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Posts Tagged ‘Stillwell Avenue’

Steve ESPO Powers

Steve Powers’ ICY SIGNS was hired to paint the title sign for Coney Art Walls. Signage for ‘Miss Coney Island’ and games on Coney Island’s 12th St made by Powers in 2012

Goodbye vacant lots–at least temporarily–hello Coney Art Walls! Thor Equities has recruited a dream team that includes Jeffrey Deitch, art advisor and former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, and food vendors from Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg to help activate one of their long vacant lots in Coney Island. Biederman Redevelopment Ventures (BRV), the consulting firm run by Bryant Park’s Dan Biederman, was hired by Thor to develop events and programming for and manage the lot. There will also be a music stage with live performances throughout the summer.

Smorgasburg Coney Island will have a dozen food vendors operating restaurants out of remodeled shipping containers and two bars serving craft beer, wine and other drinks. Smorgasburg launched in 2011 as a spin-off of Brooklyn Flea, the popular flea market founded by Jonathan Butler and Eric Demby.

“Coney Art Walls will be an outdoor museum, featuring the most innovative street artists from the 1970s to the present,” said Jeffrey Deitch. The art walls will showcase work by famous street artists including Crash, Lee Quinones, Futura, Kenny Scharf, Miss Van, Lady Pink and Swoon. Steve Powers’ ICY SIGNS was hired to paint the title sign for Coney Art Walls. His signage for ‘Miss Coney Island’ and games on West 12th St was installed in 2012. For Powers, whose Dreamland Artists Club created signage for Coney Island businesses in 2004 and 2005, only a few of which remain, it marks a return to a landscape changed by real estate speculation, redevelopment and the rezoning of 2009.

“Coney Island visitors need more comfortable places to sit and relax, and we see demand for new activities and programs that will build on the neighborhood’s rich history, and strengthen its reputation as an attraction unlike anything else in New York,” said Ben Donsky, senior project manager at Biederman Redevelopment Ventures. “We are delighted to be part of this wonderful redevelopment program.” The consulting firm’s clients include Bryant Park, the Grand Central Partnership, Fanueil Hall Marketplace, and Rye Playland.

Coney Art Walls 1320 Bowery Coney Island

Prep for ‘Coney Art Walls’ at Thor’s long vacant lot at 1320 Bowery behind Nathan’s. April 30, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The vacant lot at 1320 Bowery behind Nathan’s is bordered by West 15th Street and the west side of Stillwell Avenue. Thor’s Stillwell properties were once home to amusements galore including the Tornado roller coaster (1927-1977), the Bobsled ride from the New York World’s Fair (1941-1974) and Norman Kaufman’s Batting Cage and Go Kart City, which was forced to close when Sitt bought the property in 2006. Rezoned by the City for retail and entertainment, the lots were used for flea markets in 2009, 2011 and 2012, but remained vacant last year as well as in 2010 and 2013, when the City issued a stop-work order on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.”

Set to begin in May, Coney Art Walls is expected to run at least through September.

UPDATE May 6, 2015:

Biederman Redevelopment Ventures was hired by Thor to manage programming for two lots. What are they planning for Thor’s second long-vacant lot, on the east side of Stillwell, across the street from where Coney Walls will be? “Our programming is still in flux, though we hope to announce some exciting things next week,” Ben Donsky, BRV’s senior project manager, told ATZ. “There will probably be performances on both lots.”

As for game trailers coming to the lot and kiosks for rent, as the Coney Island Rumor Mill has been saying: “There are no actual ‘kiosks’ in our plans on the east side of Stillwell, at least right now,” Donsky says. “But Gordon Lee (of the Eldorado) is going to be putting up midway games along the Bowery.”

Related posts on ATZ…

May 6, 2015: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh to Draw Portraits of Coney Island Residents for Coney Art Walls

April 20, 2015: Art of the Day: “Greetings from Coney Island” Blends Past & Present

October 28, 2013: Photo Album: Banksy Brings His Robot to Coney Island

February 16, 2013: Photo Album: Post-Sandy MERCY Graffiti in Coney Island

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Wahlburgers

Slated to open this summer, Wahlburgers will have a rooftop overlooking Thor’s Stillwell lots. April 18, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Last week, Wahlburgers released details of the 6,800 square foot franchise restaurant currently under construction in Coney Island and slated to open this summer. Eater dubbed it “a massive indoor/outdoor extravaganza.” Rooftop patio dining with a retractable glass roof sounds spectacular but it’s a stretch to say Wahlburgers “will overlook Coney Island’s famous boardwalk and beach” as the pr copy claims.

