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Posts Tagged ‘flea market’

The Landmark Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk

The Landmark Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk. February 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The landmark Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk, which has been in use since January as the Childs Warehouse, a multi-agency program for organizations that need space for Sandy recovery projects, will host a pop-up market this summer. Called the Coney Flea, the seasonal market will operate from mid-June through October, with proceeds to fund post-Sandy recovery programs, according to the organizer’s website.

Rotating spaces with dimensions starting at 8 x 10 feet are being offered to local and regional vendors at weekly, monthly and seasonal rates. The market is expected to be open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Vendors can apply online at coneyflea.com:

Vendor spaces range from $120/day to $200/day. Please mention if you are a Coney Island establishment and include details in the form below, and we can offer you a discount. One of the main purposes to opening the market this season is to help bring life back to Coney Island, and create space for businesses, artists and vendors who have not been able to reopen after Hurricane Sandy. We’re opening too, and just cleaned out our 63,000 square foot site. We know it takes a community to recover, and we’re grateful to be part of the recovery process.

Detail of Landmark Childs Building

Detail of Landmark Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk. February 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

“It’s a very special place,” said Dan Compitello of the 1923 Spanish Colonial Revival style building, which was designated a City landmark in 2003. He is overseeing the Coney Flea with a team that he says has a combined total of over 42 years of flea market management experience. Food vendors and arts and crafts vendors from the tri-state area have already reserved spaces, Compitello added. Our impression from talking with him is that Coney Flea will be an artsy, curated marketplace that will activate a landmark and give visitors a reason to stroll westward along the Boardwalk past the new Steeplechase Plaza.

That’s a plus, because despite the fact that Coney Flea is for a good cause we’re not sold on the idea that what Coney Island needs is another flea market. In 2009 and 2011, Thor Equities staged a “Festival by the Sea” of vendors selling tube socks, cellphone accessories, shoes, automotive supplies and cleaning products on lots where amusement rides had previously thrived. Just looking at photos of these previous Coney flea markets induces post-traumatic stress order. There was a smaller, more attractive group of vendors on Stillwell Avenue last year, a dress rehearsal for Joe Sitt’s “Retail Ride of a Lifetime.”

iStar Financial and Stone Harbour Management donate the Child’s Building in-kind to the Childs Warehouse with free rent, utilities and building maintenance. Additional sponsors of the Childs Warehouse are the Mayors Office of Community Affairs, the Brooklyn Long Term Recovery Group, and the Staten Island Long Term Recovery Group. Partners are Transform-US, Occupy Sandy, New York Disaster Interfaith Services, World Cares Center, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and Resurrection Brooklyn Relief.

Originally built as a Childs Restaurant, one of the country’s first national chains with more than 100 locations in 33 cities, the terracotta palace is set to be restored and developed into an amphitheater and restaurant by 2015. In past years, the building was used as a candy factory beginning in the 1950s and Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Rink in 2008 and 2009. Today, tourists routinely ask what are “those ruins” on the Boardwalk?

UPDATE September 26, 2013:

Summer is officially over and the flea market never opened. As a commenter said from the get-go: “Word on the street, this project is dead in the water.” Whether the flea market was doomed by permitting issues or complaints to the DOB about the stability of the building is unknown. After Sandy, parts of the facade cracked and began falling off. A sidewalk shed was installed this summer. Childs Warehouse did not reply to queries and their website is currently down.

The City’s plan to convert the former restaurant into an amphitheater for live concerts is now working its way through City Planning and the City Council approval, though it was voted down by the community board. “Clock Ticking on Plan for the Landmark Childs Building,” ATZ, September 25, 2013.

The New Childs Restaurant

The New Childs Restaurant on the Riegelmann Boardwalk, August 1924. Eugene L. Armbruster Collection, New York Public Library

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Related posts on ATZ…

January 24, 2013: Occupy Sandy’s New Warehouse in Coney Island Landmark

August 24, 2012: New Life for Coney Island’s Terracotta Palace by the Sea

May 16, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Aqueduct Flea Vendors Make Dismal Debut

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

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Amusement Park Opening Soon

Steeplechase the Fun Place Amusement Park Opening Soon. Photo © Jim McDonnell. All rights Reserved

On Sunday, a sign appeared on the fence at the Thor Equities lot on Stillwell Avenue leased to the BK Festival announcing the opening of “Steeplechase Amusement Park.” We’ve known for several weeks that rides and amusements were planned for the former flea market this summer, but details were pending.

