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Archive for September, 2010

Saved? Surf Hotel's Vintage Signage. September 24, 2010.  Photo © Anonymouse-deux via Amusing the Zillion

Saved? Surf Hotel's Original Hand-Painted Glass Signage. September 24, 2010. Photo © Anonymouse-deux via Amusing the Zillion

In an interview with NY1 in May, Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt talked about his redevelopment plans for Coney Island and the Surf Avenue buildings he plans to raze: “Every one of these buildings is just horrible, rundown relics with nothing exciting about them. I hate to say it, but the great buildings of Coney Island disappeared 80 years ago,” said Sitt.

What caught our eye in this four-month-old news story was not Sitt’s mischaracterization of the historic properties (please take a look at what the Henderson Building and Stillwell looked like before Sitt bought and blighted them), but what the real estate speculator had to say about the now endangered signs. According to NY1, “Sitt says he’ll re-use the vintage signs in a more modern setting.”

Faber's Fascination Sign Stripped of its Letters. Photo © Anonymouse-deux via Amusing the Zillion

The Morning After Faber's Fascination Sign Was Stripped of its Letters. Photo © Anonymouse-deux via Amusing the Zillion

Really? We hate to say it, but if Sitt is planning to re-use any signs, he’d better hurry up and save some. It’s already too late for Faber’s. As ATZ reported earlier this month, the light bulbs and letters of the fabulous 60-year-old Faber’s Fascination and Sportland signs were removed by the arcade’s most recent operator and offered for sale. The cannibalized metal signs remain on the facade because they couldn’t be removed before the tenant had to vacate the property. You can see the Faber’s Fascination sign lit up for the last time and the letters being removed in this video by historian Charles Denson.

Last Night at Faber's Fascination. Henderson Building, Coney Island. Sept. 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Last Night at Faber's Fascination. Henderson Building, Coney Island. Sept. 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

It’s too bad Joe Sitt didn’t recognize that Faber’s signage was a valuable piece of Americana worth saving and re-purposing. In a similar situation, another New York City real estate developer, the Durst Organization, did a much better job. Durst saved the Peep-O-Rama sign from the last peep show in Times Square when they demolished the building it occupied to make way for the Bank of America Tower. Vanishing New York recently featured the story of the neon sign’s restoration and return to Times Square, where the sign lights up the visitors center. Reading the story made us think of the Faber’s sign and wish it could have enjoyed a similar fate. As we noted in a comment on the VNY post: The reference to the Times reporter asking if a case could be made for preserving Peep-O-Rama or its facade for Times Square posterity, and not receiving a reply from Landmarks, the NYHS or the Mayor’s office is telling. There seems to be very little official appreciation for signage. Basically they leave it up to the building owners to do as they please.

Lettering from Faber's Fascination. Photo © Anonymouse-deux via Amusing the Zillion

Lettering from Faber's Fascination. Photo © Anonymouse-deux via Amusing the Zillion

In last week’s “Demolition in Progress! Coney Island’s Surf Hotel in Henderson Building,” ATZ wrote: “We’re told that the original Surf Hotel sign pictured above was removed, though its fate remains unknown. Was it saved, scavenged or thrown out with the windows?” Since then ATZ has received messages and comments that the “Sign is Saved!” as in saved from demolition.

On Friday morning a tipster wrote: “I am here at the building now. I saw the Surf Hotel sign inside a door on the east side of the building resting on the floor leaning against the wall. They are back working on the west side on a ladder cleaning up under the vacant windows. One of the workers was showing me how heavy the sign is and asked it I wanted to take it. The supervisor said we should call the owner about the sign.”

No one has been working in the Henderson Building this week. Is the sign still there or has it walked away? ATZ calls upon Joe Sitt to donate the Henderson signage to the Coney Island Museum or the Coney Island History Project, where these historic artifacts can be viewed by the public.

