Archive for December, 2009

Last year at this time, we were mourning the loss of Coney Island’s Astroland Park and tending a little shrine on Astroland’s Boardwalk Gates. Here’s a look back at the Astroland Gate on New Year’s Day 2009 by Livvvvvvv via YouTube. The children’s voices are poignant…

The memorial began the day after Christmas with our handmade collage, a friend’s bouquet of flowers and a banner of a tightrope dancer. Two days later, we learned the collage had been stolen, its plastic fasteners cut. When the black ink on the banner bled in the rain, photographer Bruce Handy said the ballerina was weeping. But the shrine grew to include photos, banner painter Marie Roberts’ paintbrush (symbolizing a fresh start), beads, a paper mache mask, and a cane. The flowers remained in place through opening day of Coney Island’s 2009 season.

On January 1, 2010, we’ll be in Coney Island as usual to celebrate the New Year with the multitude of friends and strangers who come for the Polar Bear Club Swim. No, we’re not swimming, but we’re sponsoring a Bear who is Freezin’ for a Reason and you can, too. It’s for a good cause–they’re raising funds for Camp Sunshine.

We’d like to decorate the gate with a few photos, too. In addition to memorializing the good times at Astroland, we want to let visitors know that Coney Island is not closed! On Palm Sunday (March 28, 2010), the Cyclone Roller Coaster, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, McCullough’s Kiddie Park, Eldorado Bumper Cars, Coney Island Sideshow and other Coney Island businesses open for the season. By Memorial Day Weekend, the former Astroland site will be home to a yet-to-be-designated amusement operator‘s rides and attractions. We anticipate nothing less than a spectacular summer season. Happy New Year Everyone! Happy New Year to Coney Island!

Kris Kringle's Cane

Miracle on the Boardwalk: Kris Kringle's Cane on the Astroland Shrine. January 2, 2009. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr


Related posts on ATZ…

November 23, 2009: The Contenders from A to Z: Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP

September 2, 2009: The Sad Anniversary of Coney Island’s Astroland Going Dark

May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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Here’s a front seat view from Coney Island’s long-vanished Shoot-the-Chutes (1895-1944), originally built for Sea Lion Park. Our friends at Clicksypics have transformed a 1904 Underwood & Underwood stereo card of “Brilliant Luna Park at Night, Coney Island, New York’s great pleasure resort” into an animation of Coney Island’s Electric Eden. By 1907, Luna Park was illuminated by 1,300,000 incandescent bulbs at a cost of $5,600 a week. What a holiday light display it would be today!

Luna Park

Luna Park at Night Stereo Card Animation

“I came up with this idea on a whim, I don’t know that it’s been done before, I just knew that I had never seen any,” says the stereo animation’s creator. For the full collection and information about how these wiggle pictures are made, visit Clicksy’s weblog.


Related posts on ATZ…

January 5, 2013: Saturday Matinee: A Peep Show on the Mutoscope Machine

December 8, 2012: Sunday Matinee: Princess Rajah’s Chair Dance (1904)

January 8, 2012: Video of the Day: Coney Island at Night by Edwin S. Porter

August 16, 2011: Video of the Day: “IT Girl” Clara Bow in Coney Island

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Which would you rather see this summer in Coney Island? Row upon row of permanently parked yellow school buses? Or Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus’s Illuscination under the Big Top? We thought so…

Today, Ringling’s magical new show starring “thrillusionist” David DaVinci, an aviary of macaws, doves, and free flying parrots, a trio of Italian clowns, and much more will premiere in West Palm Beach. Stay tuned for our upcoming preview of the show. Come summer, Feld Entertainment is expected to bring the Gold Tour #4 to Coney Island after the successful 12-week run of their Coney Island Boom-A-Ring in 2009.

“I was down in Florida for rehearsals of the new Gold Unit last week and I have to tell you – it’s spectacular!” says Steve Yaros, Vice President, Event Marketing & Sales, Northeast Region at Feld Entertainment. Yaros has been working with Taconic Investment Partners to secure the lot at 21st and Surf where Ringling raised its blue and yellow striped tent last summer. ATZ had heard the circus performers were telling friends they’ll be in Coney over the summer. Come visit! When we asked Yaros, he said a deal has yet to be made.

“They are still looking for a place to relocate the buses that are currently there. It would be a shame if yellow buses replace The Greatest Show On Earth on Coney Island this summer,” says Yaros. “But I’m optimistic we will figure out a solution soon. It’s Feld Entertainment’s sincere desire to return to Coney Island in 2010 and continue the summertime tradition we started last year. So please keep your fingers crossed and send us positive vibes.”