Will McCarthy, event director of the BK festival, tells ATZ that the flea market didn’t mesh with the Coney Island location and this season the BK Festival will bring in rides and amusements in addition to a smaller number of vendors. The flea market is expected to continue until the rides debut in May. Among the old school carnival flat rides confirmed for the event are a Himalaya, Ring of Fire, Trabant and Cakewalk. There will be also be a climbing wall, McCarthy said. Additional rides and amusements will be announced soon. The BK Festival’s partners went to the carnival convention in Gibsonton, Florida, last month to recruit ride operators for Coney Island.

Why did they choose the name Steeplechase Park? “We want to bring back a lot of things that used to be on the property,” says McCarthy. “It’s a tribute to Steeplechase Park.”

sign

Steeplechase Park Sign Already Defaced. © Magical Theme Parks. All Rights Reserved

And why not? Coney Island’s three grand amusement parks of the early 20th century were Steeplechase, Dreamland and Luna Park, and the names of the last two are already taken. When Joe Sitt brought carnivals to his property in the summers leading up to the 2009 rezoning, he called it Dreamland Amusement Park. Zamperla named their park after Thompson and Dundy’s Luna Park. Although the new parks bear very little resemblance to the originals, the familiar names evoke memories and exert a powerful pull. We’re just happy the BK Festival, which has a three-year lease, will not be a flea market this summer. We wish them well. Evidently one person wasn’t thrilled with this iteration of the Funny Face. The sign, which has a couple of unfortunate misspellings, was almost immediately defaced.

The park will be the third Steeplechase. In 1967, Norman Kaufman leased part of the Tilyou’s Steeplechase site from Fred Trump and called his park Steeplechase Park, according to Charles Denson’s Coney Island: Lost and Found. The Jumbo Jet, Cortina, Bumper Cars, Go Karts, Batting Cages and a Miniature Golf Course were among Kaufman’s attractions over the years. Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City was on this piece of land until he was evicted by Thor Equities in 2007.

Club Atlantis

Cha Cha's Club Atlantis Opening Soon. Photo © Magical Theme Parks. All Rights Reserved

Another sign on the fence announced “Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis Opening Soon,” setting the stage for two clubs with the same name. Cha Cha, one of the Coney Island 8 evicted from the Boardwalk by Zamperla, is opening a restaurant on Surf Avenue as well as a reincarnation of his Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis. His former Boardwalk location, which will become Tom’s Restaurant, was the site of the original Club Atlantis. Across the way, the former Steve’s Grill House and Beer Island are set to become Zamperla’s Club Atlantis. Last month, Zamperla CEO Valerio Ferrari told the NY Post that a new beach bar called Club Atlantis would offer beer, wine and dancing.

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Related posts on ATZ…

April 2, 2012: BK Festival’s 1st Amusement Rides Arrive in Coney Island

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

May 16, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Aqueduct Flea Vendors Make Dismal Debut

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

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The BK Festival featuring displaced Aqueduct flea market vendors opened for the first time on Saturday in Coney Island. The new flea market is located on Thor Equities Stillwell property adjacent to Scream Zone and Nathan’s, site of Thor’s Flea by the Sea in 2009. Check out our flickr slide show. We took pix of everything that was there, to be fair and square. Unfortunately the opening day event was dismal. It was not in any way “like a state fair,” as hyped by the BK Festival management in advertisements, nor did it feature “upscale product,” as hyped by the New York Times in a puff piece on Joe Sitt. Not surprised. Just sayin’.

