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Archive for April, 2012

Space Shuttle over Coney Island

Space Shuttle Enterprise Flies Over Coney Island's Parachute Jump. April 27, 2012. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

Two icons of American air and space history meet in Eric Kowalsky’s awesome photo of the Space Shuttle Enterprise flying over the Parachute Jump. On Friday, the Coney Island photographer captured the moment when the Space Shuttle flew over Brooklyn’s landmark tower.

Originally designed by retired Naval commander James Hale Strong to train military paratroopers in the 1930s, parachute towers were modified into amusement attractions when civilians clamored to ride. Strong’s Parachute Jump became a popular attraction at Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park after moving here from the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. Though the ride hasn’t been in operation since the park closed in 1964, “Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower” is an official New York City landmark.

The Space Shuttle Enterprise was the first Space Shuttle Orbiter. Named after the fictional Enterprise in “Star Trek,” it was designed to take off like a rocket and land like a plane. The Space Shuttle flew on its own for the first time in 1977 and was retired to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in 1985. Ferried by a jet, the Space Shuttle made a final, 45-minute flight over the Hudson and several New York City landmarks before landing at JFK. Its new home will be the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on Manhattan’s West side.

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April 20, 2012: Photo of the Day: Eldorado Auto Skooter Marquee

March 23, 2012: Up for Auction: Coney Island Parachutist Shooting Gallery Target

January 18, 2012: Video of the Day: Climbing Coney Island’s Parachute Jump

December 15, 2011: Photo of the Day: Friday Night Fireworks from the Pier

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Miss Coney Island

Miss Coney Island with her dancing cats and her baby doll. West 12th Street. April 1, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

After 14 years on Jones Walk, the windows featuring the life-size dancing doll “Miss Coney Island” and the miniature animated rides of “Coney Island Always” have moved to West 12th Street along with Skin the Wire and other whimsical games. Mechanical wonders like Chuckles the Clown and dancing cats can be found there as well. The location is just off the Boardwalk, under Deno’s Wonder Wheel and next to the Coney Island History Project.

“Miss Coney Island” spoke with ATZ–yes, she speaks via twitter!–about the big move and the marvelous makeover that has fans saying she looks 30 years younger. The shimmying mannequin received a complete re-do, including new wig, makeup, manicure, costume, jewelry and music. Her motto remains “Don’t Postpone Joy” and it’s still only “25 cents to fall in LOVE.”

Miss Coney Island

Closeup of Miss Coney Island's Bejeweled Hand. March 23, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

You’d never know it to look at Miss Coney but she is well over 30. We’re not one to give away a woman’s age, but anecdotal evidence suggests the dancing mannequin may be a contemporary of the venerable Grandma’s Predictions, the fortunetelling automaton in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Earlier in her career, “Miss Coney Island” was an Indian Princess automaton at a fairground exhibition, she revealed. “My best friend was ‘Little Egypt.’ After the fair closed, everyone and everything was put up for auction. And here I am.”

The post-modern “Miss Coney Island” is a visual jukebox. This season there’s an emphasis on Doo Wop and Reggae music at Miss Coney’s request. “Most of the songs are oldies that were ‘newies’ when I was young,” she said wistfully. There’s “Little Darlin'” by the Diamonds, “Come Go with Me” by the Del-Vikings and of course “Under the Boardwalk” by the Drifters.” The song in the video that we made is “This Magic Moment.” While we were there a group of twenty-somethings came over and and started dancing. They kept putting quarters in the machine. Apparently they’d never heard music from the 1950s and ’60s and were enchanted. “What is this music,” they asked. “Where can we buy it?”

The usually silent Miss Coney decided to speak up after a New York tabloid recently dissed Jones Walk as “a longtime seedy strip” and claimed that the City cleared everyone out because it “had been filled with rigged carnival games and ripped off beachgoers for years.” She was furious. “In 14 years on the Walk, nobody but nobody has ever accused me or my friends of being seedy! Win or lose, people left with a smile on their faces,” Miss Coney said.

