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Posts Tagged ‘Landmarks Preservation Commission’

Shore Theater for Sale. Dec 19, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Shore Theater for Sale. Dec 19, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Since the Shore Theater became an official New York City landmark last week, the “For Sale” banners on its scaffolding have beckoned. ATZ phoned the broker to ask a) the price and b) if we could get a peek inside. Hey, we’re curious. The Shore Theater was built at the same time as the Cyclone roller coaster and the Wonder Wheel, yet it’s been dark for as long as we’ve been coming to Coney Island. The theater closed in the 1970s.

If buying the Shore and saving it from 35 years of neglect is on your Christmas Wish List, please be a millionaire. The building will cost you $12 million. Fillmore broker Lenny Libman says he has “a few prospective buyers” as well as businesses looking to lease the ground floor. He does not think the City will buy it. As for a peek inside, we’re still working on it. Libman says, “It would be taking your life into your own hands” due to the condition of the interior.

The building’s owner Horace Bullard wouldn’t allow anyone inside prior to the designation because he feared the building would be landmarked, says Libman. Even HBO’s hit show “Boardwalk Empire” has failed to get their foot in the door. Ironically the Shore Theater was landmarked anyway, though only the exterior was considered for designation at this time. Elisabeth de Bourbon of the Landmarks Preservation Commission told ATZ that by law the commission may consider only those buildings which are “customarily open to the public” for interior designation.

New York City has 110 buildings with landmarked interiors, including Grand Central Station and the lobbies of the Empire State and Woolworth Buildings, as well as such Broadway theaters as the Majestic, Martin Beck, Ambassador and Beacon.

Shore Theater for Sale. Dec 19, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Shore Theater for Sale. Dec 19, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

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December 14, 2010: Amid Demolitions & Evictions in Coney Island, City Landmarks Shore Theater

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

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

March 8, 2010: March 23: Rescuing Coney Island’s Shore Theater from 35 Years of Neglect

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The Shore Theater, formerly the Loew's Coney Island, is up for City landmark designation. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Shore Theater, formerly the Loews Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On December 14, the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will designate the Shore Theater an official New York City Landmark, according to the website of the Municipal Art Society. We applaud the landmarking, which is long overdue. The designation will help rescue the building, which has been vacant and neglected for 35 years. But the timing of the announcement, just as the demolitions and evictions of much of old Coney Island are in the news, including the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, strikes us as a little too coincidental. It’s as if the City is saying, hey look over here, we’re saving Coney Island!

Five years ago, the 1925 Shore Theater, formerly the Loew’s Coney Island, and five other historic buildings were nominated for New York City landmark designation by Coney Island USA. But the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission dragged its feet and would not calendar any of the buildings until February 2010, months after Coney Island had been rezoned. Of the nominated buildings, only two–the Childs Restaurant (owned by CIUSA) and the Shore Theater (owned by Horace Bullard)– were considered worthy of landmark designation. The Shore Hotel was demolished on Friday and the Henderson Building is next on Thor Equities hit list. The doomed buildings were on parcels rezoned for high rise hotels.

As for the Shore Theater, we would not be surprised if the City ended up acquiring the building. At the Community Board’s public hearing on the Coney Island rezoning, there was a proposal to revive the Shore as a community center. When the LPC held a public hearing on the landmark designation in March 2010, ATZ noted

The Shore’s history as a year-round entertainment venue fits in with the Bloomberg administration’s long-term plan to revitalize Coney Island as a year-round destination.

Sources tell ATZ that the City has been trying to buy Bullard’s Coney Island properties or negotiate a land swap. We have also heard rumors of a “blight” taking of the Shore Theater based on the fact that the property owner has done nothing with the building for 25 years. In fact, the Shore has been vacant for over 35 years! Bullard’s acrimonious relationship with the City dates back to the Giuliani administration, when the Mayor killed his plans to build a new Steeplechase Park and illegally demolished the Thunderbolt roller coaster.

The day before the LPC’s calendaring of the Shore Theater in February, Bullard was served with a violation from the Department of Buildings. The caps are the DOB’s: “FAILURE TO FILE AN ACCEPTABLE SIXTH ROUND TECHNICAL FACADE REPORT.” Cycle 6 ended February 20, 2010. Chunks of the facade are falling off.

