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Archive for July, 2012

Shore Theater

Vacant and for Sale: The Shore Theater, on left, viewed from the Thunderbolt lot, a 3-acre development site. July 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The above photo taken yesterday shows Coney Island’s long-vacant Shore Theater, on the left, viewed from the three-acre development site where the Thunderbolt roller coaster, illegally demolished by the City in 2000, once stood. Both are owned by Horace Bullard and are among two dozen privately owned properties advertised for sale or lease on a Coney Island Development Corp. map of retail opportunities in 2011 and 2012. The Shore Theater has an asking price of $13 million and the Thunderbolt parcel says “Submit all Offers.” Nobody snapped ’em up yet. If you think about it, buyers are few in Coney’s over-priced amusement area. There’s the City and Thor Equities. Plus Coney Island USA, which bought the building next door to their sideshow headquarters.

Coney Island USA’s artistic director Dick Zigun and Brooklyn Daily deserve credit for calling attention to the plight of the Shore Theater, which has been shuttered for more than 35 years. In December 2010, the City landmarked the exterior and presumably would like to see the building restored. But in our opinion, Zigun saying that the City should seize the Shore from its owner and the Brooklyn Daily doing a reader poll on the E.D. issue is grandstanding to make a point.

The Shore Theater, formerly the Loew's Coney Island, is up for City landmark designation. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Shore Theater, formerly the Loews Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Bloomberg administration was right to back off from the idea of taking land by condemnation from Thor Equities and other Coney Island property owners during the rezoning hearings in 2009. Under sharp questioning by City Council land use committee members, the EDC’s Seth Pinsky was forced to admit, “I’m not saying we will use eminent domain, but in fairness to your question, I’m not saying we won’t.” In order to get Council members to agree to vote for the zoning, the EDC instead had to negotiate an agreement to buy property from Thor Equities. At the same time, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and other property owners were no longer threatened by E.D.

As for the Shore, the City should either come up with the money to buy Bullard’s property or find a buyer. Community Board 13’s land use committee voted yes on the Coney Island rezoning, but one of the non-binding stipulations was that the City buy the theater and make it into a community arts center. What happened to that idea? Ideally BP Marty Markowitz could use the $64 million set aside for the Seaside Park amphitheater to purchase and renovate the Shore. Or somebody can start a “Chip in” to buy the Shore and Mayor Bloomberg can make it one of his charitable projects. The City should buy the Thunderbolt parcel too and use it to right Mayor Giuliani’s wrong and rebuild either the Thunderbolt or the Tornado.

As far as we know, there’s no precedent for the Landmarks Preservation Commission taking property by Eminent Domain. There is however the precedent of a Demolition by Neglect lawsuit which, if successful, requires the owner to fix up the property or sell it. As ATZ reported at the time of the Shore’s landmarking in December 2010:

If the building is landmarked, Demolition by Neglect laws could come into play. The New York City demolition by neglect ordinance states, “every [owner] of a landmark site or historic district shall keep in good repair (1) all of the exterior portions of such improvement and (2) all interior portions thereof which, if not so maintained, may cause or tend to cause the exterior portions of such improvement to deteriorate, decay or become damaged or otherwise to fell into a state of disrepair.” NEW YORK, N.Y., CODE § 25-311 (2001).

Last year [2009], in a precedent setting lawsuit, the City was awarded $1.1 million in civil penalties and gave the owners of the landmarked Windermere apartments a choice of fixing the property or selling it. “This settlement sends a message to owners of landmarked buildings that they must keep them in a state of good repair,” said Robert B. Tierney, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in a New York City Law Department press release about the case. “Buildings like the Windermere are an indispensable part of New York City’s architectural heritage and must be preserved for future generations.”

A rare glimpse of the ornate interior of the Shore Theater, photographed by historian Charles Denson, is on view at the Coney Island History Project exhibit center though September 3rd.

UPDATE August 4, 2012

Charles Denson’s beautiful photos of the Shore Theater interior made into a heartbreaking video. Watch it here.