ATZ can vouch for Miss Coney’s veracity. Having worked games of skill on the Walk, it pained us to see the reputations of all of the concession operators tarnished so casually. There was ONE bad apple among the tenants in the City-owned booths. The majority of the operators were legit and were therefore able to relocate to City-owned or private property in Coney Island.

Miss Coney Island

Miss Coney Island Meets A Little Miss Coney Island. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

“It costs ’25 cents to fall in LOVE’ and ’25 cents to smile,’ but quarters don’t pay the rent in Coney Island,” according to Miss Coney, who depends on income from Skin the Wire and other $2 games of skill to fund her retirement. Three of the games made the move to 12th Street, but two money-making water games had to be left behind in the dumpster. “We just couldn’t fit them into our new space,” she added sadly.

Be that as it may, Miss Coney Island says “I’m sooo happy with my new location. More people walk by than on the Walk.” Earlier this month, singing sensation Rita Ora, who was in Coney to shoot her new music video, stopped by to pose in front of the windows. “Fingers crossed I’m in the video too,” said the dancing doll, who asked us to mention that she and “Coney Island Always” are available for film and TV shoots. “What I’d really love is a cameo on “30 Rock” and a mention on David Letterman’s Top 10 List.”

Coney Island animated toy window

Coney Island Always, West 12th Street. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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April 10, 2012: Up for Auction: Collection of Carnival Knockdown Dolls

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

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

July 14, 2009: Miss Coney Island on Jones Walk: 25 Cents to Fall in Love

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B & B Carousell

B & B Carousell, Coney Island. August 2005. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Last night the Empire State Building was lit up blue and white in honor of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It was a prelude to this morning’s announcement that New York City has been selected as the location for Partners in Preservation 2012. American Express, in partnership with the National Trust, will award $3 million to preserve historic places in New York City. Coney Island’s B & B Carousell is one of 40 competitors vying for your online vote.

From April 26 through May 21, New Yorkers as well as anyone who loves New York may cast one vote daily on the Partners in Preservation New York City website or via Facebook, smartphone or tablet. According to the initiative’s press release, the top four vote-getters, to be announced May 22, are guaranteed to receive grants for their preservation projects. A Partners in Preservation advisory committee of community and preservation leaders will select sites that will receive the rest of the $3 million in grants.

On May 5 and 6, the Coney Island History Project is hosting a “B & B Carousell Open House” where the first restored horse will be on display along with photos of the restoration process and archival images of the carousel. The historic carousel was saved from auction in 2005 when the City purchased it for $1.8 million. The 1919 ride was packed up and moved from its longtime location on the north side of Surf Avenue and sent to Carousels & Carvings in Ohio for restoration.

The Partners in Preservation grant would fund transport and assembly from the restoration in Ohio back to New York. In 2013, the B & B will reopen in a new pavilion next to the Parachute Jump.

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

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

December 8, 2010: Children’s Book Tells Coney Island Carousel Carver’s Story

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 Zito's Sandwich Shoppe

Coming to Coney Island this Summer? 'Best traditional Eggplant Hero on the street' as quoted by a very satisfied patron via email. Photo and caption via Zito's Sandwich Shoppe, Park Slope, Brooklyn

On Sunday Zito’s Sandwich Shoppe tweeted to their followers that they were “working on a Coney Island Luna Park collaboration-more to come-looking to be part of the New Coney Island.” When we phoned to get the scoop, co-owner Marcello Bucca confirmed it was true but declined to say more until the lease is signed. ATZ is delighted by the possibility of having an Italian-American sandwich shop in Coney Island’s amusement area. During the summer, tourists often ask where they can buy the delicious sandwich we’re eating. We have to say, uh, you can’t. We brought it from home.

Zito’s menu features 13 different sandwiches including chicken parm, eggplant parm, pork bracciole, and for all of you vegetarians–meatless with grilled portobello, roasted peppers, broccoli rabe and homemade artichoke spread. Meats are from Salumeria Beillese of Hell’s Kitchen and Applegate Farms Organic Meats. All sandwiches are made on bread from Bensonhurst’s Il Fornaretto Bakery, one of Brooklyn’s best for Italian bread. Bucca and co-owner Enzo Conigliaro are Bensonhurst natives influenced by an old country philosophy and the slow food movement, according to an article posted in the Park Slope Patch when the sandwich shop opened last August.

