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Posts Tagged ‘Jim McDonnell’

Coney Island Polar Bear Club

Coney Island Polar Bear Club. November 2, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Sunday, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club went for their first swim of the season. “Summertime has gone away, Polar Bears are here to stay,” the Bears chanted as they warmed up by doing jumping jacks on the beach.

The Club swims at 1:00pm every Sunday from November through April. Membership is currently closed but you can join them for a guest swim. Just turn up at the Bears Clubhouse at the Aquarium’s Education Hall on the Boardwalk at West 8th Street by 12:30pm with your bathing suit, a towel, surf boots or an extra pair of sneakers, and some warm clothing. Or welcome the New Year by joining the annual January 1st Polar Bear Dip in Coney Island, a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine.

Polar Bear Club member and filmmaker Jim McDonnell shot this short video of Sunday’s swim to mark the 111th season of the winter swimming club. It was a windy day on the beach and boardwalk with air temps in the 40s.

Related posts on ATZ…

January 2, 2014: Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge’s Best Dressed of 2014

February 7, 2012: Video of the Day: The Coldest Thing on Coney Island

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

December 26, 2010: Video: Today’s Snow Swim with Coney Island Polar Bears

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Thunderbolt Roller Coaster

Parachute Jump framed by the Thunderbolt’s Vertical Loop, Luna Park, Coney Island. May 17, 2014. Photo © Jim McDonnell

Weekend visitors to Coney Island were wowed by the sight of Zamperla’s Thunderbolt roller coaster under construction on West 15th Street. Set to open on Memorial Day, which is just one week away, the new $10 million dollar ride’s track rolls, loops, turns and dives from the Boardwalk to Surf Avenue and back again. Photographer Jim McDonnell, who has been documenting the work in progress since Day 1, has captured the sculptural elegance of the coaster. The Thunderbolt has already made its mark on Coney Island’s skyline. Seen from a certain vantage point, the landmark Parachute Jump–Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower– is framed by the Loop in a shot that is destined to become a favorite of People’s Playground photographers and a Coney classic.

Thunderbolt Loop Completed

Loop on Luna Park’s new Thunderbolt Roller Coaster Completed, May 15, 2014. Photo © Jim McDonnell

On Thursday, the Thunderbolt’s 100-foot Loop was completed. It was a stunning moment because it’s the first coaster with a vertical loop in Coney Island since the 1901-1910 Loop the Loop, which stood on the corner of West 10th Street where the Cyclone is today. Edwin Prescott’s ride was one of the first to charge admission just to watch. A sign warned “Beware of Pickpockets!” and another said “STRAP YOURSELVES.” The ride’s motto, printed on its tickets, was “Heels up, Heads down!” But the Loop the Loop’s low capacity of four passengers per 10 cent ride was not enough to turn a profit. The Thunderbolt will cost $10 or 10 Luna Park credits to ride. If you’re not brave enough to give it a go, it will of course be free to watch.

Loop the Loop

Edwin Prescott’s Loop the Loop, Coney Island, 1901-1901. Library of Congress

As previously noted (“High Hopes for Coney Island’s New Thunderbolt Coaster,” ATZ, March 10, 2014), Coney Island has been home to dozens of roller coasters since the Switchback Railway debuted in 1884 but it’s been a long 87 years since one was custom built for Coney — the Cyclone in 1927. The new ride is named in honor of the 1925 Thunderbolt, which occupied an adjacent lot on the same block until it was controversially and illegally demolished in 2000 on the orders of Mayor Giuliani.

The Thunderbolt is the third Zamperla coaster in Luna Park to be named after Coney Island attractions of the past. In 2010, their Wild Mouse-style spinning coaster was rechristened “The Tickler” in honor of an innovative 1906 thrill ride in the original Luna Park, after which the park is named. The next year, a Pony Express-themed Motocoaster in Scream Zone was dubbed the Steeplechase Coaster, after Steeplechase Park’s signature horse race ride.

Loop the Loop Ticket

Loop the Loop Ticket, Coney Island, early 1900s. Via eBay seller childhoodthings

UPDATE May 20, 2014

UPDATE May 30, 2014

Watch this video from last evening, when the Thunderbolt went for its 1st first test run.

