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Archive for October, 2009

Polar Bear Swim on March 16, 2008, Coney Island's Opening Day of the Season. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Polar Bear Swim on March 16, 2008, Coney Island's Opening Day of the Season. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

You don’t have to wait until New Year’s Day to join (or just watch) the world-famous Coney Island Polar Bear Swim. Beat the crowd! Members of the oldest cold-water bathing club in the country plunge into the Atlantic at 1 pm every Sunday from November through April. It’s a great way to enjoy Coney Island’s ambiance during the winter season. The photos accompanying this post were taken on Coney Island’s Opening Day of the Season in March 2008. By the time Coney Island’s rides open on Palm Sunday, which tends to fall in late March or early April, the Polar Bears swim season is winding down.

Visit the Coney Island Polar Bear Club website for info on joining a swim or becoming a member:

Guests are permitted to join us for two swims free of charge. If you decide this is for you and want to continue towards becoming a member, you can then apply for membership. If not, fine, we hope you had a great time,

To attend, show up any Sunday between November and April at the New York Aquarium Education Hall, on the Boardwalk at West 8th Street by 12:30 pm. Bring your bathing suit (duh), a towel and surf boots or an extra pair of sneakers (you really need something to protect and insulate your feet.) and some warm clothes. We also recommend you bring a friend should you need assistance or want your picture taken on the beach. You will be assigned a “buddy” to swim with and must obey all safety precautions prescribed by the Club.

All guests are required to sign a liability waiver.

Don’t forget your neoprine surf boots and your camera!

Polar Bears Snap Photos on the Beach in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Polar Bears Snap Photos on the Beach in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Related posts on ATZ...

January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010

December 9, 2009: USAF Thunderbirds Air Show Returns to Coney Island in August 2010

December 4, 2009: Photo of the Day: Let It Snow! in Coney Island

September 12, 2009: Coney Island After Labor Day: Rides Open Weekends, Special Events

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Shore Hotel Nature's Paradise by the Sea. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Shore Hotel Nature's Paradise by the Sea. April 26, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In an exclusive interview this week on Fox Business News, Joe Sitt, the real estate speculator who’s been holding Coney Island hostage in his battle to turn it into a shopping mall dotted with high rises, had this to say: “The way I look at it you’ve got to let other people play in the sandbox and be a good friend to folks. I’m looking forward to working with the Mayor of New York and sharing the development of Coney Island and hopefully seeing some hotels come to that marketplace.”

Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt sharing? We’re deeply cynical. Sitt’s history in Coney Island has consisted of buying and flipping property (Washington Baths bought for $13 million, sold for $90 million), keeping historic properties vacant or underutilized by evicting longtime tenants or tripling the rent (Astroland, Boardwalk, Grashorn Building, Shore Hotel, west side of Jones Walk), and bulldozing thriving amusements on Stillwell to create empty lots and a failed flea market.

The Coney segment is at the tail end of a conversation about “Rebounding Real Estate?” 4:10 to be precise. Watch it here…

The clip begins with the reporter asking: “What does somebody who owns more than $3 billion dollars worth of property in the nation’s most populated cities have to say about the real estate market and where it’s headed?” As Sitt yaks about investment opportunities in commercial real estate, a caption reminds the viewer that “Thor Equities owns 11 acres of Coney Island Amusement Park.”

Fox didn’t show any pix of Sitt’s property, so here’s a few shots from my Thorland set on flickr (photodocumentation from between 03 Sep 2007 & 18 Jul 2009). In the pic below, note unused tables due to lack of vendors. Note shuttered water race game across the street in the Henderson Building aka the historic Henderson’s Music Hall. Gee that’s funny, didn’t Sitt’s pr flack say Thor Equities property was 100% active in 2009?

More used DVD's at Joe Sitt's Flea Flop. July 12, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

More used DVD's at Joe Sitt's Flea Flop. July 12, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The reporter finally asks Sitt if “you guys” –Joey Coney Island and Mayor Mike– are close to resolving their differences. It’s the question on everyone’s mind. When the City Council passed the Coney Rezoning on July 29, there was some serious wheelin’ and dealin’ going on behind closed doors. Charles Bagli’s article in the New York Times had us on the edge of our seat: “Under the tentative deal, according to officials and executives involved in the talks, the city will buy six of Mr. Sitt’s 10 acres, leaving the remaining property on Surf and Stillwell Avenues for him to develop.” The City and Sitt’s attorney were said to be negotiating till 11 pm on the night before the hearing and through the Council meeting. Evidently the two sides never sealed the deal, or perhaps the selling price was deemed too exorbitant to make public before the election? Oh, if we were a fly on the wall at these so-called negotiations, what a delicious tell-all this would be!

Now Sitt is telling Fox News that there have been bumps in the road, but he and “Mayor Mike” are closer than they’ve ever been to a deal. Well, this is not exactly news because Bloomberg said what amounts to the same thing in a sit-down with the Brooklyn Paper back in August: “Fundamentally, the deal with him is done.”