Located in Thor Equities’ retail building on Stillwell Avenue across from Nathan’s, the celebrity burger palace overlooks the Bowery and Thor CEO Joe Sitt’s long-vacant lots. That’s why we’re betting the rumors that began in November and continued this year about attractions coming to those lots for the summer are indeed true.

Wahlburgers

Architectural Rendering of Wahlburgers in Coney Island

Sources have told ATZ that Thor’s lots will host food and merch in 20 trailers. Rides and other attractions are now said to be part of the mix. Ironically there was an entire amusement park including bumper boats and a miniature golf course there before Joe Sitt bought the property in 2006 and promptly turned it into “Thor Equities Corridors of Blight.” The last time a carnival was here was 2012. The lots remained vacant in 2014 as well as in 2010 and 2013, when the City issued a stop-work order on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.”

MegaWhirl

Prototype MegaWhirl ride, abandoned after the 2012 season and damaged by Hurricane Sandy, is finally being demolished. April 25, 2015. Photo © anonymouse via AmusingtheZillion

While the DOB has yet to issue permits for a “temporary fair,” the property is being prepped in earnest. Last week, the MegaWhirl ride, abandoned after it debuted here in 2012 and was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, was being demolished and tossed in a dumpster. Underground electric utilities were installed last month and the Bowery was cleared of concession trailers adjacent to the lot.

ATZ’s first post back in December about the celebrity burger franchise opening in Coney Island and subsequent updates continue to be as popular as posts about Friday night fireworks! That makes us think it’s going to be a magnet for some of Mark Wahlberg’s 15+ million Facebook fans. The Wahlburgers restaurants are the backdrop for the A&E TV reality series about Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg’s adventures in the burger business. This summer’s opening of the Coney Island location is being scripted into the show. The original opening date of early May has been pushed back to June.

Wahlburgers

Signage on Wahlburgers currently under construction in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

UPDATE May 6, 2015:

Thor Equities has recruited Jeffrey Deitch, art advisor and former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, and food vendors from Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg to help activate one of their long vacant lots in Coney Island. Biederman Redevelopment Ventures (BRV), the consulting firm run by Bryant Park’s Dan Biederman, was hired by Thor to develop events and programming for and manage the lot as well as the one on the east side of Stillwell There will also be a music stage with live performances throughout the summer. (Thor Equities Recruits Jeffrey Deitch, Dan Biederman & Smorgasburg to Dress Up Vacant Coney Lot, ATZ, April 30, 2015).

Biederman will also manage a second long-vacant lot, on the east side of Stillwell Avenue, across from Coney Walls. “Our programming is still in flux, though we hope to announce some exciting things next week,” Ben Donsky, BRV’s senior project manager, told ATZ. “There will probably be performances on both lots. Gordon Lee of El Dorado is going to be putting up midway games along the Bowery.

Related posts on ATZ…

April 10, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Power Surge and Enterprise-Style Ride Set for Comeback

February 13, 2015: Coney Island 2015: IHOP Franchisee Signs Lease for 5,400-Square-Foot Surf Ave Store

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

December 5, 2014: Wahlburgers Burger Franchise to Open in Coney Island

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Brooklyn Rock

Brooklyn Rock, 3015 Stillwell Avenue, in Coney Island. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

“The French have never left,” says Brooklyn Rock brand manager Seth Braunstein when ATZ asks where the year-round tourists who visit his Coney Island shop are coming from. Located across Stillwell Avenue from Nathan’s Famous, which is also open daily regardless of the season or the weather, this one-of-a-kind shop is one of the few places in Coney to buy a souvenir tee in February.

