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Archive for February, 2012

Boarding up Building

Thor Equities Building at Surf and Stillwell in Coney Island. February 15, 2012. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

On Wednesday, workmen drilled holes into the new sidewalk all around Thor Equities sterile-looking new building at Surf and Stillwell in Coney Island. When poles were inserted close to the structure, observers wondered if they were going to install a chain link fence. Instead, they began installing unpainted plywood all around the building!

The joke going round is Thor CEO Joe Sitt read the bad reviews of his first-ever new construction in Coney Island and felt so ashamed that he tried to hide it from public view. With no sign of any tenants, Thor probably wants to protect the glass from vandalism and graffiti. Last year’s best was “Blight for Spite” scrawled below Thor Equities name and logo.

As for street art, the blue construction fence with murals painted by No Longer Empty artists Ephameron, Veng, OverUnder and ND’A was removed earlier this month. Some of the art turned up in a jumbled reassemblage at another Thor construction site in Bensonhurst. In the photo below, taken on the Bowery side of the Coney Island building, bits and pieces of Ephameron’s mural can be seen. Thanks to Coney Island photographer Eric Kowalsky for being on the scene and snapping these photos.

More than likely the boards will soon be plastered with the “Stores for Lease” signs that have been a fixture on Thor’s vacant property in Coney Island for the past several years. How about commissioning murals to replace the ones that were chopped up and discarded? The building is the first sight you’ll see when you exit Stillwell Terminal. It occupies the site of the century-old Henderson Music Hall, which Thor Equities demolished in 2010.

Boarded up Building

Thor Equities Newly Boarded Up New Building in Coney Island. February 15, 2012. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

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February 5, 2012: Botched Job: Coney Island Art Exiled by Thor Equities

February 2, 2012: Thor’s Coney Island: Generic New Building at Surf & Stillwell

June 1, 2011: Photo Album: Street Art Down by the Coney Island Bowery

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

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3D Models of Paper Taco Trucks. Art © Goopymart via flickr

South Street Seaport, Governors Island and Staten Island’s Midland Beach are some of the New York City destinations that have hosted food truck festivals–gatherings of 10 to 30 trucks– since the trend started four years ago. The above photo shows paper taco trucks, but real, live food trucks could roll into Coney Island this summer if a Brooklyn food blogger’s pitch to Community Board 13 is successful. On Monday, DevourNYC (“food blogging to the masses”) tweeted…

DevourNYC aka David Opancha followed up with tweets saying “the CB loved the idea and has it going through the channels. I’ll keep you updated” and “Sometime in the Summer. Trying to work out details. maybe during the mermaid day parade”

Does this mean King Neptune will get to savor Luke’s lobster rolls and Feed Your Hole’s grass-fed beef burgers? When ATZ contacted Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal, he confirmed that he liked the idea but stressed that the proposal was brand-new and would have to be discussed and approved by the Community Board.

The location? “Not in the amusement area, not abutting others selling the same food,” Reichenthal said. “It’s a question of finding the right spot and the right time where it would be good for the trucks and the community.” He noted that renting one of Coney Island’s empty lots even for a one-day festival would be prohibitively expensive,

Reichenthal had the idea of proposing to bring the food truck festival to one of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s Seaside Summer Concerts. Last summer’s free concerts featuring Joan Jett, Aretha Franklin and Cheap Trick were moved from Asser Levy Park to a new location at Surf Avenue and West 21st Street.

While food trucks have become popular in New York City and across the country, they often face opposition from owners of brick-and-mortar eateries who say they cut into their profits. What will restaurant operators on the Boardwalk and Surf Avenue, who rely on sunny weather and busy days like the Mermaid Parade to make the season a profitable one, think of a food truck festival coming in?

”That would be terrible for us and I can’t believe they would allow that,” one veteran restaurateur who wishes to remain anon told ATZ. “I’m not sure they can do that, I don’t think it’s allowed.”

The City’s website does have a list of streets where mobile food vending is restricted. In Coney Island, Stillwell Avenue from Neptune Avenue to the Boardwalk as well as Surf Avenue and both sides of the Boardwalk from West 5th to West 20th Streets are prohibited 24 hours a day from May 1 to Labor Day, and 7 am to midnight during the rest of the year. The lot where the concert series is held is adjacent to 21st Street, which is just outside the restricted area.

Would a Food Truck Festival draw ginormous crowds who will spend money on Coney’s rides, games and still more food? Then all is good. But this year is a critical one for Coney’s eateries and a decision to bring in additional food vendors could be controversial.

Ruby’s Bar, Paul’s Daughter, Nathan’s and Tom’s are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring City-owned buildings up to code with gut rehabs and on rent. Cha Cha’s, Popeye’s and Steve’s Grill House have the high cost of relocating their evicted businesses. The majority are diversifying their menus. At the same time, there will be competition from the huge new Nathan’s on the Boardwalk as well as the food trucks and concession stands at Stillwell Avenue’s BK Festival, who undercut the brick-and-mortar restaurants’ prices while they don’t share the same costs. For example, all of the businesses on the Boardwalk are required to pay into the fireworks fund and for keeping the City’s restrooms open at night. And you thought it was free?

