Archive for July, 2011

At the Beach

At the Beach, Coney Island. July 23, 2011. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Today: Sunny and hot. Highs in the lower 90s. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph. Sunday: Sunny. Highs in the upper 80s. Northeast winds around 5 mph…becoming southwest in the afternoon.


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Coney Island Floral Tribute to Andy Badalamenti. July 27, 2011. Photo © Lou Dembrow

At the wake for Coney Island ride maestro Andy Badalamenti, our eyes were drawn to this special floral tribute featuring photos of Coney Island’s Cyclone, Wonder Wheel, Parachute Jump and Polar Express. It was sad to say goodbye to Andy, whose casket was adorned with touching photos and mementos from the past. If there’s a midway in heaven, we’re sure he already has “the ex” on the Himalaya. Thanks to photographer Lou Dembrow for this photo and the one below taken on closing day of Jimmy Prince’s Major Meats, Coney Island’s oldest butcher shop, which shuttered after 60 years in 2009.


Andy Badalamenti with Major Meats sign on closing day at Jimmy Prince's Mermaid Avenue shop. February 28, 2009. Photo © Lou Dembrow

The exquisite floral tributes at the wake also included a rosary with beads made of rosebuds and a horseshoe from Andy’s friends in the NYPD mounted police unit. An honor guard of mounted police kept watch outside the funeral home and an officer stood at attention by the casket. Andy worked for the past 11 years in the stables at Brighton Beach.

Historian and Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson’s moving photographic tribute features many photos with his friend’s beloved horses and cat. Watch for the photo of Andy riding the Steeplechase horse into the clouds as Pavarotti sings the aria “Nessun dorma” from the final act of Puccini’s Turandot.


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July 27, 2011: Coney Island Lost A Good Friend: RIP Andy Badalamenti

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Andy Badalamenti Tries Out the 120-year old chair at the Coney Island History Project, August 29, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island lost a good friend on Monday. Andy Badalamenti, who operated such legendary rides as the Tornado and the Bobsled, and lived in the house under the Thunderbolt roller coaster when he worked as its caretaker, died on Monday after battling cancer. “Coney Island was Andy’s life and obsession,” wrote Charles Denson, in a moving tribute to his friend, who is featured in his books “Coney Island: Lost and Found” and “Wild Ride: A Coney Island Roller Coaster Family.”

“Andy grew up working in Coney Island. He possessed a pure devotion to whatever ride he worked on and the people he worked for,” Denson writes in “Wild Ride.” When the Tornado roller coaster was set afire by arsonists in 1977, Andy climbed to the top and stood beneath the Christmas cross screaming “We’re gonna fix it! The Tornado will be back!” But the coaster was doomed. “The image of Andy Badalamenti high atop the smoldering ruins of the historic roller coaster, triumphant and defiant, promising rebirth, remains a part of Coney Island folkore,” writes Denson.

This photo of Andy Badalamenti trying out a 120-year-old chair from Feltman’s Maple Garden Restaurant was taken at the Coney Island History Project on August 29, 2008. Astroland was set to close forever on the next weekend. After winning a one-year reprieve, many of us felt despondent about not being able to save the park again. But Andy wasn’t about to give up hope. He had dreams of moving the rides a few blocks away and was busily talking up the idea. His eyes always glittered when he smiled.

The 120-year-old chair had a sign telling people not to sit on it, but if anyone had earned the right to sit on a Coney Island museum piece it was Andy Badalamenti. Rest in peace, Andy. Coney Island will miss you.

The wake will be at 2-5pm and 7-9pm on July 27 and 28 at Cusimano and Russo Funeral Home, 2005 W. 6th St at Avenue T, in Brooklyn. The funeral will be at 9:45am on Friday, July 29, at the Church of Saints Simon and Jude, 185 Van Sicklen St at Avenue T.

