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Archive for August, 2012

Coney Island Fireworks

Electric Eden Revisited: Friday Night Fireworks with Wonder Wheel in Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy

Tonight in Coney Island, the sky will light up with a pyrotechnic display rivaling that of last week’s “Electric Eden Revisited” in this fabulous photo by Bruce Handy. It’s the last Friday night fireworks of the summer and is expected to be spectacular. Best viewing is on the Boardwalk from West 10th to West 12th Streets, on the Wonder Wheel or from Steeplechase Pier.

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May 13, 2012: Coney Island Fireworks 2012: Fridays, 4 Saturdays & July 4th

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

April 29, 2012: Photo of the Day: Space Shuttle Over Coney Island’s Parachute Jump

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

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Lighthouse

Lighthouse at Place To Beach Bar, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Coney Island Lighthouse in the gated community of Sea Gate on the Island’s west end isn’t open to the public, but a cute new mini-lighthouse has popped up on the Boardwalk. It’s the beacon atop Zamperla’s PTB bar currently under construction on the Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue. According to the inscription on the weathervane, “Every Wind Leads to PTB Bar.” Word on the street is that PTB – short for Place to Beach— will serve Tex-Mex food and open next year instead of sometime in the next few weeks. Will it be ready in time to ring in the New Year with the Polar Bear Swim? Who will be the lighthouse keeper?

Located on the former site of Steve’s Grill House and Beer Island, the new addition to Coney’s skyline is adjacent to Scream Zone’s Skycoaster and Go Karts. As we wrote in “Opening Soon? Zipline, Tom’s Coney Island, Place to Beach Bar” (ATZ, August 15, 2012), three Coney Island businesses originally scheduled to open this summer were hoping to get in what’s left of the season. The long-awaited Zipline is completed but still not open due to permitting issues. Tom’s and PTB are still “under construction.” After Labor Day, most of the amusement rides remain open weekends through the end of October. Nathan’s on Surf Avenue, the New York Aquarium and Coney Island Beach Shop are open daily year-round. Among the new or refurbished stores on the Boardwalk, Tom’s Coney Island, Ruby’s Bar and Brooklyn Beach Shop expect to stay open nine months of the year for now, ATZ has learned from the owners.

Coney Island Skyline

PTB Lighthouse Joins the Parachute Jump and Skycoaster on the Coney Island Skyline. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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August 22, 2012: Photo Album: Magic Gyro & Coney Island Gourmet Food

August 10, 2012: Steeplechase Plaza Under Construction in Coney Island

August 2, 2012: New Building Breaks Ground Next to Coney Island’s Stillwell Terminal

June 23, 2012: Opening Today: Coney Island Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

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Oh joy! Oh bliss, wait till you see this! We just happened to come across raw footage shot in 1960s and perhaps 1950s Coney Island from the collection of Anthology Film Archives. The first clip titled “Coney Island – Night – Silent work-print” has atmospheric scenes of a grand carousel, amusement games and Nathan’s packed with people. Based on the signage and prizes–games where you can win teddy bears and table lamps for a quarter–the era is the late 1950s or early ’60s. Frankfurters cost 20 cents and knishes and chow mein are 15 cents.

Do you remember the carousel in the clip? It’s not the B&B Carousell, which is returning to Coney Island next year. Historian Charles Denson tells ATZ it looks like a carousel on the Boardwalk at 16th Street that was operated by the McCullough family. It was called the Steeplechase Carousel. In the film, you can actually see “Steeplechase Carousel” lettered on the back of the ride attendant’s shirt. He’s one of the guys with a cigarette dangling from his lips as he straps kids on the horses. Before you say eeewww, remember this was back in the “good old days,” when it was normal for people, especially James Dean-esque ride boys, to chain-smoke. Other clues to the carousel’s identity are the mesmerizing animated figures on the band organ and a bell inscribed 1943.

In the Nathan’s scene, men in white paper hats flip a dozen hot dogs at once and neatly place each order on a silver pedestal cake stand. Condiments are served in a communal bowl! Besides hot dogs, Nathan’s had roast beef, barbecue, chow mein and “crispy pizza.” Are you ready for lunch yet?

The second Coney Island clip is described as unsplit 8mm, color, silent, Summer 1969, from the Bob Parent Collection. We were excited to find rare footage of what appears to be the Flying Saucer in action at Astroland’s Kiddie Park. It was among the first rides in the park, which was “Born at the Dawn of the Space Age.”

The AFA has a large uncatalogued collection of unedited amateur films from Parent, a famed photographer of jazz musicians who also made 8MM films and wrote a column for the movie magazine Take One. What other gems will be discovered in the collection?