What makes Brooklyn Rock’s tees out of the ordinary, says Braunstein, is that each one of the shirts is hand-dyed in unique colors and hand-printed from hand-drawn designs by artists Chris Smith and Yukiko Wada, the couple who founded the business in 2002. “We start with white American Apparel tees made in the U.S. out of cotton grown in the U.S,” he says. In the afternoon sunlight, the colors are especially vibrant and conjure up summery dreams on a wintry day.

Brooklyn Rock

Paintings of the Elephant Hotel and the Parachute Jump by Yukiko Wada, hand-screened Tees by Wada and husband Chris Smith. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s landmark Cyclone, Wonder Wheel and Parachute Jump feature prominently in the designs along with the magical place names CONEY and BROOKLYN. Among the signature sayings printed on Brooklyn Rock’s tees are “Brooklyn, Entertaining Manhattan since 1646″ and “Keep Brooklyn Offensive.”

Famous faces on their tees include Brooklyn-born comedian and Seinfeld writer Larry David, whose people once bought one for him, Braunstein says with pride. “Tonight, one of our people will be sitting in the third row wearing the Larry David tee at the preview performance of his Broadway show.”

Brooklyn Rock’s tees, hoodies, hats, totes, knapsacks, aprons and other hand-printed items range in price from $15-$60.

One specialty at Brooklyn Rock that you may not expect to find in Coney Island is their book rack, which is stocked with gently read copies of classics by Ayn Rand to Kurt Vonnegut. The used books come from their friends at Williamsburg’s Book Thug Nation and Bushwick’s Human Relations, whom they’ve known since their days as fellow street vendors. Books are priced at $5 and $8.

Hand-Printed Tee at Brooklyn Rock

Sleeveless Hand-printed Coney Tee at Brooklyn Rock in Coney Island. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Before opening their Coney Island store in May 2013, the Brooklyn Rock team wholesaled to children’s shops and Coney Island USA’s gift shop. They set up shop in a street kiosk on Bedford Avenue, a shipping container at the now defunct DeKalb Market, and a store across from Barclays Center, where foot traffic turned out to be slow.

Their Coney Island store is in Thor Equities’ retail building at Surf and Stillwell, where current tenants include It’Sugar, Rainbow Shops, Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co., the Brooklyn Nets Shop, a couple of mini-arcades and the soon-to open Wahlburgers franchise. Only It’Sugar and Brooklyn Rock remain open year round. How did this Bushwick-born Mom and Pop get their foot in the door?

Brooklyn Rock

Hand-printed shirt at Brooklyn Rock on Stillwell Avenue, Coney Island. November 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Brooklyn Rock’s lucky break came when Braunstein saw a news article about space for lease in Thor’s then-vacant new building and sent them a proposal. Thor Equities had sent out a press release that said: “Thor To Add Local Flavor To Coney Island By Leasing Major Surf Avenue Parcels To Local Brooklyn Merchants At Reduced Rents For 2013.”

We remember it well. For ATZ, the biggest surprise of the release was what Thor CEO Joe Sitt had to say about chains vs local businesses: “Coney Island’s popularity has reached record proportions, but we can never forget what got us here – local, ahead-of-their-time business owners who brought flair, hipness and edge to the People’s Playground,” Sitt said. “While it is wonderful that national chains are now coming to Coney, providing needed jobs and year-round revenue to the community, we must always remember the history of this iconic neighborhood.”

Hear, hear!

Brooklyn Rock, 3015 Stillwell Avenue, between Surf Ave and the Bowery, Coney Island, 11224. Winter hours are 12 noon till 7pm.

UPDATE: This store has closed! Read “Thor’s Coney Island: Brooklyn Mom & Pop Out But Not Down” (February 25, 2015) for details.

