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Save Coney Island Club of Agoura High School, Agoura Hills, California- 2009-2010. Photo © Boardwalklover via flickr

Save Coney Island Club of Agoura High School, Agoura Hills, California- 2009-2010. Photo © Boardwalklover via flickr

When we saw this adorable photo of the Save Coney Island Club of Agoura High School in Agoura Hills, California, it made us think– Wow, California really is ahead of the curve! We agree with the sentiments of the Brooklynite who found the photo on flickr and called it to our attention: “Maybe it’ll spawn Save Coney Island Clubs in New York City high schools!”

According to the photo caption “As of January 2010, we have raised apr. $130.00. It meets EVERY ODD FRIDAY in ROOM M5A at lunch! (periods 1-3-5).”

ATZ contacted the club’s founder, 15-year-old Taylor Stein, for more information. Taylor got the Save Coney Island T-shirt that he’s wearing in the photo when he visited Coney Island last summer with his Dad. The Stein family is originally from Brooklyn. Taylor returned to California more determined than ever to help save Coney Island’s shrinking outdoor amusement area from high rise development and to preserve its historic structures.

Taylor told us about the club’s activities: “We raised $130 by having a candy apple and fudge fundraiser, and also by getting donations and rewarding candy on a daily basis at school. Our club meets every other Friday at lunch and discusses key ways to raise money that will help cover the expenses of the Save Coney Island lawsuit against the city. We also watch historic Coney Island films while eating lunch, plus we talk about the history and current events happening in Coney Island. We hope to raise at least $400 by the end of the year.”

Mapquest’s total travel estimate from Coney Island to Agoura Hills is 43 hours 5 minutes or 2833.03 miles. We’re impressed by the California club’s long distance devotion to Coney Island. It’s proof that what Steeplechase Park creator George C. Tilyou wrote in 1886 is truer than ever: “If Paris is France, then Coney Island, between June to September, is the world.”

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December 20, 2009: Coney Island Photo of the Day: First Snow on the Cyclone

July 27, 2009: Save Coney Island for the Kids: “Everything I Love is Here”

July 27, 2009: Tall, Skinny & Destined to Kill Coney Island: High Rises on South Side of Surf

June 2, 2009: Coney Island is Alive and Kicking in 2009 Photo of the Day: Dusk on the Boardwalk

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Luna Park at Night. Coney Island History Project Collection

Luna Park at Night. © Coney Island History Project Collection

In a Jan 23 interview with his hometown newspaper, Zamperla President and CEO Alberto Zamperla revealed the previously undisclosed name and numbers of his soon-to-be built amusement park in Coney Island. “The park will be called, Luna Park, like the first, the only, the inimitable one, the one created by Frederic Thompson and Elmer ‘Skip’ Dundy,” according to an article in the Italian newspaper Il Giornale di Vicenza.

The original Luna Park (1903-1946), one of Coney Island’s four historic amusement parks, inspired Luna Parks throughout the country and round the world. In many countries, including Italy, “Luna Park” is a generic term for amusement park. The article mentions bringing a smile back to the lips of Manhattan director Woody Allen and millions of Americans who return to play in the real and only Luna Park.

Luna Park Entrance, 1930s. © Coney Island History Project Collection

Now for the numbers: “For the first season we have estimated the presence of 400 thousand visitors and we are confident it will grow in the future,” Zamperla told the paper. “In terms of investment, we are talking about $24 million over three years. For us it is a great satisfaction as well as a great opportunity.”

The CEO said he was flying to New York the next day and characterized the next few months as “a race against time.” The amusement operator has only six weeks from the site turnover date of April 15 until the park’s opening on Memorial Day weekend to produce the new rides and assemble the new park.

Last week NY1 leaked the news that the City had selected Zamperla USA to be the new amusement park operator for Coney Island. The news is absolutely thrilling, though not at all surprising, to those of us who work in Coney. Zamperla was considered the front runner because they operate Victorian Gardens for the City and the CEO of Zamperla USA joined the CIDC’s Amusement Advisory Board in March 2009. We look forward to the official press conference where Zamperla unveils their designs and ride line-up for the future Luna Park. An announcement is expected as early as this week. But we can’t wait any longer to say Congratulazioni a Zamperla! Welcome to Coney Island!

1934: Souvenir de Luna-Park, France. Found Photo © lovedaylemon via flickr

1934: Souvenir de Luna-Park, France. Found Photo © lovedaylemon via flickr

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August 29, 2010: Video: Grand Prize Winner of Luna Park Coney Island’s Film Contest!