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July 26, 2012: Film Trailer: Zipper, Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride

May 12, 2011: “Last Summer at Coney Island” Airs on PBS, DVD Offers Epilogue

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

September 27, 2010: Video: The Museum of Wax by Charles Ludlam

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The New Childs Restaurant

The New Childs Restaurant on the Riegelmann Boardwalk, August 1924. Eugene L. Armbruster Collection, New York Public Library

Earlier this week, NY1 reported the excellent news that the City plans to develop the former Childs Restaurant building on the Boardwalk and an adjacent lot into an entertainment complex. It will be the new home of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s popular Seaside Summer Concerts. First we felt surprise, since the building was not on the market, and then a mixture of elation and relief.

It’s been sad to see Coney Island’s terracotta palace by the sea boarded up for the past few years after being enlivened by the Mermaid Parade Ball and Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Rink. Yet it’s hard to pass by without taking photos of its ornamental ships, seashells, fish and King Neptunes. When a tourist recently tweeted a photo describing the Childs as “the ruins,” we didn’t have the heart to respond. The 1923 Spanish Colonial Revival style building was designated a City landmark in 2003.

Terra-cotta

Detail of terracotta ornamentation on Childs Building. July 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Luckily, the City has the funds to bring the building back to life since the Borough President will be able to use $50 million already set aside for a $64 million amphitheater in Seaside Park that was halted by a lawsuit. This is great news because if the money wasn’t spent by the time his third term ends in December 2013, it would go back into the public coffers and be lost to Coney Island.

Taconic Investment Partners, which owns approximately four blocks west and north of MCU Park, also holds a 99-year lease on the Childs building. The NY1 report didn’t say whether the City would acquire the lease from the development company or buy the building from the owner. Back in 2007, Brooklyn’s blogfather Bob Guskind described Taconic as “Coney Island’s Sleeper Megadeveloper” and it’s still an apt description. The developer began buying property in 2005 but has yet to develop anything in Coney Island.

“Taconic is in the process of evaluating the economics of a planned development for some or all of our holdings,” according to a web page about their “Coney Island, North and South Ventures.” That’s been the message for the longest time, probably because the economy and inadequate infrastructure put a dent in their plans. The 2009 rezoning allows Taconic to build nearly 2,000 residential units and more than 200,000 square feet of retail west and north of MCU. A restaurant and catering hall were part of the original plans for the Childs building. Dreamland Roller Rink operated rent-free for two years until 2010, when the high cost of insurance caused Taconic to shutter the space.

Dreamland Roller Rink

Lola Staar’s Dreamland Roller Rink. August 2, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

According to NY1, the lot west of the building will also be developed as part of the entertainment complex. The City-owned lot is the community garden pictured below. Right now it’s filled with tomatoes and sunflowers. Taconic owns the land east of the building, the former Washington Baths site. Thor Equities bought the vacant lot from Horace Bullard for $13 million and then flipped it to Taconic for an exorbitant $90 million because both parties were sure the City would rezone it for residential.

The Washington Baths site has been the temporary home of the Seaside Concert Series for the past two summers and for the Ringling Circus in 2009 and 2010. During the rest of the year, it is used as a school bus parking lot.

UPDATE September 26, 2013:

The City’s plan to convert the former restaurant into an amphitheater for live concerts is now working its way through City Planning and the City Council approval, though it was voted down by the community board. “Clock Ticking on Plan for the Landmark Childs Building,” ATZ, September 25, 2013.

community garden

Coney Island Community Garden adjacent to Childs Building. July 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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January 24, 2013: Occupy Sandy’s New Warehouse in Coney Island Landmark

August 2, 2012: New Building Breaks Ground Next to Coney Island’s Stillwell Terminal

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

February 17, 2011: New Construction: Coney Island’s 1st Private Beachfront Condos on Boardwalk

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Magic Gyro

Magic Gyro at Coney Island Gourmet Food. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Since Coney Island Gourmet Food opened in Stillwell Terminal in November, its Turkish-American owners have kept it stocked with a variety of imported chocolate bars, cookies and bulk nuts, as well as freshly baked bread, teas and grocery items. It struck us as a convenient place to stop by on the way home from work rather than on the way to the beach. A “Magic Gyro” sign on the Stillwell Avenue facade and a corner kitchen were a promise of home-made take-out food to come. The kitchen finally opened for business a few weeks ago and ATZ was delighted to find some vegetarian options, which are scarce in Coney Island’s amusement area.