Hand-printed Tees and Hats at Brooklyn Rock

Hand-printed Tees, Totes and Hats at Brooklyn Rock. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

January 22, 2015: Coney Island Rumor Mill: No Rides But Games, Food & Merch Coming to Thor’s Lot

November 28, 2014: ATZ Previews Coney Island’s Small Business Saturday

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

Read Full Post »

Thor's Coney Island

Thor’s Coney Island: Aerial view of vacant lots on south side of the Bowery between W 12th and W 15th where amusements once thrived. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Thor Equities’ huge vacant lots on Stillwell Avenue in the heart of Coney Island were cleaned up over the weekend and two different sources say rides are coming. The news is unconfirmed and it’s hard not to be skeptical considering the history of what’s been here since Joe Sitt acquired the land and began evicting longtime ride and park operators in 2006. But everybody — or almost everybody– wants to see the property activated instead of sadly sitting vacant (and yes, that is a pun). If temporary rides are in the stars for Thor’s Coney Island this season, let’s hope it works out this time. Despite various amusement operators efforts to negotiate lease deals, the lots remained vacant in 2010 and again last year, when a stop-work order was issued on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.”

Ring of Fire

Geren Rides’ Ring of Fire on Stillwell Ave in Coney Island, July 5, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

A little history in case you weren’t around to experience the drama: In October 2006, eight amusement businesses, including Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City and Eddie Miranda’s Zipper, which inspired the film Zipper, received notice from new property owner Thor Equities to be out by the end of the year. On Memorial Day Weekend 2008, Joe Sitt proclaimed “The Summer of Hope” and filled the reviled empty lots on Stillwell with carnival rides from Reithoffer Shows and Geren Rides for a limited run. Hope died when the rides left in mid-July and were replaced by a couple of inflatable bounces.

inflatable bouncer

After the carnival left: Batman and Cinderella’s Castle inflatable bounces on Thor’s vacant lot in Coney Island. August 8, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

Skeptics said the amusements were a ruse in the lead-up to the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009. At the time, Sitt and the City were at a standoff in negotiations over a compromise plan that would reduce the acreage of the amusement zone and allow high-rise hotels on the south side of Surf Avenue.

Cobra Ride

The Cobra was among the flat rides at Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park on Stillwell Avenue. June 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Failed flea markets made a mockery of the rezoning in 2009 and 2011. “Festival by the Sea” and the “BK Festival” were granted City permits as a “temporary fair” because a flea market is not a permitted use on this property in Coney Island. Clever, huh? In 2012, rides, games and sideshows returned to Thor’s Stillwell lots for the first time since 2008. As a critic of flea markets on land where the Tornado roller coaster (1927-1977) and the Bobsled (1941-1974) had once thrilled, we were happy to see the BK Festival and Thor Equities take this new direction.

Among the rides were the Cobra, which amusement park blogger The DOD3 describes as White Trash Carny Ride #7. “Every Cobra I’ve been on looks like it’s stuck in a 70s timewarp but they all give wonderfully intense rides,” he writes. Other WTCRs on his list are the Skydiver (#1), the Zipper (#3) and the Trabant (#9), all of which Coney used to have. A Trabant was one of the rides at Dreamland, a temporary park on the former Astroland site in 2009.

BK Festival: Giant Slide on Stillwell Avenue West. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

There were problems at the Stillwell Avenue park from the get-go. Originally set to open on Memorial Day Weekend 2012, the park was not able to open till four weeks later. A Giant Slide and Zipline never opened at all. Filing of paperwork with City agencies and bureaucratic red tape was blamed for the delay. City permitting issues relating to fencing closed the park intermittently and irregular hours had some visitors asking if and when it was open. The Mega Whirl, a prototype ride that combined the thrill of the Whip and the Tilt-A-Whirl debuted here and its abandoned platform remains on the lot, a symbol of financial ruin and broken dreams.

MegaWhirl Ride in Coney Island

MegaWhirl Ride and Zipline on Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. November 11, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 11, 2014: Thor’s Coney Island: BurgerFi, Arcade Coming to Stillwell & Surf

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

October 17, 2013: The New Coney Island: Thor Equities Vacant Lots, Dummy Arcades

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

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Sleep Inn Hotel

Under Construction: Sleep Inn Hotel at at 2590 Stillwell Avenue. December 1, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

A Sleep Inn Hotel, the Coney Island area’s first new hotel in many decades, is under construction at Stillwell Avenue and Avenue Z, just north of Coney Island Creek. A sign on the construction fence says “Anticipated Completion: Fall 2015.” Mahesh Ratjani, one of the partners in the project, tells ATZ: “We are hoping to have it completed by the end of 2014 or the beginning of 2015.” According to DOB records, a 12,989 square foot, four-story hotel will occupy the 13,000 square foot lot. Sleep Inn is a member of the Choice Hotels Group.

