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Archive for January, 2010

Thor Equities Shuttered Grashorn Bldg, Surf Ave & Jones Walk, Coney Island, August 15, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Thor Equities Shuttered Grashorn Bldg, Surf Ave & Jones Walk, Coney Island, August 15, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

ATZ has learned that sideshow operator John Strong has made a deal with Thor Equities to return to Coney Island for the 2010 season. In lieu of last year’s location in the former Astroland arcade, which was sold to the City, Strong’s freak museum will occupy Thor Equities’ owned 1104 Surf Ave at Jones Walk. Known as the Grashorn Building after Henry Grashorn’s Hardware store, which was in business in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the building is Coney Island’s oldest. The Texas-based showman flew into New York last week for a meeting with Thor Equities.

The building fronts Surf Avenue and extends along the west side of Jones Walk. Yet this prime location remained vacant and devoid of activity in 2009 (see photo above) due to Thor CEO Joe Sitt’s soaring rents. Last summer, a business owner who had leased a small stand on the Walk from Thor in 2008 told us the 2009 rent had tripled from $8,000 to $24,000. He declined the space and left Coney Island.

John Strong was mum on the cost of his lease for the Grashorn but is said to be happy with the deal. His museum of live and preserved freaks and oddities will occupy a prime location between Zamperla’s new Luna Park on the former Astroland site and Coney Island USA’s Sideshow and Museum at Surf Ave and 12th Street. The extra added attraction for Strong and company is the apartment on the upper floors.

Grashorn Building, April 19, 2003.  Municipal Art Society via flickr

Grashorn Building, April 19, 2003. Municipal Art Society via flickr

As ATZ reported in “John Strong Sideshow Aims for Coney Island Comeback” (Jan 13, 2010), Strong also proposes putting his ten-in-one sideshow as well as a circus on Thor’s Stillwell property. But several carnivals and amusement operators, including the also rans for the City’s RFP, are vying to lease what remains of Thor’s lots on Stillwell. A decision is expected by mid-February.

In Coney Island: Lost and Found, historian Charles Denson writes that the building at 1104 Surf dates back to the 1880’s and the Grashorn hardware store served Coney Island’s amusement businesses for more than 60 years: “The clapboard façade, dormers, cast iron resting, chimneys and fish-scale shingles were removed when the building was renovated in the 1980s but the mansard roof retains its shape.”

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

The Grashorn is one of six historic structures proposed for city landmark designation by Coney Island USA, the Municipal Art Society and Save Coney Island. In 2004, Coney Island USA received a grant from the JM Kaplan Fund to hire an architectural historian and research old buildings in Coney Island. The City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has delayed calendaring the buildings during the rezoning process.

MAS’s Melissa Baldock makes a plea for the Grashorn Building’s landmark designation: “The building could be restored to be a wonderful showpiece of Coney Island’s historic vernacular architecture. It is remarkable that this building, which predates Coney Island’s first enclosed amusement parks and was built around the same time as Coney Island (and America’s) first roller coaster, survives in 2009. However, without landmark status, there is no guarantee that this piece of Coney Island history will be part of its future.”

UPDATE April 29, 2010:

John Strong’s deal to rent the Grashorn is off! We’re sorry that rumors of Joe Sitt’s plans to demolish historic buildings which we reported in last week’s post “Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings” (ATZ, April 21, 2010) have turned out to be true. This is one time we would have preferred for the rumors to have remained just rumors.

Today, in response to a flurry of queries from reporters about Sitt’s still unleased empty lots and vacant properties, Thor Equities pr flack Knickerbocker SKD issued a press release announcing Sitt’s intention to begin demolishing the buildings and to replace them with other structures by May 2011. According to the release, “These structures will be replaced with more attractive, retail-friendly and up-to-code shops for the type of retailers Coney is famous for.” See “Thor’s Coney Island: Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt Is Baaack Playing Games!” (ATZ. April 29, 2010)

Translation: More Bull-Sitt from Thor Equities. More deliberately created empty lots.