Magic Gyro

Magic Gyro at Coney Island Gourmet Food. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In addition to chicken and veal sandwiches and entrees served with rice and salad, the menu offers falafel, hummus, babganoush, haydari (yogurt flavored with garlic, herbs and olive oil) and stuffed vine leaves. The food is very reasonably priced. A salad with pita bread is $2.99-$4.99, red lentil balls are 2 for $1.00, and spinach pie is $2.99. Last season, Coney Cones on the Boardwalk had panini but has taken it off their menu to focus on sweets and we miss it. We were happy to find the item available here for $3.49.

Magic Gyro

Magic Gyro at Coney Island Gourmet Food. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Did we mention that Coney Island Gourmet has the coldest air-conditioning in all of Coney Island? When we stopped by on one of those killer days in August, the cashier was wearing a polar fleece jacket. The cold drinks in the cooler are dazzling to look at and ice cold.

Magic Gyro

Cold drinks at Coney Island Gourmet Food. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

For dessert, try something different: Zefir, a traditional Russian marshmallow-like treat. Manager Umut Ozalp tells ATZ that the shop also has outposts at Brighton Beach, Kings Highway and 86th Street.

Coney Island Gourmet Foods, 2943 Stillwell Avenue (inside Stillwell Terminal), Brooklyn. 718-373-8400.

UPDATE April 5, 2013

Magic Gyro is closed. They have yet to rebuild and re-open after flood damage from Superstorm Sandy in October.

Zefir

Zefir at Coney Island Gourmet Food. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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July 17, 2012: 50 Years on Coney Island Boardwalk for Paul & His Daughter

June 23, 2012: Opening Today: Coney Island Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

January 28, 2012: Lost Delights of Coney Island: Frozen Custard

June 9, 2011: Photo of the Day: Mango Vendor in Coney Island

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Takahiro Iwasaki

Out of Disorder (ConeyIsland) 2012 by Takahiro Iwasaki. Courtesy of C24Gallery

The 180-metric ton Wonder Wheel inspired this ethereal ten-inch tall sculpture by Hiroshima-based artist Takahiro Iwasaki. Along with neighboring Coney Island landmarks the Parachute Jump and Cyclone, the piece is on view at C24 Gallery in Chelsea through August 24. Titled “Out of Disorder (Coney Island) 2012,” the miniature models are made of fibers pulled from the beach towels on which they are perched!

“Takahiro Iwasaki builds exquisite, intricate, almost impossibly tiny structures, associated with industrial society and faith traditions on micro landscapes (of towels and other domestic fabrics) that seem one breath away from destruction,” according to the gallery’s release for the group show “Becoming: Worlds in Flux.” Curator Melissa Keys and all of the artists were 2012 residents at the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) in Brooklyn.

“Becoming: Worlds in Flux” through August 24, 2012 at C24 Gallery, 514 West 24th Street, New York, NY, 646-416-6300

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July 6, 2012: Photo of the Day: Art on the Move in Coney Island

September 28, 2011: Rare & Vintage: Auction of French Fairground Art

September 17, 2011: Photography: Floating Above the Coney Island Boardwalk

October 4, 2009: The Wonder of Artist Philomena Marano’s Wonder Wheel

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Stillwell Avenue West

BK Festival Vendors and Zipline, Stillwell Avenue West, Coney Island. August 18, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Saturday, the BK Festival vendors were happy to be back in business selling sunglasses, hats, dresses and what have you after a two-week hiatus caused by the construction of the Coney Island Zipline. The Stillwell Avenue lot where their tents are pitched was no longer a construction site because the zipline is built, though it did not open for the weekend.

Why not? A zipline crew member told ATZ one of the required permits had not been applied for and blamed the festival management. One of the vendors said the zipline would never open because Mayor Bloomberg had his own and didn’t want any competition! Was he referring to the free zipline at the City’s Summer Streets, which ended on August 18th? Does that mean another vendor’s prediction that Coney’s zipline would open next weekend is true? We probably should have asked Ana, the BK Festival’s resident psychic.

If you’re rarin’ to go ziplining in Coney Island, watch magicalthemepark’s video below of the ride being tested several days ago and wish you were there.

UPDATE September 12, 2012

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August 14, 2012: Opening Soon? Zipline, Tom’s Coney Island, Place to Beach Bar

August 10, 2012: Steeplechase Plaza Under Construction in Coney Island

August 2, 2012: New Building Breaks Ground Next to Coney Island’s Stillwell Terminal

June 28, 2012: Zip Line Coming to Coney Island’s Stillwell Avenue in July

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