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Archive for March, 2010

Last October, Sherwin Akbarzadeh’s experimental film “I Had A Dream I Went to Coney Island” came all the way from Australia to premiere in Brooklyn at the 2009 Coney Island Film Festival. Now this evocative eight millimeter movie is up on YouTube as a submission for Berlin’s Road Junky Film Festival. You’ll catch a glimpse of the stars shining on Astroland’s vanished Surf Ave. Gate at 2:20…

The Road Junky Travel Film Festival is offering 1500 euros in prizes for five minute films that change the way we see the world. On May 28, travelers and film makers will converge in Berlin to screen their documentaries and stream them live over the internet as they’re shown. Submission deadline: April 10, 2010.

Call for entries for the 2010 Coney Island Film Festival, named one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals” by MovieMaker Magazine, is open as well. The 10th annual event is set for September 24-26, 2010 at Sideshows by the Seashore and the Coney Island Museum. Submission deadlines: April 23, 2010. Late deadline: June 25, 2010. Extended deadline: July 2, 2010. Check festival website for details.

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The Cyclone Roller Coaster's First Ride of the 2010 Season. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

The Cyclone Roller Coaster's First Ride of the 2010 Season. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Riding in the first car on the very first roller coaster ride of Coney Island’s 2010 season, Miss Cyclone Angie Pontani and Community Board 13 Member Todd Dobrin put their hands up and cheer! American Coaster Enthusiasts members and Cyclone fans Colleen Whyte and Bill Galvin are right behind them. Whyte and Galvin have ridden the Cyclone thousands of times and never miss an opening day. Definitely our fave photo from ATZ contributor and Coney Island resident Bruce Handy’s flickr set of Coney Island’s Opening Day of the 2010 Season. Hurray!

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March 27, 2010: Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Is On Twitter!

February 3, 2010: New in 2010: Coney Island Fun Phone Addition to CI Fun Guide

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

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Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat on Opening Day 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat on Opening Day 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island’s 40 rides and diverse attractions start up again for the 2010 season in just one day! Since we work in Coney, it’s been so hectic getting ready for opening day that we haven’t had a minute to blog. Not so with Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat

Our favorite cat has started microblogging as ConeyICat via twitter! But he has quite a ways to go before he catches up with Sockington, a Massachusetts cat with 1.5 million followers! Please follow Target if you are on twitter. His latest tweet:

Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Has Something to Say...  Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Has Something to Say... Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Also opening on Sunday…Coney Island’s Cyclone Roller Coaster, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park (22 rides), McCullough’s Kiddie Park (a dozen rides), 12th St. Amusements (Polar Express and 4 other rides) and the Eldorado Bumper Cars.

The annual Blessing of the Rides is set for 11:00 am at Deno’s Wonder Wheel. Then at 12 noon, Borough President Marty Markowitz will break a bottle of homemade egg cream on the Cyclone’s first car as the Hungry March Band toot their horns in celebration. The first 100 people to arrive to the party will ride the Cyclone for free. The Coney Island History Project on Surf under the Cyclone will host an Open House from 12-3 pm. Free admission to one and all!

For more info on what’s open in Coney Island and a listing of upcoming events, sign up for the Coney Island Fun Guide newsletter or follow them on twitter.

See you tomorrow, March 28th at 12 noon?

Manny Cohen of Coney Island Arcade with his World-Famous Cat Target.  © 2010 Manny Cohen.  All rights reserved

Manny Cohen of Coney Island Arcade with his World-Famous Cat Target. © 2010 Manny Cohen. All rights reserved

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February 3, 2010: New in 2010: Coney Island Fun Phone Addition to CI Fun Guide

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Wonder Wheel on the First Night of Spring. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Wonder Wheel on the First Night of Spring. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

In preparation for March 28th’s official opening of Coney Island’s rides, the cars–stationary and swinging– were put back on the Wonder Wheel today. Along with the open concession stands on the Boardwalk and the spinning rides in Deno’s Kiddie Park, it was the first sign of spring in Coney Island. Thanks to photographer Bruce Handy for this lovely first photo of the Wheel on the first night of spring! “I saw the wheel turning this morning, What a joy!!! Was away all day and when I got back to Coney the cars were on,” writes Bruce.

This year, the 90-year-old Wonder Wheel’s swinging cars will be lit with amber lights that will replicate the lighting scheme of the ride in the 1920s. The big difference is the lights will be powered by solar panels installed on top of the cars, according to an interview with Deno Vourderis in the Coney Island History Project’s Oral History Archive. Vourderis’s family owns the New York City landmark and also operates Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, which has 22 rides.

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Museum of Cryptozoology Banner on the front of John Strong's Freak Museum, Coney Island, July 12, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Museum of Cryptozoology Banner on the front of John Strong's Freak Museum, Coney Island, July 12, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The five-legged Yorkie puppy and dozens of other live and preserved freaks in John Strong’s Oddity Museum will soon take up residence at 1104 Surf Avenue, Coney Island’s oldest building. The Texas based sideshow operator plans to arrive in Coney Island by Easter weekend. “The lease is for three years,” Strong tells ATZ. “I can’t discuss the price. Thor specified that one thing. The price is simply just agreeable for all parties involved.”

As first reported by ATZ in January, Strong flew to New York and made a pitch to lease the Grashorn Building at Surf Ave and Jones Walk. Strong says the on-again, off-again deal has finally been approved by Thor CEO Joe Sitt.

A multi-year lease for seasonal tenants in Thor Equities’ Coney Island properties would be a first. One year leases and doubling of the rent have been the norm. It’s a clear sign that real estate speculator Joe Sitt is indeed going to “sitt” on his Coney property until the City’s infrastructure work is done and Coney Island is on the road to revitalization before he sells.