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March 9, 2009: Thor’s Coney Island: Wanna Lease Stillwell? That’ll Be $500K Up Front!

April 29, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt Is Baaack Playing Games!

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

January 13, 2010: John Strong Sideshow Aims for Coney Island Comeback”>John Strong Sideshow Aims for Coney Island Comeback

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

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Window to Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Window to Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

ATZ spotted these classic images of the Astroland Rocket atop Gregory & Paul’s roof and the Cyclone roller coaster in a shop window on Sixth Avenue at 12th in Greenwich Village. As we framed our shot, a couple walked by and the man sang out “Astroland!” We sang back: “Coney Island opens for the season on March 28th!” The gallery owner says he sells five or six of the canvas prints per month. The original photos are by Erin Clark.

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

December 20, 2009: Coney Island Photo of the Day: First Snow on the Cyclone

June 26, 2009: Happy Birthday to Coney Island’s Cyclone Roller Coaster!

June 2, 2009: Coney Island is Alive and Kicking in 2009 Photo of the Day: Dusk on the Boardwalk

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Didja ever notice the first three letters of fundraiser are F-U-N? Saturday’s benefit for Save Coney Island is “Guaranteed to be a raucous good time!” The Save Coney folks have “Gone Country for Coney” with a Country/Bluegrass Musical Jamboree, Wild West Variety Show and chow from Jake’s BBQ. Extra Added Attractions include a Burlesque Show After Party. It’s all happening this Saturday from 3 till 9:30 pm at Galapagos Artspace in DUMBO.

Tickets are $20, $15 till 5 pm. The fundraiser benefits Save Coney Island, a volunteer, non-profit organization committed to restoring Coney Island as a world-class amusement destination for all New Yorkers and visitors. For additional info, visit SaveConeyIsland.net

gone country for coney

January 30, 3- 9:30 pm, Save Coney Island Benefit at Galapagos Artspace, 16 Main Street at Water Street, DUMBO. (A & C trains to High, F to York)

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

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

July 27, 2009: Tall, Skinny & Destined to Kill Coney Island: High Rises on South Side of Surf

June 11, 2009: Coney Island Amusement Advocates Rally for More Acreage for Outdoor Rides

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Grill House Kitties on Coney Island's Boardwalk. Photo © silversalty via flickr

Grill House Kitties on Coney Island's Boardwalk. Photo © silversalty via flickr

Beneath the ramps to Coney Island’s Boardwalk and within its vacant buildings, feral, stray and abandoned cats find shelter. The cats are regularly fed and looked after by a contingent of Coney Island cat lovers. They have been photographed by residents and tourists alike. Devin Sturdy, a tourist from Melbourne, Australia, was visiting Coney Island in December when he happened to see a man feeding a dozen cats and trying to rescue a sick one. When we found Devin’s video on YouTube the other day, we were reminded just how many cats are up for adoption by animal rescue groups. There are currently 162,407 cats, seeking a “forever home,” or even a foster home, on Petfinder.com. Take a look at their photos and read their bios. Make room for them in your hearts and give them homes. February will be “I Love NYC Pets” month, a citywide pet adoption celebration sponsored by the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals. Their slogan is “Will You Be My Furry Valentine?”

When ATZ contacted videographer Devin Sturdy in Australia, he said he’d always been fascinated by Coney Island and “it seemed more appealing to me in winter, quiet and spooky.” Here’s what he told us about the Coney Island cat rescue:

Shortly after disembarking the subway train, I noticed a man feeding cats, not just one or two, but tens of cats. I asked him what he was doing. He was from New Jersey and worked as a volunteer for an organisation that helps animals. He had driven to Coney Island to pick up a specific cat that a friend had told him about. It had been recently abandoned and it had been seen in the area.

Because the cat was not feral, and relatively housebound, he thought it was not necessary to bring a cage with him. However, upon arrival, he noticed another cat that had a sore on its face. He thought it may be a tumor and was concerned about its welfare and wanted to take it to a friend of his who is a vet.