UPDATE June 15, 2014

The Thunderbolt had its grand opening on Saturday! Here’s the official POV video released by Luna Park

Related posts on ATZ…

March 10, 2014: High Hopes for Coney Island’s New Thunderbolt Coaster

February 23, 2014: Sunday Matinee: Under the Roller Coaster (2005)

September 22, 2012: Saturday Matinee: Coney Island’s Mite Mouse Coaster (1992)

April 21, 2012: Saturday Matinee: A Switchback Railway (1898)

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Wonder Moon cCney Island

Wonder Moon in Coney Island, March 26, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy

One night last March, as Coney Island’s amusement parks stood dark and silent, a full moon peered over the track of the landmark Cyclone roller coaster and the Wonder Wheel’s “Thrills” sign. Surf Avenue resident and “street photographer” Bruce Handy was taking his daily photo walk with a friend and brought home this exquisite capture. Beginning on Saturday, “A Stroll Through Coney Island Among Friends,” a photo exhibit featuring the work of five Coney Island photographers and friends who take photos of the People’s Playground year-round on a daily or weekly basis will be on view at Coney Island USA.

Bruce Handy, Jim McDonnell, Norman Blake, Kenny Lombardi and Eric Kowalsky are longtime friends of ATZ and contributors to this blog, so we selected five favorite photos from our archive for this post. You should know the work of these local photographers because in contrast to the many world-renowned photographers, occasional visitors and tourists who are drawn here, they know Coney inside out and in all of its seasons.

Rubys

Rubys Old Tyme Bar and Grill. November 20, 2010. Copyright © Kenny Lombardi 2010. All Rights Reserved

The show’s title should be taken literally as well as metaphorically because these friends are often seen together, cameras in hand, riding the Wonder Wheel at sunset and strolling on the boardwalk and the pier. Bruce Handy and Eric Kowalsky live right across the street from Coney Island’s amusement parks while Jim McDonnell resides a couple of subway stops away. Brooklynites Norman Blake and Kenny Lombardi are official photographers for Coney Island USA, where they take photos of sideshow and burlesque performers and mermaids galore. Norman’s delightfully quirky photos of kite flying on the beach and a sea lion smooch at the Aquarium have appeared on ATZ, as have Kenny’s atmospheric photos of the Boardwalk bars Ruby’s and Cha Cha’s.

Anjelica performing during the opening night party at the 2007 Coney Island Film Festival. © 2007 Norman Blake. All rights reserved. NB Photo Flash via flickr

Anjelica performing during the opening night party at the 2007 Coney Island Film Festival. © 2007 Norman Blake. All rights reserved. NB Photo Flash via flickr

As members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, Bruce Handy and Jim McDonnell are among the hardy group who go for Sunday swims from November through April. On the Fourth of July back in 2011, Jim took the amazing shot below of Coney’s beach brimming with colorful umbrellas, which calls to mind photos from the 1930s and ’40s of the beach jam-packed with people, sans umbrellas. Among other notable photos of Jim’s that have appeared on ATZ are his heartbreaking set of images shot the day after Superstorm Sandy struck Coney Island. Jim, who works professionally as a footage guru as well as a photographer for Luna Park, has been compiling a summer’s worth of dance moves into “Coney Island Dancing” videos every September since 2010.

Beach Umbrellas in Coney Island

Beach Umbrellas in Coney Island. July 4, 2011. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

Eric Kowalsky, 23, is like a kid brother to the other four photographers, who are in their 40s and 50s. Born and raised in Coney Island, he takes his inspiration from his grandfather Abe Feinstein, who has been documenting Coney Island since he moved to Luna Park Houses with his family in 1962. Among the notable photos by Eric that are posted on ATZ are images of the demolition of Thor Equities-owned Henderson Building and the Bank of Coney Island. On a happier note, two icons of American air and space history meet in Eric’s awesome photo of the Space Shuttle Enterprise flying over the Parachute Jump in 2012.

“A Stroll Through Coney Island Among Friends,” Saturdays and Sundays, February 22 -April 6, 12pm to 5pm. Opening reception on February 22 from noon to 5pm. Coney Island USA Shooting Gallery/Arts Annex, 1214 Surf Avenue, Coney Island

Space Shuttle over Coney Island

Space Shuttle Enterprise Flies Over Coney Island’s Parachute Jump. April 27, 2012. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

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Related posts on ATZ…

December 31, 2013: Amusing the Zillion’s Coney Island 2013 Year in Review

December 9, 2013: Photo Album: First Snow of the Season in Coney Island by Bruce Handy

September 17, 2013: ATZ’s Top 10 Coney Island Film Festival Picks

September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

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Parachute Jump Xmas Lights

Happy Holiday Message on Parachute Jump Lights. Photo © Jim McDonnell

If you want to see Christmas lights, the #1 place to go in the country is the South Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights, according to a survey published today by MSN. Coney Island’s amusement area doesn’t have a tradition of Christmas lights since the parks are closed for the winter, but two of its official New York City landmarks are lit for the holidays and free to view.