Community Board 13 meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 7 pm.

UPDATE March 11, 2012:

The Coney Island Food Truck Festival is a no-go for 2012. Yesterday, DevourNYC tweeted:

Sadly most of the lots that are empty in Coney are worth millions and thus too damned pricey to rent, we tweeted back.

“That was the problem and being that I wasn’t making a penny off of anything I wasn’t going to take money out of my pocket,” replied DevourNYC aka David Opancha via twitter. “I’m in contact with food truck association so I am going to let them know about big events going on.”

We wouldn’t be surprised to see his idea pop up in some way, shape or form in the future. Maybe food trucks without the festival?

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February 14, 2012: Last Coney Island 8 Holdout Sells Boardwalk Building

January 31, 2012: Remnant of Under Boardwalk Bar Found in Coney Island

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

October 11, 2011: Photo of the Day: Butterflies & Beer Island by Bruce Handy

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Grill House coney Island Boardwalk

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

Steve Bitetzakis, the owner of Steve’s Grill House on the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1993, called off plans to have his modular building jacked up and moved down Stillwell Avenue. The move had been postponed till this week, but was called off after the restaurant owner made a deal to sell the building to Zamperla for an undisclosed sum. On Monday, workers were removing restaurant equipment and cleaning the place out.

Bitetzakis plans to relocate his grill house in Coney Island, possibly with a state-of-the-art concession trailer. Steve’s Grill House was the last holdout of the Coney Island 8, a group of Boardwalk Mom and Pops who banded together to fight their eviction by Zamperla in 2010. Late last year, Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter were offered eight-year leases on the Boardwalk, but Steve’s was left out in the cold. The above photo, taken at sunset on the last day of the 2010 season, is one of our favorites.

The Grill House building is on land that the City bought from Thor Equities in 2009 and leased to Zamperla. It’s the site of the soon-to-be-constructed Speed Zone, where Go Karts and a Sky Coaster are part of the amusement operator’s plans for this season. Will the Grill House be transformed into a trattoria by the sea or an upscale redo of its former neighbor Beer Island? Stay tuned. Coney Island’s opening day is just six weeks away.

Steve's 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 31, 2012: Remnant of Under Boardwalk Bar Found in Coney Island

December 27, 2011: Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island News Stories of 2011

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

October 11, 2011: Photo of the Day: Butterflies & Beer Island by Bruce Handy

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This short film produced by Coney Island Polar Bear Club member Jim Muscarella celebrates the joyous spirit of the club’s annual New Year’s Day swim. This year, sunny skies and temps in the 50s drew the largest number of participants in the club’s history. But the coldest thing on Coney Island, according to Muscarella’s film, is going for a winter swim when air temps are 10 degrees and under and water temps are under 35 degrees. Brrr! Well, maybe next year–it’s February and temps are still in the 40s and 50s.

Founded in 1903, the Polar Bear Club is also the oldest thing on Coney Island says Chief Polar Bear Dennis Thomas in the film: “We’re happy to be a Coney Island landmark. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter swimming club in the country. We’re older than the Parachute Drop and the Cyclone and anything else you see here.”

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January 3, 2012: Record 3,000 “Do It” at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

November 10, 2011: Video: First Plunge of Season for Coney Island Polar Bears

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

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

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Thor Equities

No Longer Empty's Artwork Reposted at Shore Parkway. February 4, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy/Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

Last week, ATZ reported that the construction fencing at Thor Equities’ Surf and Stillwell lot in Coney Island had come down to reveal a sterile-looking, one-story building. What happened to the blue boards, which were emblazoned with murals by No Longer Empty artists as part of a project sponsored by the City’s Economic Development Corporation? Coney’s eagle-eyed Captain Nemo spotted some in a botched reassembly at another Thor construction site in Brooklyn and posted on the Coney Island Message Board:

The artists who tried to remove the blight that Sitt placed upon Coney Island turning his ugly blue construction fences into canvases of art, can visit their artwork by visiting his close by Bay Parkway project. He sent in the bulldozers to clear that land, and took along his Coney Island blue plywood construction fencing to his latest blight project. The artists work is mismatched and looks like impressionist artwork of the worst order.

This slide show by photographer Bruce Handy shows jumbled sections of the Coney Island murals incorporated into construction fencing at 1752 Shore Parkway in Bensonhurst. The site is Thor Equities’ $150 million Bay Center project, where BJ’s Wholesale Club is expected to be the anchor tenant.

Nobody expects the guys who put up and take down Thor’s construction fences to be art handlers, but couldn’t they at least match up the panels? After all the work that went into the murals, it would have been nice if somebody in charge at Thor Equities–Hey, Joey!– had thought of reusing them to beautify another site.

Thor CEO Joe Sitt, whose self-proclaimed nickname is “Joey Coney Island,” likes to tell reporters “I view Coney Island as a national and international treasure.” If that’s true, why not move the murals, which were created for Coney Island, to one of his other lots in Coney? There’s an unsightly empty lot at Surf and West 12th, where the Bank of Coney Island and concession booths were demolished in 2010 to make way for nothing.

