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Archive for January, 2012

Coney Boardwalk Rathskeller

Remnant of Under the Boardwalk Rathskeller: Food & Beverage Menu from the 1940s. Photo © Brooklyn Beach Shop via AmusingtheZillion.com. All Rights Reserved

The renovation of stores on the Coney Island Boardwalk has already uncovered the ghost lettering of an arcade and signage for Club Atlantis. The latest discovery is a remnant of one of the rathskellers that thrived under the Boardwalk in the 1940s and ’50s. The menu for the long-lost bar was found on a basement wall by Maya Haddad of Brooklyn Beach Shop, which will soon begin rehabbing the first-floor space formerly occupied by Coney Island Souvenirs.

Coney Island Rathskeller

Vintage Ad: Coney Island Rathskeller for Lease

Decades before the Army Corps of Engineers pumped sand under the Coney Island Boardwalk in the 1990s, rathskellers (council’s cellar in German) were popular with beach goers. ATZ found an ad from 1957 looking to lease an 80-foot Boardwalk frontage with an 80-foot rathskeller below with direct frontage on the beach.

The name of the rathskeller whose menu was rediscovered remains unknown, but its prices appear to date back to the 1940s. Beer and milk were 10 cents, coffee was a nickel. The sandwich menu included hamburger, egg, cream cheese, American cheese, Swiss cheese, Sardine or Salmon, Ham, Salami or Liverwurst, Ham & Egg, and a Western. Could this be the place where the boy in the 1953 movie The Little Fugitive returned soda bottles to collect money to go on the rides?

Brooklyn Beach Shop’s new location next to Ruby’s Bar is in a building that dates back to 1940. The original tenant was Moe’s Fascination, which occupied the upper story until 1965. Brooklyn Beach Shop, a spinoff of Coney Island Beach Shop located behind Nathan’s and in Stillwell Terminal, will feature their own brand of Coney Island-themed clothing and souvenirs. The Boardwalk shop is expected to open in April.

Remnant of Boardwalk Rathskeller

Remnant of Under the Boardwalk Rathskeller: Beverage Menu from the 1940s. Photo © Brooklyn Beach Shop via AmusingtheZillion.com. All Rights Reserved.

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Related posts on ATZ…

January 16, 2012: Photo of the Day: Signs of Coney’s Club Atlantis Resurface

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

October 27, 2011: Ghost Lettering & End of Season Color in Old Coney Island

October 10, 2011: Photo of the Day: Coney Island’s Famed “Hey Joey!” Doomed

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Frozen Custard from Photographs of New York by Reginald Marsh. ca. 1938-1945, printed 1976. Reginald Marsh. Courtesy AntiquePhotographics.com

When Reginald Marsh photographed Coney Island as the subject for his artwork in the late 1930s and the ’40s, one could still buy frozen custard for a nickel. The dessert made its debut in 1919 when the Kohr brothers, Archie and Elton, opened a stand on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The nickel treat was a sensation, selling 18,460 cones on the first weekend! Kohr’s Frozen Custard is still in business on the Boardwalks at Seaside Heights and Casino Pier on the Jersey Shore. According to the history page of the company’s website, “After many experiments with the formula, Archie and Elton discovered that by adding eggs to the mix, they got a much more stiff, velvety and creamy product which would melt more slowly.”

Today, Coney Island’s ice cream offerings include Denny’s soft serve and Coney’s Cones gelato, but the frozen custard stands of yesteryear are long gone. You have to go to Shake Shack in Manhattan. Or all the way to Utah, where Coneys Custard and Gourmet Dogs won the “Best of State Award” last year. Their signature custard is named after the Cyclone roller coaster.

Like the Whip ride and the game of Fascination, frozen custard is another delight that first saw the light of day in Coney Island, but can’t be found here anymore. Last year, ATZ proclaimed “Bring Back the Whip!” This year we add: “Bring Back Fascination and Frozen Custard!”

UPDATE, January 30, 2012…

Comments on Facebook and twitter in response to this post have inspired this update: What’s the difference between soft serve and frozen custard?

Wikipedia says: “True frozen custard is a very dense dessert. Soft serve ice creams may have an overrun as large as 100%, meaning half of the final product is composed of air. Frozen custard, when made in a proper continuous freezer will have an overrun of 15-30% depending on the machine manufacturer. Air is not pumped into the mix, nor is it added as an “ingredient” but gets into the frozen state by the agitation of liquid similar to whisking a meringue. The high percentage of butterfat and egg yolk gives frozen custard a thick, creamy texture and a smoother consistency than ice cream. Frozen custard can be served at –8°C (18°F), warmer than the –12°C (10°F) at which ice cream is served, in order to make a soft serve product.”