While the lighted cross atop Deno’s Wonder Wheel has a 68-year history, the Parachute Jump’s light show is brand-new. The Jump’s dazzling 8,000 LEDs debuted in June and have been specially programmed with a “Happy Holidays” message and Christmas-y colors by Luna Park.

Currently, the Jump is lit from around 4:30pm until midnight, and sometimes later. Originally built for the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair, the Parachute Jump operated as a ride in Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park until 1964. Today the landmark is known as Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower. Check the Coney Island webcam to be sure the Jump is lit before you go.

Wonder Wheel Xmas Cross

The annual tradition of putting a lighted cross atop the Wonder Wheel during the Christmas season began in 1945 to mark the end of World War II and the troops return home. During the war years, Coney Island was dark after sundown because of “dim-out” and “blackout” regulations to protect shipping from being silhouetted for the enemy by the glare from the shore. The new LED cross was made by DJ Vourderis, whose family has owned Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park for 30 years.

Built in 1920 by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company, the Wheel is in operation from Palm Sunday through October. Its cars are removed for the winter and put back up in the spring prior to Opening Day. From the 1980s until neighboring Astroland Park closed in 2008, the Wonder Wheel’s Christmas cross had a counterpart in the Astrotower’s lighted Star of David.

In this lyrical video by Jim McDonnell, who also took the beautiful photos in this post, you can see the cross being raised on Friday when warm temps finally melted the ice on the Wheel, allowing it to be turned. The cross remains atop the Wheel until around January 6.

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Related posts on ATZ…

November 28, 2013: Photo Album: Parachute Jump Lights Way to Year-Round Coney Island

September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

March 19, 2013: First Sign of Spring in Coney: Cars Go up on Wonder Wheel

January 18, 2012: Video of the Day: Climbing Coney Island’s Parachute Jump

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Rescue boats and crane

Rescue boats and crane coming to aid of sunken barge at Steeplechase Pier in Coney Island. April 14, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy

On Sunday morning, a flotilla of rescue boats and barges were in the water east of Coney Island’s Steeplechase Pier where a construction barge and a Vergona crawler crane sank yesterday. Today’s efforts were focused on trying to remove the barge from the pier. The sunken equipment had been brought to the site a few days ago, where Triton Construction is doing repairs. The 1000-foot Steeplechase Pier was damaged by Superstorm Sandy. On Friday, the pier was swarming with workers, all wearing harnesses. By Friday night the construction barge began to list.

The above photo of the rescue craft was shot this morning by Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy, who said the big crane is twice the size of the sunken one. The dramatic photographs below of the sinking barge were taken on Saturday morning by Jim McDonnell, whose news-breaking photos ATZ posted yesterday in “Sinking Barge at Coney Island’s Steeplechase Pier.”

Sinking Barge at Steeplechase Pier

Sinking Barge and Crane at Steeplechase Pier, Coney Island. April 13, 2013. Photo © Jim McDonnell

According to NY1, the Coast Guard says the fire department had contractors unload fuel from the barge and there were no leaks. The barge’s owner is reponsible for coming up with a plan for salvaging it. We hope this is resolved quickly and doesn’t delay the reconstruction of the pier, which was scheduled to be completed by July 4th.

UPDATE April 24, 2013

The post-Sandy reconstruction of Steeplechase Pier is back up to speed after a construction barge sank on April 13: “Photo Album: Coney Island April 2013 Construction Update”, ATZ, April 24, 2013

Sinking Barge at Steeplechase Pier,

Sinking Barge at Steeplechase Pier, Coney Island. April 13, 2013. Photo © Jim McDonnell

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 14, 2013: Photo of the Day: Repairing Sandy-Damaged Steeplechase Pier

October 31, 2012: Photo Album: Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath in Coney Island

August 10, 2012: Steeplechase Plaza Under Construction in Coney Island

August 24, 2010: Video: Coney Island Pier Divers by Kevin C Downs

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Sinking Barge at Steeplechase Pier,