He slowly fed the cat for more than half an hour in an attempt to coax the cat into the car. Finally, after gaining enough trust to be able to touch the cat, he grabbed it by the scruff of its neck. He said that feral cats either immediately relax in a closed environment or go nuts. As you can see from the video, this cat was not comfortable.

I stopped filming because I was concerned that the cat was going to hurt itself. I can tell you that the man opened the door shortly afterward (a couple of seconds) and the cat calmly stepped out of the car and wandered off. He told me that he would return later that day with a cage and attempt to find the cat.

I am a bit of an advocate of adopting stray pets. We rescued our cat Kitty (original name!) from the streets and she lived to be seventeen years old!

Grill House Kitties on Coney Island’s Boardwalk. Photo © silversalty via flickr

Grill House Kitties on Coney Island’s Boardwalk. Photo © silversalty via flickr

We understand completely, Devin. After our own beloved 13-year-old cat went to cat heaven, we find ourselves spending a lot of time “just looking” at photos on Petfinder. By February we’ll be ready to adopt or foster a cat or two.

Here’s a calendar of animal adoption events in New York City and a list of animal rescue groups grouped by borough. If you can’t adopt a pet, please consider helping out these organizations by volunteering or making a donation to support their work. Me-ow.

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January 26, 2011: Photo of the Day: Henderson Music Hall Cats Now Homeless

September 6, 2010: Cutie & Patootie: Coney Island Kittens Up for Adoption!

September 9, 2009: More Genuine Coney Island Kittens Up for Adoption!

July 21, 2009: Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Introduces His Sister Targeretty

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Luna Park at Night. Coney Island History Project Collection

Luna Park at Night. © Coney Island History Project Collection

In a Jan 23 interview with his hometown newspaper, Zamperla President and CEO Alberto Zamperla revealed the previously undisclosed name and numbers of his soon-to-be built amusement park in Coney Island. “The park will be called, Luna Park, like the first, the only, the inimitable one, the one created by Frederic Thompson and Elmer ‘Skip’ Dundy,” according to an article in the Italian newspaper Il Giornale di Vicenza.

The original Luna Park (1903-1946), one of Coney Island’s four historic amusement parks, inspired Luna Parks throughout the country and round the world. In many countries, including Italy, “Luna Park” is a generic term for amusement park. The article mentions bringing a smile back to the lips of Manhattan director Woody Allen and millions of Americans who return to play in the real and only Luna Park.

Luna Park Entrance, 1930s. © Coney Island History Project Collection

Now for the numbers: “For the first season we have estimated the presence of 400 thousand visitors and we are confident it will grow in the future,” Zamperla told the paper. “In terms of investment, we are talking about $24 million over three years. For us it is a great satisfaction as well as a great opportunity.”

The CEO said he was flying to New York the next day and characterized the next few months as “a race against time.” The amusement operator has only six weeks from the site turnover date of April 15 until the park’s opening on Memorial Day weekend to produce the new rides and assemble the new park.

Last week NY1 leaked the news that the City had selected Zamperla USA to be the new amusement park operator for Coney Island. The news is absolutely thrilling, though not at all surprising, to those of us who work in Coney. Zamperla was considered the front runner because they operate Victorian Gardens for the City and the CEO of Zamperla USA joined the CIDC’s Amusement Advisory Board in March 2009. We look forward to the official press conference where Zamperla unveils their designs and ride line-up for the future Luna Park. An announcement is expected as early as this week. But we can’t wait any longer to say Congratulazioni a Zamperla! Welcome to Coney Island!

1934: Souvenir de Luna-Park, France. Found Photo © lovedaylemon via flickr

1934: Souvenir de Luna-Park, France. Found Photo © lovedaylemon via flickr

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August 29, 2010: Video: Grand Prize Winner of Luna Park Coney Island’s Film Contest!

May 28 2010:You Are Invited to the Opening of Luna Park in Coney Island!

April 14, 2010: Photo Album: Heroic 24/7 Race to Build Coney Island’s New Luna Park

February 22, 2010: Coney Island’s Luna Park Launches Blog Site, Lists Job Openings

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Over the weekend ATZ contributing photographer and Coney Island resident Bruce Handy/”Pablo 57″ took some lyrical photos of the Rita Ackermann mural. The artwork is on the west wall of the soon-to-be demolished Feltman’s Building. You can view the complete flickr set as a slideshow here.