Like Thor’s “Festival by the Sea,” the new flea market bills itself as a festival because a flea market is not a permitted use on this property in Coney Island. In response to ATZ’s query last month about the zoning, Purnima Kapur, Brooklyn City Planning Director, wrote in an email: “The C7 zoning district in Coney Island does not permit Flea Markets as a permitted use; however small scale retail and restaurants are permitted in addition to amusements.” There are Use Groups A, B and C, with A being for Amusements, and a formula for their allocation.

flea market

The BK Festival brings Aqueduct Flea Vendors in Coney Island. May 14, 2011. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

As we’ve said before, it’s a little tricky to figure out how “OVER 100,000 SQUARE FEET OF SHOPPERS DELIGHT!” is permitted when Sitt failed to win 10,000 square foot retail and the City’s own zoning says “Use Group C [Retail] uses shall be limited to 2,500 square feet of floor area and 30 feet of street frontage, except that on corner lots one street frontage may extend up to 100 feet.” Of course the city has long failed to enforce its own zoning. The furniture stores on the north side of Surf have continued to exist for years in defiance of the amusement zoning. The only example of a flea market in Coney Island being closed that we’re aware of is when Mayor Giuliani shut down the flea on the north side of Surf prior to the opening of his new ballpark in 2000.

Cooking spices, cleaning products, car mats, and tools looked incongruous in the amusement area. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Saturday’s rainy forecast kept some of the Aqueduct vendors away, yet the locations were said to be completely booked for the season. Assigned numbers were painted on the blacktop. It was depressing to see miscellaneous items arrayed in rows of cardboard boxes–tape measures, sharpies, notebooks, cleaning brushes, sandals, toys, balls, what have you. It was a typical market, with signs advertising prices starting at $1. Or 3 for $5.

Booths selling household cleaning products, personal care products, tools, automotive accessories and cooking spices looked incongruous in the amusement area. It felt jarring to see the new Soarin’ Eagle roller coaster against a backdrop of signage advertising “Dresses For Less.” There were just a few vendors with what might be called “upscale product” displayed to advantage–snazzy belt buckles, some lovely clothing near the front of the flea market, and a booth with strollers, skateboards and kids toys. We found one item that we liked and purchased it for $10.

flea market

One of the best looking booths featured strollers, skateboards & kidz toys. May 14, 2011. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

The majority of space is taken up by flea market vendors, so it’s reasonable to say this event is indeed a flea market and not “like a state fair.’ The amusements consisted of a pony ride, a very small petting zoo, one inflatable bounce for kids (a second one was deflated), and two mimes. The Coney Island Dancers, who had brought in their sound system and were playing music, said they had been hired by the BK Festival. A few people were dancing on the sidewalk.

petting zoo

BK Festival's amusements include a small petting zoo and a pony ride. May 14, 2011. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

According to the Coney Island Rumor Mill, the BK Festival’s contract with Thor precludes them from bringing in mechanical amusement rides. It wouldn’t surprise me at all, considering that Sitt first evicted Norman Kaufman’s amusements from the property in 2006 and has failed to lease to several different carnivals and amusement operators who have tried to negotiate deals. As we wrote in Thor Equities Touts Coney Island as “RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME” (ATZ, May 4), we believe that the flea market or “shopping experience” is part of a strategy to win a variance for 10,000 square foot retail from the City’s Board of Standards and Appeals in a future administration. Having rides wouldn’t help that plan at all.

Why does the City allow Thor Equities to put flea markets that are festivals in name only on precious pieces of property in the C-7 amusement zone where the Tornado and Bobsled Coasters once thrilled? And not just once, but twice. It calls to mind the adage “Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me.”

flea market

BK Festival on the west side of Stillwell. May 14, 2011. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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March 5, 2012: Exclusive: Goodbye Flea Market, Hello “Steeplechase Park”

April 5, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Joe Sitt Scores Puff Piece in NY Times

March 29, 2011: Aqueduct Flea Vendors Close to Deal in Coney Island

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

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New Signage

Thor Equities New Signage at Corner of Surf and Stillwell in Coney Island. April 30, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via Amusing the Zillion

On Friday, Thor Equities put up new signage atop the blue construction fence at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues, the gateway to Coney Island’s beach and Boardwalk: “CONEY ISLAND – The RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME – for leasing contact…”

Ain’t it just like Joe Sitt to tout retail when Coney Island, the birthplace of the amusement industry, is expecting its best season yet because of the success of Luna Park on land purchased by the City from Thor? The new slogan is a slap in the face to Zamperla’s Scream Zone, which has four real rides of a lifetime just down the block, including the eye-popping Sling Shot and Coney Island’s first new major roller coasters in nearly 40 years.

New rides –and not retail–on Stillwell are cause for celebration because this is where the now legendary Tornado (1927-1977) and Bobsled (1941-1974) Roller Coasters once thrilled and where Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City amused the zillion until Joe Sitt bought the property in 2006 and emptied out the amusements.