“BUS: Coney Island is also a holding zone for every school bus on earth.” August 25, 2008. Photo © gtranbot via flickr

We’re optimistic, too. Last summer’s Coney Island Boom A Ring brought The Greatest Show On Earth back under “The Big Top” for the first time since 1954 and attracted over 160,000 visitors in its first year in Coney Island. The Coney Island community–those of use who live or work here–are of course thrilled to have Ringling return with a new show. The circus folk were great neighbors and partners in helping us publicize the fact that Coney Island is Really Fun and Really Open.

We’re optimistic since Ringling wants to come back and Mayor Bloomberg wants the circus back and the Mayor is known for getting things done. “The City is looking forward to a vibrant summer in Coney Island in 2010, and we hope that the Ringling Brothers Circus will be part of it,” says Libby Langsdorf, assistant vice president for public affairs at New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC).

If ever there was a time to end the school bus parking blight in the People’s Playground, it’s now. There are already too many pix of yellow buses popping up in visitors’ flickr sets of Coney Island. If you think we’re exaggerating, take a look. Visitors wonder why all the school buses on earth are parked there. It’s a surprising thing to see in the heart of Coney Island, so they snap a picture. Memories are made of this. There are actually two bus lots–one on property owned by Thor Equities adjacent to Nathan’s and one further west on Taconic’s property. Let’s exile the buses on Thor’s property while we’re at it and replace them with….rides!

Coney Island School Bus Depot

“I remember Coney Island. Coney Island School Bus Depot in the rain.” May 17, 2009. Photo © Matto Fredriksson/mattogbg via flickr

The unamusing buses have long term leases to park on the empty lots despite the fact that the area was zoned for amusements. The photographers’ captions say it all: A bus station, a school bus graveyard, Coney Island School Bus Depot and School Bus School Bus School Bus School Bus School Bus School Bus. If anyone knows of an empty lot where the throng of school buses can go on permanent vacation from Coney Island, please let us know! Or better yet, let the City know. See you at the circus!

UPDATE April 7, 2010:

Goodbye school buses! Hello Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey! It’s finally official: Feld Entertainment issued a press release today announcing The Coney Island Illuscination. The show will run from June 17 through September 6, 2010.


Related posts on ATZ...

August 31, 2010: Snapshots of the Coney Island Illuscination

May 20, 2010: Trivia Contest! Win VIP Circus Tickets to Coney Island Illuscination

September 3, 2009: Coney Island Baby: Cyclone, the Mini Donkey at the Ringling Circus

August 20, 2009: Q & A with Coney Island Boom A Ring Circus Star Justin Case

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The first snow of the season in Coney Island and New York City came a couple of weeks later than first predicted. ATZ contributing photographer and Coney Island resident Bruce Handy/”Pablo 57″ went for his usual Sunday morning stroll and brought back this lovely white on white view of the Cyclone roller coaster.

Snowy Cyclone

Snowy Cyclone. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

The photographer’s favorite shots of the day (and ours) also include a snow-dusted Wonder Wheel, a pristine Jones Walk and Coney Island’s flashy signage seen in contrast with the snow. You can view the complete slide show on flickr.

We’re homebound with a cold, but happily emailing friends–hey, it’s snowing and not just on our blog!


Related posts on ATZ...

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

October 30, 2009: Nov 1: Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s First Swim of the Season!

May 19, 2009: Coney Island Is Alive and Kicking in 2009 Photo of the Day: New Boardwalk

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If you think “Ciao” means only hello or goodbye, we have news for you:  In NYCEDC (New York Economic Development Corporation) acronymese, CIAO stands for Coney Island Amusement Operator in the RFP (Request for Proposals) for a 10 year lease of the City’s newly purchased 6.9 acres in the People’s Playground. Today is the deadline for responses to the RFP and we’re set to be thrilled by the zillion dollar ride line up of the decade! Our guess is the successful bidder will be a team that not only has experience in park operations but also includes a top carnival  and a ride manufacturer with coaster creds.  Oh, and did we mention access to capital? But don’t expect to find out who gets to put in Coney Island’s interim midway–it’s the equivalent of a mega state fair contract– until early 2010.

In the meantime, ATZ took a look at some of the questions potential CIAO’s have asked about the RFP and Coney Island in general, and the NYCEDC’s replies, for clues to the future. Will the oldies but goodies in the City owned Boardwalk properties like Ruby’s, Cha Cha’s, Shoot the Freak and the historic Astrotower get a new 10 year lease on life? Or will it be out with the old, in with the new starting in 2011?

