Nope, it’s not a mirage. A little Ferris wheel has been set up within sight of Coney Island’s mighty Wonder Wheel! For two days and nights, HBO’s new rock ‘n’ roll series Vinyl has transformed Surf Avenue, including Thor Equities’ long vacant properties, into a 1970s carnival. In prep for Tuesday night’s shoot, a portable Ferris wheel was set up on the West 12th Street lot across from Coney Island USA. The lot has been vacant since the Bank of Coney Island was demolished by Thor in 2010. A vintage sideshow bannerline featuring a gorgeous cavalcade banner by the legendary Fred Johnson was hung from the forlorn-looking Grashorn Building, Coney’s oldest, also owned by Thor. Historian Charles Denson shot these surreal-looking photos on Tuesday afternoon before filming got underway.
The HBO series from Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter is set to premiere in 2016. Surf Avenue businesses were reportedly paid several thou each to keep the lights blazing while the production company pulls an all nighter. What a bonanza! Too bad it’s only for a day and a night and the amusements can’t return for real to good ol’ Surf Avenue where they belong.
The only use that the circa 1880’s Grashorn has seen since we started blogging in 2009 was as the Susquehanna Hat Company set for HBO’s Bored to Death (2011) and an office for the production company filming Men in Black 3 (2012).
The Jones Walk side of the Grashorn building has been vacant for several years, as ATZ reported in “The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks.” Why? A business owner who had leased a small stand on the Walk from Thor in 2008 told us in 2009 that the rent had tripled from $8,000 to $24,000. He declined the space and left Coney Island, never to return.
In the summer of 2010, Save Coney Island published renderings showing the potential of the building if restored, but their plan to create a Coney Island Historic District along Surf Avenue was crushed by Thor CEO Joe Sitt’s demolition of all but one of his historic buildings. Only the Grashorn remains. And apparently only HBO and Hollywood can afford the rent.
Related posts on ATZ…
April 19, 2015: USA Network’s Mr. Robot is Filming Again in Coney Island
April 22, 2014: ATZ Review: ‘Famous Nathan,’ A Documentary by Lloyd Handwerker
November 15, 2012: ATZ Review: Coney Island Documentary ‘Zipper’ Debuts at DOC NYC