As for their Coney Island location, our best guess is that Zito’s is eyeing one or more of the soon-to-be-rehabbed stands on the east side of Jones Walk, which Zamperla is leasing from the City. While the majority of the booths are expected to be game concessions run by Zamperla, the rest were being offered a few weeks ago to select food vendors. The Walk would be the most likely spot for a sandwich shop since French food giant Sodexo has an exclusive contract to provide food service within Zamperla’s Luna Park.

In November, the City’s Economic Development Corporation issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) for the booths on the east side of Jones Walk, a 1,650 square foot space that was purchased along with a larger parcel in 2008. The RFP required renovating or completely rebuilding the existing booths, some of which are in poor condition. The leases of longtime tenants in City-owned booths on the Walk, including water race games and other games of skill, windows featuring the mechanical doll “Miss Coney Island” and animated toy rides, and a Pina Colada stand were not renewed. The majority of tenants were able to relocate to other City-owned or private property in Coney Island.

UPDATE April 27, 2012:

UPDATE July 2, 2012:

Zito’s Marcello Bucca tells ATZ that Zito’s will not be opening in Coney Island this season: “Word on the street is correct,” he said. “They were not ready for us.” He said that Zamperla received financing at the end of June, later than they expected, thus delaying construction. The rehabbed Jones Walk stalls were originally slated to open on Memorial Day. Asked if Zito’s Sandwich Shoppe planned to open a location in Coney Island next season, Marcello said he hoped so, because so many people have been calling to ask about the new Coney Island location. “Ideally we’ll see what opens up. Right now it’s a no-go for this year.”
“Coney Island Update: New Arcade, No-Go for Zito’s, Tom’s Construction Saga,” ATZ, July 2, 2012

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April 16, 2012: Art of the Day: Fresh Corn on the Cob at Ruby’s Bar & Grill

April 7, 2012: Cheers! First Drink at Relocated Cha Cha’s of Coney Island

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La Marcus Thompson’s Gravity Switchback Pleasure Railway debuted in 1884 in Coney Island on the site where the Cyclone thrills today. Film footage doesn’t exist since the Kinetoscope wasn’t invented until the 1890s, but this documentary short by British filmmaker R.W. Paul shows patrons at an English fairground enjoying a Switchback Railway in 1898. We love the little boy running up to see the coaster and hope that he got a chance to ride!

Thompson’s 1885 patent was titled “A Roller Coasting Structure” and his gravity-powered ride which took its inspiration from a mining railway is known as America’s first roller coaster. In Coney Island, the first cars seated passengers sideways and went 6 miles per hour over 600 feet of undulating track. When people waited on line for up to three hours to ride, a reporter for the New York Sun proclaimed that “Coasting” was all the rage in Coney this season. As for the nickel ride: “It combined the effect of seasickness, imparted by the primeval swing, with the rush of a runaway ice wagon on a down grade; but besides all this there is a feeling of sailing through space which is elsewhere unattainable without the assistance of a balloon.”

By 1888, Thompson had been granted 30 patents and had built at least 20 roller coasters in the U.S. and 24 more abroad including several in the U.K., according to Robert Cartmell’s The Incredible Scream Machine.

Switchback Railway

Engraving of La Marcus Thompson's Switchback Railway in Coney Island on Opening Day, June 13, 1884

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January 8, 2012: Video of the Day: Coney Island at Night by Edwin S. Porter

August 16, 2011: Video of the Day: “IT Girl” Clara Bow in Coney Island

March 10, 2011: Video: Seasons of the Cyclone Roller Coaster by Charles Denson

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

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Eldorado Bumper Cars

Eldorado Auto Skooter at Night. April 12, 2012. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

Coney Island photographer Eric Kowalsky captured the dazzling theater-style “Eldorado Auto Skooter” marquee on the first night that it was illuminated this season. The beloved disco bumper car ride and sassy “BUMP YOUR ASS OFF!” signs are here for your enjoyment for one more year.

