. We’re glad to see the old place hasn’t lost it’s zest for the bizarre.” R.I.P. Astrotower, 1964-2013.

Astrotower

Hungry March Band Play as they Ride Astrotower on Astroland’s Last Night of 2007 Season, September 9, 2007. Photo © Adrian Kinloch via britinbrooklyn.net

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July 3, 2013: Long Live Coney Island’s Swaying, Singing Astrotower!

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

September 28, 2012: Astrotower Lit for 1st Time Since Astroland Closed in 2008

May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

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Astrotower Tattoo

Coney fan with new Astrotower Tattoo “Astroland 1962-2008 R.I.P” on the park’s last day, September 7, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Update July 6, 2013, 9:41PM… RIP Astrotower! The sad and startling four-day, July 4th Holiday Week Demolition of the Astrotower  ended this morning with the last sections of the tower being chopped down and hauled off to the scrapyard on Cropsy Avenue. The base has been covered with tarp–it looks like a grave. Coney fans on social media are referring to what’s left of it as the Astrostump or the Lunastump.

ATZ’s updates from July 3 through 5 have been moved to the end of this post, which was written in the early morning hours of July 3, when we thought the swaying tower had been declared safe and the parks would open at noon the next day as usual. Luna Park sent out a tweet every hour overnight linking to this July 2 Facebook post which says “The NYC Buildings Department has announced that the Astrotower is stable and poses no immediate risk.”

For those of us who know and love the swaying, singing Astrotower, one of the last survivors of Astroland in Coney Island, yesterday’s news reports that the FDNY had rushed to the scene to monitor the stability of the tower was shocking. The Daily News described the Coney icon as the “Tower of Trepidation,” all because an alarmed tourist, unaware that the tower has always swayed, called 911. The amusement parks had to be closed and evacuated.

Late Tuesday night, Luna Park reassured Facebook fans that the Department of Buildings deemed the Astrotower stable. Whew! We hope that means the parks reopen today, the big Fourth of July celebration can go on as scheduled and the tower will finally get some TLC. And maybe a sign that says Swaying Tower of Coney Island?

Here’s magicalthemepark’s video of the swaying Astrotower back in May…

ATZ was skeptical from the get-go that the Astrotower was “unstable.” The tower has always swayed. “It all has to do with the angle of the wind. A very strong flow of wind at the right angle will cause it to sway,” Mark Blumenthal, former operations manager of Astroland told ATZ. “If it’s a high tide, it may help it.” He recalled an incident during Matt Kennedy’s 100th birthday party at Gargiulo’s in 2005 when he had to rush back to Astroland because the tower’s sway had caused police and firetrucks to converge on the scene. A former NYC Department of Buildings inspector was called in to do an engineering report and the tower passed muster.

In this video by Jay Singer, the mystical tower also sings like an Aeolian harp…

Ever since Luna Park was built on the Astroland site in April 2010, there’d been talk of Zamperla re-purposing the Tower as signage or possibly restoring it as a ride. Since nothing was done, the 270-foot observation tower got rusty and began to look like a neglected step-child amid the glittering new rides on the skyline.

Last September, after the Tower was relit for the first time since Astroland closed in 2008, Luna Park confirmed via their Facebook page that it “will provide Coney Island with a spectacular, night-time extravaganza,” but will not be reactivated as a ride.

Zamperla removed the gondola –which had given the Astrotower its nickname the “Bagel in the Sky”– and counter weights from the tower in March, after getting a permit to do so last summer. The lighting of the Astrotower with LEDs, similar to what was done with the Parachute Jump, has been planned for next season.

This fabulous on-ride video by amusement ride site The DoD3 shows the Astrotower in operation in 2007, which was its last season.

According to the Coney Island History Project, the $1.7 million Astrotower was manufactured by the Swiss company Von Roll and installed in 1964. “It required a foundation of 1,100 tons of concrete and 13 tons of steel reinforcing bars. Like Astroland’s other space-age themed rides, the tower was built specifically for the park.” During the rezoning hearings, the Municipal Art Society and Save Coney Island said the structure was eligible for the State and National Registers.

