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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)

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