Ratjani and his partners own 15 hotels in New York and New Jersey, including the Comfort Inn off the Gowanus Expressway in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. The vacant lot at 2590 Stillwell Avenue was purchased for $1.9 million in 2007, according to Property Shark. The property is conveniently located off the Cropsey Ave/Coney Island exit of the Belt Parkway. The area is technically on the border of Gravesend and Bath Beach, though frequently identified as part of Coney Island. The closest subway stop is Bay 50th, one stop from Coney’s Stillwell Terminal, on the D line.

Sleep Inn Hotel Under Construction

Under construction at 2590 Stillwell Avenue. December 1, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

There are currently no hotels in the Coney Island area and it’s been many decades since a new one opened. On Stillwell Avenue at Mermaid, the long-shuttered Terminal Hotel across from Stillwell Terminal was constructed in 1904 and housed a hotel by 1930 and perhaps as early as 1915 when the subway station opened. In the 1940s, it had a popular grill with live music, but by the 1960s and ’70s had deteriorated into a flophouse and was condemned.

In 1927, the Half-Moon Hotel opened on the Boardwalk at 29th Street and was managed by the American Hotels Corporation and financed by prominent members of the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce. “The Great Depression killed the Chamber’s dream of greatness and the hotel sat exiled at the West End until the beginning of WW II when it was transformed into a naval hospital,” according to the Coney Island History Project. It later became a geriatric center before being demolished in 1996.

New Construction

New construction: Sleep In Hotel at 2590 Stillwell Avenue. December 1, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The City’s rezoning of Coney Island included the upzoning of three Thor Equities-owned properties on the south side of Surf Avenue for hotels up to 30 stories. In public hearings, we argued against high rises — including hotels — on the south side Surf, saying it would destroy instead of enhance Coney Island’s economic potential as an amusement and tourism destination. As it turns out, a hotel has yet to be built on Surf Avenue and we can only hope it never will be. Instead, the Coney Island area’s first new hotel in decades is located in a much more suitable location north of the amusement area with easy access to the Belt Parkway.

The new Sleep Inn’s immediate neighbors are two-and three-story residential buildings, an equipment rental company, and Amore Rent-A-Car. The legendary Viola Pigeon Club, home of a 400-mile contest in which the birds were released in Ohio and flew back to New York, is directly across Stillwell Avenue. Since Frank Viola’s death in 2007, the race is no longer held, but the club and the story of the “return of the Coney Island homing pigeons” have been the subject of documentary films.

Viola Pigeon Club

Across the Avenue: Viola Pigeon Club, Stillwell Avenue and Ave Z. Photo © Tricia Vita

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September 2, 2013: The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks

May 20, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island May 2013 Construction Update

August 2, 2012: New Building Breaks Ground Next to Coney Island’s Stillwell Terminal

December 20, 2011: Update: Coney Island’s 1st Private Beachfront Condos on Boardwalk

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Thor's Coney Island

Thor’s Coney Island: Former site of McCullough’s Kiddie Park viewed from Bowery, with Scream Zone on City-owned property in background. July 20, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

With just 75 days left in Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, we’ve been taking stock of the new Coney Island, which began to take shape after the July 2009 rezoning and during the Mayor’s third term. Most of the City-owned land in the amusement area has been re-activated with amusements, starting with Luna Park (2010) and Scream Zone (2011) built by Central Amusement International on the vacant lots bought from Thor Equities for $95.6 million, and continuing with the installation of the B&B Carousell and relighting of the Parachute Jump in the new Steeplechase Plaza this year.

The same can’t be said for adjacent property held onto by Thor CEO Joe Sitt. It became vacant after Thor acquired the land and evicted ride and park operators and remains vacant despite a history of various amusement operators efforts to negotiate lease deals. The latest project that never happened was Big Mark’s Action Park, which planned to bring a rock climbing wall, a vertical wind tunnel and other extreme attractions to Thor’s Stillwell lots in 2013. It’s a similar story as ATZ’s previous post “The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks” contrasting the activated City-owned and vacant Thor-owned sides of the Walk.