Thor Equities Space for Lease. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Thor Equities Space for Lease Sign on the Still Vacant Bank of Coney Island Building. August 8, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

For the past four months, it’s been awfully quiet on the Coney Island redevelopment news front. It’s as if all of the usual sources had been told to keep their lips zipped till after the election. Yet the Coney Island Rumor Mill is abuzz. Rumors come and go, but the one that sticks around is that the City is buying the Astroland site and will close on it after Bloomberg wins a third term.

Unanswered questions: Is the City buying more than the Astro site from Sitt? What happened to the now three-month-old, 6 out of 10 acres deal? Or will the City go all out and buy the Stillwell lots as well? What will happen to the former Bank of Coney Island building on 12th Street and the Henderson Music Hall at Stillwell and Bowery. Both historic buildings occupy lots rezoned for the proposed high rise “hotels.” Will Sitt keep ‘em and flip ‘em in 2010? In the vid, the Thor CEO describes 2010 as the magic year he’s been waiting for patiently.

The Grashorn, Coney Island's Oldest Building. Shuttered and Destined for Demolition. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Grashorn, Coney Island's Oldest Building. Destined for Demolition? April 18, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

As for “seeing some hotels come to that marketplace”… We’ve never heard anyone but Sitt refer to Coney as a marketplace. Thor Equities falsely advertised the flea fest as “the most thrilling open air market on the planet” and “a uniquely entertaining and amusing marketplace in Coney Island.” Instead it was a desecration of the C-7 amusement zone. This property is where amusements such as batting cages, go karts, bumper boats and mini golf thrived until Joe Sitt bulldozed them in 2007 to make way for “site preparation.”

Forget sharing. We recommend that Mayor Mike buy out Joe, no matter what it costs. The Mayor has spent $85 million to win a third term, he can afford to buy back Coney Island. If re-elected, Bloomberg is destined to go down in history as the Mayor Who Saved Coney Island or the Mayor Who Killed Coney Island by Letting Joe Sitt Get Away with Murder. As for Joe Sitt, we recommend that he take his own advice about the rebounding real estate market. At one point in the video he says “I think Brazil is the single biggest opportunity…” That’s great, Joe. Please move there. Permanently. Here’s an airline schedule. Adeus.

The Henderson Building: Thor Equities banner dwarfs Shoot out the Star. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Henderson Building: Thor Equities banner dwarfs Shoot out the Star. January 1, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ...

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

February 10, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Amusement Operators Balk, Money Talks at Stillwell

January 8, 2010: Coney Island 2010: Good Riddance to Thor Equities Flopped Flea Market, Hello Rides?

June 4, 2009: Coney Island Ride Count: Veteran Ride Ops 40, Joe Sitt 10!

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Le Carrousel at Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Horses and Menagerie Animals Grace the Carousel at Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

As we left Bryant Park Cafe the other night, the lights of Le Carrousel beckoned us. By the time we arrived, Gabriel the carousel operator was getting ready to close for the night. The ride was silent and motionless, though its lights were still blazing. The horses and menagerie animals looked like part of a magical stage set. But the players had gone home. Eight o’clock is closing time in October. We hurriedly took a few photos of the hand-painted ticket booth against the backdrop of illuminated skyscrapers. We promised ourselves that we’d come back to take more photos of the carousel when the Ice Skating Pond and the Shops at Bryant Park open in November. Oh, and we want to go for a spin on the rabbit, which we like to imagine is a coney from Coney Island! There’s plenty of time because Le Carrousel has extended hours and activities through the holidays according to the Bryant Park blog:

Tricks and Treats at Le Carrousel in Bryant Park
Saturday, October 31
2:00pm – 3:00pm
Le Carrousel, 40th St. side of the park
Halloween party will be cancelled in case of rain.

Daily Hours at Le Carrousel
October, 11:00am – 8:00pm
November 1 – January 24, 2010, 11:00am – 9:00pm

Special Holiday Hours at Le Carrousel
Thanksgiving, 8:00am – 10:00pm
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, 10:00pm – 6:00pm
December 26 – December 30, 10:00am – 10:00pm
New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day, 10:00am – 6:00pm

In addition to the rabbit, the French inspired carousel has 10 horses, a frog, a cat and a deer. It was designed and built for Bryant Park by Marvin Sylvor (1937-2008) of Brooklyn’s Fabricon Carousel Company. A commemorative plaque on the ticket booth notes that Le Carrousel was Sylvor’s favorite of the more than 60 carousels he designed and constructed worldwide. As the carousel maker once told the New York Times, he loved merry-go-rounds because “they touch some spiritual part of your soul somewhere. They make you smile.”

Bryant Park Carousel Ticket Booth at Closing Time. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Bryant Park Carousel Ticket Booth at Closing Time--8 pm in October, 9 pm from Nov through January 24. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Bryant Park is behind the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan, between 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Le Carrousel is on the 40th Street side. $2 per ride. 212-768-4212.

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December 9, 2010: USAF Thunderbirds Air Show Returns to Coney Island in August 2010

October 12, 2009: Moments in Time: Artist Eric March’s Coney Island

October 10, 2009: Traveler: Carnival Rides as Public Art at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche

October 4, 2009: The Wonder of Artist Philomena Marano’s Wonder Wheel

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