According to FDA requirements, frozen custard must have at least 10 percent milkfat and 1.4 percent egg yolk solids, but some brands have more. If it has fewer egg yolk solids, it is considered ice cream. Frozen custard has less fat and sugar than ice cream.

UPDATE January 4, 2014:

Rita’s Italian Ice, a national franchise whose tag line is “Ice, Custard and Happiness” will open a store on Surf Avenue at West 15th street in Coney Island.

Frozen Custard, Etching by Reginald Marsh. 1939. Photo via The Old Print Shop

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January 13, 2012: Rare & Vintage: Reginald Marsh Photos of Coney Island

November 29, 2011: Fascination: From Coney Island to Nantasket Beach

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

October 6, 2010: Traveler: Where You Can Play Fascination Year Round

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Brooklyn’s Ringmasters Crew burst into the national spotlight on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew Season 3. Their raw energy and sinuous showmanship are on display in a trio of vids shot by Salvatore D’Alia in Coney Island last July. The Beach, Boardwalk and Pier are the stage for their performance of the Brooklyn born dance style called Flexing. Our fave is the hypnotic “Ringmasters Crew as the sun goes down” set to Lynx’s “Tricksters and Fools.”

The Ringmasters’ mesmerizing moves include Bone Breaking, Hat Tricks, Gliding, Animation, Pauzin (a unique style of Poppin), Connecting (a unique style of Tutting), Original floor moves, Dare Devil Stunts and amazing Punchlines, according to the group’s website. In “Ringmasters Put On A Mind-blowing Show In Coney Island | HOC Flexing Bonebreaking,” you’ll see one of the dancers do a back flip off a roof! The video features Corey aka Gutta Love, Sheik aka Taliibaan Sheik, Roy aka Winiez, Spyda aka Da Hat Mann, Vibez aka Vibez and Jay-Donn aka PunchLine King.

The third vid was shot on the Pier after dark with the lights of the rides glittering in the distance and the dancers as vampires.

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December 7, 2011: Jones Walk’s “Miss Coney Island” Shimmies Over to 12th St

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

December 16, 2010: Blast from the Past: LFO’s Summer Girls Music Video

August 7, 2010: Video: Coney Island Dancing by Jim McDonnell

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Coney island Boardwalk

Boardwalk Slats in the Snow. Photo © Bruce Handy. December 20, 2008. All Rights Reserved

The Parks Department has postponed to February 21 a hearing to win approval for its controversial plan to pave all but four blocks of the Coney Island Boardwalk with concrete and plastic wood. On Monday night, Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance’s Rob Burstein told ATZ: “I just received an e-mail from the Parks Department’s liaison to the Design Commission informing me that they have postponed the date that they intend to present their proposal to the Design Commission. They will not present on January 30th, as we were originally told, but have tentatively rescheduled for February 21st.”

Since Parks initiated the January 30 date to make their presentation, it appears that they are not yet ready to prove their case for concrete before the Public Design Commission. At the October hearing, PDC commissioners were skeptical of the need to use concrete and said that more environmental and engineering studies were needed to address the questions that they had.

Coney Island Boardwalk

Photos from Friends of the Boardwalk's website show the results of prior projects where the NYC Parks Department used concrete. Photos © Mary Ann De Luca via FOBConeyIsland.com

“Please SAVE THE DATE, so that if it is confirmed we can all once again be sure to be there,” says Burstein of February 21. Public testimony is limited to three minutes per person. For more info, check out our previous post “Jan 30: NYC Design Commission to Meet (Again) on Coney Island Concretewalk,” (ATZ, January 20, 2012).

On Saturday, January 28th at 3pm, Burstein’s group and Friends of the Boardwalk are having an informational meeting at Brighton Beach Library. Email Rob Burstein at robburstein[AT]Hotmail[dot]com for details.

Meanwhile, an online petition to “Keep the Boards in the Coney Island Boardwalk–No Concrete” launched this month has eight-hundred-and something signatures and a goal of 5,000. If you didn’t sign yet, don’t complain when your feet ache from walking/jogging on the Concretewalk. Of course, if the Boardwalk does get paved, images like photographer Bruce Handy’s exquisite “Boardwalk Slats in the Snow” and “Sand on the Boardwalk” will be a rare sight.

