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Archive for February, 2011

Photo © Barry Yanowitz

I'm going to be on tv Wednesday night... Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

Tune in tonight at 10 pm to Brooklyn Independent Television to catch photographer and ATZ contributor Barry Yanowitz on Caught in the Act. The entire segment was shot in Coney Island, where Barry grew up and lived until graduating from college in 1995. The shots that we’ve reproduced here, including the above “accidental” double exposure, are among the photos he took during the shoot. The complete set may be viewed here.

“The show features Brooklyn artists and they wanted to interview me and film me doing street photography,” Barry told ATZ. “So of course I took them to my favorite place to shoot, where there are always interesting characters wandering about! They spent most of the time filming me shooting on and under Steeplechase Pier and the boardwalk.”

We first met Barry in Coney Island and began following his photos on flickr back in 2008. Among our many faves are Astro Cat (Coney Island in the Snow), a Mermaid Parader and the reflection of Luna Park’s lights on top of a car (City of Fire).

“I really only started seriously getting into photography in the last 10 years or so. Although I do remember trying to take photos of my Star Wars figures as a kid in the 70s,” jokes Barry, when we asked if he still has his first camera. “I can’t remember what my first camera was, but one of the cameras I shoot with now is my father’s old SLR, a Canon AE-1.”

From BCAT’s program notes…

Barry Yanowitz: A stroll on the boardwalk with this photographer, who uses both the latest digital equipment and a Kodak Brownie from half a century ago. His images reflect his love of the Coney Island he grew up in, and his fascination with how the water and light reflect the way it’s changing.

Coney Island

Coney Island Boardwalk. February 12, 2011. Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

BCAT TV Network cablecasts in Brooklyn on Time Warner channels 34-35, and 56-57, Cablevision channels 67-70, RCN channels 82-85 and Verizon channels 42-45. For people outside of Brooklyn, go to BCAT’s website and launch channel 3. After the episode premieres, it will be rebroadcast on Mondays and Wednesdays at 2 pm and 10pm and may be viewed online. The segment is between 5-10 minutes and will be aired in an episode that also features Punk Jews and the LIU Television Writers Studio.

Produced by Jonathan Lief and Irina Khokhlova, Caught in the Act: Art in Brooklyn is a monthly show featuring profiles of Brooklyn professionals in fine art, dance, music, theatre and new forms of expression.

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October 11, 2010: Coney Island Mermaid Haiku by Patricia Carragon

April 6, 2010: Photo Album: Yes, We’re Open! Easter Sunday in Coney Island

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

November 7, 2009: Thru Dec 31 at Coney Island Library: Artist Takeshi Yamada’s Cabinet of Curiosities

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Target the Cat

Target the Cat, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Last week ATZ dropped by to visit Coney Island Arcade & Game operator Manny Cohen and his world-famous cat. Even during the off-season, Target the Coney Island Cat can be seen making his rounds on the Bowery. We found him sitting on the hood of Manny’s car.

Pretty and Target

Pretty and Target, Coney Island Arcade Cats. February 11, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Last May, Target’s shy sister Targette aka Targeretty died in the terrible fire that destroyed the Coney Island Arcade. For weeks, Target kept searching for her in the ruins of the building and crying. A few months ago, Manny took in another cat to keep Target company. Pretty is a calico who roamed the amusement area. She’s not shy like Targette, but she is skittish. No one has been able to pet her yet, though we’re going to keep trying. In these photos, Pretty reminds us of our calicos Lola and Nadja, who are in cat heaven.

Pretty the Cat

Pretty the Cat, Coney Island. February 11, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

When the games are open for business, the gregarious Target is most likely to be found sitting on the counter of the Balloon Dart helping out Jimmy. Over the past couple of years, we’ve taken enough pix of our favorite Coney Island cat to make a flickr set called Target the World Famous Coney Island Arcade Cat. His photo has also been featured in a New York Times slide show about Coney Island and magazines all over the world.

Target

Target the Coney Island Cat. February 11, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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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!

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

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Beachfront Condos

Beachfront Condos Under Construction on Boardwalk at 32nd St, Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via Android

The first private beachfront condominiums to be built on the Coney Island Boardwalk are under construction at West 32nd Street and are expected to be completed this summer. The four-story building will have 11 units including 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments, each with its own parking stall. Marina Krasnova of New Vision told ATZ that sales prices range from $685,000 for a one-bedroom to $1.55 million for the penthouse.