Bumble Bee Ride

Closed Forever in September 2012: Bumble Bees and Herschell Carousel at McCullough’s Kiddie Park, Coney Island, September 3, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

This week last year, ATZ was saying goodbye to McCullough’s Kiddie Park, which had been on Coney Island’s Bowery for more than 50 years. The McCullough family, descendants of Steeplechase Park founder George C Tilyou, were dismantling the Bumblebees and other rides and leaving Coney forever after failing to come to a lease agreement with property owner Thor Equities. Since then, the lot has remained vacant, just another one of Joe Sitt’s collection of interminably vacant lots in Coney Island.

What Michael Daly wrote in the Daily News in 2009 after the City bought Sitt’s Boardwalk property is still true today: “Sitt is the city’s most successful un-developer. He spoke grandly of building a billion-dollar Las Vegas-style resort. What he has built is a string of vacant lots, the most depressing being where Astroland amusement park stood until a year ago.” Just substitute McCullough’s for Astroland.

Thor's Coney Island

Thor’s Coney Island: West 12th Street looking west. May 12, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The sole building that Joe Sitt has built in Coney after years of real estate speculation is a temporary building at Surf and Stillwell with retail stores like It’Sugar and a Brooklyn Nets Shop but devoid of amusements. You’ve heard the phrase “dummy corporation” but did you know Thor Equities has introduced a new concept to Coney Island of dummy arcades? All season long, dummy arcade signs fronting empty space with “Retail Space Available” signs have made a mockery of the City’s 2009 rezoning requiring a percentage of amusements on the property.

The rest of Thor’s Coney properties and lots remain vacant today. Unlike 2007, when Sitt first evicted Batting Cage and Go Kart City as well as the Zipper ride, which is the subject of a riveting documentary, Coney Island’s vacant lots are no longer in the news. In 2008 and 2009, when the City was pushing the rezoning, Coney’s infamous vacant lots were mentioned by City officials as a reason for the rezoning. “THE END OF CONEY ISLAND IN 2009?,” said a “fact sheet” called “Coney Island Throughout The Ages” from the Coney Island Development Corporation. “Today, Coney Island is a ghost of its former self. Under the current zoning, amusement operators have divested, leaving illegal uses and vacant lots throughout the area.” Four years after the rezoning, the lots are still vacant with no end in sight.

Thor Equities

Thor Equities Retail Building with Tenants It’Sugar and Rainbow Shops and Dummy Arcade Sign Where No Arcade Exists. September 29, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Photographs of newly created vacant lots like the ones in this post are rarely seen and illustrate the dark side of Bloomberg’s New Coney Island. Most people are happily snapping pictures of the new roller coasters and the crowds on the Boardwalk, which is as it should be. In fact, we’ve held off till the tail end of the season to post these depressing photos to avoid creating any bad publicity for Coney.

On the other hand, our photos of vacant lots are free advertising for Thor Equities, whose new website “Thor Equities Presents Coney Island” revives their “Retail Ride of a Lifetime” slogan: “Thor Equities presents a new retail opportunity at a scale New York hasn’t seen in years! ThorConeyIsland.com is a retailers ticket to joining the retail ride of a lifetime taking place in Coney Island.” The site touts such stats as “18 million people visit the beach every season” and “4.7 million subway riders visit Coney Island every year” to lure retailers. The leasing plan pitches Thor’s buildings including the Grashorn, Coney Island’s oldest building, which has been vacant since 2008, but not the long-vacant lots.

Thor's Coney Island

Thor’s Coney Island : Aerial view of vacant lots on south side of the Bowery between W 12th and W 15th Streets that formerly had amusements. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

While the subject of Coney Island’s vacant lots has dropped from the headlines, the question looms: What is the future of Thor Equities vacant lots and buildings in the next administration? Some of the property was rezoned to accommodate 30-story hotels and retail in the heart of the amusement area but still requires an amusement component. Putting up glittery arcade signs where there are no arcades is a slap in the face of the zoning requirement. Will the City enforce its own zoning? Will Sitt try to get a variance? Will he continue to “sit” on the land and wait for infrastructure improvements? Will he flip the property?