Thor Equities New Signs Atop Street Artists Mural at Corner of Surf and Stillwell in Coney Island. April 30, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via Amusing the Zillion

Surf and Stillwell is also the gateway to Joe Sitt’s successor to 2009′s failed Flea by the Sea. This year’s BK Festival, originally billed as “NYC Largest Flea Market with a Festival Style [sic]” has dropped the phrase flea market from its marketing material. Set to open this month next weekend, the festival is now being advertised as “like a state fair for the whole family with attractions to include inflatable world, concerts, shopping experience, pony rides and petting zoos, and much much more.” And with good reason, a flea market is illegal in Coney’s amusement zone, though in the past the City has failed to enforce its own zoning.

In response to ATZ’s query about the zoning, Purnima Kapur, Brooklyn City Planning Director, wrote in an email: “The C7 zoning district in Coney Island does not permit Flea Markets as a permitted use; however small scale retail and restaurants are permitted in addition to amusements.”

According to the zoning documents, retail uses are complementary to amusement uses and beach activities, and these uses are limited in size and frontage.

plan

Coney Island Illustrative Development Plan, Department of City Planning

We’re not convinced small scale retail is the Coney Island ride of a lifetime that Joe Sitt has in mind. At his Flea by the Sea in 2009, stands selling clothing and shoes were a reminder that Thor’s pitch book unsuccessfully used to lobby BP Markowitz for 10,000 square foot retail touted flagship retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap/Banana Republic, and DSW (“Thousands of shoes…prices you love”).

We believed then as we believe now that the flea market or “shopping experience” is part of a strategy to win a variance for 10,000 square foot retail from the City’s Board of Standards and Appeals in a future administration. In Coney Island, Joe Sitt is just as infamous for “sitting” on property as he is for flipping it.

Thor’s empty lot at Surf and Stillwell is the site of the former Henderson Music Hall, one of three historic buildings which Thor CEO Joe Sitt ordered to be demolished last year. The Henderson site was rezoned for a high-rise hotel in July 2009.

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February 13, 2012: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

April 5, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Joe Sitt Scores Puff Piece in NY Times

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

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Thor Equities Festival by the Sea on Opening Day. May 22,2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Like it or not, and some Coney Island businesses don’t like it at all, “NYC LARGEST FLEA MARKET WITH A FESTIVAL STYLE! [sic]” is on the verge of getting permits to open Aqueduct’s answer to Thor’s flopped Flea by the Sea in Coney. ATZ learned that Will McCarthy, the event organizer of the “BK Festival,” who already applied for a Temporary Place of Assembly Permit from the DOB, will meet with City officials on Thursday in hopes of speeding along necessary approvals from the FDNY and DEP. Sources say a meeting with the Brooklyn Borough President to discuss the festival’s plans is also on this week’s schedule.

We were about to post this news when an article by Liz Robbins in today’s NY Times caught our eye: “With Its Move to Coney Island, Flea Market Is Sprucing Up.” The news that the festival management is set to sign a lease with Joe Sitt and is adding “some lace and frills to dress up” the flea concept is no surprise. What’s surprising is that the NY Times has done a puff piece on Joe Sitt’s adventures in Coney Island.

The Bumper Boats and other amusements thrived on this very location until Joe Sitt evicted them in 2007 to create his empty lots. Hooray for redevelopment!  Photo by the hanner via flickr

The Bumper Boats and other amusements thrived on this very location until Joe Sitt evicted them in 2007 to create his empty lots. Hooray for redevelopment! May 29, 2005. Photo © the hanner via flickr

“It’s a little nostalgic — I started my businesses as a flea market operator at the Aqueduct,” says Sitt. The reporter glosses over the fact that Sitt evicted amusements from this Coney Island property: “[Sitt] has razed some older buildings, angering some in the community, but the festival space on Stillwell was already vacant.” Actually this property is in a C-7 amusement zone where an amusement park with batting cages, go karts, bumper boats and mini golf thrived until Joe Sitt bought the land in 2006. He evicted the amusement operators to “allow the new development to proceed in a timely manner,” but has built NOTHING there except a failed flea market in 2009. (“Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt,” ATZ, March 3, 2010)

As for the Flea, the reporter takes Sitt’s word for it that his Flea by the Sea model was successful. “Two years ago, when the Aqueduct gaming project seemed imminent, [Sitt] recruited vendors, from pickle makers to bakers, alongside entertainers for a monthlong stint in Coney Island. The results convinced him the model would work.” What entertainers? The only entertainers that we observed were local bands onstage and a clown making balloon animals for kids. In fact the flea was widely considered a flop. For starters, look at our flickr set or comments from the disillusioned baker in Lifestyler Magazine.