No Longer Empty Coney Island

No Longer Empty Mural Project, Coney Island, April 2011. Featured Artists: Ephameron, ND’A, OverUnder, Radical & Veng. Photo © Keith Schweitzer

Last April, the City’s Economic Development Corporation brought in No Longer Empty, a non-profit that curates site specific art exhibitions, to dress up the fences which greeted visitors when they first exited Stillwell Terminal. The above photo shows the finished mural on Thor’s fences surrounding the then empty lot at Surf and Stillwell.

Keith Schweitzer, who founded and curates NLE’s mural project, made this wonderfully edgy video of three street artists’ 48-hour transformation of Thor’s construction fence at Surf and Stillwell. As he explains in his blog: “Beginning with the main entrances to the park and working our way inward, six artists covered more than 4,000 square feet of exterior surfaces with artwork referencing Coney Island‘s legendary iconography and the surrounding beachfront boardwalk’s imagery.” Veng, OverUnder and Ephameron, who are seen painting the boards in the vid, are among the artists whose work has turned up in a jumble on Shore Parkway.

UPDATE February 7, 2012:

As mentioned by one of the commenters on this post, the murals on the Bowery side were also taken down and a few of the mismatched panels were put up to cover the windowless wall of Thor’s new building.

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March 2, 2012: Coney Island Murals by Street Artists Await Their Fate

June 1, 2011: Photo Album: Street Art Down by the Coney Island Bowery

May 5, 2011: May 7: Coney Island Boardwalk Trash Can Art Contest

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

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Coney Island building

Exiting Stillwell Terminal in the new Coney Island, the first sight one sees is Thor Equities generic looking new building. January 29, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

What’s the opposite of “Ta Da”? After seven years of real estate speculation and many grandiose renderings, the construction fencing came down from Thor Equities first-ever new construction in Coney Island (flea market tents don’t count) to reveal a sterile-looking building suited for a suburban mall. It’s located on the southeast corner of Surf and Stillwell, the gateway to Coney’s Beach and Boardwalk as well as Scream Zone’s roller coasters and thrill rides.

The generic new building is the first sight visitors see in Coney Island as they exit Stillwell Terminal. We’d be surprised if it contains any rides, arcades or carny games. During the construction, Thor Equities had a sign atop the fence touting “CONEY ISLAND – The RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME – for leasing contact…”

DNALSI YENOC

View from DNALSI YENOC of Thor Equities New Building. January 29, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The building has yet to sport any signs of tenants, but the Coney Island Rumor Mill has been saying for months that a Johnny Rockets (“The Original Hamburger,” founded in 1986 in L.A.) is coming to the Surf Avenue side. Hat retailer Lids–too bad it’s not the quirky Susquehanna Hat Company that HBO’s Bored to Death brought to Jones Walk/Bagel Street–is rumored for one of the stores. If it’s true, we’ll find out soon enough: Coney Island’s opening day is just two months away. Memorial Day is in four months. What would you like to see on this corner across the street from the iconic Nathan’s Famous?

Coney Island building

Thor's Coney Island: Stillwell Avenue side of Joe Sitt's sterile and suburban looking new building in the new Coney Island. January 29, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

It’s not as if we expected a Freakenspiel carousel and water fountain topped by a pyrotechnic elephant. That concept was part of Joe Sitt’s grandiose pitch back in 2005. Just for fun, check out the “Coney Island Rendering Hit Parade Pop Quiz,” a 2007 post by Brooklyn’s Blogfather Bob Guskind on the real estate blog Curbed. A lot has changed in the seven years since the real estate speculator began buying up property in Coney Island’s amusement zone. Sitt’s new building was reportedly built with a foundation suitable for a much taller structure. The site was one of four on the south side of Surf rezoned by the City in 2009 for a 30-story hotel.

The Henderson Music Hall stood on this corner for more than a century until Sitt had it demolished along with two other buildings in 2010, putting an end to Save Coney Island’s efforts to create an historic district. The Henderson was the longtime home of Popeye’s Chicken, the Fascination video game arcade, Velocity Nightclub and amusement games like Shoot Out the Star (open year round!), Clown Water Race and Balloon Dart. All lost their leases or were evicted. The old tenants are not expected to return to the new building, where rents are said to be over $100 per square foot, according to the rumor mill. Popeye’s found a new space a few doors down in the Popper Building for one third the price of what Thor was said to have asked for the equivalent of their former space.

Thinkwell rendering

Thinkwell's rendering for Thor's Temporary One-Story Building in Coney Island. April 2010. Via The New York Observer

In April 2010, Thor Equities released this rendering of a cheesy looking temporary one-story building occupied by hamburger and taco food joints. And a statement: “With the work we are commencing today, by Memorial Day, 2011, all of our parcels along Surf Avenue are scheduled to be activated with family-friendly games, food, shopping and other activities that visitors to, and residents of, Coney are clamoring for….”

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May 16, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Aqueduct Flea Vendors Make Dismal Debut

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

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

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

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