On the Henderson Building: The original frame that held the Surf Hotel sign. September 24, 2010.  Photo © Anonymouse-deux via Amusing the Zillion

On the Henderson Building: The original frame that held the Surf Hotel sign. September 24, 2010. Photo © Anonymouse-deux via Amusing the Zillion

On the Stillwell side of the Henderson Building: Shoot out the Star’s iconic signage is endangered. It’s the work of Dreamland Artist Club founder Steve Powers, who also painted the Cyclone roller coaster seats, the Coney Island Museum steps, and the Bump Your Ass Off sign for the Eldorado. In 2003, Powers teamed up with Creative Time, the non-profit public art agency, to bring artists to Coney Island to create new signage for the stands along Jones Walk and the Bowery. The first year’s funding was $80,000. When the murals and signage debuted in June 2004, Powers told the Times: “A large percentage of them will be up forever.” Thor Equities has already removed the game signage on the Bowery side of the Henderson. We suggest that Powers and Creative Time come out to Coney and rescue their work! Don’t the signs actually belong to Creative Time? Last spring, a Dreamland Artist Club mural estimated to be worth $250,000 was destroyed when Feltman’s kitchen building was demolished by the City to make way for Luna Park.

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

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

Related posts on ATZ…

September 23, 2010: Demolition in Progress! Coney Island’s Surf Hotel in Henderson Building

September 9, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Faber’s Fascination Goes Dark After 50 Years

February 25, 2010: Happy Belated Birthday to Coney Island’s William F Mangels

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

November 16, 2009: Rare & Vintage: Coney Island Sideshow Banner by Dan Casola

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Skydiving in Coney Island? © 2009 Norman Blake by NB Photo Flash via flickr. All rights reserved

Skydiving in Coney Island? © 2009 Norman Blake by NB Photo Flash via flickr. All rights reserved

UPDATE…the 2015 Coney Island Kite Festival is this weekend, September 26 and 27. Go fly your kite or go take photos – FREE!

Last August in Coney Island, photographer Norman Blake photographed this airborne octopus and his skydiver friend. This weekend in Coney, you’re invited to go fly a kite at the Coney Island Kite Festival. The event will be held this Saturday and Sunday, October 2nd and 3rd, from 10 am to 5 pm on Coney Island’s beach. It’s free!

“This will be our first big official event of this year, ” said Leucio Parrella, a member of the American Kitefliers Association (AKA), who adds that the festival of 2009 was cancelled. “Our first test run of the Coney Island Kite Festival was the weekend before Thanksgiving of 2008. We had bad weather.” The good news for kitefliers and their friends is this weekend’s forecast is sunny, in the 60s.

From the official description of “The 2nd Coney Island Kite Fest” on the AKA calendar:

Fly for fun. On the beach there will be big kites such as an octopus kite. We also will have dual kites and Quad kites. Large area for free flights of kites for everyone. On the beach from Bay West 8th Street to the Steeplechase fishing pier. For additional info contact Leucio Parrella of the Kite in Motion Club at buggylou8[AT]yahoo.com or 646-912-2447

Parrella told ATZ there will be three kite fields: “Two fields for AKA members and one field for public use. AKA Dual Kites and Quad kite field is 300 x 300 square feet and starts from West Bay 8 Street, AKA Big One Line Kites is from about West Bay 10 Street (Playground Area ) to Stillwell Avenue, and Public fly field is between Stillwell Avenue and West Bay 15 Street to the Fishing Pier on the beach.”

The festival is sanctioned by the American Kitefliers Association (AKA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing kiting with the world.

The American Kitefliers Association was founded in 1964 by the late Robert M. Ingraham of New Mexico. Now, with over 3,000 members, in 25 countries, we are the largest association of kiters in the world. Our purpose is to educate the public in the art, history, technology, and practice of building and flying kites – to advance the joys and values of kiting in all nations.

We are men, women, adults and children, from all walks of life. Our interests run from kitebuilding to multi-line kite competition, from miniature kites, to aerial photography and more. Some of us are in the kite trade, but we are not a trade organization.

Octopus Spotted in Coney Island © 2009 Norman Blake by NB Photo Flash via flickr. All rights reserved

Octopus Spotted in Coney Island © 2009 Norman Blake by by NB Photo Flash via flickr. All rights reserved

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October 3, 2010: Photo of the Day: Kite Aerial Photography of Coney Island

September 17, 2010: On Coney Island Boardwalk, Ruby’s & Cha Cha’s Rock This Fall

September 4, 2010: Go Up, It’s Great! Coney Island’s & Deno’s Wonder Wheel

August 18, 2010: Luna Park NYC Halloween Gig for Famed Haunted House Creator

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Rest in Peace John Thomas

Rest in Peace, John Thomas. September 27 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Sunday, we came upon this touching tribute to Coney Islander John Thomas, who passed away on September 10. “JT” was the longtime manager of Cha Cha’s as well as its predecessor Club Atlantis. Next Saturday his ashes will be scattered in Coney Island. Rest in Peace, JT.