Thor Equities idea of entertainment at the flea market was a band playing two sets.  Photo by me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Thor Equities idea of entertainment at the flea market was a band playing two sets. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Now back to our regularly scheduled post. The proposed locations for the flea’s “OVER 100,000 SQUARE FEET OF SHOPPERS DELIGHT!” are Thor Equities lots on both sides of Stillwell, where the disused tent frames from the 2009 flea remain. Thor’s lot on West 15th Street would also be activated. Although Coney Island’s C-7 amusement zoning (more on that later) does not specifically allow flea market use, it does allow temporary use for a fair. Thor’s Festival by the Sea aka Flea by the Sea in 2009 had such a permit.

The BK Festival website was taken offline last week after all the media hoopla about the flea market. It promised “All Day Entertainment, International Food Court and Kidz Zone, Pony Ride, and Rides.” ATZ left a voice mail message for the management asking for more info about the rides. We haven’t heard back yet.

UPDATE…10:20 am. We received an email from Will McCarthy, Event Director of BK Festival: “I wanted to reach out to you, as I know you have many concerns about our proposed project. I wanted to arrange a time when we can meet & discuss in detail all the wonderful family attractions we plan to bring to Coney Island this season. For the record BK Festival which will function like a state fair, comes to the new Coney Island with an array of colorful family experiences some of which includes – Monthly culturally themed activities, Interactive Sponsored Activities, Free Give Aways, Equestrian Center with pony rides & petting zoos, Live Entertainment (Concerts, Car Shows, Rodeos) International Food Court and our Outdoor Shopping Experience.” ATZ looks forward to bringing you a Q & A with the BK Festival Director in the coming days!

Cached version of BKFestival.com website as it appeared on Mar 29, 2011

Are there any amusement parks in America that boast a flea market? A web search turned up a handful of defunct parks, including Williams Grove in Mechanicsburg, PA, which now host flea markets. A Yelper wrote: “Last time I was there I overhead a little boy whose comment to his dad really summed up the place best. ‘They closed down the park and turned it into a yard sale.’” On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Colorado’s Mile High Marketplace, a huge flea, farmers and antiques market with a few amusement rides. Coney Island, the birthplace of the amusement industry, is in a class by itself. Yet it’s become the guinea pig for Joe Sitt’s retail-by-the-sea aspirations.

Over the weekend, ATZ talked to a few Coney business operators to find out their opinion of the market. Ride and game operators said that it’s better than having empty lots. They preferred to have amusements, which would stay open late and draw crowds rather than a flea market that will be dark at night. In Coney Island, the crowd comes late and stays late, often till 2 am. But amusement operators seemed resigned to the fact that Thor wasn’t about to bring in a carnival again. In the years leading up to the rezoning, Sitt brought in Reithoffer Shows, Geren Rides and other temporary amusements.

Some business owners who sell food or souvenirs in Coney and pay high rent are worried that the flea vendors will undercut them with bargain basement prices and cheap merchandise. Parking is also a major concern. Will the vendors, who come early, take up the parking spaces ordinarily used by visitors? Paid parking is available for $10-$20 at the Aquarium and MCU, but it can be a traffic jam on weekends. The BK Festival website promises “Free Shuttle Bus Drives Tourist Traffic To Event.”

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

At Thor’s Flea by the Sea, stands selling clothing and shoes were a reminder that in April 2009 Sitt’s pitch book unsuccessfullly used to lobby BP Markowitz for 10,000 square feet retail touted flagship retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap/Banana Republic, and DSW (“Thousands of shoes…prices you love”). Was the flea market part of a strategy to win a variance from a future administration for 10,000 square foot retail?