Detail of Mural

Freaky Sideshow Girls: Detail of Dreamland Artist Club Mural by Rita Ackermann on the soon-to-be Demolished Feltman’s Kitchen (Home of the Hot Dog), Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

As ATZ reported last week in “Nathan Slept Here! Coney Island’s Feltman’s Kitchen Set for Demolition” (January 19, 2010), the last remnant of the hot dog inventor’s empire is set to be demolished to make way for new amusements on the City-owned “Parcel A”—the former Astroland site. The Ackermann mural, which was valued at $250K by Dreamland Artist Club founder Steve Powers, is likely to be demolished along with the building. (“Demolition Alert: Dreamland Artist Club Mural on Feltman’s Bldg“)

Photographing the mural wasn’t an easy job, but somebody had to do it. ATZ found very few pix of this mural on the web. We’re grateful that Bruce Handy documented details of the Jones Walk artwork before it is gone forever. Bruce used a tripod and held the camera up in the air to take a photo of the complete mural.

“The problem is the mural is in a bad spot for a good photo,” says the photographer. “It’s too high and the angle is bad. To get a good photo you need a zoom lens standing on W 12th, but you also need a straight line of sight. You need to be perpendicular to the wall that’s why you need to be so far away. The ideal photo would be if someone drove a car up there and stood on the roof. That’s how Ansel Adams got all his great photos.”

feltman's

Dreamland Artist Club Mural by Rita Ackermann on the soon-to-be demolished Feltman’s Kitchen (Home of the Hot Dog), Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr


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January 21, 2010: Demolition Alert: Dreamland Artist Club Mural on Feltman’s Bldg

January 19, 2010: Nathan Slept Here! Coney Island’s Feltman’s Kitchen Set for Demolition

January 8, 2010: By the Numbers: Coney Island New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim 2010

December 20, 2009: Coney Island Photo of the Day: First Snow on the Cyclone

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Banner painter Marie Roberts in her Studio at Coney Island USA. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Banner painter Marie Roberts in her Studio at Coney Island USA Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Beginning on March 14, Coney Island USA’s artist-in-residence Marie Roberts will teach a four-day, hands-on workshop on the art, technique and history of banner painting. For more than a decade, Marie has painted the banners advertising the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. You can view her work 365 days a year on the CIUSA Building at Surf Ave and 12th Street.

According to the course description “Each student will be furnished with one 5 x 4 inch blank, and the use of materials to execute it. Traditional banners will be discussed, sideshow banners from the collection will be on view for reference, instructor will be present at all sessions. Emphasis will be to help the student achieve his/her own large format composition, using the instructor’s years of painting experience. Professor Roberts will paint along with students to demonstrate method.” For more information on “Banner Painting 102” and other sideshow school classes– including fire eating, sword swallowing and glass walking!—visit CIUSA’s website.

The pix that appear in this post were taken on New Year’s Day when we visited Marie Roberts studio. The works-in-progress in the first photo are for a banner Marie is working on for Ringling Circus commemorating last year’s performance of the Coney Island Boom-A-Ring. If you look closely, you’ll see Justin Case riding through the miniature ring of fire on his tiny bicycle! The mermaid banner shown below will be up for auction at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s upcoming silent auction.

Mermaids of Coney Island Banner Painted by Marie Roberts for the BAM Silent Auction, March 18-28, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Mermaids of Coney Island Banner Painted by Marie Roberts for the BAM Silent Auction, March 18-28, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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December 2, 2009: Dec 12-13: Open Studio with Coney Island Artist & Banner Painter Marie Roberts

December 1, 2009: TLC’s Cake Boss Sweet on Marie Roberts’ Coney Island Sideshow Banners

May 29, 2009: Coney Island Is Alive and Kicking in 2009 Photo of the Day: New Sideshow Banners on CIUSA Building

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