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Mama Burger Paul's Daughter

Wet paint! Mama and Papa Burger on the roof of Paul’s Daughter on the Coney Island Boardwalk

Happy news for Memorial Day Weekend! Mama Burger is back on her feet and has been reunited with Papa Burger on the roof of Coney Boardwalk eatery Paul’s Daughter! The lovingly restored and freshly painted figures were seen in close proximity the other day ahead of being returned to their regular spots at either end of the rooftop.

While Papa Burger, an A & W Root Beer figure from the 1960s, has steadily anchored the western side of the building’s roof, Mama Burger had been flat on her back since Superstorm Sandy. The eight-foot-tall fiberglass figure got knocked over — at first she was thought to be missing— and her hamburger and beer mug blew away.

What else is new this season at Paul’s Daughter? The popular clam bar now serves oysters as well and has a roomy new outdoor seating area. The best lobster roll in Coney Island – delectable chunks of Maine lobster packed into a toasted bun – is being served again starting this weekend. Since the Mama Burger figure never got her lost burger back, maybe she should hold a lobster roll instead?

Paul’s Daughter is Tina Georgoulakos, whose father Paul aka “The Chief” co-founded the restaurant formerly known as Gregory & Paul’s in 1962 and still supervises its clam bar. The renovated building was originally one of hot dog inventor Charles Feltman’s restaurants and remains a masterpiece of vernacular signage.

Here’s Coney historian Charles Denson lunching on a lobster roll at Paul’s Daughter…

Thor Equities Rendering 2005

Flashback to an early rendering of the Vegas style shopping, entertainment, and hotel complex Joe Sitt first proposed for Coney Island. New York Magazine, 2005.

As part of the controversial Coney Island Rezoning of 2009, Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt got Mayor Bloomberg to rezone his Surf Avenue property in the amusement area for hotels of up to 30 stories. A century old music hall fell to the wrecking ball and a generic looking retail building went up in its place but Thor’s hotels have yet to materialize. Now Sitt says he “needs some zoning changes” to build “a great big hotel” and a “stadium-style movie theater” on Stillwell and Bowery, according to a recent interview with NY1’s Jeanine Ramirez.

We were shocked to read this news since the lots between Stillwell and West 12th bordered by the Bowery and Wonder Wheel Way were rezoned by the City for amusements, open and enclosed, and entertainment retail, not high-rise hotels. Why were we not surprised? In 2012, Thor Equities sent out a flyer for leasing opportunities touting “Future Hotel” across from the Wonder Wheel and adjacent to Scream Zone and “Future Movie Theater” behind Nathan’s Famous. So this was Sitt’s plan after the rezoning and remains the plan, though the graphics vanished from Thor’s website a few years ago?

Thor Equities Flyer

Thor Equities Flyer from 2012 touts “Future Movie Theater” and “Future Hotel” on lots zoned for amusements and entertainment retail

Thor Equities’ long vacant lots are back to being labelled “Stillwell East” and “Stillwell West” on their website. West is home to the second season of Coney Art Walls. East is expected to host Go Karts and Mini Golf, which ATZ first reported as a rumor in April. It’s great news if it’s true and proof that everything old is new again in Coney Island. Go Karts and Mini Golf were among the amusements evicted by Thor’s CEO in 2006, when he bought this property where rides had existed for more than 100 years. ATZ’s advice is to enjoy these attractions while you can because Sitt regards them as temporary activation of the property.

In 2009, Joe Sitt got his zoning for high-rise hotels on Surf despite opposition from activists and advocacy groups  and the New York Times. “We like the Municipal Art Society’s idea of doubling the size of the amusement area and removing hotels from the south side of Surf Avenue. This way, when visitors get off the subway, they will meet sunlight and open air, not a high-rise barricade,” said a Times editorial published on the eve of the 2009 rezoning vote at the City Council. The other fear voiced at protests and public hearings was that the “hotels” would eventually be converted to condos, which were part of Sitt’s original plans.

Here’s the NY City Planning Department’s zoning text for the property where Sitt now says he needs zoning changes: “Building frontage along Wonder Wheel Way and Bowery would be required to be occupied by at least 50 percent amusement uses within Use Group A1 [traditional amusement uses such as roller coasters, dark rides, circuses, arcades and midway attractions] and hotels located on lots larger than 20,000 sf would be required to dedicate 20 percent of their floor area towards Use Group A1 whether located on-site or off-site anywhere in the proposed Coney East subdistrict. This modification would strengthen the ground-floor requirements for traditional amusement uses to ensure that Coney Island maintains its one-of-a-kind amusement character.”