And this brings us back to Coney Island’s C-7 Zoning. We’ve appended the complete list of Use Groups A, B, and C below since most people snooze at the thought of looking at a zoning document. “A1″ is for Amusements and is of course our fave. Use Group C is Retail. It’s a little tricky to figure out how “OVER 100,000 SQUARE FEET OF SHOPPERS DELIGHT!” is permitted when Sitt failed to win 10,000 square foot retail and “Use Group C uses shall be limited to 2,500 square feet of floor area and 30 feet of street frontage, except that on corner lots one street frontage may extend up to 100 feet.” Oh, but this is a Temporary Fair. And how many years will that be? Until Joe Sitt develops the property or sells it.

Tops $5 Each. Vendors at Thor Equities Flea Market, Coney Island. June 6, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

There’s also…

(b) Bowery and Wonder Wheel Way

“At least 50 percent of Bowery and Wonder Wheel Way street frontage of any zoning lot shall be occupied by Use Group A1 use at the ground floor level, and not more than 50 percent of the Bowery and Wonder Wheel Way street frontage of any zoning lot shall be
occupied by Use Group C uses at the ground floor level.”

(d) Stillwell Avenue and West 10th Street
“At least 15 percent of the Stillwell Avenue and West 10th Street street frontage of any zoning lot shall be occupied by Use Group A1 uses at the ground floor level.

Use Group A1…Amusement arcades; Amusement parks, with no limitation on floor area per establishment; Animal exhibits, circuses, carnivals or fairs of a temporary nature; Camps, overnight or day, commercial beaches or swimming pools;Dark rides, electronic or computer-supported games, including interactive entertainment facilities, laser tag and motion simulators; Ferris wheels, flume rides, roller coasters, whips, parachute jumps, dodgem scooters, merry-go-rounds or similar midway attractions; Fortune tellers, freak shows, haunted houses, wax museums, or similar midway attractions; Miniature golf courses and model car hobby centers, including racing; Open booths with games of skill or chance, including shooting galleries and Water parks

Use Group A2…Arenas or auditoriums, with capacity limited to 2,000
seats; Billiard parlors or pool halls, table tennis halls or bowling alleys, with no limitation on number of bowling lanes per establishment; Gymnasiums or recreational sports facilities, including but not limited to indoor golf driving ranges, batting cages, basketball, volleyball, squash and other courts, without membership requirements; Skateboard parks, roller or ice skating rinks;Theaters, including movie theaters, provided such use does not occupy the ground floor level of a building, except for lobbies limited to a maximum street frontage of 30 feet, except that on corner lot one street frontage may extend up to 100 feet.

Tupperware Party at Thor Equities Flea. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Use Group B: Amusement and entertainment-enhancing uses…
Art gallery, commercial; Banquet halls;Breweries; Eating or drinking establishments of any size, including those with entertainment or dancing; Historical exhibits; Spas and bathhouses;Studios, art, music, dancing or theatrical;Tattoo parlors; Radio or television studios; Wedding chapels

Use Group C: Retail and service uses

Arts and crafts production and sales, including but not limited to ceramics, art needlework, hand weaving or tapestries, book binding, fabric painting, glass blowing, jewelry or art metal craft and wood carving; Bicycle sales, rental or repair shops;Bookstores; Candy or ice cream stores; Clothing or clothing accessory; Clothing, custom manufacturing or altering for retail, including costume production and hair product manufacturing; Delicatessen stores; Fishing tackle or equipment, rental or sales; Gift shops; Jewelry manufacturing from precious metals; Musical instruments store; Music stores; Newsstands Patio or beach furniture or equipment; Photographic equipment stores and studios; Sporting goods or equipment, sale or rental, including instruction in skiing, sailing or skin diving; Toy stores

Box of Sox at Anchor Store # 6, Joe Sitt's Flea by the Sea. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

May 26, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Aqueduct Flea Vendors Make Dismal Debut

March 29, 2011: Aqueduct Flea Vendors Close to Deal in Coney Island

May 13, 2010: Scoop: Deal to Rent Thor’s Coney Island Lots a No-Go for Fair Producer

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

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View of Stillwell Avenue East in Coney Island. February 28, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Is Thor Equities defunct Flea by the Sea about to become Aqueduct by the Sea? The City’s and Central Amusement International’s new Scream Zone amusement park may be getting a flea market as a next-door neighbor. The buzz in Coney Island is that the vendors from the displaced Aqueduct Flea Market are prepared to lease Thor’s Stillwell Avenue lots, which are adjacent to the City-owned land. The tent frames from 2009′s Flea by the Sea remain standing, though the lots were vacant last season. If all goes smoothly with the process of securing permits from the City, vendors from the City’s largest flea market may set up their wares on property next to the new high thrill rides. Um, so was this part of the Coney Island Development Corporation’s Strategic Plan? Is shopping at a flea by the sea what the city planner really meant by “entertainment retail”?