UPDATE…March 24, 2012.
At the Public Design Commission’s charade of a public hearing about the reconstruction of the Coney Island Boardwalk. A ten-foot-wide Concrete Lane for so-called “emergency vehicles” and an adjoining Plasticwalk were unanimously approved by the Commissioners for a pilot project in Brighton Beach. “The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues,” ATZ, March 22, 2012

Coney Island Boardwalk

Sand on the Boardwalk. Photo © Bruce Handy. October 30, 2008. All Rights Reserved

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March 22, 2012: The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues

March 9. 2012: The 10 People Who Will Decide the Fate of Coney Island Boardwalk

December 4, 2011: Brass Ring Dept: Coney Island “Carousell” RFP Up for Grabs

October 25, 2011: Coney Island 2012: Go Karts Return, Concretewalk Stopped

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In this newly released video of the Zamperla-Zoppe Bareback Riders performing with Ringling’s Gold Unit last spring, the brothers Olissio, Gino and Ermes leap on and off the backs of cantering horses, turning somersaults and back flips with ease. Ringling skipped Coney Island in 2011, but we met Olissio Zoppe when he was here for a few days last July with Circus Vidbel.

At the Coney Island History Project, Olissio vaulted onto the Steeplechase horse’s back in a split second when asked to pose for the photo shown below. Circus people never cease to amaze. Olissio and his brothers have been acrobatic equestrians since boyhood and their skill goes back six generations to two illustrious Italian circus families. If the ceiling had been taller, we bet he would have done a somersault on the horse’s back and landed on his feet–even in flip flops!

Olissio Zoppe Rides the Steeplechase Horse. July 9, 2011. Photo © Coney Island History Project. All Rights Reserved

Are the Zamperla Zoppe troupe, who are distantly related to the Zamperla family of Luna Park, returning for an encore performance? Will there be a circus in Coney Island in 2012? It’s unlikely since the lot where Ringling’s Coney Island Boom-A-Ring and Illuscination played in 2009 and 2010 has become the temporary home of the Seaside Summer Concert Series. The City-owned lot where Circus Vidbel played is the site of the new Speed Zone amusement park set to open this season.

Thor Equities brought in Cole Brothers Circus in 2007 and Reithoffer Shows and other attractions in 2008, but that’s ancient history. Since Joe Sitt got his rezoning for 30-story hotels and retail, we haven’t noticed any press releases saying “Thor is fully committed to the amusement industry.” In 2012, there are still a few empty lots in Coney Island big enough for a big top, but they’re held by real estate speculators. The saying “May All of Your Days Be Circus Days!” is one we don’t expect to hear in Coney Island this season.

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July 13, 2011: Circus Portraits: Photography by Kevin C Downs

June 21, 2011: Zamperla-Zoppe Riders Coming to Zamperla’s Coney Island

August 31, 2010: Snapshots of the Coney Island Illuscination

August 20, 2009: Q & A with Coney Island Boom A Ring Circus Star Justin Case

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Coney Island Boardwalk

Photos from Friends of the Boardwalk's website show the results of prior projects where the NYC Parks Department used concrete. Photos © Mary Ann De Luca via FOBConeyIsland.com

UPDATE…February 17...The Parks Department has once again postponed the date– February 21 — that they requested to present the Concretewalk plan to the Public Design Commission! We have no idea why–Perhaps they’re not ready? Perhaps they’re busy lining up support from the PDC commissioners? Perhaps they’re trying to throw off the grassroots opposition? The online petition to “Keep the Boards in the Coney Island Boardwalk – -No Concrete! and Save the Rainforests” continues to collect signatures.

UPDATE…January 23...The Parks Department has postponed the Concretewalk hearing date to February 21, says Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance’s Rob Burstein: “I just received an e-mail from the Parks Department’s liaison to the Design Commission informing me that they have postponed the date that they intend to present their proposal to the Design Commission. They will not present on January 30th, as we were originally told, but have tentatively rescheduled for February 21st.” Since the Parks Department initiates the date when they are ready to make their presentation, it appears that they are not yet ready to prove the case for concrete

On January 30 February 21, New York City’s Parks Department is expected to go back to the Public Design Commission to try again to win approval for its controversial plan to pave all but four blocks of the 2.7 mile Coney Island Boardwalk with concrete and plastic wood. At the last meeting in October, proponents of keeping the boards in the Boardwalk won a temporary victory when the PDC refused to approve the plan. The PDC commissioners, a distinguished group of architects, artists and representatives of the City’s cultural institutions, were skeptical of the need to use concrete. They also said that more environmental and engineering studies were needed to address the questions that they had.

Three months later, the PDC will likely be asked to reconsider the Parks Department’s plan at the January 30th February 21st meeting, according to Coney Brighton Boardwalk Alliance’s Rob Burstein. He is asking “others that care, to join us and speak against the plan at the Design Commission. I know that many people are with us in spirit, but we need them with us in body, as well as in soul. It’s only by showing up, that we have any chance of stopping this plan!”