If the building is landmarked, Demolition by Neglect laws could come into play. The New York City demolition by neglect ordinance states, “every [owner] of a landmark site or historic district shall keep in good repair (1) all of the exterior portions of such improvement and (2) all interior portions thereof which, if not so maintained, may cause or tend to cause the exterior portions of such improvement to deteriorate, decay or become damaged or otherwise to fell into a state of disrepair.” NEW YORK, N.Y., CODE § 25-311 (2001).

Last year, in a precedent setting lawsuit, the City was awarded $1.1 million in civil penalties and gave the owners of the landmarked Windermere apartments a choice of fixing the property or selling it. “This settlement sends a message to owners of landmarked buildings that they must keep them in a state of good repair,” said Robert B. Tierney, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in a New York City Law Department press release about the case. “Buildings like the Windermere are an indispensable part of New York City’s architectural heritage and must be preserved for future generations.”

Coney Island Theatre Building.  Photo © katherine of chicago via flickr

Coney Island Theatre Building. Photo © katherine of chicago via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

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

November 24, 2010: Photo of the Day: R.I.P. Bank of Coney Island

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

March 8, 2010: March 23: Rescuing Coney Island’s Shore Theater from 35 Years of Neglect

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Call to Action: Rally for Preservation on Wednesday, May 12

WHEN: Wednesday, May 12th at 10am SHARP

WHERE: City Hall Steps – 4,5,6, N or R Trains to City Hall

Tomorrow morning, Save Coney Island joins the Historic Districts Council and other preservation groups at a citywide rally at City Hall.

“Save Coney Island believes this summer should be about REVITALIZATION (with the opening of the new Luna Park) and PRESERVATION – NOT about “DEMOLITION,” said an e-mail from the grass-roots group. “Please join us. This will be a perfect opportunity to put Coney Island’s preservation battle in the citywide spotlight. We need you to make your voice heard.”

ATZ is sorry that rumors of Joe Sitt’s plans to demolish historic buildings which we reported in “Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings” (ATZ, April 21, 2010) have turned out to be true. On May 3, Thor Equities spokes-tool Loren Riegelhaupt told the Brooklyn Paper: “This summer is going to be about the demolition.” The reference is to the planned demo of four historic buildings in Coney Island owned by Joe Sitt.

Shore Hotel Nature's Paradise by the Sea. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Shore Hotel Nature's Paradise by the Sea. April 26, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The endangered buildings are the Grashorn, Coney Island’s oldest; the former Bank of Coney Island; the Henderson Building; and the Shore Hotel. The Grashorn and Henderson were nominated for landmark designation by Coney Island USA and all four buildings would be part of an historic district proposed by Save Coney Island. Stefan Friedman, another Thor spokes-tool, told the paper: “These buildings were thoroughly reviewed by the city [before] last year’s rezoning and determined to have no significant historic value whatsoever. Some of these buildings are asbestos-infested ramshackle buildings that pose a very real risk to the local community.”

We’ll counter Thor’s disinformation campaign by referring you to “Destined for Demolition? Historic Buildings Owned By Thor Equities” in the right column of our blog for articles by the Municipal Art Society, Vanishing New York and ATZ on the four buildings in question and Save Coney’s list of historic landmarks. As for Thor’s empty lots, check out “Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt”

The Historic Districts Council is hosting the rally…

We will be having speakers from neighborhoods across the city talking about their efforts and giving voice to the fact that people want preservation. For the past four years, HDC has helped organize a preservation day at City Hall that dozens of neighborhood preservationists have attended to show the strength of the preservation community. Through our efforts, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has grown in staff and has designated more properties in all five boroughs than ever – they designated more properties in 2008 than they had in any year since 1990. This record of accomplishment needs to continue; dozens of historic neighborhoods throughout New York City are still unprotected and prey to tear-downs and unregulated development. If we’ve learned one thing in 45 years of preservation practice in New York, it’s that landmark protection is good for the city. Without landmark protection, SoHo and Tribeca wouldn’t exist, the theater district would be an office park and Brooklyn Heights would be filled with high-rises. But as much as the LPC has accomplished, there’s still much more to do.

Coney Island’s Shore Theater and Coney Island USA’s Building (the former Childs Restaurant on Surf Avenue) are being considered for landmark designation by the LPC.

Thor-owned Henderson Building Being Cleaned Out, May 8, 2010. Photo © Capt. Nemo/Magical Theme Parks

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April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

April 29, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt Is Baaack Playing Games!