Since ATZ first reported the news in “Displaced Queens Flea Vendors Eye Coney Island’s Vacant Lots” (ATZ, December 20, 2010), nobody has followed up on the story. But Queens vendors who are coming to check out the Coney Island location helped keep the story alive for me. I figured the rumored deal would fall through due to high rent and onerous lease terms. Hey, maybe it will still fall through! Last May, Tennessee-based Universal Fairs plan to lease Thor’s lots for an amusement park fell through for those very reasons. The flea management is currently working to secure the permits. To be clear, it is not the operator of the Aqueduct Flea Market, but individuals who helped manage the flea market and know how to run such a business, who are trying to put together the deal.

Coney Island hasn’t seen a flea market since 2009, when Thor Equities inflicted Festival by the Sea aka Flea by the Sea on Stillwell Avenue. The flea market featured an array of incongruous items and was a spectacular flop. Just look at my Flea by the Sea flickr set –automotive supplies, bathtub remodeling, shoes galore at anchor store #7. Yeah, they had cheap sunglasses, cellphone cases, T-shirts and beach towels, too.

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

In 2001, the Giuliani administration repeatedly ticketed and finally got rid of the flea market that had operated on the north side of Surf since the 1980s. The headline in the Daily News read “CONEY SMALL BIZ BLITZ STORM OF TICKETS TIED TO DEBUT OF CYCLONES.” One vendor alludes to the previously unenforced zoning: “The city is telling us that we’re in the wrong zone. We’ve been in this wrong zone for 25 years, and now they say we have to stop doing business.”

At Thor’s flea market, I felt really sad walking on the hallowed ground where amusements had existed for more than 100 years until Joe Sitt bought the property and bulldozed everything. Stillwell Avenue, where the Tornado Roller coaster (1927-1977), the Bobsled (1941-1974), and Stauch’s Baths and Dance Hall (1930-1998) once stood, where Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City amused the zillion until Joe Sitt emptied out the amusements.

This is not the place for a flea market. Some people would say to me, well it’s better than an empty lot. I can’t agree. Sadly, many amusement operators tried but failed to rent the property from Thor. I always felt the gi-normous enclosed tents were part of Thor Equities strategy to win a variance for 10,000 square foot retail from the next administration. The City made a huge mistake not to have driven a better bargain with Joe Sitt and bought all of Stillwell instead of merely half of it.

Thor Equities Flea Market in Coney Island. June 6, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

UPDATE April 5, 2011:

ATZ learned that event organizer Will McCarthy, who already applied for a Temporary Place of Assembly Permit for the market from the DOB, will meet with City officials on Thursday in hopes of speeding along necessary approvals from the FDNY and DEP. Sources say a meeting with the Brooklyn Borough President to discuss the “BK Festival’s” plans is also on this week’s schedule. Read more at “Thor’s Coney Island: Joe Sitt Scores Puff Piece in NY Times,” ATZ, April 5, 2011.

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May 26, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Aqueduct Flea Vendors Make Dismal Debut

May 4, 2011: Thor Equities Touts Coney Island as “RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME”

May 13, 2010: Scoop: Deal to Rent Thor’s Coney Island Lots a No-Go for Fair Producer

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

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Tent Frames from Summer 2009's Failed Flea By The Sea. Thor Equities Vacant Lots at Stillwell in Coney Island.  December 11, 2010. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

Tent Frames from Summer 2009's Failed Flea By The Sea. Thor Equities Vacant Lots at Stillwell in Coney Island. December 11, 2010. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

In 2011, Coney Island’s now decimated Stillwell Avenue will get a brand new amusement park called Scream Zone. Will its neighbor be one of the City’s largest flea markets? Coney Island is abuzz with the rumor that vendors from the popular Aqueduct Racetrack Flea Market, which has 1,000 vendors and lost its lease after 30 years, are collectively eyeing Thor Equities’ empty lots.