Located in the West End of Coney Island, across the street from the NYC Housing Authority’s Coney Island Houses, this new construction is a harbinger of more beachfront residential to come. The rezoning plan approved by the City Council in 2009 put 26 high rise residential towers and 5,000 new units of housing in Coney Island, including beachfront condos on Taconic Investment Partners 5.5 blocks of vacant land just west of MCU Park (West 20th Street).

We think it is the future beachfront residential, which Taconic has valued at $300-$900 per square foot, that is driving the City’s plan to gentrify the Boardwalk and make it into a year-round destination with upscale restaurants and bars.

Beachfront Condos Under Construction on Boardwalk at 32nd St, Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy/Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson, who grew up in Coney Island Houses, tells ATZ that the lot on West 32nd Street has been vacant since 1982. “It was the site of Sam’s Knishes and the Lincoln Baths,” said Denson, whose book Coney Island: Lost and Found combines a history of land use in his neighborhood and boyhood memoir. “Sam’s had the best cherry cheese knishes in the world and the Lincoln Baths go back over 110 years.” On the History Project’s blog “Ask Mr Coney Island,” Denson notes that the Lincoln Baths, along with the Washington Baths (W 21st St), Roosevelt Baths (W 30th St) and Jefferson Baths (W 33rd St) were Coney Island’s “presidential bathhouses.”

“The bathhouses were where people rented lockers and changed from street clothes to swim suits. You could also rent swimsuits and beach chairs and umbrellas,” writes Denson. “They were very social places and generations of families and friends from the same neighborhoods patronized the same bathhouses for years until the last one (Brighton Beach Baths) was demolished in the early 1990s.”

Coney Island Boardwalk

Coney Island Boardwalk east of West 33rd Street showing the Lincoln Baths in the foreground, 1924. Eugene L. Armbruster Collection, New York Public Library

How did it happen that land once occupied by bathhouses patronized by working class New Yorkers is destined to become luxury beachfront apartments? The Washington Baths site, which Thor Equities bought from Horace Bullard for $13 million, was flipped to Taconic for an exorbitant $90 million because both parties were sure the City would rezone it for residential.

Taconic Investment Partners plans to build a glittering city of 2,500 apartments and 200,000 square feet of retail west and north of MCU Park. According to Taconic’s website: “The North Venture consists of three city blocks on the North side of Surf Avenue totaling nearly 109,000 square feet. One block from the beach, these parcels include vacant or under-improved land. Coney Island South Venture encompasses 5.5 acres on the south side of Surf Avenue, interspersed over four blocks along the beachfront, and is also comprised of vacant or under-improved land totaling nearly 240,000 square feet.”

As Taconic CEO William Bendit told Eliot Brown of the New York Observer in an interview in 2009: “What attracted us to Coney Island was the fact that it’s vacant land—we didn’t have to dispossess anybody, relocate anybody. And it’s the beachfront. How much beachfront land is there in New York City? Not only that, but beachfront land that’s accessible to the subway. So, if you think about it, how many young people, or anybody, for that matter, would like to commute into New York or Brooklyn, and go home at night and live on the beach?”

What would it take to make you move to the new Coney Island?

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering. CIDC Press Kit

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering Shows Residential Towers West and North of MCU Park. CIDC Press Kit

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December 20, 2011: Update: Coney Island’s 1st Private Beachfront Condos on Boardwalk

January 11, 2010: Steeplechase Pool, Zip Coaster Sites to Be De-Mapped for Housing

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

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Easter Brunch at Paul's Daughter on the Boardwalk. April 4, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Easter Brunch at Paul's Daughter on the Boardwalk. April 4, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Looks like the Coney Island Boardwalk may not be corporatized and Sodexo-fied this summer after all! Sources tell ATZ that the Mom and Pops known as “The Coney Island 8” who have been fighting eviction since November are being offered leases for the 2011 season by amusement operator Zamperla. The lease is said to be prepared and waiting for the parties to sign on the dotted line on or before February 16th. That’s tomorrow, when both sides are due back in court for the hearing that was postponed from last month.

The deal has been on our radar for the past few weeks, which is why we’ve been uncharacteristically silent on the subject. Sources have been telling us the lease has many stipulations, including a confidentiality clause, and the deal could go either way. If the deal gets done, we predict Zamperla will once again be seen as the good guy for giving up their strong arm tactics of recent months. Out with the old, in with the new will be postponed till 2012 and visitors will again be able to enjoy a beer at Ruby’s Bar and french fries at Paul’s Daughter. Shoot the Freak is expected to move to a new location to make way for the Boardwalk entrance of Zamperla’s new Scream Zone, but the rest of the businesses would reopen in their current locations.

