Archive for April, 2011


Deborah Masters' Coney Island Reliefs on Ocean Parkway Viaduct. October 2, 2009. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

See Queen Mermaid, sideshow performers, sunbathers and Cyclone riders in cast concrete on the gateway to Coney Island! On Saturday, April 30th, MTA Arts for Transit is hosting an event from 2 to 5 pm to celebrate the completion of Deborah Masters’ Coney Island Reliefs at Ocean Parkway Viaduct. The station is on the Q line at Ocean Parkway and Brighton Beach Avenue. Masters was awarded the commission in 1992 and the piece was completed in 1994, but the viaduct needed repair before the concrete panels could be hung on its facade. The reliefs were in storage for 15 years!

Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy’s series of photos of the Ocean Parkway sculptures were taken when the installation began in 2009. “They look much nicer now with painted borders and the screw holes filled in,” says Bruce who plans to take a new series of photos this weekend.

UPDATE April 30…Here’s a link to Bruce Handy’s flickr slide show of the finished installation. Just beautiful!


Deborah Masters' Coney Island Reliefs on Ocean Parkway Viaduct. September 25, 2009. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

According to the MTA’s Arts for Transit page on the work…

Sculptor Deborah Masters created the Coney Island Reliefs in cast concrete. The 1260 sq. ft. of relief panels fit within existing recesses in the viaduct. Tinted a terracotta color to harmonize with the sandstone color of the Ocean Parkway viaduct, a massive structure that carries the subway across six lanes of traffic and an Olmstead parkway, the reliefs portray scenes from the history and legends of Coney Island, including Neptune, a mermaid, beach, boardwalk, and amusement park scenes. The designs are based upon photographs, drawings, and interviews by the artist with local residents and visitors to the famed amusement park.

Deborah Masters' Coney Island Reliefs on Ocean Parkway Viaduct. October 2, 2009. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

The original commission was for the inside of the subway station, but when the artist looked at the Viaduct surface, she noticed indentations she felt sure were intended for reliefs. She felt that the Olmsted Parkway, the widest old road to the beach, and the Art Deco Viaduct decorated with red, green, blue, yellow, and orange deco tiles from 1915 was intended by Frederick Law Olmsted, the founder of landscape architecture, to be the “Gateway to Coney Island”. She proposed adding 1650 sq. ft. of reliefs about Coney Island to the viaduct.


Deborah Masters' Coney Island Reliefs on Ocean Parkway Viaduct. October 2, 2009. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr


Related posts on ATZ…

April 15, 2011: Photo Album: Whimsical Murals Blossom in Coney Island

October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Philomena Marano of the Coney Island Hysterical Society

October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Richard Eagan of the Coney Island Hysterical Society

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

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arcade machines

Water-damaged arcade machines were removed from the burned ruins of the building and put into a compacter. April 28, 2011. Photo © Eric Kowalsky via Amusingthezillion.com

Almost one year after the fire on May 5, 2010 that ravaged the Coney Island Arcade, the burned ruins of the building at West 12th Street and the Bowery are being prepped for demolition. On Thursday, Coney Island photographer Eric Kowalsky took these photos of the water-damaged arcade machines being removed and disposed of in a compacter. Charred pieces of wood were put in a dumpster. The now empty remains of the building are expected to be demolished next week.


One year after the fire that destroyed the Coney Island arcade, a dumpster was moved in front of the burned ruins of the building, which is finally being demolished. April 28, 2011. Photo © Eric Kowalsky via Amusingthezillion.com

As previously reported in “Coney Island Arcade Debuts Cobra, Braves Loss of Arcade” (ATZ, April 13, 2011), arcade owner Manny Cohen continues to manufacture and distribute arcade machines under the Coney Island Boxer brand. He also operates games on the Bowery, but there’s space for only a handful of arcade machines as you can see in the photo below. The Coney Island Rumor Mill is saying that Jeff Persily, the owner of the building, has no plans to rebuild. But we certainly hope the empty lot gets rented out for something amusing this season. The arcade building is adjacent to Thor Equities’ empty lot at Surf Ave and 12th Street, where the Bank of Coney Island and game concessions stood for decades until last year’s demolitions by Thor.

CIA Cobra

The Coney Island Arcade's new Cobra and a few other games can be found on the Bowery. April 2, 2011. 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

We’re sad to report that if Cohen is unable to find another location, his 12th Street arcade will join the ranks of Coney’s lost arcades. Among the arcades that have closed due to the redevelopment of the past few years are Astroland’s three arcades and the Fascination arcade in the now-demolished Henderson Building. Coney Island’s last remaining arcades are located in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the Eldorado on the Bowery.

Last summer, Foster Kamer wrote a piece in the Village Voice titled “The Five Best Video Arcades in the City.” Two of the three–Coney Island Arcade and Chinatown Fair–are now closed.