March 8, 2010: March 23: Rescuing Coney Island’s Shore Theater from 35 Years of Neglect

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

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Coney Island Theatre Building.  Photo © katherine of chicago via flickr

Coney Island Theatre Building. Photo © katherine of chicago via flickr

In advance of a public hearing set for March 23rd, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has released a detailed description of the long vacant Shore Theater that positively sings landmark designation and Broadway at the Beach! ATZ is reprinting it in its entirety below for your reading pleasure. We hope it will inspire you to voice your support at the hearing or via letters and emails to LPC.

If you have additional info about the history of the Shore Theater or photos of the interior, now is the time to come forward. The exterior is currently up for landmarking, but the LPC may consider the interior at a later date. People who have been inside the Shore have said that architectural features of the ornate interior remain and can be restored.

We think that the Shore Theater, as well as the Coney Island USA Building (the former Childs Restaurant), which is also on the agenda for March 23, will be landmarked. The two buildings are considered the most likely to win landmark designation of the six historic structures in the amusement area nominated by Coney Island USA. In 2007, the City funded Coney Island USA’s $3.6 million purchase of the former restaurant and landmark status will make the 1917 building eligible for grants to continue CIUSA’s ongoing renovation. The Shore’s history as a year-round entertainment venue fits in with the Bloomberg administration’s long-term plan to revitalize Coney Island as a year-round destination.

But Horace Bullard, the Shore’s owner, is likely to voice objections. Last month Bullard told the Bay News that landmarking would “handicap” the transformation of the amusement district: “If all of old Coney Island was there and it was all landmarked, it virtually would no longer be an amusement district – it would be a historic district.”

Sources tell ATZ that the City has been trying to buy Bullard’s Coney Island properties or negotiate a land swap. We have also heard rumors of a “blight” taking of the Shore Theater based on the fact that the property owner has done nothing with the building for 25 years. In fact, the Shore has been vacant for over 35 years! Bullard’s acrimonious relationship with the City dates back to the Giuliani administration, when the Mayor killed his plans to build a new Steeplechase Park and illegally demolished the Thunderbolt roller coaster.

Across the Street from the Shore Theater: Nathan's, the Parachute Jump.  Photo © Betty Blade via flickr

Across the Street from the Shore Theater: Nathan's, the Parachute Jump. Photo © Betty Blade via flickr

The day before the LPC’s calendaring of the Shore Theater in February, Bullard was served with a violation from the Department of Buildings. The caps are the DOB’s: “FAILURE TO FILE AN ACCEPTABLE SIXTH ROUND TECHNICAL FACADE REPORT.” Cycle 6 ended February 20, 2010. Chunks of the facade are falling off.

If the building is landmarked Demolition by Neglect laws could come into play. The New York City demolition by neglect ordinance states, “every [owner] of a landmark site or historic district shall keep in good repair (1) all of the exterior portions of such improvement and (2) all interior portions thereof which, if not so maintained, may cause or tend to cause the exterior portions of such improvement to deteriorate, decay or become damaged or otherwise to fell into a state of disrepair.” NEW YORK, N.Y., CODE § 25-311 (2001).

Last year, in a precedent setting lawsuit, the City was awarded $1.1 million in civil penalties and gave the owners of the landmarked Windermere apartments a choice of fixing the property or selling it. “This settlement sends a message to owners of landmarked buildings that they must keep them in a state of good repair,” said Robert B. Tierney, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in a New York City Law Department press release about the case. “Buildings like the Windermere are an indispensable part of New York City’s architectural heritage and must be preserved for future generations.”

As ATZ reported last month (“Feb 9: First Step in Landmark Designation of Coney Island’s Shore Theater”), much has been written about the Shore Theater in recent months. Vanishing New York’s photo essay on the theater’s history and probable future and “The Shore Theater: A Sure Part of Coney Island’s Future?” by the Municipal Art Society’s Melissa Baldock are required reading. The Municipal Art Society, Coney Island USA and Save Coney Island are among the organizations that support the landmark designation.