View from Cha Chas

Coney Island, View from Cha Cha's Rooftop on Siren Day 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Free Rent In Coney Island?!

The full set of Q & A’s posted on the RFP site covered necessary stuff like electrical power to the sites, restrooms, lighting, fencing, security and rubbish removal, all of which the CIAO is expected to provide in addition to the rides and attractions. The site turnover date is April 15, 2010, leaving the operator only 6 weeks till Memorial Day to install everything and obtain the necessary permits and inspections. In 2010, the City will spend $2.2 million out of a total of $6.6 million in public funds on site improvements. What about the rent?

Q:  In the RFP, you mentioned terms including “free rent” and percentages.  Can you explain what is meant by these terms?

A:  Given the compressed timeline and the intermediate lease term offered, NYCEDC intends to be as flexible as possible in accommodating the needs of the operator.  Therefore, a variety of rent schedules and structures, which may or may not include percentage rent, base rent or free rent, will be considered.

Lotsa Interest in the Boardwalk Businesses

More revealing about the shape of things to come in Coney are the Q & A’s about the Boardwalk businesses, the Astrotower, and even the Astroland Rocket.

Q: What businesses are located on the Boardwalk? Do you have contact information?

A: The businesses currently located on the Boardwalk within the boundaries of Parcels A, B, and C are, from East to West: Paul’s Daughter, Pio Pio Rico, Gyro Corner, Coney Island Souvenirs, Ruby’s Bar and Grill, Shoot the Freak, Cha-Cha’s, Nathan’s Famous, Beer Island. Additional information for businesses in Coney Island can be found at www.coneyislandfunguide.com.

Ruby's Bar & Grill

Ruby's Bar & Grill, Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

The City has already offered one year leases for 2010 to the mom-and-pop businesses occupying the Boardwalk property formerly owned by Thor Equities. Lola Staar Boutique, which was evicted by Thor, was asked to return as well. But will they be back in 2011? It’s clear from the Q & A’s that some of the potential CIAO’s are very interested in the revenue generating potential of the bars and the Boardwalk property. It would be a sorry day if Coney Island mainstays Ruby’s, Cha Cha’s, Shoot the Freak and the other small businesses are “pratted out” (as we say in the carnival biz) after having survived the dark days of Thor.

Before the RFP release, Shoot the Freak’s Anthony Berlingieri made headlines when he appeared at the City’s press conference on the land buy and posed the question directly to Mayor Bloomberg: “Is there a place for us?” NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky gave a diplomatic reply: “Our intention is for the foreseeable future to keep all the tenants in place, certainly through next summer. And we’re going to be looking to work with each of you to figure out where it makes sense for the various tenants to remain as we build out the amusement park.”

More from the Coney Island RFP Q & A’s related to Boardwalk Businesses

Q: What is going to happen with the Boardwalk tenants in both the short term and throughout the lease period? Can responses to the RFP include those businesses and the space along the boardwalk?

A: For Year 1 of operations (the Summer 2010 season), NYCEDC intends to enter into one-year licenses directly with the Boardwalk businesses. Beginning in Year 2 of operations, Respondents may propose to include or exclude these businesses and structures from their proposals.

Q: What is the current rent from these tenants?

A: While we cannot share information on individual licenses at this time, we can report that in the past, the gross potential rent for the Boardwalk tenants was approximately $750,000 to $900,000.

Shoot the Freak

Shoot the Freak on Fourth of July. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Q: Do the Boardwalk tenants have liquor licenses? Do these remain with the tenant or the structure?

A: Several of the businesses on the Boardwalk maintain liquor licenses with the New York State Liquor Authority (“SLA”). Most of the active licenses are seasonal (for a term of seven months) and are renewed annually. The process for the “transfer” of a license at an existing premises to a new business as well as other details regarding liquor licenses is available at the website of the SLA: http://www.abc.state.ny.us.

Q: Can the Boardwalk businesses make use of the Boardwalk?

A: Yes, businesses are generally permitted to occupy approximately 20 feet of the Boardwalk in front of the business premises with tables and chairs. Such use of the Boardwalk requires approval by and an annual fee paid to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

According to the Coney Island RFP, “Responses to this RFP should articulate whether they include or exclude these structures or footprints, beginning at the earliest in Year 2 of operations.”  But it also says “The Selected Respondent may propose to include subtenants for portions of their proposed operations, but such subtenants, and such subtenant agreements, shall be subject to NYCEDC approval.”  In other words, the City, which owns the property, has final say over which businesses come or go.