Skee Ball at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park Arcade, Coney Island. April 24, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr


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April 22, 2011: Coney Island Has 64 Rides and 30 Weekends of Summer!

April 13, 2011: Coney Island Arcade Debuts Cobra, Braves Loss of Arcade

February 1, 2011: Bring Back the Whip! A Birthday Gift for William F Mangels

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

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Dennys & Eldorado

Denny's Ice Cream & Eldorado Bumper Cars at Night. April 24, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Two of Coney Island’s longtime family-owned businesses are next-door neighbors on Surf Avenue. ATZ happened to get this shot of their colorful marquees at dusk on Easter Sunday.

The Eldorado, Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars, opened in 1973 and is owned by Sandy and Sheila Fitlin. You can read about the history of the Eldorado in an interview that we did with their son Scott Fitlin last year.

Denny’s Dennis Corines has owned and operated the ice cream shop since 1968. Specialties include fresh crispy popcorn, candy apples and pistachio-banana soft serve.

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March 20, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

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Rooftop Films

Rooftop Films outdoor movie screenings include such venues as the roof of El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem. Photo © Dillon DeWaters via Rooftop Films

UPDATE… JULY 9, 2012… The 2012 season of Coney Island Flicks on the Beach began on July 2 and continues on Monday nights through August 6. The schedule includes Bound for Glory featuring David Carradine as Woody Guthrie, Woody Allen’s Manhattan, and Jim Henson’s The Muppets. Full schedule at “Coney Island 2012: Free Movie Screenings on the Beach” (ATZ, July 9, 2012).

Rooftop Films, a nonprofit which has been showing underground films outdoors in New York City since 1997, will bring free movie screenings to Coney Island’s beach this summer. The Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC), NYC & Company and EpixHD are partnering with Rooftop to launch the new Coney Island Film Series.

Lela Scott-MacNeil of Rooftop Films tells ATZ that the Coney Island screenings will be free of charge and the program is being put together especially for the new venue. “It is not part of our regular summer series,” said Scott-McNeil. When details of the Coney Island program are announced, ATZ will post an update.

Rooftop’s 14th Summer Series of “Underground Movies Outdoors” includes 25 feature films and over 150 short films in themed programs. Screening venues include Fort Greene Park, Socrates Sculpture Park and the roofs of Brooklyn Tech, El Museo del Barrio and Brooklyn Grange in Long Island City. According to Rooftop’s website: “We couple films with venues, and connect artists with audiences so that each event is unique and memorable.”

A tip of the hat to our friend Brian Hedden of the South Brooklyn blog BK Southie, who wrote in January, “Dear Luna Park, make this happen, movies at the beach.” Today he says: “Hey, I’m glad someone was listening back when I was begging for beachside movies!” ATZ urges BK Southie and everyone else to keep the ideas coming for event programming in Coney Island. Your idea could turn out to be the next new thing! We also ask our readers: What movies would you like to see on the big screen at Coney Island’s beach?

UPDATE, May 16, 2011…

NYC & Co. announced the schedule for the new film series today.  Coney Island Flicks on the Beach will be shown on Monday nights at sundown on the beach between W 10th and W 12th Streets. The series begins on July 11 with Saturday Night Fever. Here’s the full schedule…

July 11
- Saturday Night Fever (1977)
The ’70s disco-kid flick stars a young John Travolta in an Oscar-nominated performance as Tony Manero, a Brooklyn teen who works a dead-end job and suffers from “night fever,” but knows how to boogie it off. The film is famously set in NYC, largely in the now-closed Bay Ridge disco 2001 Odyssey.

July 18
- Rango (2011)
This animated comedy-western follows Rango (Johnny Depp), a domesticated lizard, as he stumbles upon a town in the Old West and winds up becoming sheriff, only to brave a rattlesnake showdown.

July 25 – Top Gun (1986)
Revisit the time when Tom Cruise was Maverick, a too-cool-for-school Navy fighter pilot recruit, fueled by the need for speed. The hit film celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

August 1- Iron Man 2 (2010)
Now that the world knows the double identity of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) as the armored superhero, everyone wants the Iron Man technology. Stark refuses to hand it over. But the evil Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) has built his own weapon to retaliate.

August 8
 – Annie Hall (1977)
Woody Allen and Diane Keaton star in this romantic comedy as a neurotic yet charming New York couple who fall in love after an awkward meeting, flirt in Central Park, argue over lobsters in the Hamptons and, eventually, split.

August 15
 – Moonstruck (1987)
Cher plays Loretta, a widowed, 30-something Brooklyn bookkeeper who, while indifferently engaged to Johnny (Danny Aiello), falls for her fiancé’s estranged brother, Ronny (a young, hairy and angry Nicolas Cage).