Sitt Bloomberg

One year after the long drawn out and contentious Coney Island Rezoning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Thor CEO Joe Sitt stroll past the Cyclone, May 2010. Edward Reed Photo

The truly alarming part in the NY1 piece is Sitt saying he’s “dealing with” the City on the issue of the zoning changes. Who is he lobbying– the Mayor’s Office, City Planning? Is he setting the stage for applying for an economic “hardship variance” from the Board of Standards and Appeals? Be vigilant, people of the People’s Playground. It wouldn’t be the first time the zoning passed by one administration has been undone by another.

Steeplechase died in 1966, after Fred Trump bought the property and threw a party to celebrate the destruction of the Pavilion of Fun, which is the subject of a new exhibit opening this weekend at the Coney Island History Project. “The Trump Organization office views the acreage as a potential site for a modern Miami Beach type high rise apartment,” according to the New York Times clipping of “6 Bikinied Beauties Attend Demolishing of Coney Landmark.” Trump’s effort to get the zoning changed to residential failed to get approval. Thanks to the Rezoning of 2009, the City itself is planning to do what the City wouldn’t let Fred Trump do 50 years ago: Build residential towers on part of the Steeplechase site, where the MCU parking lot is now.

Detail of CIDC Map of of Coney Island Redevelopment Plan.  Salmon and cream color denote residential and residential towers.

Detail of CIDC Map of of Coney Island Redevelopment Plan. Salmon and cream color denote residential and residential towers. Aqua denotes amuseemnts

Color Key for CIDC Map of Redeveloped Coney Island

Color Key for CIDC Map of Redeveloped Coney Island

Related posts on ATZ…

April 8, 2016: Thor’s Coney Island: Coney Art Walls Return Minus Smorgasburg, Go Karts May Be On The Way

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

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

March 2, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

The return of the nervous kid who grew up in a house under a roller coaster? Woody Allen says his next movie will be set in an amusement park and could possibly be shot in Coney Island this summer. “If I can work out the logistics of it,” he told reporters at the Cannes Film Festival.

Scenes from Allen’s 1977 Annie Hall were filmed in Coney at the since demolished Thunderbolt roller coaster and the Cavalcade Bumper Cars on Surf Avenue. Where would he film today? Well, there’s Luna Park’s new Thunderbolt roller coaster, which does not have a house under it but does have a hair-raising 90 degree drop, and the roller coaster like thrill of the Wonder Wheel’s swinging cars, and the mighty Cyclone.

As Allen’s alter ego Alvy Singer says in Annie Hall, “My analyst says I exaggerate my childhood memories, but I swear I was brought up underneath the roller-coaster in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. Maybe that accounts for my personality, which is a little nervous, I think.”

The house under the roller coaster in Annie Hall was the real life home for 40 years of Mae Timpano, who shares vivid memories of good times and sad in a 2005 documentary by Lila Place. “If the wind was blowing towards the house, I heard everything going on in Coney Island,” says Timpano in the film.

Related posts on ATZ…

July 14, 2015L ‘Famous Nathan’ Documentary Gets Theatrical Run, VOD and DVD Release

April 19, 2015: USA Network’s Mr. Robot is Filming Again in Coney Island

January 1, 2015: Video of the Day: “Coney Island” with Arbuckle & Keaton (1917)

February 23, 2014: Sunday Matinee: Under the Roller Coaster (2005)

Coney Island'sHigh Striker Queen

Coney Island’s High Striker Queen. Photo © Tricia Vita

“I’m happy to be back,” says Monica, Coney Island’s High Striker Queen, who has a new spot on the Bowery under the famed Wonder Wheel’s Thrills sign. And we’re happy to be reporting the good news. In photos taken earlier this week, Monica and her partner Jeff were overseeing construction of their new Fishbowl Game. It will officially open this weekend along with a Kiddie High Striker and Basketball Game.

As ATZ reported in March, three weeks before Coney’s March 26th Opening Day, Monica was told by a rep of 12th Street Amusements that she could not set up this year. “I’m heartbroken,” she had told us. “If I can’t find another place, I’m going to leave Coney Island for the last time.” The space on the Bowery became available for lease after longtime indie operator Jimmy Carchiolo aka Jimmy Balloons, passed away in April.