The Bumper Boats were on the Bowery at Stillwell until Joe Sitt evicted them in 2007. Photo by the hanner via flickr

The Bumper Boats and other amusements thrived at this location on Stillwell Ave until evicted by Thor Equities in 2007. May 29, 2005. Photo © the hanner via flickr

Will this land ever see amusements again? On Stillwell Avenue, where the Tornado Roller coaster (1927-1977), the Bobsled (1941-1974), and Stauch’s Baths and Dance Hall (1930-1998) once stood, Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City amused the zillions until Joe Sitt emptied out the amusements in 2007. Last year, NY1 reported Sitt’s plans to put a movie theater with stadium seating on his Stillwell lot behind Nathan’s was being held up by the fact that the theater required an amusement element to it. Rumor had it the city wanted him to put a ride on the roof. How cool would that be? As long as Sitt can’t be bothered to install the minimum amusements required by the new zoning in his first building in Coney Island — a couple of tiny arcades– don’t hold your breath.

Thor's Coney Island

Thor’s Coney Island: West 12th Street and Surf Avenue. Concession Stands and Bank of Coney Island Building Demolished in 2010. The 2009 Rezoning Allows 30 Story Hotels to be Built Here and Other Thor-owned Parcels. August 25, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Related posts on ATZ…

June 18, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Shoe Store Invades Amusement Area

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

October 7, 2012: ATZ’s Big Wish List for the New Coney Island

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

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Thor's Coney Island

Shoes galore at Rainbow Shops in Thor Equities Retail Ride of a Lifetime building in the New Coney Island. June 15, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The latest chain store to invade Coney Island’s amusement district has opened and it is neither “hip” nor “glitzy,” words used by the mainstream media in recent weeks to describe the chainification of Coney’s Surf Avenue. Over the weekend, Rainbow Shops, which sells discount clothing and shoes, opened on the Stillwell Avenue side of Thor Equities’ “Retail Ride of a Lifetime” Building, across the street from Nathan’s Famous. Shoot Out the Star, Basketball, Balloon Dart and Water Racing as well as the Fascination Arcade were among the amusements in the Henderson Building, which was on this corner until Thor CEO Joe Sitt demolished it in 2010.

This is the new retail building flaunting two ARCADE signs but no arcades, despite the fact that 15% of amusement frontage was required by zoning regulations to obtain the Certificate of Occupancy from the City. We wrote about this sham last week. The “ARCADES” remain vacant. Apparently, having an ARCADE in name only is fine with the City. Anything goes as long as Thor’s Coney Island has shoes galore!

ARCADE

ARCADE sign on Thor Equities Retail Building with No Arcade on Stillwell Avenue, Coney Island. June 1, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The 2,500 square foot Rainbow Shop, the maximum size allowed by the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009, is filled with aisle after aisle of shoes in shoeboxes, just like a warehouse outlet. It’s as if the store owners expected the “PEDESTRIANS GALORE” (“4.7 million subway riders visit Coney Island every year, 13 million people visit the beach every season and over 100,000 people visit Coney Island’s Luna Park on the 4th of July!”) touted in Thor Equities property description to arrive shoeless.

Flea by the Sea

Shoes Galore at Anchor Store # 7 at Joe Sitt’s Flea by the Sea. July 12, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In 2008, Thor Equities dismal flea market on the Coney lot where the Tornado Roller Coaster once thrilled had vendors selling clothing and shoes, both new and used. At the time, it was a reminder that Joe Sitt’s pitch book unsuccessfully used to lobby Borough President Marty Markowitz for 10,000 square foot retail touted flagship retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap/Banana Republic, and DSW (“Thousands of shoes…prices you love”). Now it appears to have been a dress rehearsal for Rainbow Shops. The Brooklyn-headquartered retailer has 28 stores in Brooklyn and over 1,000 locations nationwide.

Rainbow Shop

Rainbow Shop on Stillwell Ave opposite Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island. June 15, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

June 12, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Retail Ride of a Lifetime’s Phantom Arcade

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

May 4, 2011: Thor Equities Touts Coney Island as “RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME”

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

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