May 28 2010:You Are Invited to the Opening of Luna Park in Coney Island!

April 14, 2010: Photo Album: Heroic 24/7 Race to Build Coney Island’s New Luna Park

February 22, 2010: Coney Island’s Luna Park Launches Blog Site, Lists Job Openings

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If you think “Ciao” means only hello or goodbye, we have news for you:  In NYCEDC (New York Economic Development Corporation) acronymese, CIAO stands for Coney Island Amusement Operator in the RFP (Request for Proposals) for a 10 year lease of the City’s newly purchased 6.9 acres in the People’s Playground. Today is the deadline for responses to the RFP and we’re set to be thrilled by the zillion dollar ride line up of the decade! Our guess is the successful bidder will be a team that not only has experience in park operations but also includes a top carnival  and a ride manufacturer with coaster creds.  Oh, and did we mention access to capital? But don’t expect to find out who gets to put in Coney Island’s interim midway–it’s the equivalent of a mega state fair contract– until early 2010.

In the meantime, ATZ took a look at some of the questions potential CIAO’s have asked about the RFP and Coney Island in general, and the NYCEDC’s replies, for clues to the future. Will the oldies but goodies in the City owned Boardwalk properties like Ruby’s, Cha Cha’s, Shoot the Freak and the historic Astrotower get a new 10 year lease on life? Or will it be out with the old, in with the new starting in 2011?

View from Cha Chas

Coney Island, View from Cha Cha's Rooftop on Siren Day 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Free Rent In Coney Island?!

The full set of Q & A’s posted on the RFP site covered necessary stuff like electrical power to the sites, restrooms, lighting, fencing, security and rubbish removal, all of which the CIAO is expected to provide in addition to the rides and attractions. The site turnover date is April 15, 2010, leaving the operator only 6 weeks till Memorial Day to install everything and obtain the necessary permits and inspections. In 2010, the City will spend $2.2 million out of a total of $6.6 million in public funds on site improvements. What about the rent?

Q:  In the RFP, you mentioned terms including “free rent” and percentages.  Can you explain what is meant by these terms?

A:  Given the compressed timeline and the intermediate lease term offered, NYCEDC intends to be as flexible as possible in accommodating the needs of the operator.  Therefore, a variety of rent schedules and structures, which may or may not include percentage rent, base rent or free rent, will be considered.

Lotsa Interest in the Boardwalk Businesses

More revealing about the shape of things to come in Coney are the Q & A’s about the Boardwalk businesses, the Astrotower, and even the Astroland Rocket.

Q: What businesses are located on the Boardwalk? Do you have contact information?

A: The businesses currently located on the Boardwalk within the boundaries of Parcels A, B, and C are, from East to West: Paul’s Daughter, Pio Pio Rico, Gyro Corner, Coney Island Souvenirs, Ruby’s Bar and Grill, Shoot the Freak, Cha-Cha’s, Nathan’s Famous, Beer Island. Additional information for businesses in Coney Island can be found at www.coneyislandfunguide.com.

Ruby's Bar & Grill

Ruby's Bar & Grill, Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

The City has already offered one year leases for 2010 to the mom-and-pop businesses occupying the Boardwalk property formerly owned by Thor Equities. Lola Staar Boutique, which was evicted by Thor, was asked to return as well. But will they be back in 2011? It’s clear from the Q & A’s that some of the potential CIAO’s are very interested in the revenue generating potential of the bars and the Boardwalk property. It would be a sorry day if Coney Island mainstays Ruby’s, Cha Cha’s, Shoot the Freak and the other small businesses are “pratted out” (as we say in the carnival biz) after having survived the dark days of Thor.

Before the RFP release, Shoot the Freak’s Anthony Berlingieri made headlines when he appeared at the City’s press conference on the land buy and posed the question directly to Mayor Bloomberg: “Is there a place for us?” NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky gave a diplomatic reply: “Our intention is for the foreseeable future to keep all the tenants in place, certainly through next summer. And we’re going to be looking to work with each of you to figure out where it makes sense for the various tenants to remain as we build out the amusement park.”

More from the Coney Island RFP Q & A’s related to Boardwalk Businesses

Q: What is going to happen with the Boardwalk tenants in both the short term and throughout the lease period? Can responses to the RFP include those businesses and the space along the boardwalk?

A: For Year 1 of operations (the Summer 2010 season), NYCEDC intends to enter into one-year licenses directly with the Boardwalk businesses. Beginning in Year 2 of operations, Respondents may propose to include or exclude these businesses and structures from their proposals.