Coney Islad Bowery

New indie games under construction on Coney Island’s Bowery. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s High Striker Queen was the first victim of the City’s scheme to use eminent domain to acquire six privately owned lots for “the revitalization of Coney Island.” One of the lots is the location where Monica and her partner Jeff ran their popular Mom & Pop “hit the hammer, ring the bell” game for the past four seasons.

A few weeks ago, 12th Street Amusements set up their own game in Monica’s former location, which means that when the lot is finally acquired by the City to make way for Wonder Wheel Way, they would be the ones entitled to compensation.

Related posts on ATZ…

April 1, 2016: In Memoriam: James Carchiolo, Coney Island’s Jimmy Balloons

June 3, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island’s Indie Game Operators

May 16, 2013: Shooting Gallery Revival in Post-Sandy Coney Island

April 22, 2013: Saying Goodbye to Manny and Target the Coney Island Cat

Boardwalk under construction

Walking on Boardwalk Under Construction, November 29, 1922. Photo by E.E. Rutter via NYC Dept of Records, Municipal Archives

This Sunday, May 15, is the 93rd anniversary of the official opening of Coney Island’s Riegelmann Boardwalk. Last week, Coney poet Michael Schwartz crooned a few lines from “Under the Boardwalk” and recited poetry as part of his testimony before the City Council’s Land Use Committee. He was among about 15 people who took time out from their work day to speak at City Hall in favor of Councilman Mark Treyger’s resolution that the Landmarks Preservation Commission designate the Boardwalk a scenic landmark.

The LPC had previously said no, but is now said to be reconsidering. You may want to phone, email or write letters of encouragement to Meenakshi Srinivasan, Commissioner of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Contact information is here. Use the hashtag #LandmarkTheBoardwalk when you post on social media.

Schwartz’s eloquent testimony, printed in full below, begins with an excerpt of his poem, “The Under-Talker,” from a book-in-progress of poems, short stories and monologues set in Coney Island and called The Invisible Exhibitionist and other Attractions.

What will happen to us now that they took away under the boardwalk?
We won’t be falling in love
under the boardwalk…
boardwalk.
I heard that pushing the sand right up under the boards like that is what causes them to erode and crack.
I wish we could have our down by the sea on a blanket with my baby under the boardwalk back.
Did you hear that when they filled it in Homeless John the Under-Talker was buried alive?
Under the boardwalk.
Yesterday I tripped on a broken board and fell on my ear
and I swear while I was there
I could still hear him talk.
If you listen closely…
you can still hear him talk.

First they came for under the boardwalk… Then they came for the boardwalk. It started already. Part of the boardwalk’s already been paved over, even though that’s not what the people wanted. And in the middle of the night before it would have been landmarked, they bulldozed our beloved original Thunderbolt. And they came under darkness in the middle of the night and destroyed our beloved West 8th Street bridge to the boardwalk that protected us from traffic, because we didn’t have the power to protect it. If we don’t have the power to protect our world famous beloved boardwalk that connects neighborhoods, businesses, and people, one day we will wake up and it won’t be there, at least not as we know it. Where’s the boardwalk? Oh my God, it’s a sidewalk. Don’t we have enough sidewalks?

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk/No Concrete. Sign on Building Facing Boardwalk East of Ocean Parkway in Brighton Beach. Photo © Bruce Handy

The historic beloved boardwalk is one of the last walkways in our world that is an oasis from the concrete that hardens our souls and hammers our joints. Also, concrete will not absorb water or heat the way wood does. In this apocalyptic time of hurricanes and floods, the walkway by the water is wood for practical as well as aesthetic reasons. Coney Island is called the people’s park because it’s different than those other sanitized corporatized parks. When Coney becomes corporatized, such as when the Republican nominee’s father Fred destroyed Steeplechase, they demolish more than just the people’s parks, they break the people’s hearts.

We’ve seen too many New York treasures wiped out by corporate greed, little by little turning the greatest city in the world into just another impersonal unaffordable clone of Anymall, USA. We lost the original Penn Station, the 8th wonder of the world, because it wasn’t landmarked. We saved Grand Central Station because it was landmarked. If we don’t landmark the boardwalk, we’ll lose it. We’ll lose ourselves.