Coney Island Theatre Building.  Photo © katherine of chicago via flickr

Coney Island Theatre Building. Photo © katherine of chicago via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

October 20, 2015: Goodbye Ghost Hole, MCU Parking Lot? City’s Coney Land Grab Not Just Vacant Land

January 10, 2012: Will Casino Gold Rush of 1970s Replay in Coney Island

December 14, 2010: Amid Demolitions & Evictions in Coney Island, City Landmarks Shore Theater

March 8, 2010: March 23: Rescuing Coney Island’s Shore Theater from 35 Years of Neglect

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Film shoot

Crew shooting at the Coney Island Cyclone for an upcoming Travel Channel series on Boardwalks. July 21, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

Last weekend a crew from Indigo Films was in Coney Island on a two-day shoot for an upcoming Travel Channel series. The new show is tentatively titled “Amazing Boardwalk Empires.” They filmed Coney Island’s 22nd Annual Sand Sculpting Contest and some of the features of the boardwalk as well as Luna Park and Scream Zone, the Cyclone, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, the Coney Island History Project, the Coney Island Sideshow and Lola Star Boutique. Coney Island was selected for the show because the Riegelmann Boardwalk is among the top beach boardwalks in the country on lists as various as National Geographic, Travel & Leisure and USA Today.

Film Shoot

Extra being outfitted with GoPro helmet cam to ride the Air Race, Luna Park. July 21, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

In the photo above, one of the extras is being mounted with a GoPro helmet cam to ride Zamperla’s Air Race, according to photographer Jim McDonnell. The HD camera is used a lot in shooting sports and POV videos. In the photo below, taken inside the Coney Island History Project exhibit center, Amanda Deutch is being interviewed about the history of Coney’s Boardwalk, where she leads walking tours for the History Project.

Indigo Films is an award-winning independent television production company that has produced such Travel Channel shows as Insane Coaster Wars and America’s Most Haunted Places. The Travel Channel series on Boardwalks is expected to air in September.

Travel Channel Shoot

Travel Channel Interviewing Amanda Deutch at Coney Island History Project. July 21, 2012. Photo © Coney Island History Project

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

September 16, 2010: Luna Park Coney Island: Zamperla Air Race On-Ride POV Video

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The Zipper was a thrill ride on West 12th Street in Coney Island. Now it’s the title of Amy Nicholson’s new documentary about the rezoning and redevelopment of Coney Island. “A small-time ride operator and his beloved carnival contraption become casualties in the battle over the future of Coney Island” is the film’s capsule description. The trailer was released the other day and it will make you want to see the movie, even if you think you know how the redevelopment turned out.

The Bloomberg administration succeeded in “saving” Coney Island by buying it from Thor Equities, didn’t they? That’s what you’d believe from some of the news stories and statistics released this summer. “Coney Island, Renewed but Recognizable,” says the New York Times. Ah, but the story is far from over. What kind of vision will future Mayors have for Coney Island? Before the lease on Luna Park expires in December 2020, the City plans to issue an RFP for a permanent amusement operator. Meanwhile, six years after evicting the Zipper, Thor CEO Joe Sitt is sitting on property rezoned for 30-story hotels and advertising his first new building in Coney Island as “The Retail Ride of a Lifetime.”

We’ve been following @TheZipper on twitter over the past year and get a kick out of their tweets referring to “Zipper star Amanda Burden,” “Zipper star Domenic Recchia” and “Zipper star Joe Sitt,” among others. We imagined the Director of the New York City Department of City Planning, Coney Island’s City Councilman and Thor’s CEO on the red carpet, now here they are in the trailer. A grinning Joe Sitt shows off a framed T-shirt with his self-proclaimed nickname “Joey Coney Island” and rattles off the names of businesses that might come to his Coney Island: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Dave and Buster’s, Hard Rock, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Ugh. Sounds like Any Vacation Spot, USA.

We’d say “Bring Back Coney Island’s Zipper,” but it was sold to a carnival operator in a beach town in Honduras, where it’s still thrilling riders, according to the film-maker, who went to see it one last time. The Honduras footage will provide a satisfying coda to the film which Nicholson and cinematographer Jerry Risius have been working on for the past five years. But what happened to its owner, independent ride operator Eddie Miranda? In the trailer, he says his days in Coney Island are pretty much over. The Zipper film’s new website also debuted this week.

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November 15, 2012: Zipper: Coney Island Documentary Debuts at DOC NYC

March 27, 2012: Video of the Day: Eldorado Auto Skooter at Coney Island (2011)

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

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

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