In March, the Buxbaum and Fitlin families, who have operated businesses in Coney Island for more than six decades, sold the building that houses the Eldorado to Thor Equities. Arcade operator Gordon Lee, a longtime provider of arcade machines to Coney Island, is operating the Surf Avenue ride and adjoining arcade for the 2012 season. Hours at the Eldorado are “12 noon till closing.”

Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade, 1216 Surf Avenue, Coney Island

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

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Himalaya

BK Festival: Himalaya and Sunglasses Vendor. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

The Himalaya in the above photo may look like an ordinary Himi, but it marks the return of the native. For the first time since July 2008, there are rides on Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue lots, where amusements existed for more than 100 years until Joe Sitt bought the property and booted longtime ride and game operators in 2006. The Thor-owned Stillwell sites were used for a carnival in 2008, a flea market in 2009 and 2011, and remained vacant in 2010.

On Easter Sunday, we snapped these photos of the Himalaya, Scrambler, Fun House and three other carnival rides set up on Stillwell West behind Nathan’s. The rides were not yet open for business, though merchandise vendors, food concessions and a pony ride and petting zoo managed to open for Easter. All of the rides except the Giant Slide opened for business last weekend, but were torn down on Monday and are being set up again on the east side of Stillwell Avenue, reportedly due to permitting regulations.

Thor’s lots on both sides of Stillwell are leased to the BK Festival for a second season. As ATZ reported previously, Will McCarthy, event director of the BK Festival, said last year’s flea market didn’t mesh with the Coney Island location and this season the festival will bring in rides, games and amusements in addition to a smaller number of vendors. When the full complement of rides and attractions debut on Memorial Day Weekend, the BK Festival will be renamed Steeplechase Amusement Park. With the newly arrived rides, Coney’s ride count is over 65 and is likely to be over 70 by Memorial Day Weekend.

Scrambler

BK Festival: Scrambler, Fun House and Bounce, Stillwell Ave West. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Yes, it’s been four long years since Joe Sitt has had amusements on the hallowed ground at Stillwell Avenue and the Bowery, where the Tornado Roller coaster (1927-1977) and the Bobsled (1941-1974) amused the zillion. On Memorial Day Weekend 2008, Joe Sitt proclaimed “The Summer of Hope” and filled the reviled empty lots on Stillwell with carnival rides from Reithoffer Shows and Geren Rides for a limited run. Hope died when the rides left in mid-July.

In October 2006, eight tenants, including Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City, Eddie Miranda’s Zipper and Spider rides on 12th Street, and game operators in the Henderson Building received notice from new property owner Thor Equities to be out by the end of the year. Thor’s spokesman told the Daily News: “The effort to transform Coney Island and recapture its past glory involves the demolition of a number of existing structures. Therefore, to allow the new development to proceed in a timely manner, occupancy agreements with some of the tenants are not being renewed.” Timely? Ha! Coney Island redevelopment has turned out to be a long, dragged-out drama punctuated by NY Post headlines like “The Grinch Who Stole Coney Island” and “Coney Zoney Furor: Chicken King Clucks.”

As a critic of flea markets on land that historically has been used for amusements, we’re happy to see this new direction for the BK Festival and Thor Equities and wish them a successful season. The rides are expected to open this weekend.

UPDATE April 22, 2012:

Although the rides remain set up on the Stillwell Avenue East lot, they did not open for business on Saturday. Permits are in process for a “temporary fair.” According to Will McCarthy of the BK Festival all of the rides will open on Memorial Day Weekend when the Festival brings in additional rides and attractions and debuts as “Steeplechase Park.” In the meantime, the merchandise vendors, food stands and Coney Island Dancers will continue to operate on the Stillwell West lot.

BK Festival: Giant Slide on Stillwell Avenue West. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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April 2, 2012: BK Festival’s 1st Amusement Rides Arrive in Coney Island

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

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

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

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