Coney Island's Shore Theater. Photo via masnyc's flickr

Coney Island's Shore Theater. Photo via masnyc's flickr


The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission Report on the Shore Theater…

CONEY ISLAND THEATRE (LATER SHORE THEATER) BUILDING
1301 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn (aka 2932-2952 Stillwell Avenue)
Built: 1924-25
Architect: [Paul C.] Reilly & [Douglas Pairman] Hall, with Samuel L. Malkind
Builder: Chanin Construction Company
Style: neo-Renaissance Revival
Significant Alterations: Marquee removed, storefront infill, replacement windows
Previous Actions: None

The Coney Island Theatre Building was constructed in 1924-25 to the designs of experienced theater architects Reilly & Hall, with associate architect Samuel L. Malkind, all of whom were protégés of the famous theater architect Thomas W. Lamb. The builder was the Chanin Construction Company, specialists in theater construction. Opened on June 27, 1925 with screenings of the silent film “The Sporting Venus” and live performances by the famous Siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, the seven-story neo-Renaissance Revival style structure housed a 2,500-seat auditorium theater for vaudeville and motion pictures as well as six stories of office space. Shortly after its opening, the theater came under the operation of Marcus Loew, founder of one of the nation’s premier movie theater chains. According to one source, Al Jolson performed at Loew’s Coney Island Theatre on August 11, 1949.

The Coney Island Theatre was an important part of a redevelopment initiative launched in the early 1920s by the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce (organized in 1923) that aimed to transform the existing core of outdoor amusements into a more respectable year-round entertainment district. The 1920 construction of the Stillwell Avenue subway station and construction of the boardwalk, which made the beachfront publicly accessible for the first time, had paved the way for a revamped Coney Island. The Theatre Building was one of the few buildings on Coney Island to be constructed of more permanent, fireproof materials like brick, stone and terra cotta; when completed, it stood out in contrast to the traditionally low-rise wood and plaster buildings of the amusement district. In addition to a year-round theater, the Chamber of Commerce promoted other amusement ventures such as Child’s Restaurant, the Cyclone Roller Coaster, and the Wonder Wheel (all designated New York City landmarks), as well as RKO’s Tilyou Theater and the Half Moon Hotel (both demolished). Today the Coney Island Theatre Building remains among the tallest structures on the Coney Island skyline.

The theater-and-office building was erected by the Chanin Construction Company, founded in 1919 by Irwin S. Chanin, an engineer and architect, and his brother Henry Chanin, an accountant. The Chanin Construction Company soon became one of the city’s preeminent design-build firms, and in 1924 branched out into theater construction. Between 1924 and 1927, the Chanins built six Broadway theaters: the Forty-sixth Street, Biltmore, Mansfied, Majestic, and Royale theaters, and the Theater Masque, all of which are designated New York City Landmarks (the Biltmore Theater is a designated interior landmark). The 6,200-seat Roxy Theater (demolished) was also the work of the Chanin brothers. In addition to theaters, the Chanins erected a number of significant residential and commercial buildings throughout the city in the the 1920s and 1930s, including the Century and the Majestic apartments on Central Park West (1931 and 1930-31, respectively), and the Chanin Building (Irwin S. Chanin with Sloan & Robertson, 1927-29), all designated New York City landmarks.

Designed by Paul C. Reilly and Douglas Pairman Hall, the building is a modest interpretation of an Italian Renaissance palazzo. Constructed using the latest in fireproofing technology and clad in limestone, buff brick and cream-colored terra cotta with green accents, the building has a rusticated base with arcaded Florentine arches, a terra-cotta clerestory, and a roof pavilion with arched windows and a balcony. Decorative panels and balustrades enliven the building’s facade. The plain brick box of the auditorium space, which is roughly five stories in height and has a covered fire escape/exit on the exterior, extends to the rear of the seven-story building. Both Reilly and Hall were employed by the firm of Thomas W. Lamb prior to forming their own partnership in 1920, Reilly as Lamb’s chief designer. Their associate on the project, Samuel L. Malkind, also worked for Lamb in the late 1910s. The architects’ design for the Coney Island Theatre Building was illustrated in R.W. Sexton’s book American Theatres of Today, published in 1927.

Vintage view: The Stage at the Shore Theater. Photo from stevesobczuk via flickr

Vintage view: The Stage at the Shore Theater. stevesobczuk via flickr

The Coney Island Theatre Building is unusual for its combination of a theater with a full-size office building, a typology more often seen in Manhattan’s theater district than in the outer boroughs. Another interesting feature of the building’s design is the single entrance for theater patrons; reportedly owing to his childhood memories of entering movie theaters through secondary entrances for low-price ticket holders, Irwin Chanin of Chanin Construction did away with the secondary entrance in all of his theater buildings, exclaiming “Whether you’ve got a nickel or a five-dollar bill, go right inside… You’re part of the audience”. (Irwin S. Chanin obituary, New York Times, Feb. 26 1988)

In 1964 the theater came under the operation of Harry Brandt, who renamed it the Shore Theater. Just two years later the theater stopped showing films and began staging musical revues. From 1966 until 1971 the theater was operated by Leroy C. Griffith, a national burlesque entrepreneur; Griffith’s opening show at the Shore Theater was called “Stars ‘n Strips Forever”. After a brief stint showing adult films, the theater was converted into a bingo hall.

