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Posts Tagged ‘flea market’

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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Related posts on ATZ…

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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