August 22
 – Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (2011)
Watch the Biebs prepare for his first sold-out show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. This documentary is titled for his song and mantra: “Never Say Never.”

August 29
 – How She Move (2008)
After her older sister dies suddenly, a talented teen flubs her chance at a private-school scholarship and moves back home to her family’s crime-ridden neighborhood. But after she earns a spot on a respected step crew, she discovers how her dance skills can deliver the future she dreams of.

When the weather is iffy, check the Coney Island tweeters on Coney Island Fun’s list for updates here.


Related posts on ATZ…

July 9, 2012: Coney Island 2012: Free Movie Screenings on the Beach

April 10, 2011: Men in Black 3 Rescues Coney Island’s Oldest Building

January 27, 2011: Video: Coney Island: Secrets of the Universe by Charles Denson

January 15, 2011: ATZ Saturday Matinee: Shorty at Coney Island

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Don’t miss this new and free attraction in Coney Island! Spend a quarter to play the game!


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September 6, 2011: Video: Coney Island Dancing 2011 by Jim McDonnell

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Singer songwriter Paul Sanchez and his band Neptune Jam are jamming this weekend in Coney Island. On Saturday, April 23rd, they’re performing at 9 pm at Bratva, a bar and cafe on the north side of Surf across from the Coney Island Sideshow. “We’re a casual lounge owned for and by good old friends and welcome you to join us for beer, cocktails and a wide range of American pub and Russian-style snacks and meals,” says the bar’s website

On Easter Sunday, April 24th, at 3 pm, Neptune Jam will rock Cha Cha’s, home of Wild Women and Wise Guys on the Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue. This emerging Coney Island band does Rock ‘n Roll, Blues, Country and Reggae. They will be performing covers and originals such as “A Coney Island Song” and “Kingston Town.”


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Electro Spin and Wonder Wheel

Coney Island's 64 Rides include Luna Park's Electro Spin and Deno's Wonder Wheel. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

This month marks the 2nd anniversary of Amusing the Zillion, which began on April 10, 2009 with a sweet first post on Coney Island ‘s Opening Day. The zings came in May and June with “Joe Sitt’s No Show Rides” (ATZ, May 17, 2009) and “Coney Island Ride Count: Veteran Ride Ops 40, Joe Sitt 10!” (ATZ, June 4, 2009). Back then, the dwindling number of rides and the empty lots had people asking “Is Coney Island Closed?” and gave rise to the marketing slogan “Coney Island: Really Fun, Really Open.”

We’re happy to report that Coney Island has come a long way since then with the opening of Luna Park (May 2010) and Scream Zone (April 2011) on land purchased by the City from real estate speculator Joe Sitt. As we head into Coney Island’s Easter weekend, which can be as busy as Fourth of July if the sun shines, the amusement area has a grand total of 64 rides! (Update: September 12, 2012… McCullough’s had to reconfigure the park and removed two kiddie rides in 2011. Scream Zone added two rides: Go Karts and a Skycoaster in 2012. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park replaced two rides with the largest Bumper Cars in New York City. For the 2012 season, Coney Island’s parks had 63 rides plus the Megawhirl and a half-dozen or so carnival rides brought to Stillwell Avenue for the summer.)

Luna Gate and Cyclone

Luna Park entrance and Cyclone Roller Coaster, Surf Avenue at 10th St. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

The ride count for the 2011 season is Luna Park (19), Scream Zone (4), Cyclone (1), Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park (22), Eldorado Bumper Cars (1), Polar Express and 12th Street Amusements (5) and McCullough’s Kiddie Park (12). Coney Island’s extended season stretches all the way to Halloween, effectively creating 30 weekends of summer fun.

Coney Island isn’t a gated single operator park like Six Flags or Disneyland. Visitors can move freely throughout the People’s Playground, where the rides and attractions are individually owned and operated by several different families. Here’s ATZ’s guide to Coney Island’s rides for the 2011 season.


Air Race

Zamperla's Prototype Air Race at Luna Park. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

Luna Park opened last May with a magnificent gate that pays homage to the original Luna Park. Operated by Central Amusements International, the park division of Italian ride manufacturer Zamperla, Luna Park features 18 Zamperla rides and a Reverchon water flume. Notable rides include the prototype Air Race, designed by Mega Disk’O creator Gianbattista Zambelli. The thrill ride sends riders upside down at up to 4 g forces and made its world debut in Coney Island last May.

One of Coney Island’s historic rides that inspired a modern counterpart in the new park is “The Tickler.” Zamperla’s spinning coaster model, the Twister, was renamed “The Tickler” in honor of Coney Island inventor William F. Mangels pioneering thrill ride that debuted in 1907.