While the RFP encourages a plan for Minority/Women Business Enterprises (M/WBE) and local hiring, there’s no mention of protection for small businesses in general. In fact, the buildings could be demolished and the tenants displaced. Will the Boardwalk end up looking like the rest of New York City–out with the mom and pops, in with the formula businesses and chain restaurants? We hope not. But the Bloomberg adminstration’s opposition to Councilman Jackson’s proposed Small Business Survival Act, which has enough support to pass in the City Council, does not make us feel optimistic.

Astrotower. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Astrotower. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr


Despite the closing of Astroland and the fact that the Astrotower hasn’t operated as a ride for two years, Bruce Handy‘s photo gives us a hopeful feeling. We can imagine buds and then leaves on the tree and the Tower still standing tall. The Municipal Art Society and Save Coney Island say the structure is eligible for the State and National Registers. We hope the Astrotower will be a survivor like Steeplechase’s Parachute Jump.

Q: What are the future plans for the Astrotower? Could the operator choose to reactivate the Astrotower? Could the operator choose to remove the Astrotower from the site?

A: Respondents should include in their proposal how they will address the Astrotower. Reactivating the tower or removing it are both among the potential options.

Q: Do you have any drawings of the Astrotower? Can NYCEDC provide dimensions? Can NYCEDC provide the name of the manufacturer?

A. It is our understanding that the Astrotower was manufactured by the Swiss company Von Roll and installed in 1964. Von Roll was purchased by Doppelmayr Garaventa Group (www.doppelmayrctec.com) in 1996. The tower is approximately 260’ high.

Astroland Rocket

Jan 28, 2009 - Astroland Rocket in Aquarium Parking Lot ready to Go to Homeport Storage facility in Staten Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/Coney Island History Project

Astroland Rocket

When we look at this photo of the Rocket with the Cyclone, Tower and Wonder Wheel in the background, we can just imagine how wonderful it will be when the Rocket rejoins these landmarks in the new Coney Island. We hope the Tower will be there too!

Q: The City saved the Astroland Rocket last year. Will it return as a part of the new amusement park?

A: The City of New York accepted a donation in January 2009 of the Astroland Rocket, a 71-foot long 12,000 pound rocket ship flight simulator that was among the original rides at Astroland when the park opened in the 1960s. The Rocket is currently in an NYCEDC storage facility. NYCEDC anticipates discussing potential locations for the Rocket with the Selected Respondent following designation, although Respondents are welcome to propose a use for the Rocket in their proposals if they so choose.

The potential CIAO’s also had questions about adjacent property, asking for contact information  for “the owner of the lot immediately to the East of Keyspan Park” (Horace Bullard) and the “owner of the lots immediately north of Parcels B and C, south of the Bowery” (Thor Equities). If we’re lucky, the spillover of applicants for the RFP will fill Sitt’s and Bullard’s empty lots with amusements this summer.


Related posts on ATZ…

November 25, 2009: Photo Album: Coney Island Shines at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 in Vegas

November 23, 2009: The Contenders from A to Z: Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP

May 29, 2009: At Cha-Cha’s of Coney Island, Squidling Rhymes with Ringling

May 17, 2009: Joe Sitt’s No Show Rides

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This amusing tune recorded eighty years ago by the Mills Brothers is about a Coney Island gal who plays washboard music on the Boardwalk and “could rag a tune right through the knees of a brand new suit of easy breezes.” The suit is updated to Levi jeans in some recent recordings of “Coney Island Washboard.” The Victrola and 78 prm record are from the very impressive collection of victrolaman, who says: “For those not familiar with the Mills Brothers, the only instrument heard on the record is a guitar, all other instrumental sounds are made by the Brothers themselves. The Victrola is an early two door Victor Credenza from 1925. The Credenza was the flagship model of Victor’s new Orthophonic Victrola’s which were introduced to the general public on ‘Victor Day’ in late 1925.”

What else was new in 1925? Coney Island’s Thunderbolt roller coaster (demolished in 2000) and Shore Theatre (currently vacant, proposed for NYC landmark designation) were built. The Coney Island Chamber of Commerce announced the construction of the Half-Moon Hotel, a 16-story, 400-room hotel as “an important step in the program of rehabilitating Coney Island” and attracting ”a high class of patronage, similar to that which must now resort to Atlantic City.” The $3 million hotel at West 29th Street and the Boardwalk opened in 1927 and was demolished in 1983 to make way for a new Metropolitan Jewish Geriatric Center. Also built in 1927: the Cyclone Roller coaster, one of four City landmarks in Coney Island.