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On opening night of the Coney Island Film Festival, the first film up was Charles Ludlam’s silent horror short “The Museum of Wax,” shot in the late 1970s in Coney’s World in Wax Musee. It is a little gem, but seeing Lillie Santangelo’s long-vanished museum was eerie and sad, especially now that the Henderson Building, where it was located for more than 60 years until closing in 1984, is being demolished to make way for Thor Equities’ strip mall.

Equally eerie and sad was seeing the late and much-missed Charles Ludlam‘s brilliance on the silent screen. Ludlam’s over-the-top performances in campy melodramas like “The Mystery of Irma Vep” at his Ridiculous Theatrical Company in Sheridan Square were a must-see for us in the 1980s.

Unfinished at the time of Ludlam’s death from AIDs in 1987, this rarely seen 16 MM film was remastered by Queer/Art/Film as part of the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation and the UCLA Film & Television Archive. OutfestLA has also made the 20-minute film available in three parts on their YouTube channel.

At Friday’s screening, Coney Island USA founder and artistic director Dick Zigun referred to the film as “a work of film genius” and noted that it was last screened in Coney Island on Halloween in 1981. The occasion was a day-long theatrical extravaganza called “Tricks or Treats,” which Zigun curated at the Wax Musee. The film was shot in a few days after Zigun introduced Ludlam to Lillie Santangelo, the elderly proprietress of the wax museum. “It was a 100 percent found location,” says Zigun, who had discovered fifty wax heads, which appear in the film, in the museum’s storage area.

“Not much was planned. It was just go for it,” recalled actor Everett Quinton, who was Ludlam’s partner and muse. Quinton, who appears as the second convict in the film, compared it to “the unfinished Michelangelo sculptures that lead up to the David. It is unfinished.” According to Outfest’s website, until the recent digital re-mastering and the addition of a new score by original composer Peter Golub, “Museum of Wax” had not been seen in over 20 years.

In an act of programming genius by Coney Island Film Festival director Rob Leddy, “The Wax Museum” shared the opening night bill with “Shape of the Shapeless,” a new documentary exploring the gender bending life and performance art of Jon Cory aka Rose Wood, and the effervescent “Dirty Martini and the New Burlesque,” which won best documentary feature.

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Related posts on ATZ…

September 20, 2010: Movie Monday: Teaser Trailers from the Coney Island Film Festival

September 12, 2010: Video: Coney Island’s Faber’s Fascination by Charles Denson

August 28, 2010: Video: Grand Prize Winner of Luna Park Coney Island’s Film Contest!

March 30, 2010: Super 8 Movie: I Had A Dream I Went To Coney Island

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September 23, 2010: Cat Living in the Henderson Building Comes Out for Supper. Photo © AnyMouseHero via Amusing the Zillion

September 23, 2010: Cat Living in the Henderson Building Comes Out for Supper. Photo © AnyMouseHero via Amusing the Zillion

When Faber’s Fascination closed on Labor Day and began moving out, ATZ reported that the arcade was the last tenant of the soon-to-be demolished Henderson Building. Well, one more tenant- a grey cat – was discovered yesterday by a photographer who went there to document the demolition of the Surf Hotel on the building’s second floor. “The cat went under the gate of Shoot Out the Star into the Henderson Building when I came close,” says the anon photographer. A full plate of food and a full cup of water had been placed outside the building, probably by one of the cat lovers who care for Coney Island’s feral, stray and abandoned cat population.

As our regular readers know, ATZ loves a Coney Island cat story, preferably with photos or a video. For “I Love NYC Pets Month” in January, we wrote about the cats who live beneath the ramps to Coney Island’s Boardwalk and within its vacant buildings and an attempted cat rescue. We regularly feature Coney Island cats and kittens up for adoption. Now we seem to have hit upon an unfortunate new theme: cats displaced by redevelopment.