Shoot the Freak

Shoot the Freak on Fourth of July. July 4, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The one-year reprieve for the Mom and Pops would end on November 1, 2011, when they will be required to pack up and go. The lease is said to be for the same amount of rent as previous years. Ruby’s, Paul’s Daughter, Cha Cha’s and others paid $100,000 for the season. An additional season would give the businesses an opportunity to set aside some money for moving costs and time to find a new location. Zamperla’s Central Amusement International has a 10-year lease on the City-owned property. As ATZ first reported last year, Zamperla also has an exclusive contract with Sodexo for food and facilities management.

Sources tell ATZ the lease stipulations include a confidentiality or nondisclosure clause, which would restrict the Coney Island 8 from making public statements about the situation. It won’t be the first time these businesses had to agree to zip their lips to keep their spot on the Boardwalk.

When Thor Equities owned the Boardwalk property, the majority of businesses had leases with a confidentiality clause prohibiting all public comments about the redevelopment of Coney Island, not only for the term of the lease, but for three years after its termination. Violation of this clause would have resulted in immediate eviction and a $10,000 fine for each instance of a violation. This clause prevented the businesses from participating in the public hearings that ultimately determined the rezoning and the future of Coney Island.

Ruby's Bar & Grill

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

With 62 days left till Coney Island’s official opening day, we applaud a deal that insures the Boardwalk will be open for business. At the same time, that doesn’t let the City and its quasi-governmental agencies in charge of Coney Island redevelopment–the Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) and the Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC)–off the hook for not including a provision for local small businesses when the City made their lease agreement with Zamperla.

In regard to the Boardwalk operators prospects, City officials were less than candid from the day the property was purchased from Thor Equities. At the press conference, which we watched live, Shoot the Freak owner Anthony Berlingieri posed a question to the Mayor, who was taken aback. The question was “Is there a place for us?” NYEDC’s President Seth Pinsky, who is a very slick talker, stepped up to the mike to reply. Pinsky said “Our intention is for the foreseeable future to keep all the tenants in place, certainly through next summer [2010]. 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.”

Interestingly, that part of the press conference was excised from the version that went up on the web. If a reporter from the Brooklyn Paper hadn’t followed up with a story, it would have been excised from history.

As it turns out the EDC and their satellite the CIDC did not work with each of the businesses to see where it made sense for them to remain. Apparently the EDC figured out it didn’t make sense for the Boardwalk tenants to remain, but neglected to tell anyone except Zamperla. We called out Pinsky on this quote on ATZ and twitter when he had the nerve to tweet “Support your local small business” just as Paul’s Daughter was throwing their goodbye party. We invited him to the party, but of course no one from the City would show. City officials, both elected and appointed, refused to support or say a word to the press about the small local businesses booted off City-owned property in Coney Island. It will be interesting to see what if anything City officials will have to say about the new leases and future prospects for the Boardwalk Mom and Pops.

UPDATE March 8

Yes, all eight of the Coney Island 8 signed the agreement that will allow 7 of them–Shoot the Freak is out– to lease their Boardwalk locations for one final summer before they exit quietly. We tweeted our reaction this morning. What else is there to say? If you want more info on why the Mom & Pops are being forced out, read our posts on Sodexo.

AmusingZillion
In 2010 @NYCEDC got $100K rent from Ruby’s but only $11.25K from Sodexo 4 rent on City-owned property bought for $95.6M http://bit.ly/gNPci3

AmusingZillion
Happy we’ll be able to drink @ Ruby’s, eat @ Paul’s Daughter this season. But deal nothing to celebrate. #ConeyIsland small biz on way out

UPDATE March 6

Tomorrow, March 7th, the Coney Island 8 and Zamperla are due back in court over the Boardwalk evictions. A one-year lease deal ihas been in the works for weeks. Will they all sign?

UPDATE February 15, 7:07 pm

New York Mag’s Grub Street just talked with Coney Island Island 8 attorney Marc Aronson who says: “We’re working on something that’ll be an amicable resolution for all the parties and something that’ll be really just for both sides, and we’re really close.” He says he expects tomorrow’s court date to be postponed for a weeks, “at which point we’ll finalize the details of the stipulation or agreement.”