© Michael Schwartz

Truck on Coney Island Boardwalk

The City’s routine use of trucks and cars on the Boardwalk causes wear and tear on the boards. The Parks Dept has started to build a 10-foot wide concrete ‘carriage lane’ in Brighton Beach. Photo © Anonymouse

805 Surf Avenue

Vacant lot at 805-825 Surf Avenue, on the north side of Surf across from the Cyclone in Coney Island, May 5, 2015. Photo © anonymouse via AmusingtheZillion.com

PYE Properties, the owners of the Surf Avenue lot across the street from the Coney Island Cyclone, have started advertising for vendors for a flea market set to open in May. Like some of the furniture stores and a cafe on the north side of Surf, it’s named after one of Coney’s amusement parks — Luna Park Flea Market. According to their new website, the price for a spot on Friday, Saturday or Sunday is $50, while other days of the week will go for $30.

A kiddie ride park, a go kart track and a flea market housed in shipping containers have occupied the lot in the past. In 2001, the Giuliani administration repeatedly ticketed and finally got rid of the flea market that had operated there since the 1980s. The headline in the Daily News read “CONEY SMALL BIZ BLITZ STORM OF TICKETS TIED TO DEBUT OF CYCLONES.”

Over the past decade, the vacant lot, which has 140 feet of frontage on Surf and is 90 feet deep, has occasionally been used as a parking lot. For one day in 2011, the lot briefly hosted John Strong’s sideshow until the previous property owners abruptly did an about-face and went back to parking cars.

Bumper cars and other amusements were in the building on the site which was torn down in the 1950s. Until the early ’80s the north side of Surf Avenue was home to individually-owned penny arcades and a variety of rides including carousels and even a Jumbo Jet-style coaster.

Last year, the Surf Avenue lot at 805-825 Surf Avenue was Brighton Beach-based PYE Properties’ first acquisition in Coney Island. In January, PYE purchased the landmark Shore Theater for $14 million. According to the development company’s website, “PYE Properties is a full-service development company guided by our in-house team of result-driven real estate professionals whose expertise includes acquisition, design, development, construction and property management.” The flea market is a seasonal use for the short term until development gets underway.

Since the 2009 rezoning of Coney Island, the north side of Surf has seen restaurants such as Grimaldi’s, Applebee’s, and Subway Cafe rapidly replacing furniture stores and vacant lots. Johnny Rockets and IHOP franchises are under construction. Mom & Pops on the north side include Chill party space, Red Doors Bar & Grill, and Piece of Velvet Cupcakes.

The flea market did not open on July 4th Weekend and remains closed.

First Snow.  December 26, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy via flickr

First Snow. December 26, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy via flickr

Dear friends, if you truly love Coney Island, then get yourself to City Hall on Wednesday, May 4th, to speak up to landmark the Boardwalk. Stay away and we’ll be forever damned to walk the Coney Island Concretewalk. Fail to show up and the patterns of freshly fallen snow on the slatted boards will one day exist only in archival photographs.

The City Council’s Land Use Committee is meeting at 11 AM to hear testimony on Coney Island Councilman Mark Treyger’s resolution calling for the boardwalk to be designated a scenic landmark. In February, 48 City Council Members, as well as Public Advocate Letitia James, signed on to the resolution, yet the Landmarks Preservation Commission remains silent. If it were not for Treyger’s tireless efforts on behalf of the boardwalk, this issue would have vanished from the public eye.

The City’s other scenic landmarks and dates of designation are Morningside Park (2008), Fort Tryon Park (1983) Bryant Park (1974), Central Park (1974), Riverside Park and Riverside Drive (1980), Verdi Square (1975), Eastern Parkway (1978), Grand Army Plaza (1974), Ocean Parkway (1975) and Prospect Park (1975). Doesn’t Coney Island’s world-famous boardwalk deserve to be among this illustrious company? May 15 is the 93rd anniversary of the Riegelmann Boardwalk’s official opening. See you tomorrow at City Hall and let’s make it a celebration.

Related posts on ATZ…

May 4, 2015: Boardwalk Bunco: Milan Expo’s USA Pavilion Has Boardwalk from Coney Island, Brooklyn to Get Plastic & Concrete

January 19, 2015: An Historic First As Elected Officials Join Community’s Fight to Save Coney Island Boardwalk

March 22, 2012: The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues

March 9, 2012: The 10 People Who Will Decide the Fate of Coney Island Boardwalk

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