September 23, 2010: Demolition in Progress of the Surf Hotel in Henderson Building. Photo © AnyMouseHero via Amusing the Zillion

September 23, 2010: Demolition in Progress of the Surf Hotel in Henderson Building. Photo © AnyMouseHero via Amusing the Zillion

The appearance of the Henderson Building cat amid yesterday’s demolition of the Surf Hotel and the removal of the hotel’s original sign reminded us of our last day at Astroland. We’re not referring to the park’s last day of operation on Sept 7, 2008. We mean Astroland’s very last day, the day the lease expired and the property had to be vacated: January 31, 2009. On that day, we helped rescue a few signs from the water flume for the Coney Island History Project. By then there wasn’t much left of Astroland and we didn’t have the heart to take more than a few photos. One of the pix that we didn’t take: Two stray cats who had long found shelter in Astroland and were displaced by the teardown. As we stood outside the now demolished Feltman’s kitchen –home of the hot dog–and peered in at the original tile floor, the cats paced and waited. An Astroland worker came out and fed the Astro cats their last meal.

For information about feral cats, visit the website of the New York City Feral Cats Initiative, a joint program of two private non-profit organizations–the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals and Neighborhood Cats.

September 23, 2010: Last Happy Meal for Cat Living in Coney Island’s Henderson Building? Photo © AnyMouseHero via Amusing the Zillion

September 23, 2010: Last Happy Meal for Cat Living in Coney Island’s Henderson Building? Photo © AnyMouseHero via Amusing the Zillion

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Related Posts on ATZ…

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

May 6, 2010: R.I.P. Targette, the Coney Island Arcade Cat’s Shy Sister

January 27, 2010: I Love NYC Pets Month Preview: Coney Island Cat Rescue

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

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Surf Hotel Signage. December 26, 2008. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Surf Hotel Signage. December 26, 2008. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

A tipster phoned to tell us that Coney Island’s Surf Hotel on the second story of Thor Equities-owned Henderson Buiilding (pictured below in 2009) is being demolished. We’re told yellow tape blocking off the street and a tarp covering the sidewalk were the only concessions to public safety. Workers were ripping out window frames and walls. The Community Board 13 was alerted to the hazardous situation. As ATZ reported previously,Thor Equities has an asbestos abatement permit from the DEP. A demolition permit cannot be issued by the DOB until the asbestos work is certified as complete. We will update the story when more info & photos come in.

Thor's demolition of historic Coney Island in progress! Windows were ripped out of Henderson Building today. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

September 23, 2010: Thor's demolition of historic Coney Island in progress! Windows were ripped out of Henderson Building today. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

Update: We talked with CB 13 Manager Chuck ReichenthalThe bad news is the historic Henderson Building is coming down! The DOB told the CB Manager that Thor Equities does indeed have a demolition permit from the DOB since the asbestos abatement was certified as complete. What are the DOB’s guidelines for demolition? Reichenthal was told there really aren’t any. Yellow caution tape rules!

Here’s the Henderson’s page on the DOB’s website. We don’t see a demo permit, but there’s a two day lag on updates. Permits for construction of a “ONE STORY NEW COMMERCIAL BUILDING WITH ASSEMBLY AND AMUSEMENT SPACES” filed yesterday (September 22, 2010) are currently pending.

September 23, 2010: Thor's demolition of historic Coney Island in progress! Windows ripped out of Henderson Building today. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

September 23, 2010: Thor's demolition of historic Coney Island in progress! Windows ripped out of Henderson Building today. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

Update, 3:15 pm… The demo men have quit work for the day, according to a friend who went to the site. Now that the windows are gone, you can peer inside at the tin ceilings and vintage light fixtures. Somebody with a zoom lens please go and document it before it’s gone! We’re told that the original Surf Hotel sign pictured above was removed, though its fate remains unknown. Was it saved, scavenged or thrown out with the windows? BTW here’s a photo of the Henderson Building interior in happier days, before the property was bought and blighted by Joe Sitt. In 2007, the Velocity Nightclub occupied the second floor on the Bowery side of the former Henderson Music Hall until Thor bought the building and evicted them.

View of Endangered Henderson Building Owned by Thor Equities. July 12, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Gateway to Coney Island: View of Endangered Henderson Building Owned by Thor Equities. July 12, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

July 1, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Demolition Under the Radar?