On Saturday, January 21st and January 28th at 3pm, Burstein’s group and Friends of the Boardwalk are having informational meetings at Brighton Beach Library. An online petition to “Keep the Boards in the Coney Island Boardwalk” launched this month has several hundred signatures and comments like this one from Linda Distasi: “I grew up in Brooklyn. I think we should keep the Boardwalk as it was intended. There are other alternatives to concrete. Use them!!!!” (Only 700-and-something signatures? If you didn’t sign yet, don’t complain when it’s concrete.)

concrete boardwalk

Slab Walk: The new concrete slab section of the Coney Island boardwalk in Brighton Beach. October 26, 2011. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved

The photo mosaic at the top of this post is from a slide show on FOB’s website showing the results of prior Parks Department projects using concrete on the Boardwalk: the concrete substructure under recycled plastic lumber on Steeplechase Pier, concrete under wood in the amusement area and the concrete slabs replacing sections of the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach and in the West End of Coney Island, from West 33rd to West 37th Streets. The other two photographs by silversalty show the same spot on the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach. In 2009’s “A Walk in the Mist,” the Boardwalk is wood; in 2011 it is slabs of concrete.

Todd Dobrin, founder of Friends of the Boardwalk, who along with fellow members of Community Board 13 voted 21-7 last May against the Concretewalk, said in a statement:

The Parks Department has wasted millions of dollars on projects that were built through trial and error at the expense of NYC taxpayers. Instead of admitting to the public, the NYC Design Commission and the NYC Parks Commissioner the fact that the use of concrete has proven to be the root cause of these design flaws, they will attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the NYC Design Commission with questionable facts and a smoke and mirrors art show. I believe the Design Commission saw through the Parks Department’s blatant misinformation at the past meeting and will come to the same conclusion on January 30.

Public testimony at the NYC Public Design Commission meeting is limited to three minutes per person. The PDC office is in Manhattan at 253 Broadway, Fifth Floor, near the City Hall subway station. For information on the time of the January 30th February 21st meeting, which is set one week in advance, email Rob Burstein at robburstein[AT]Hotmail[dot]com or check the Boardwalk Alliance’s Facebook Page for updates.

Brighton Beach

A walk in the mist, Brighton Beach. April 3, 2009. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved

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January 5, 2012: New Year, New Push to “Keep the Boards in the Coney Island Boardwalk”

December 4, 2011: Brass Ring Dept: Coney Island “Carousell” RFP Up for Grabs

October 25, 2011: Coney Island 2012: Go Karts Return, Concretewalk Stopped

November 15, 2010: Nov 16: Concrete, Wood or Plastic? Discussion on Future of Coney Island Boardwalk

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Just watching this video of Coney historian Charles Denson climbing the 270-foot tall Parachute Jump gives us vertigo. Ten years ago, when the landmarked Jump was about to get a $5 million refurbishment, we did a story for Preservation that featured a striking portrait of Denson standing atop the tower. Denson’s 10-minute film of the climb, released today via his “Coneyologist” Channel on YouTube, features video footage by Seth Kaufman and his own exquisite photos.

The Coney Island native, who came of age riding the Parachute Jump with his dad in Steeplechase Park, told us: “That ride—there was nothing like it, before or since. Just when you thought, ‘It can’t go any higher,’ the chute hit the top and exploded. You were flying in a free fall. Then it billowed open and you sailed down.”

Originally designed by a retired Naval commander to train military paratroopers in the 1930s, parachute towers were modified into amusement attractions when civilians clamored to ride. Denson last soared from the Jump’s tower in 1962, two years before the great granddaddy of vertical-thrill rides, along with the rest of Steeplechase Park, closed forever.

In 2002, Denson fulfilled his childhood dream to once again see the view from the top.  He writes:

The Jump was a nature preserve. The motor room base was filled with pigeon nests and covered with muddy footprints of the raccoons who fed on the eggs. A raptor circled us at the top as we disturbed its perch, and the feet of the many small birds it had caught and devoured were spread out across the catwalks. I grew up a few blocks from the Jump and have documented it since it closed. When the city decided to dismantle and renovate the Jump ten years ago, my engineer friend Seth Kaufman had the only copy of the original plans. The city needed them so we made a deal: We got to climb it legally.

If you think it would be crazy fun to scale Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, keep in mind Denson has issued a warning remarkably similar to that of a sideshow sword swallower: “Do NOT try this on your own. It is extremely dangerous and chances are that you will die.”

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July 19, 2011: Video of the Day: Let Us Now Praise Coney Island’s Zipper

February 2, 2011: Video: Coney Island —> Times Square by David Patrick Alexander

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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