Update: July 3, 2013, 5:00PM… At a press conference this afternoon, Luna Park officials announced that the Astrotower would be torn down, according to NY1 News. The more prominent sway of the tower was attributed to the removal of parts of the structure. As ATZ reported, Zamperla removed the gondola –which had given the Astrotower its nickname the “Bagel in the Sky”– and counter weights from the tower in March, after getting a permit to do so last summer. This was obviously a big mistake as anyone who worked for Astroland will tell you the cab, which weighed 10 tons, was always parked mid-tower to stabilize it.

Buildings Department Commissioner Robert LiMandri was quoted on NY1 on July 3rd: It is not unusual for the tower to move a bit, but the Buildings Department determined the amount of sway to be too much in low wind to be able to say for sure that it would not collapse. The city said that contractors working for Luna Park removed elevator machinery late in the winter, and they said that has now increased the sway of the Astrotower, making it unsafe.“Part of that work was to actually remove some of the structure from the elevator that the Astrotower was,” said Buildings Department Commissioner Robert LiMandri. “When you do that, you decrease the weight at the top, and so therefore, you would get additional sway. At no time did any of those contractors or engineers identify that that would be a problem, and they went forward and did that.”

Sources in Coney Island tell ATZ a “compromise plan” has been reached to take off the top of the tower overnight. It will be death by decapitation for the Astrotower (a terrible thing) so that the parks and businesses east of 12th Street, which were closed and evacuated, will be able to open on the Fourth of July (a good thing). Somebody please wake us up from this nightmare.

Update: July 4, 2013, 3:11PM… The top of the Astrotower was removed, a more than 12-hour operation that enabled Luna Park, the Cyclone, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and concessions in the immediate area to reopen at 3 PM on the 4th of July. That night, the businesses, which would ordinarily stay open till 2AM on Fourth of July were ordered to close at 12:30 AM so that the demolition could continue.

Update: July 5, 2013, 8:45PM… Overnight and in the morning, demolition work on the Astrotower continued. By the time work stopped around 1:30PM, the tower had been cut down to 1/3 of its original height, which was 275 feet. The work is expected to continue tonight after the park closes for business.

Update: July 5, 2013, 8:45PM… Overnight and in the morning, demolition work on the Astrotower continued. By the time work stopped around 1:30PM, the tower had been cut down to 1/3 of its original height, which was 275 feet. The work is expected to continue tonight after the park closes for business.

Update: July 7, 2013. All that remains of the tower is the AstroStump also known as the LunaStump.

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July 9, 2013: Photo Album: Remembering the Astrotower (1964-2013)

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

September 28, 2012: Astrotower Lit for 1st Time Since Astroland Closed in 2008

May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

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Playland Arcade

Remaining Playland Letters Saved by the Coney Island History Project. February 14, 2013. Photo © Coney Island History Project

The demolition of Coney Island’s Playland Arcade got underway in October, but was interrupted by Sandy. The job was finished today. It’s gone!

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. “Our previous efforts at preservation were hampered by trespassers, vandals, black mold, the untimely death of Playland’s caretaker, Andy Badalamenti, as well as Superstorm Sandy,” according to a photo album on the History Project’s Facebook page. The artifacts will be exhibited this season.

An arcade existed in the Playland building from the 1930s until 1981, operated by four sets of brothers over a fifty year period. In 1981 the arcade machines were auctioned and the business closed, leaving Playland vacant for the past thirty years.

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October 23, 2012: Playland Arcade Demolition Under Way in Coney Island

Janaury 31, 2012: Remnant of Under Boardwalk Bar Found in Coney Island

Janaury 16, 2012: Photo of the Day: Signs of Coney’s Club Atlantis Resurface

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PLayland Arcade

Playland Arcade Building, August 12, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Demolition began today of the long vacant Playland Arcade, which has been closed since 1981. The interior walls were gutted by a demo crew using a small bulldozer. Asbestos removal is slated for Thursday with the exterior walls expected to come down soon afterwards.

ATZ asked former arcade operator and Coney Island regular Stan Fox, who operated Playland with his brother from 1957 until 1971, how he felt seeing the last of the arcade. “As I would walk by the empty arcade thousands of times over the years, in my mind’s eye I would see the ghosts of people who worked in Playland,” said Fox. “I would hear the sound of Skee-Ball going up and down the alleys, the ka-chunk of the plates rolling over, the ding-ding of the pinball machines and the jingling of coins being emptied into change bags.”