Andy Badalamenti

Andy Badalamenti with Louise Bonsignore, whose family owned and operated the Bobsled, at the Coney Island History Project. September 8, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita


Related posts on ATZ…

March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

July 29, 2011: Photo Album: Coney Island Tribute to Andy Badalamenti

May 19, 2011: Rest in Peace: Rabbi Abraham Abraham’s Synagogue Was the Beach

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

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Rose Pitonof

Rose Pitonof. circa 1910-15. Library of Congress Photo

On August 13, 2011, six swimmers will recreate an historic 1911 swim from Manhattan to Coney Island’s Steeplechase Pier. The event was organized by Deanne Draeger, who got the idea when she did the 17-mile swim last year on the 99th anniversary of a celebrated swimmer’s feat. “I’ve been thinking about it all year,” says Draeger.  “It’s a really cool event. It’s the 100th anniversary of when a 17-year-old girl, Rose Pitonof, did that swim and became Swimming Champion of the World in a time when most people – men and women – didn’t know how to swim. To give you an idea, there were 50,000 people waiting for her at Coney Island when she finished.”

The Rose Pitonof Centennial Swim will start from East 26th Street on Saturday, August 13, at 8:45 am. The swimmers will pass under the Williamsburg, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Verrazano Bridges and will benefit from a tidal assist most of the way, says Draeger. You will be able to view them from the following vantage points. Viewing times are estimates based on the swimmers’ speed:

–East River Park, 9am on the north end of park until between 9:30-11am at the south end of the park
–Pier 14 at South Street and Brooklyn Bridge Park under the Brooklyn Side of the Brooklyn Bridge, 10:45-11:30am
— Shore Road Park under the Brooklyn side of the Verrazano Bridge, 12:45-2:45pm
–Coney Island’s shore after the swimmers round Norton’s Point, 2:45-3pm
–Steeplechase Pier, 3-6pm


Route of Rose Pitonof Centennial Swim

Each swimmer will be accompanied by a motorboat and a kayaker as a guide. “I think that starting at 26th Street and finishing at the pier in Coney Island is a great treat. I can’t imagine a better finish than the Coney Island Boardwalk,” says marathon swimmer Lori Carena, who grew up in the Bronx.

While Rose Pitonof’s nourishment consisted of a chicken sandwich and a cup of coffee, Draeger says she fueled her 2010 swim with half-hourly “Iron Cocktails,” a high carb drink with a shot of protein. This year’s swimmers, who swim at varying speeds, are expected to arrive at Steeplechase Pier between 3 and 6 pm.

Deanne Draeger. Photo by Susan Egan

Draeger, 43, tells ATZ that before she began training for Ironman in 2008, she had no athletic background. After an injury while training for her second Ironman event left her unable to cycle or run, she decided to focus on swimming. She has participated in the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, the Liberty Island Swim and the Brooklyn Bridge Swim, among others.

“As I was searching online for a long distance swim event, I came across an article about Rose Pitonof and her swim, and knew immediately that was what I wanted to do,” says Draeger. “The bio that I’ve put together is the first time that I’ve seen her story whole.” Her blog Rose Pitonof Centennial Swim features highlights of Rose Pitonof’s life, photos of Coney Island as it was a century ago, and info about the swim. “We are looking for volunteers, sponsors, and spectators for the centennial celebration,” writes Draeger.

Back in 1911, the New York Times hailed Pitonof as the swimming marvel from Dorchester, Massachusetts, and published a vivid account of the tumultuous reception she received in Coney Island:

From the time she first made her appearance around Norton’s Point thousands gathered along the shore to watch her progress and cheer her on to victory, and all bathing was suspended for practically the last hour of her swim. At Steeplechase Park the crowd swarmed on and around the pier to such an extent that the attendants were totally unable to hold the people in check, and it required ten minutes from the time the girl walked along the sandy beach at the end of her long swim until she was in her dressing room, less than 200 feet away. This was accomplished only by the efforts of a flying wedge of attendants, who forcibly worked their way through the human wall of thousands trying to get a glimpse of Miss Pitonof. A lane about twenty feet in width had been arranged for her arrival, but just as Miss Pitonof reached the point where she was expected to turn in, the crowd of bathers swarmed around her, and she was compelled to swim under the pier to complete her long trip.

Coney Island

Surf Bathing at Balmer's in Coney Island. Library of Congress Photo


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

November 5, 2010: Coney Island to Brighton Beach: Veterans Day Charity Open Water Swim

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

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

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Remember Coney Island’s Zipper ride? Check out the first three minutes of “Zipper,” Amy Nicholson’s documentary about “Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride,” on the film’s new Facebook page. “In a market-driven world where growth often trumps preservation,” says the film-maker, “Eddie and his Zipper may be just the beginning of what is lost.” The film is set to be released in 2012. In the meantime, here are a couple of vintage vids to show you what old school carnival thrills Coney Island has been missing since the Zipper left Brooklyn for Honduras.