Grill House, Coney Island Boardwalk. Last day of season, Oct 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Grill House, Coney Island Boardwalk. Last day of season, Oct 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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January 20, 2011: Sodexo Investing $2.4M in Zamperla’s Coney Island

November 23, 2010: Meet Sodexo: Luna Park Coney Island’s Partner for “On-Site Service Solutions”

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

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

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Winter Carnival

2011 Lake George Winter Carnival Outhouse Races. February 5, 2011. Photo © Josh Beeles via flickr

This month the Lake George Winter Carnival is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a round of Polar Plunges, Ice Diving Demos, Motorcycle Ice Races, Dog Sled Races, Polar Golf and more. On opening weekend, photographer Josh Beeles got some wonderful shots of the Outhouse Races and Polar Plunge. The event first caught our eye because of a Coney Island connection. According to the carnival’s website, the Lake George Winter Carnival’s Polar Plunge was started more than 35 years ago by Coney Island Polar Club President Al Mottola…

History of the Polar Plunge – The Lake George Winter Carnival Polar Plunge has evolved over the years. The Coney Island Polar Bears started this tradition in 1903. Al Mottola, president of the Coney Island Polar Bears, first appeared at the Lake George Winter Carnival in 1973, taking their first plunge into the icy waters of Lake George. Spectators and participants were entertained for years by the group and many visitors and locals joined in on the fun of swimming in the ice cold water. They entertained many fans for years at the Lake George Winter Carnival, including Charlie “Papa Bear” Albert, who founded the Lake George Polar Bear Club and the 1st Day Polar Plunge that draws 800 plus people January 1st every year. The Polar swim is sponsored by the Lake George Winter Carnival every January 1st, and Saturday and Sundays during the month of February we invite anyone to participate, if you dare. Over 1000 participants for 2010.

This weekend’s featured event at the winter carnival is the NY State AMA Sanctioned Motorcycle & ATV Ice Race Championship. You can watch a live webcast courtesy of the Electric City Motorcycle Riders Club.

The Polar Plunge as well as Snowmobile Water Skips, Dog Sled Rides and Skydiving are set for every weekend in February.Click here for a schedule of events.

Winter Carnival

Lake George Winter Carnival Polar Plunge. February 5, 2011. Photo © Josh Beeles via flickr

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December 26, 2010: Video: Today’s Snow Swim with Coney Island Polar Bears

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Monster Truck Mural

Monster Truck Mural by Barbara Listenik at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. February 8, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Big Trucks from the kiddie ride at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park are in storage for the winter, but Barbara Listenik’s Big Truck mural keeps on trucking. We’ve seen the mural countless times, but it looked especially striking yesterday with freshly painted yellow fencing in the foreground against a clear blue sky. On Saturday, April 16th, the Big Trucks and the rest of Coney Island’s rides will rev up for the season.

Barbara Listenik is an accomplished artist whose work has been exhibited in over 65 galleries in addition to being on view throughout Coney Island. Listenick painted the mural at the center of the Mangels Pony Cart, the Thunderbolt facade, the Flying Elephants, and the Carousel in Wonder Wheel Park, as well as the Ghost Hole and Polar Express for 12th Street Amusements and the Skeeball mural for Coney Island Arcade. The Sea Gate resident’s company is called Fierce Release Design.

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When our friend John Bianchi tweeted a YouTube vid recorded at a Ukelele Meetup, we asked if he took requests. Turns out he does! He thanked us for suggesting “Coney Island Washboard Roundelay” because “playing it was like a little summer in the midst of the coldest winter on record.” John’s delightful rendition is played on his new Ohana CKP-70 ‘Vita’ Uke. “I learned 29 years ago so that I could take up the guitar, but I’ve been playing more seriously for the last year and a half,” he says. “I have six of ’em now.”

“Coney Island Washboard Roundelay” was written in 1926 by Hampton Durand and Jerry Adams, with lyrics by Ned Nestor and Aude Shugart. The song was recorded by the Mills Brothers in 1929. The lyrics are as catchy as ever…

Down by the beach there’s the sweetest peach
if I may say she has the cutest way
Playing a chord on her washboard
Folks would gather ’round from everywhere in town
Just to hear that sound!

Coney Island washboard she would play,
She’d play it on the boardwalk every day,
Soapsuds all around
Little bubbles on the ground
Rub-a-dub-dub, in her little tub
All of the tunes she found
Thimbles on her fingers made that noise
She’d play the ‘Charleston’ on the laundry for the boys
She could rag a tune through the knees
Of a brand new pair of BVDs
Coney Island washboard roundelay

Next request: Wouldn’t it be fun to have a ukelele orchestra strumming and singing this tune on the Boardwalk this summer, perhaps at the Coney Island Talent Show? Straw boaters required!

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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

December 15, 2009: Victrola Vault: Mills Brothers “Coney Island Washboard Roundelay”

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

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