Cranky DJ

On June 26, the Coney Island History Project invited Michael W. Haar aka "The Cranky DJ" to help celebrate the Cyclone’s 82nd birthday. He brought his 1923 Brunswick phonograph and 1921 Victor Victrola to the party. Both are original talking machines powered entirely by manual hand-crank. No electricity whatsoever! Mike has a weekly show on East Village Radio called The Ragged Phonograph. Photo © Coney Island History Project


Related posts on ATZ...

February 7, 2011: Music Video: Coney Island Washboard Roundelay on Ukelele

January 6, 2011: Music Video: Strange Powers by the Magnetic Fields

April 17, 2010: Our Fave Coney Island Song: Joe McGinty’s Million Dollar Mermaid

November 26, 2009: Coney Island Boardwalk Music Video: The Supertones “I Surf in Black”

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This is a post on the 2010 air show that was cancelled. Current post on the 2015 New York City Air Show in Coney Island is here.

The U.S. Army’s Golden Knights Parachute team will return to Coney Island to perform in the new air show scheduled for August 28-29, 2010, (Cancelled! See Aug 10 Update below) ATZ has learned. We can’t wait to see the inevitable pix of the parachutists with the Parachute Jump in the background! Friends who’ve attended Coney Island air shows of the past (the last one was in 2000) say the jumpers land with unerring precision on targets set out on the beach.

Golden Knights U.S. Army Parachute Team. Photo courtesy of the US Army

The air show will also mark the historic return of the USAF Thunderbirds jet team to Coney Island as ATZ reported earlier this week. The August 28-29 weekend air show will be the culmination of Air Force Week, according to Ted Plana, the Director of Air Operations for the show. The event is the Air Force’s equivalent of Fleet Week and will be a citywide event. “They will be going into the boroughs,” Plana says.

Air Force Weeks were established in 2006 by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and have traveled to different locales including St. Louis, Las Vegas, Sacramento and Los Angeles. The L.A. event featured free events such as spectacular flyovers, aircraft and interactive simulator demos, concerts, a film festival and more. According to the USAF, “The Air Force Week program is part of a proactive initiative to increase communication with the public. Each Air Force week may include community visits and talks by Air Force officials, flight demonstration team performances and displays providing an up close and personal look at the Air Force men and women serving on the front lines.”

Young spectators take a look inside an Air Force Thunderbirds' cockpit at the California Capital Airshow the culminating event of Air Force Week-Sacramento, Sept. 12. Air Force Week-Sacramento is an event using various activities and exhibitions to educate the community about the Air Force's capabilities and missions. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

Both the Golden Knights and the Thunderbirds released their 2010 schedule on December 8 at the ICAS (International Council of Air Shows) Convention in Las Vegas, setting off a flurry of speculation in Coney Island about the sponsorship of the new event in the People’s Playground.

Plana tells ATZ that the event has been in the planning stages for the past year and a half. “We have been working with the City to get clearances and permits, and then with the Air Force to get the Thunderbirds,” says Plana. Now that the stars of the show are on board, the sponsors are gearing up to officially announce the event.

The last weekend in August was chosen for this family oriented event since people are home and getting ready for school, Plana notes. It’s also a time when attendance drops off in Coney Island. At a recent stakeholders meeting, Coney Island business owners called for more special events in late August to boost attendance. Sounds like they got their wish.

How many people are projected to attend the air show? “A conservative estimate would be 500,000 per day,” says Plana, who notes that more than 2 million people live in Brooklyn and the air show will be visible for blocks beyond the amusement district.

“It will have some of the elements of the Lauderdale show, including stages,” says Plana, who has been Director of Air Operations for the Fort Lauderdale Air and Beach Festival for the past 15 years. The best viewing area as well as the stages are expected to be set up at Stillwell Ave and 10th Street. The air show and the majority of Air Force Week events will be free to the public.

This concludes the week of “Finding out About the Secret Air Show in Coney Island” at ATZ! Drop by next week for the usual news and rumors about what’s going on in Coney Island, ATZ’s first book review and more.

UPDATE August 10, 2010:

We’re sorry to report the Coney Island Air Show could not get all of the necessary permits–a complicated situation by all accounts– and persistent rumors that the air show would be cancelled or “postponed” have turned out to be true. The high cost of police security for the event was also rumored to be a factor. The Thunderbirds and Golden Knights finally removed “Brooklyn, NY” from their schedules. Air Force Week NYC will go on without a Coney Island Air Show. Instead they’re advertising the Aug 25 air show in Atlantic City!


Related Posts on ATZ…

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

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