When photographer Jim McDonnell shot the video “Dave Rides the Coney Island Zipper” six years ago, in July 2005, real estate speculator Joe Sitt of Thor Equities had yet to buy up property in Coney Island and decimate the amusement area. The independently owned and operated Zipper reigned on West 12th Street till it was evicted in 2007. Says Jim: “It was one of the few (if not only) operating Chance Zipper rides that allowed single riders, and you definitely got your moneys worth with a super long ride cycle. Dave is the only rider on this cycle – he’s in car #5 but its sometimes a bit hard to follow. Pardon the crude video work and enjoy the flipping!”

The manufacturer’s recommended ride duration is two minutes (two-and-a half tops), but Dave gets to ride for an astounding five-and-a-half minutes, which was typical for the Coney Island Zipper. The ride cost only $4.00, according to a sign on the ticketbooth. Our fave comment on the next vid’s YouTube page was “I remember when Big Louie ran that ride. He left me in there for a half an hour. It felt like I was in a washing machine left in the spin cycle.”

Take a trip back in time to 1987 and watch Larry Tee and Lahoma Van Zandt ride the Coney Island Zipper in this video by Nelson Sullivan, whose work chronicled the downtown New York club scene in the ’80s. You’ll catch a glimpse of a young RuPaul here and in another vid where the group rides a Swinging Car on the Wonder Wheel. The best part of the Zipper vid is the ride operator spinning the car at both the beginning and end of their ride. The worst part is watching the riders look for a spot to throw up. The Zipper, a notorious “puke ride” on the carnival circuit, was invented in 1968 by Chance Rides and is still manufactured today.


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

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

April 12, 2010: Evicted by Thor, Coney Island’s Zipper Ride Thrills in Honduras

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

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Dinnertime for Mom and Coney Island Kittens. July 7, 2011. Photo By Marie Roberts

Marie Roberts, who paints the banners for the Coney Island Sideshow and lives in the neighborhood, frequently “finds” cats and kittens on her porch. It’s as if stray cats have an unerring instinct where to go for help. We’ve lost count of how many Coney Island cats have been rescued by Marie, who has several cats of her own and cannot foster this litter. Here’s the story on the four kitties:

Well, I got mom and four babies to vet this morning.
Mom will be neutered and released.

Babies will be checked and possibly neutered.

If anyone can or knows of someone who can foster these until I find homes. I am desperate.

I pick up everyone from vet on Wednesday afternoon.

one white with grey spots
one white with black spots
one white with grey tail
one grey with white feet and chest.

Can you give any of these kitties a foster or forever home? If you’re interested, contact Marie at bitterwonder[AT]hotmail[DOT]com or leave a comment below…

UPDATE July 22, 2011:

Kittens will be at vet on Flatbush Avenue till Sunday afternoon due to the heatwave. They are neutered, have shots, tested and deflead. If you are interested in adopting or fostering one or some, please email Marie. Kittens are free.


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There’s a free music and culture festival today and on August 14 on the Boardwalk near the Parachute Jump. The Coney Island Reggae Beach Party gets underway at 2pm and the beat will go on till sundown. It’s the second season for the festival sponsored by WKCR Eastern Standard Time and the Sound Liberation Front:

Each event will feature an all-star lineup of music selectors and guest vocalists curated by WKCR host Carter Van Pelt. Some notable talents who performed at last year’s events include dancehall legends Johnny Osbourne, Carlton Livingston, and Mikey Jarrett; seminal NYC sound system Sir Tommy’s; and, legendary record producer Clive Chin.

Here’s a video clip from last summer’s event…

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June 23, 2011: Casting Call for Second Annual Coney Island Talent Show

May 11, 2011: Coney Island 2011: Summer Photography Workshop

April 27, 2011: Coney Island 2011: Free Movie Screenings on the Beach

June 17, 2010: Coney Island Fireworks Show: Every Friday Plus 5 Saturdays

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