Sinking Barge at Steeplechase Pier, Coney Island. April 13, 2013. Photo © Jim McDonnell

This morning at approximately 8:23 AM, the FDNY’s Marine 6 responded to a report of a sinking barge at Coney Island’s Steeplechase Pier. NYC Fire Wire reported “All hands going to work for a sinking Barge with occupants trapped. Marine 9 rescued 2 at this time.” The barge has a crane with a 500 gallon fuel tank on it and the end of the pier was said to be in danger of collapse. Photographer Jim McDonnell was on the beach and captured the scene in these photos. Containment booms were put in place to protect against an oil spill. When more information and photos are available, we’ll post an update.

Bruce Handy photographed the barge and crane last night and said it was already tilting. The equipment had been at the end of the pier for the past few days for repairs of the Sandy-damaged pier. “The main diagonal beam that was raising the floor has been removed. Looks like they are stripping everything and will redo all the wood,” he said.

It’s exactly one month since workers began repairing the pier. On March 14th, ATZ first reported the repairs underway. In an email to ATZ, Meghan Lalor of the Parks Department Press Office wrote: “The entire Steeplechase Pier is being reconstructed. We expect to complete construction by July 4.”

UPDATE April 14, 2013

Today’s Photo Update: Sunken Barge at Steeplechase Pier in Coney Island

UPDATE April 24, 2013

The post-Sandy reconstruction of Steeplechase Pier is back up to speed after a construction barge sank on April 13: “Photo Album: Coney Island April 2013 Construction Update”, ATZ, April 24, 2013

Steeplechase Pier, Coney Island

FDNY Marine 6 on the scene at sinking barge, Steeplechase Pier, Coney Island. April 13, 2013. Photo © Jim McDonnell

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 14, 2013: Photo of the Day: Repairing Sandy-Damaged Steeplechase Pier

October 31, 2012: Photo Album: Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath in Coney Island

August 10, 2012: Steeplechase Plaza Under Construction in Coney Island

August 24, 2010: Video: Coney Island Pier Divers by Kevin C Downs

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Nathan's Surf Avenue

Post-Sandy Reconstruction: Nathan’s Famous on Surf Avenue. March 2, 2013. Photo © Jim McDonnell

The first Nathan’s hot dogs and french fries to be served in Coney Island since Sandy struck more than four months ago are on the horizon. In two weeks, the famous franks will be back on the Boardwalk! Nathan’s Boardwalk location, which expanded last season and suffered less damage from Sandy than the Surf Avenue store, is set to open in mid-March. One source tells ATZ the Nathan’s Boardwalk store will open on March 16, a Saturday, while another says March 18. Either way, we’ll let you know ASAP. UPDATE 1:35pm: ATZ confirmed with Nathan’s Corporate Office that the official opening date of their Boardwalk restaurant will be Monday, March 18th.

Over the weekend, the gut rehab at Nathan’s Famous original location on Surf Avenue continued with workers ripping out the counter and steel shutters, as seen in the above photo by Jim McDonnell. The interior as well as electrical and plumbing were ruined by the flood water and sewage that surged into the store during Superstorm Sandy. Sources tell ATZ the target date for completing the work and reopening Nathan’s main store at Surf and Stillwell Avenues is Memorial Day Weekend.

Ahead of March 24′s Opening Day for Coney Island’s amusement rides, some of Nathan’s neighbors on the Boardwalk such as Brooklyn Beach Shop, Nathan’s Gift Shop, and Ruby’s Bar and Grill have already been open “by chance” and expect to open on the weekend of March 16th. Lola Star Boutique and Paul’s Daughter are set to open on Palm Sunday Weekend. Tom’s Restaurant, which has been serving breakfast and lunch all winter, was exceptionally crowded over the weekend. Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy, who eats there every Sunday said, “Today we got the last table and they were holding people at the door.” Spring is in the wings and the crowds are coming back to Coney!

UPDATE March 7, 2013:

Nathan’s and Major League Eating announced they will hold the first qualifier for the 2013 Nathan’s 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest on Saturday, March 23, at 1 pm, at the Boardwalk restaurant as part of opening-weekend celebrations for Coney Island.

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March 7, 2013: March Events: Coney Island USA Gala, Dreamland Bell, Tom Thumb, Opening Day

February 27, 2013: Coney Island’s 24-Hour Dunkin Donuts to Reopen in March

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

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