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Posts Tagged ‘Save Coney Island’

On Thursday, September 30, CUNY Graduate Center and Save Coney Island are co-hosting “Heritage, Rides, Redevelopment: What’s Next for Coney Island?,” a discussion moderated by Pulitzer prize winning historian Mike Wallace. This is one panel discussion we’re actually looking forward to because the panelists are not academic talk, no-action kind of guys. They’re in it to win it, as we say on the midway.

Speakers include Valerio Ferrari, president and CEO of Zamperla USA and Central Amusement International (CAI), operator of Coney Island’s fabulously successful new Luna Park; David Malmuth, former Disney vice-president, developer of Times Square’s New Amsterdam Theatre, and chief presenter of the Municipal Art Society’s “Imagine Coney”; and Michael Immerso, historian and author of “Coney Island: the People’s Playground” and a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on the benefits of preserving Surf Avenue’s historic buildings.

Bank of Coney

Save Coney Island released this architectural rendering of how a restored Bank Of Coney Building might look as The Banker's Ballroom

Admission is free to the September 30th event, which is being held at CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan, but it’s advisable to make a reservation online. The invite reads: “What lies ahead for Coney Island? Join us for a panel discussion on the latest developments in Coney Island and on how Coney’s past can shape its future.”

We’re eager to hear what Valerio Ferrari has to say about his company’s plans for next season and beyond. Zamperla/CAI has a ten-year lease to operate amusements on the 6.9 acres the City bought for $95.6 million from Thor Equities. As we pointed out in our article for IAAPA Funworld, the new Luna Park is a partnership with the City of New York, which receives $100,000 annual rent plus an undisclosed percentage of the gross. This arrangement represents a successful new model for government-owned amusement parks, which are a rarity.

Yesterday, the Mayor’s Office released figures that more than 400,000 visitors took 1.7 million rides during Luna Park’s inaugural season, prompting the City and the park to extend the season through Halloween. We’re thrilled that Scream Zone, set to open next spring at the Boardwalk and Stillwell, will bring in more new rides, including two Zamperla coasters and a SlingShot as well as Go Karts, which have been missed in Coney since Thor evicted them.

Scream Zone

Zamperla/CAI's Scream Zone with 4 new rides will debut in 2011 at the City's Stillwell & Boardwalk property. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

It will be interesting to see where David Malmuth takes up the discussion. His plan for Coney Island’s amusement area at MAS’s Imagine Coney event in 2008 was a huge hit with fellow amusement advocates. Though we lost the battle with the City to expand the acreage rezoned for outdoor amusements, Malmuth is still the guy who dazzled us with statistics: “Park sizing analysis suggests that Coney Island will require a minimum of 25 acres to support 3.4 million visitors, ” he said. “It can’t be done in 9 acres. No possible way you can create the variety, and the diversity and joy and excitement with only 9 acres. Minimally you need 25 acres to support that level of attendance.” Malmuth’s stats and charts of park attendance can be found in this pdf available on MAS’s website.

At CUNY, Malmuth and historian Michael Immerso are expected to make a compelling economic case for preserving and reusing Coney Island’s historic buildings. Unfortunately the City has already issued demolition permits to Thor Equities for two of the buildings, the Bank of Coney Island and the Shore Hotel. The heartbreaker is that the permits were issued by the City’s Department of Buildings one day after the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) declared that Coney Island meets the criteria for recognition as a historic district in the State and National Registers of Historic Places. That’s why we’re singin’ “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle.”

But as Save Coney Island notes on their website: “It is a miracle that any of these buildings survived the fires, land speculation, and urban renewal plans that decimated Coney Island over the years. It would be a shame to lose these rare survivors, just when their rehabilitation could provide a necessary boost to Coney’s revival.”

Bank of Coney Island

Bank of Coney Island Building, Coney Island. August 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

“What’s Next for Coney Island?” is sponsored by the Environmental Psychology Program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the NYC Graduate Urban Research Network, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, Save Coney Island, the Historic Districts Council, Coney Island USA and the Coney Island History Project.

“Heritage, Rides, Redevelopment: What’s Next for Coney Island?”
CUNY Graduate Center, Proshansky Auditorium, 365 5th Ave at 35th St,
Thursday, September 30, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, free event, online registration.

