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Posts Tagged ‘Thor Equities’

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.

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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Arcade Sign

Arcade Sign, Thor Equities Building at Surf and Stillwell in Coney Island, July 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

At the Alliance for Coney Island Gala last Thursday, ATZ stopped by Thor Equities’ table to network. Seriously, it was a great opportunity to find out the answer to a question that’s been on our mind since last season. Will there be arcade machines in Thor’s retail building this year? The building has gorgeously lit, expensive signage for two arcades where there’s nothing but “Retail Space for Lease” signs. As we’ve noted previously, it makes a mockery of the City’s 2009 rezoning requiring a percentage of amusements on the property. The dummy arcades are our pet peeve.

Good news! Glenn Vogel, Director of Leasing for Thor Equities told ATZ that one of the two arcades had been leased and will open for business this spring. The reason the arcades were not previously leased, despite many inquiries, was that Thor wanted to put something new and different in the space, Vogel explained. We promised to be the first one there to play on the arcade’s opening day!

BurgerFi

BurgerFi Cheeseburger. Photo via BurgerFi Facebook

The other piece of news that Vogel was able to confirm is the rumor that’s been floating around Coney Island that BurgerFi is coming to the Stillwell Avenue side of Thor’s building. The Delray Beach, Florida-based burger and hot dog chain has reportedly leased the vacant store between Brooklyn Rock and the Brooklyn Nets, which will put them right across the street from Nathan’s and around the corner from a Johnny Rockets. Thor’s building’s roof deck, which hasn’t been used with the exception of a private party last summer, is part of the deal.

Launched in 2011, BurgerFi now has 62 locations, including franchisees. According to their franchising FAQs:

Our natural burgers are a healthful, wholesome and guilt free indulgence made from fresh, never frozen natural Angus beef that is hormone and antibiotic free and raised humanly to create the best tasting burger possible. All beef dogs, real dairy fresh frozen custard and fresh cut fries, as well as craft beer and wine, are all served up in our urban hip design setting.

BurgerFi is the latest national chain to come to the new Coney Island. Back in 2012, ATZ asked “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” (December 19, 2012). Clearly, the answer is yes. Like attracts like. In 2014, Johnny Rockets, Red Mango, Rita’s Italian Ice and Subway Cafe, which are currently under construction, are expected to join It’Sugar, Applebee’s, Popeye’s, Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins and Subway on the main drag of Coney’s amusement district. Also on Surf and in a category unto themselves are Nathan’s original 1916 store, which is a year-round magnet for tourists, and Brooklyn-grown Grimaldi’s Pizzeria.

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Related posts on ATZ…

January 3, 2014: New Year, New Franchise: Rita’s Italian Ice Coming to Coney Island

September 11, 2013: Subway Cafe to Replace Furniture Store on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

April 11, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Wampum Clothing & Skate Pop-Up to Open in May

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

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Surf Avenue

Guys in Hazmat suits doing interior demo work at Thor Equities-owned building at 1106 Surf Ave, December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

On Saturday, we were alarmed to receive a call about men in hazmat suits starting interior demolition on Thor Equities-owned Grashorn, Coney Island’s oldest building. Asked by a pedestrian if there was danger, a worker replied they were doing demolition. The work continued through the weekend. A dumpster in front of the building filled up with sheetrock, ductwork insulation, and mattresses. There are no permits posted, nor are there any work permits on the DOB website for the buildings at 1102-1106 Surf Avenue. Anonymous tipsters sent us these photos.

Last month ATZ posted “Rumor Mill Says Coney’s Oldest Building To be Demolished” (ATZ, November 15, 2013). Was the Rumor Mill right? As it turns out, the demo crew was working next door to the Grashorn building where Henry Grashorn’s hardware store was in the 1880s. They are doing interior demo in the neighboring space that was G. Grashorn’s Groceries. The buildings also housed the Grashorn family’s hotel but due to alterations to the facade were not considered eligible for landmarking by the City’s Landmark’s Commission.

Surf Avenue

Thor Equities-owned buildings on Surf Ave, December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

We’ll look into the matter of the permits this week. In the past, there’s been a lag on updates to the DOB site. In 2010, Thor’s teardown of the Henderson Music Hall caught people by surprise as the asbestos abatement that preceded the demo got underway. Also without any permits posted, it should be noted.

The storefronts at 1106 Surf Avenue are newly vacant, having been occupied by Gameworld arcade, a pina colada stand and other concessions for the past four seasons. The neighboring Grashorn building at 1102-1104 Surf Avenue, which also has frontage on Jones Walk, has been vacant since 2008 as ATZ reported in “The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks” (ATZ, Sept. 2, 2013).

The Grashorn no longer has a C of O after having been gutted, though it looked great as the Susquehanna Hat Company in an episode of HBO’s Bored to Death in 2011. Save Coney Island has published renderings showing the potential of the building if restored. Henry Grashorn was a founding director of the Bank of Coney Island, the Mardi Gras Association and the Coney Island Church and Rescue Home. His hardware store catered to Coney Island’s amusement businesses for six decades and the building later housed shooting galleries, arcades, and cotton candy and taffy stands.

Surf Avenue

Dumpster at Thor Equities Building on Surf Ave, Coney Island. December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

In addition to the Henderson, Thor CEO Joe Sitt demolished two other historic Surf Avenue properties–the Bank of Coney Island and the Shore Hotel in 2010, after his lots on the south side of Surf were rezoned by the city for 30 story hotels. Only the buildings that once housed the Grashorn hardware and grocery store remain. If Coney Island’s oldest is going down to become another empty lot to add to Joe Sitt’s collection of empty lots in Coney Island, it won’t happen unnoticed. We promise to make a lot of noise.

Thor Equities purchased the Grashorn (1102-1104 Surf Ave.) for $1.4 million in 2005 and the adjacent building at 1106 for $2.2 million in 2006, according to Property Shark.

UPDATE December 9, 2013:

Sources say the FDNY inspected the building last week and the property owner was fined and required to clean the fire hazard caused by squatters. Squatters have been living there since at least 2010. It takes the FDNY to get Thor to maintain their property and keep it safe? The public cannot access the FDNY’s database but has to put in a request for a search which takes 10 days and costs 10 bucks. Betcha 20 we’ll have more info from the Rumor Mill sooner than that!

Surf Avenue

Thor Equities-owned buildings at 1102-1106 Surf Ave, Coney Island. December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

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Related posts on ATZ…

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

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

September 9, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Faber’s Fascination Goes Dark After 50 Years

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

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