Additional rides include the Brooklyn Flyer (Vertical Swing), Eclipse (Discovery Pendulum), Circus Coaster, Coney Island Hang Glider, Lynn’s Trapeze, Surf’s Up, Big Top Express, Happy Swing, Mermaid Parade (Kiddie Log Flume), Speed Boat and Tea Party.

Sling Shot

The Sling Shot Ride in Coney Island's Scream Zone Thrill Park. Photo © NYCEDC via flickr

Also operated by Central Amusement International is the iconic Cyclone Roller Coaster, a New York City landmark that first opened in 1927. This weekend the amusement operator is debuting Scream Zone, a new thrill park on the Boardwalk. Rides include the Turbo Force, Sling Shot, Soarin’ Eagle Coaster (Volare), and Steeplechase Motocoaster, which pays homage to Steeplechase Park’s legendary horse race ride.


Wonder Wheel

Deno's Wonder Wheel. Built in 1920 by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company using Bethlehem Steel forged on the premises. Photo © brooklynnfoto via flickr

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park has 22 rides and is owned and operated by the second and third generation of the Vourderis family. The Wonder Wheel, which is an official New York City landmark, celebrated its 90th birthday last year. A popular spot for engagement photos, the Wheel has a very romantic history: When the park’s founder Denos Vourderis was a hot dog vendor in the 1940s, he promised his sweetheart Lula that he would buy the Wonder Wheel for her as a wedding ring if she would marry him. She said yes and in 1983 when the Wheel was offered for sale, he bought it and built the park around it.

According to the history page on the Wonder Wheel’s site, it was “built in 1920 by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company using 100% Bethlehem Steel forged right on the premises. Each year, the entire 400,000 lb. ride is overhauled and painted to protect it from the elements of weather, wear and tear.”

The park’s adult rides include the legendary Spook-A-Rama dark ride, Thunderbolt, Bumper Cars and Tilt-A-Whirl. The Kiddie rides are the Carousel, Herschell Boats, Dizzy Dragons, Pony Carts, Jumping Motorcycles, Sea Serpent Roller Coaster, Mini Enterprise, Free Fall, Red Baron Airplanes, Willie the Whale, Fire Engines, Jets, Flying Elephants, Pirate’s Pond, Big Foot Trucks. Rio Grande Train, and Samba Balloon.

Carousel horse dedicated to Denos Vourderis, founder of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Photo © Deno's wonder Wheel Park via flickr


The classic Saturn 6 ride is part of 12th Street Amusements. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

The Guerrero family’s 12th Street Amusements has 5 adult rides including the Polar Express, Bumper Cars, Saturn 6, Ghost Hole and Virtual Reality. The Saturn 6 is a classic flat ride. “Right now, I believe the only one in existence is at Coney Island,” writes one ride fan on the CoasterBuzz forum. “Some people think the newer Dartron Hurricane’s are the same thing but the Saturn 6 cars are fastened directly to the arm in a manner so as they do not pivot when they are raised. This is one of those rides you can hear from way down the midway. The loud pop of compressed air being released as the arms raise up & down.”



Eldorado Bumper Cars on Surf Avenue. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

Coney Island’s disco palace of bumper cars, the Eldorado Skooters, is a family owned business at Surf Ave between Stillwell and 12th St.

As we say in the amusement biz, it’s the front of the show that gets the dough! The front of Coney Island’s Eldorado is famed for its lights and signage. On flickr you’ll find dozens of pix of the dazzling theater-style “Eldorado Auto Skooter” marquee and the sassy “BUMP YOUR ASS OFF!” signs by Dreamland Artist Club founder Steve Powers.

The Eldorado was hand built by the Buxbaum and Fitlin families and a carpenter named Rafael, according to Scott Fitlin. It opened on March 21st 1973 and the first record played was “Cisco Kid-War.” The bumper cars are old school Italian-made Soli cars. Stop by the Eldorado this summer to hear the legendary sound system and “Turn that Wheel!”



More Rides at McCullough's Kiddie Park, Coney Island. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

McCullough’s is a family owned park with 12 10 kiddie rides on the Bowery at 12th Street. The rides are the Bumblebeez, Ferris Wheel, Carousel, Swings, Motorcycles, Yellow Submarine, Dizzy Dragons, Himalaya, Ladybug, Frog Hopper, Circus Train and Tug Boat.

According to his interview in the Coney Island History Project’s Oral History Archive, “Jimmy McCullough learned the carousel business from his father, James McCullough, who began his career working on the Steeplechase and Stubbman carousels. Working in Coney Island is a family business going back generations for Jimmy who is a descendent of both the Tilyou and the Stubbman families.”


Bumblebeez at McCullough's Kiddie Park, Coney Island. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr


Related posts on ATZ...

May 29, 2012: Photo Album: Coney Island Lights & Signs of the Times

May 22, 2012: Photo Album: Welcome Back, Paul’s Daughter & Ruby’s Bar!

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

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

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