June 14, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Caution! Asbestos Removal at Doomed Bank

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

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

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

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On Thursday, September 30, CUNY Graduate Center and Save Coney Island are co-hosting “Heritage, Rides, Redevelopment: What’s Next for Coney Island?,” a discussion moderated by Pulitzer prize winning historian Mike Wallace. This is one panel discussion we’re actually looking forward to because the panelists are not academic talk, no-action kind of guys. They’re in it to win it, as we say on the midway.

Speakers include Valerio Ferrari, president and CEO of Zamperla USA and Central Amusement International (CAI), operator of Coney Island’s fabulously successful new Luna Park; David Malmuth, former Disney vice-president, developer of Times Square’s New Amsterdam Theatre, and chief presenter of the Municipal Art Society’s “Imagine Coney”; and Michael Immerso, historian and author of “Coney Island: the People’s Playground” and a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on the benefits of preserving Surf Avenue’s historic buildings.

Bank of Coney

Save Coney Island released this architectural rendering of how a restored Bank Of Coney Building might look as The Banker's Ballroom

Admission is free to the September 30th event, which is being held at CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan, but it’s advisable to make a reservation online. The invite reads: “What lies ahead for Coney Island? Join us for a panel discussion on the latest developments in Coney Island and on how Coney’s past can shape its future.”

We’re eager to hear what Valerio Ferrari has to say about his company’s plans for next season and beyond. Zamperla/CAI has a ten-year lease to operate amusements on the 6.9 acres the City bought for $95.6 million from Thor Equities. As we pointed out in our article for IAAPA Funworld, the new Luna Park is a partnership with the City of New York, which receives $100,000 annual rent plus an undisclosed percentage of the gross. This arrangement represents a successful new model for government-owned amusement parks, which are a rarity.

Yesterday, the Mayor’s Office released figures that more than 400,000 visitors took 1.7 million rides during Luna Park’s inaugural season, prompting the City and the park to extend the season through Halloween. We’re thrilled that Scream Zone, set to open next spring at the Boardwalk and Stillwell, will bring in more new rides, including two Zamperla coasters and a SlingShot as well as Go Karts, which have been missed in Coney since Thor evicted them.

Scream Zone

Zamperla/CAI's Scream Zone with 4 new rides will debut in 2011 at the City's Stillwell & Boardwalk property. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

It will be interesting to see where David Malmuth takes up the discussion. His plan for Coney Island’s amusement area at MAS’s Imagine Coney event in 2008 was a huge hit with fellow amusement advocates. Though we lost the battle with the City to expand the acreage rezoned for outdoor amusements, Malmuth is still the guy who dazzled us with statistics: “Park sizing analysis suggests that Coney Island will require a minimum of 25 acres to support 3.4 million visitors, ” he said. “It can’t be done in 9 acres. No possible way you can create the variety, and the diversity and joy and excitement with only 9 acres. Minimally you need 25 acres to support that level of attendance.” Malmuth’s stats and charts of park attendance can be found in this pdf available on MAS’s website.

At CUNY, Malmuth and historian Michael Immerso are expected to make a compelling economic case for preserving and reusing Coney Island’s historic buildings. Unfortunately the City has already issued demolition permits to Thor Equities for two of the buildings, the Bank of Coney Island and the Shore Hotel. The heartbreaker is that the permits were issued by the City’s Department of Buildings one day after the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) declared that Coney Island meets the criteria for recognition as a historic district in the State and National Registers of Historic Places. That’s why we’re singin’ “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle.”

But as Save Coney Island notes on their website: “It is a miracle that any of these buildings survived the fires, land speculation, and urban renewal plans that decimated Coney Island over the years. It would be a shame to lose these rare survivors, just when their rehabilitation could provide a necessary boost to Coney’s revival.”

Bank of Coney Island

Bank of Coney Island Building, Coney Island. August 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

“What’s Next for Coney Island?” is sponsored by the Environmental Psychology Program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the NYC Graduate Urban Research Network, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, Save Coney Island, the Historic Districts Council, Coney Island USA and the Coney Island History Project.

“Heritage, Rides, Redevelopment: What’s Next for Coney Island?”
CUNY Graduate Center, Proshansky Auditorium, 365 5th Ave at 35th St,
Thursday, September 30, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, free event, online registration.

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Related posts on ATZ…

May 29, 2010: Photo Album: Preview of Coney Island’s New Luna Park

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

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

October 9, 2009: A Rare Peek Inside Endangered Old Bank of Coney Island

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