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Related posts on ATZ…

May 29, 2010: Photo Album: Preview of Coney Island’s New Luna Park

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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

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Last Night at Faber's Fascination

Last Night at Faber's Fascination. Henderson Building, Coney Island. Sept. 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

After more than 50 years, the fabulous lightbulb lettering on the front of Faber’s Fascination, an arcade that was one of Coney Island’s oldest year-round businesses, will no longer light up Surf Avenue. The arcade’s last day of business was Labor Day. On Tuesday, arcade machines were being hauled out and trucked away. The sign is the last vestige of Nat Faber’s arcade empire, which dates back to the 1930′s, though the Fabers got into the business in the early 20th century. The iconic marquee is on the front of the historic Henderson Building, owned by Thor Equities and currently being subjected to pre-demolition asbestos abatement. Faber’s was the last remaining tenant in the building.

Faber's Fascination. Photo © Mister Pony via flickr

Faber's Fascination sign in 2006 photo. © Mister Pony via flickr

Nat Faber’s arcade once occupied the entire first floor of the Henderson Building. Faber’s Sportland had the corner location where Popeye’s Chicken flourished for the past two decades. Faber’s amusement empire once encompassed arcades on Coney’s Boardwalk and at Surf and Kensington Walk, as well as Rockaway’s Playland, Long Beach in Long Island and the heart of Times Square. In 1935, according to a report in the Billboard, “Following a year’s preparation, Nat Faber opened the showiest sportland in New York’s Times Square. Flags and bunting decorated the front and a series of ads in the New York Times heralded the opening. This is the fourth sportland Faber opened between 1933-1935.”

Last Night at Faber's Fascination. Henderson Building, Coney Island. Sept. 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Last Night at Faber's Fascination. Henderson Building, Coney Island. Sept. 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In 1939, Faber’s Fascination in the Henderson Building got its name written in blazing, chasing lights! By the early 1950′s the arcade was advertised as the only air-conditioned place of its kind in Coney Island. Nat Faber installed 48 new Fascination tables and new balls, and flashed the place with merchandise brought in from Los Angeles. He prided himself on having the top mike man in Coney Island. Faber’s Fortune next door got redone as Faber’s Sportland with Skeeball, Shuffle Alleys and Pokerino.

fabers coupon

Most establishments encouraged patrons to book or open a points/coupons savings account within the store - as evidenced by the reverse side of this Faber 's Store ticket. Back in the mid 1950s, Faber boasted that they had been in business for 40 years and were operating in such places as Coney Island as well as the Seaside and Edgemere sections of the Rockaways. Photo & caption courtesy of rockawaymemories.com

Stan Fox, whose brother operated four arcades in Coney island, recalls Faber telling him, “There isn’t room on the Boardwalk for another arcade.” Stan’s brother coolly replied, “You’d better shut yours down.” In those days, Coney Island was busy enough to accommodate more than one Fascination parlor. In addition to Faber’s, there was Moe’s Fascination operated by Moe and Sadie Silverman. There was Eddie’s Fascination. A lot of people ask Stan Fox, who was Eddie? If you know, please drop us a line. But Faber’s was the one with longevity. The location in the Henderson Building was operated by the Faber family until 1971 or 72.

“When Hy Singer bought the building he tripled the rent,” says Fox, who notes that Nat Faber’s son Stanford, then in his 40s, struggled to keep the business going. “I don’t know if it was the stress, but he had a stroke and a few weeks later he died.” While the game Fascination hasn’t been played at the Surf arcade for decades, the sign, and its twin, Faber’s Playland, remained. Somebody, anybody, please rescue the Fascination sign! We contacted Tod Swormstedt, founder of the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, who assured us that this type of sign can be saved.