The Freak Museum’s tenancy is great news for the long vacant Grashorn. Last month, Coney Island’s oldest building was flooded by a spiteful squatter and had to be put on 24-hour security watch. 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 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.

ATZ will be happy to see the building fixed up and open for business again. We’ve worked a game on the east side of Jones Walk and can’t tell you how depressing it is to face the shuttered gates of Thor day after day! Vacant and shuttered buildings are bad for business on Surf Ave and the Walk. It makes the Walk look uninviting. This part of Thorland hasn’t gotten as much attention as Stillwell, but it’s another example of deliberate blight.

John Strong's Freak Museum 2010 Location: Thor Equities Shuttered Grashorn Bldg, Surf Ave & Jones Walk, Coney Island, August 15,  2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

John Strong's Freak Museum 2010 Location: Thor Equities Shuttered Grashorn Bldg, Surf Ave & Jones Walk, Coney Island, August 15, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

John Strong’s Freak Museum will certainly improve the view from our stand…

“You’re going to see 13 feet of brand new banners and 250 attractions in circus wagons,” says Strong “The 130′ will wrap around to Surf Ave. This is going to be the biggest, the finest, the greatest attraction in Coney Island during the 2010 Season. We’ve got four other shows going up on other Thor parcels. We haven’t secured Stillwell yet.”

Last week, the Coney Island Rumor Mill was saying that Sitt was asking $500,000 for both sides of Stillwell and he wanted all of the money up front! Amusement park operators from the Jersey Shore were set to bring in go karts but the deal fell apart due to onerous lease clauses and the $250K rent for the east side of Thor’s Stillwell parcel. Various carnival operators have come and gone from talks with Thor Equities. If Strong manages to secure Stillwell, it won’t be all circus sideshows. He plans to bring in go karts and carnival rides. Essentially he’d be putting together a midway made up of rides and attractions from various amusement operators.

“I’ve got to pull rabbits out of a hat to get spectacular rides and other attractions to fill Stillwell at this late date,” Strong tells ATZ. “I’m good at doing that. I know everyone in the amusement business. Because there are so many shows and so many parcels, I’m not sure which parcel will have which show. Also, with Stillwell not being nailed down or not nailed down as yet, I may or may not have additional parcels to play with.”

Rumor has it that Strong will put his Strange Girls Show, a live show which was on the former Astroland site last summer, on the lot across from Coney Island USA. The last time anything like this happened was in 1996 when Strong’s stepfather Bobby Reynolds had his oddity museum in the former Bank of Coney Island building. Will 2010 be the summer of duelling sideshows on West 12th Street?

Security guarding the Thor-owned Grashorn Building, Coney Island's oldest, on the west corner of Jones Walk. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Security guarding the Thor-owned Grashorn Building, Coney Island's oldest, on the west corner of Jones Walk. February 16, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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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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

February 5, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Burst Water Pipes & Onerous Deal at Grashorn for Freak Museum

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

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Lighted Sign at Coney Island's Stillwell Terminal. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

The E Is Fixed: Lighted Sign at Coney Island's Stillwell Terminal. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Yesterday we received a message that the “E” in CONEY had finally been fixed and was two-third’s lit! And the crooked “L” in ISLAND had been straightened out, too! Yay and hooray! We’re almost tempted to say the repair of the Stillwell Terminal’s signature sign after months of neglect presages the rebirth of Coney Island.

One thing for sure, somebody at the MTA must read blogs. Last week ATZ posted “Will MTA Ever Fix Burned out “E” in Coney Island Sign at Stillwell?” The light had been out for several months and complaints to the MTA that the darkened E ruined an iconic photo op at the showplace station went nowhere. Thanks to curbed for reblogging our plea that the light be fixed in time for the opening day of Coney’s comeback season.

This morning on the way to work photographer and Coney Island resident Bruce Handy took these historic first photos of the relit E. “The people waiting for the bus must have thought I was crazy taking photos at 5:30 in the morning. But you never know, later today the E could be fully lit. I wanted to capture the 2/3 look.” Actually he found “BIG E is 4/5 Lit.”

We’re looking forward to taking a picture perfect shot of the front of the station sometime soon. Burned out bulbs on building have yet to be replaced. Maybe tomorrow?

BIG E is 4/5 Lit. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Iconic Photo Op: BIG E is 4/5 Lit. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

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March 12, 2010:Will MTA Ever Fix Burned out “E” in Coney Island Sign at Stillwell?

February 26, 2010: Photo of the Day: Snow Mermaid on Coney Island Beach

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Rafael Refurbishing the Cash Register at Paul's Daughter in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Rafael Refurbishing the Cash Register at Paul's Daughter in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island’s iconic Boardwalk food stand, is open year round, weather permitting, and has the same delicious fries as when it was called Gregory & Paul’s. When we went by late one day last week, the stand was closed but Rafael and another employee were busy refurbing the cash registers for the new season. Workers at the Cyclone Roller Coaster, seen in the background) and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park were also busy getting ready for opening day, which is now just a dozen days away!

Coney Island’s 40-plus rides and diverse attractions open for the season on Palm Sunday, March 28th. The next weekend, Easter Sunday, is historically one of the biggest days of the season. Easter ranks right up there with Mermaid Parade Day and the Fourth of July. Coney’s new Luna Park, with 19 rides from Zamperla, is scheduled to open on the former Astroland site on Memorial Day Weekend. We’re hoping for great summer weather and the best season in a long time.

May the cash registers ring like crazy in Coney Island in 2010!

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