Owned by Horace Bullard, the Playland building was posted with a City-issued demolition order in September. Bullard is also the owner of the adjacent Thunderbolt lot, which has been vacant since the City tore down the roller coaster in 2000. In recent days, City workers cleared weeds from the lot. Bullard also owns the landmarked Shore Theater, which is for sale for $13.5 million.

An arcade operated in the Playland building from the 1930s until 1981, according to Stan Fox, who grew up working in his brother’s penny arcades in Coney Island. He says the arcades were operated by four sets of brothers over a 50-year period: the Silver brothers (Silver’s Penny Arcade), the Katz brothers (Star Penny Arcade), Alex Elowitz and Stan Fox (Playland Arcade), and the Getlan brothers, who kept the Playland name.

Alex Elowitz got his start in the arcade business working as a 12-year old change boy for the Silver brothers, says Fox. After a stint in the Army, Alex returned to Coney Island and in 1949 opened his first Playland Arcade on 20th Street and the Boardwalk in the Washington Baths building. Playlands at 15th Street and the Boardwalk and 12th Street and the Boardwalk (where Nathan’s is now) followed.

In 1957, Alex and Stan opened their fourth Playland Arcade in the building currently under demolition. They bought the business from the surviving Katz brother for $50,000 and leased the building from Klein and Moran, who also owned the Thunderbolt. “Rent for the whole season was $15,000 in 1957,” says Fox. “In those days 10th Avenue between 42nd and 49th Streets was Coin Machine Row. We ordered a ton of new equipment and renovated the place.” The brothers operated the arcade until 1977, when they sold the business to the Getlan brothers. In 1981 the arcade machines were auctioned and the business closed, leaving Playland vacant for the past thirty years.

UPDATE February 14, 2013:

The demolition of Coney Island’s Playland Arcade, which got underway in October, was interrupted by SuperStorm Sandy. The job was finished today. It’s gone! 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 murals. An exhibit is scheduled for this summer.

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

March 26, 2012: Photo of the Day: Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat

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Historian Charles Denson‘s video tribute to Coney Island’s historic Henderson Music Hall is beautifully done and, of course, heartbreaking. In addition to rare archival material, the video features an unexpected recent look inside the building, which is currently under demolition.

Denson’s interior shots reveal what remains of the Velocity Nightclub on the building’s second floor. This performance space was exquisitely restored and brought up to code in 2004, before Thor Equities bought the building and began to blight it. The footage shows the space to be in surprisingly good condition and repudiates what Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt told NY1 in May: “Every one of these buildings is just horrible, rundown relics with nothing exciting about them. I hate to say it, but the great buildings of Coney Island disappeared 80 years ago.”

Last time we wrote about Thor’s demolitions, readers asked: Why wasn’t this building saved? The City aided and abetted Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt by rezoning the Henderson parcel for a high rise hotel. 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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December 23, 2010: Coney Island Christmas Wish List: $12M Shore Theater

December 13, 2010: R.I.P Coney Island’s Shore Hotel, Henderson Next on Hit List

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

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

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Shore Hotel Demolition. December 9, 2010.  Photo © Lindsay Wengler/Single Linds Reflex via flickr

Shore Hotel Demolition. December 9, 2010. Photo © Lindsay Wengler/Single Linds Reflex via flickr

This week Thor Equities’ demo crew continued to wreak havoc on historic Surf Avenue. By Thursday afternoon, they had knocked off the top story of Coney Island’s approximately 107-year-old Shore Hotel. Photographer Lindsay Wengler also got some apocalyptic shots of the rubble that once was the Bank of Coney Island and a bulldozer poised to attack on Henderson Walk. War is hell. Oh wait, we mean Coney Island redevelopment is hell.

For photos and stories of the Shore Hotel in its glory days as well as its seedy days, see Vanishing New York’s post from August 2009. Thor’s ownership destroyed the building. As VNY wrote: “Plywood went into the windows in the summer of 2007, as Thor and the city aimed to blight Coney in preparation for its demolition. When the City’s Plan goes through, a massive high-rise will stand here.” The City’s rezoning of Coney Island, passed by the City Council in 2009, allows four high rise hotels of up to 27 stories along the south side of Surf Avenue.

In the other out-with-the-old in Coney news story of the week, this morning’s 10 a.m. court date for the eviction of the “Coney Island Eight” was adjourned till January 10, 2011.

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