Sources tell ATZ that some of the vendors, who operate three days a week at the racetrack, were informed that negotiations were underway with Thor Equities to lease the property. When ATZ called Plain and Fancy Shows, the company that operates the flea, to confirm the story, the person who answered the phone denied any interest in coming to Coney Island. To be clear, the Coney Island Rumor Mill says it is not the operator, but individuals who helped manage the flea market and know how to run such a business, who are trying to put together the deal.

2009 Poster for Thor Equities Failed Flea By The Sea. May 11, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Fantasy Art: 2009 Poster for Thor Equities Failed Flea By The Sea. May 11, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The flea market folks are reportedly eyeing the lots on both sides of Stillwell formerly occupied by Thor’s failed Flea by the Sea. The skeletal frames of the tents have stood vacant since September 2009. The tenting became tattered and unsightly and was removed after numerous complaints. The asking price for the lease is rumored to be $300K for the season. Also said to be of interest to the flea market: The newly vacant lot at Surf Avenue and 12th Street, which was the site of the recently demolished Bank of Coney Island, across from Coney Island USA’s freak show. The corner of Surf and Stillwell, where the Shore Hotel was knocked down and the Henderson Building is currently being demolished. ATZ was told that the organizers of the new flea would place vendors of like items together to drive traffic to each location. Clothing, beauty products, household items and collectibles are among the categories of products.

Joe Sitt's Abandoned Flea By the Sea in Coney Island. October 15, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Joe Sitt's Abandoned Flea By the Sea in Coney Island. October 15, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The lots remained vacant last season after Thor Equities failed to come to an agreement to lease the property to a number of amusement operators, including a fair producer from Tennessee. ATZ learned that some of the same amusement operators are still interested in bringing in rides, games and shows. The main hurdle to a deal is said to be Thor’s insistence on a one-year lease. One amusement operator told ATZ that he needs a two-year deal to make a profit.

In the Summer of 2009, Thor’s so-called Festival By the Sea (aka Flea by the Sea) was billed as “A Uniquely Entertaining and Amusing Flea Market in Coney Island.” In order to get a DOB permit for a “temporary fair” after the “flea market” was denied, Thor promised “tons of fun” and tried to recruit strolling entertainers via craigslist. But the only entertainment we recall seeing was a clown making balloon toys and bands playing a couple of sets on weekends.

Thor Equities Flea Market. May 22, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Thor Equities Flea Market. May 22, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Queens flea market has to leave the Aqueduct Race Track in Ozone Park after more than 30 years because of construction of a video slot casino. Around this time of year, vendors get tickets with their location number for next year’s flea market, which would have opened in March, after taking off January and February. Instead they got the news that December would be their last month.

According to an article in last Thursday’s New York Times, Betty Braton, the chairwoman of the Ozone Park neighborhood’s Community Board 10, said: “The casino operation is an attempt to go upscale, and a flea market is by nature sort of downscale. We’re looking forward to the economic development that is going to come from the casino operation.”

Would the Bloomberg administration, whose plan for the revitalization of Coney Island includes allowing Mom & Pop businesses to be evicted from City-owned property on the Boardwalk to make way for upscale eateries, approve a permit for a flea market? It is after all made up of hundreds of Mom & Pops. We’ll see. Or maybe we won’t.

If a flea market or amusement rides (or some combination of the two) are going to be Scream Zone’s neighbors on Stillwell in 2011, the biggest challenge will be signing a lease agreement with Thor Equities. When Joe Sitt acquired the property in 2006, he promptly evicted the batting cages, go karts and miniature golf, and turned Stillwell into what blogger Bob Guskind of Gowanus Lounge called “Thor Equities Corridors of Blight.” Alas, not much has changed on Stillwell since Bob wrote those words in May 2007.

We were not amused by auto supplies at Thor Equities Flea Market in Coney Island. May 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

We were not amused by auto supplies at Thor Equities Flea Market in Coney Island. May 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 5, 2012: Exclusive: Goodbye Flea Market, Hello “Steeplechase Park”

May 26, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Aqueduct Flea Vendors Make Dismal Debut

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

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

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