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Posts Tagged ‘Jim McDonnell’

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 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


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.


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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