Q: What is the current rent from these tenants?

A: While we cannot share information on individual licenses at this time, we can report that in the past, the gross potential rent for the Boardwalk tenants was approximately $750,000 to $900,000.

Shoot the Freak

Shoot the Freak on Fourth of July. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Q: Do the Boardwalk tenants have liquor licenses? Do these remain with the tenant or the structure?

A: Several of the businesses on the Boardwalk maintain liquor licenses with the New York State Liquor Authority (“SLA”). Most of the active licenses are seasonal (for a term of seven months) and are renewed annually. The process for the “transfer” of a license at an existing premises to a new business as well as other details regarding liquor licenses is available at the website of the SLA: http://www.abc.state.ny.us.

Q: Can the Boardwalk businesses make use of the Boardwalk?

A: Yes, businesses are generally permitted to occupy approximately 20 feet of the Boardwalk in front of the business premises with tables and chairs. Such use of the Boardwalk requires approval by and an annual fee paid to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

According to the Coney Island RFP, “Responses to this RFP should articulate whether they include or exclude these structures or footprints, beginning at the earliest in Year 2 of operations.”  But it also says “The Selected Respondent may propose to include subtenants for portions of their proposed operations, but such subtenants, and such subtenant agreements, shall be subject to NYCEDC approval.”  In other words, the City, which owns the property, has final say over which businesses come or go.

While the RFP encourages a plan for Minority/Women Business Enterprises (M/WBE) and local hiring, there’s no mention of protection for small businesses in general. In fact, the buildings could be demolished and the tenants displaced. Will the Boardwalk end up looking like the rest of New York City–out with the mom and pops, in with the formula businesses and chain restaurants? We hope not. But the Bloomberg adminstration’s opposition to Councilman Jackson’s proposed Small Business Survival Act, which has enough support to pass in the City Council, does not make us feel optimistic.

Astrotower. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Astrotower. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Astrotower

Despite the closing of Astroland and the fact that the Astrotower hasn’t operated as a ride for two years, Bruce Handy‘s photo gives us a hopeful feeling. We can imagine buds and then leaves on the tree and the Tower still standing tall. The Municipal Art Society and Save Coney Island say the structure is eligible for the State and National Registers. We hope the Astrotower will be a survivor like Steeplechase’s Parachute Jump.

Q: What are the future plans for the Astrotower? Could the operator choose to reactivate the Astrotower? Could the operator choose to remove the Astrotower from the site?

A: Respondents should include in their proposal how they will address the Astrotower. Reactivating the tower or removing it are both among the potential options.

Q: Do you have any drawings of the Astrotower? Can NYCEDC provide dimensions? Can NYCEDC provide the name of the manufacturer?

A. It is our understanding that the Astrotower was manufactured by the Swiss company Von Roll and installed in 1964. Von Roll was purchased by Doppelmayr Garaventa Group (www.doppelmayrctec.com) in 1996. The tower is approximately 260’ high.

Astroland Rocket

Jan 28, 2009 - Astroland Rocket in Aquarium Parking Lot ready to Go to Homeport Storage facility in Staten Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/Coney Island History Project

Astroland Rocket

When we look at this photo of the Rocket with the Cyclone, Tower and Wonder Wheel in the background, we can just imagine how wonderful it will be when the Rocket rejoins these landmarks in the new Coney Island. We hope the Tower will be there too!

Q: The City saved the Astroland Rocket last year. Will it return as a part of the new amusement park?

A: The City of New York accepted a donation in January 2009 of the Astroland Rocket, a 71-foot long 12,000 pound rocket ship flight simulator that was among the original rides at Astroland when the park opened in the 1960s. The Rocket is currently in an NYCEDC storage facility. NYCEDC anticipates discussing potential locations for the Rocket with the Selected Respondent following designation, although Respondents are welcome to propose a use for the Rocket in their proposals if they so choose.

The potential CIAO’s also had questions about adjacent property, asking for contact information  for “the owner of the lot immediately to the East of Keyspan Park” (Horace Bullard) and the “owner of the lots immediately north of Parcels B and C, south of the Bowery” (Thor Equities). If we’re lucky, the spillover of applicants for the RFP will fill Sitt’s and Bullard’s empty lots with amusements this summer.

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Related posts on ATZ…

November 25, 2009: Photo Album: Coney Island Shines at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 in Vegas

November 23, 2009: The Contenders from A to Z: Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP

May 29, 2009: At Cha-Cha’s of Coney Island, Squidling Rhymes with Ringling

May 17, 2009: Joe Sitt’s No Show Rides

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