Last Night at Faber's Fascination

On Monday night, a skeleton surveyed the soon-to-be closed arcade. Henderson Building, Coney Island. Sept. 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Too bad the City doomed the Henderson building as well as the former Bank of Coney Island to demolition last July by rezoning the parcels for 30-story high rise “hotels.” If ATZ had a dollar for every time we’ve used the word “doomed” to describe a building owned by Joe Sitt, we could buy a round of Coney Island lagers for everyone in the Freak Bar and proceed to cry in our beer. Instead we urge you to join Save Coney Island’s David vs. Goliath effort to convince the powers that be to re-purpose the building as part of a historic district. Last month the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation wrote that “the historic core of Coney Island appears to meet the criteria for listing to the Registers as a historic district.”

UPDATE September 11, 2010:

Coney Island signage: Faber's Fascination signage coming down! Photo © missapril1956 via flickr

Coney Island signage: Faber's Fascination signage coming down! Photo © missapril1956 via flickr

As we noted yesterday in the comments below, the letters have been removed from the Fascination sign and the two Sportland signs! The signs are being dismantled piece by piece and saved from Thor’s demolition by Carl Muraca, who owns the arcade. He told ATZ that he plans to sell the letters and possibly the entire Fascination sign if there is a buyer for it. The arcade machines are also for sale. We hope that these Coney Island artifacts end up in the collections of people who appreciate them, including the Faber family. We’re happy the arcade owner was able to take down and “save” the signs from demolition. At the same time, it’s heartbreaking to see the building being emptied of tenants and stripped of its personality. The sign on Popeye’s was also removed. It makes the impending date with Thor Equities’ wrecking ball seem that much closer. As soon as the ongoing asbestos abatement is completed and certified, Thor will be able to get a demolition permit.

Related posts on ATZ…

November 29, 2011: Fascination: From Coney Island to Nantasket Beach

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

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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Vintage Postcard of Henderson's Music Hall Stage in Coney Island. Cezar Del Valle Collection

Vintage Postcard of Henderson's Music Hall Stage in Coney Island. Cezar Del Valle Collection

On Sunday at the Coney Island Museum’s Ask the Experts series, theater historian Cezar Del Valle will give an illustrated lecture to celebrate the launch of his Brooklyn Theater Index. The first volume covering theaters from Adams Street to Lorimer has just been published. The topic of his talk will be drawn from the third volume, a work-in-progress devoted to Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach.

The subject is timely, since one of Coney Island’s historic theater buildings, the former Henderson Music Hall at Surf and Stillwell, has been doomed to demolition. Pre-demo asbestos abatement is currently underway by Thor Equities despite preservationists efforts to save the building and make it part of an historic district.

Del Valle told ATZ that the Henderson Music Hall will be part of his talk. “Twice in the past, I have been asked to work on landmarking Henderson,” he says. “First on a panel and then in an advisory capacity. Sad to say, nothing ever came of it. I thought the building was being held hostage for some future bargaining ploy but I was wrong. If you went around to the Bowery side, a few of the windows still followed the rake of the old balcony.”

The Henderson was one of six buildings nominated for city landmark designation by Coney Island USA in 2004, although its chances were thought to be slim since the building has been altered extensively. It was even cut in half in 1923 when Stillwell Avenue south of Surf was created!

Del Valle’s area of expertise is New York City popular entertainment between 1850 and the 1950s, including special emphasis on actual theater buildings. He has led walking tours of the lost theaters of Coney Island’s Bowery. “In its fabulous heyday, the resort was more than just rides and arcades; it was home to numerous cabarets, variety halls and movie shows – a training ground for a generation of legendary performers,” says Del Valle.

If you’re able to make a day of it, Save Coney Island will be offering a free walking tour this Sunday at 11 am and every Sunday through the end of September. The guided tour covers the historic buildings along Surf Avenue as well as some of Coney Island’s existing landmarks. According to the group’s website, “we will have historic pictures so you can see what the buildings once were and a few renderings illustrating how these buildings could be creatively restored and reused.”

August 29, 4:30 pm, Ask the Experts! Cezar Del Valle’s Brooklyn Theater Index Book Launch, Coney Island Museum, 1208 Surf Avenue, Coney Island, $5 admission, Free for members of Coney Island USA.

August 29, 11:00 am, Save Coney Island’s Walking Tour of Historic Coney Island, meet in front of the Shore Theater, on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Aves, Rain or shine. Free, but suggested donation of $10 appreciated

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Related posts on ATZ…

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

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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