Still remarkably intact, the Coney Island Theatre Building is an impressive reminder of Coney Island’s heyday as America’s playground.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is located on the 9th Floor of the Municipal Building at the corner of Centre Street and Chambers Street, across from City Hall, in Manhattan. The public hearing is on the LPC calendar for Tuesday, March 23rd. The hearing time will be scheduled a week in advance and posted on the LPC’s website. Mailing address: Landmarks Preservation Commission, Municipal Building, 1 Centre Street, 9th Floor New York, NY 10007

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Related posts on ATZ…

December 14, 2010: Amid Demolitions & Evictions in Coney Island, City Landmarks Shore Theater

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

February 23, 2010: Feb 24: Theater Historian’s Talk Puts Spotlight On Coney Island’s Lost Stages

October 9, 2009: A Rare Peek Inside Endangered Old Bank of Coney Island

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The Shore Theater, formerly the Loew's Coney Island, is up for City landmark designation. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Shore Theater, formerly the Loews Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Five years ago, the 1925 Shore Theater, formerly the Loew’s Coney Island, was nominated for New York City landmark designation by Coney Island USA. On Tuesday, February 9, at 9:35 a.m., the long vacant building owned by Horace Bullard is expected to be put on the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s calendar for a public hearing. This is the first step in the landmark designation process.

If you wish to attend Tuesday’s public meeting, don’t be late because the calendaring is expected to take a mere five minutes! The Shore is on the schedule from 9:35-9:40 a.m. Sources say the LPC staff will present a PowerPoint on the building’s history and then there might be a brief discussion among the commissioners. They are likely to vote to calendar the building.

The public hearing is typically scheduled one to six months after the calendaring. According to the Commission’s FAQs about the designation process, the public will get to have their say at the public hearing and may submit written statements at that time.

Much has been written about the Shore Theater in recent months. Vanishing New York’s photo essay on the theater’s history and probable future and “The Shore Theater: A Sure Part of Coney Island’s Future?” by the Municipal Art Society‘s Melissa Baldock are required reading.

Baldock says the Shore represents the optimism for the future of Coney Island at the dawn of the “Nickel Empire” and is one of Coney Island’s most striking buildings: “Its theater sat nearly 2,400 people, and above the theater were several stories of office space intended for the entertainment industry, which the developers hoped would flourish in Coney Island.”

We hope the building can be renovated and restored so that art and entertainment will again flourish in this once grand movie and vaudeville venue. Although the calendering does not list the building’s interior, we’re told the LPC may consider the interior at a later date.

The Shore Theater is also the first of six Coney Island buildings nominated for landmark designation by Coney Island USA. The others are Nathan’s Famous, Coney Island USA Building (former Childs Building), the Grashorn Building (Coney Island’s oldest), the Henderson Building, and the building that housed the B & B Carousell. Coney Island’s four designated City landmarks are the Cyclone Roller Coaster, the Wonder Wheel, the Parachute Jump and the Childs Building on the Boardwalk.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is located on the 9th Floor of the Municipal Building at the corner of Centre Street and Chambers Street, across from City Hall, in Manhattan. More information, including a link to a form to nominate a building for landmark status, is available on the LPC’s website.

UPDATE FEB. 9, 5:30 pm…The Municipal Art Society reports that this morning the LPC voted unanimously to calendar the exterior of the Shore Theater, including the rear portion of the building (shown in photo.) Says MAS, “The next step in the landmarking process will be a public hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. We encourage the public to voice their support for the designation of the entire Shore Theater building at this hearing or through sending letters and emails. The final designation steps will be the Commission’s vote, followed by a City Council vote.” Courier Life’s Joe Maniscalco reports that the public hearing date for the Shore theater designation has been set for March 23 and the calendaring of the Coney Island USA Building on February 16.

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December 14, 2010: Amid Demolitions & Evictions in Coney Island, City Landmarks Shore Theater

January 11, 2010: Steeplechase Pool, Zip Coaster Sites to Be De-Mapped for Housing

December 18, 2009: Ciao Coney Island! Will Ruby’s, Shoot the Freak, Astrotower & Other Oldies Survive?

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

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