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Archive for September, 2012

Miss Coney Island

The Dancing Doll Miss Coney Island. August 28, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

If you haven’t danced with Miss Coney Island yet, there are only a few weeks left before our friend goes to winter-quarters. On weekends, you’ll find her standing behind a window on West 12th Street across from the Steeplechase coaster. It costs “25 cents to fall in LOVE” and “25 cents to smile,” say the signs, but quarters don’t pay the rent in Coney Island. The dancing doll depends on income from Skin the Wire and neighboring games of skill to get by. Bring a whole roll of quarters with you!

Miss Coney Island

The Dancing Doll Miss Coney Island. August 28, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

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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Astrotower Luna Park Gate

Illuminated Astrotower and Luna Park Gate, Coney Island. September 27, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy

Last night, Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy was surprised to see a sight that hasn’t been seen since Astroland Park closed forever on September 7, 2008. The Astrotower, which has been standing but not operating since before the park closed, was illuminated. It makes us happy to see it lit! Bruce speculates that Luna Park technicians were testing the electrical hookup for future lighting of the tower. We wonder if they will light it for the park’s Halloween Horror Nights, which begin in mid-October. In the close-up shot below you can see they are using the bare bulbs that originally lit the tower and have not installed LEDs. Why has it taken so long?

Astrotower

Closeup of illuminated Astrotower. September 27, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy

Ever since Luna Park was built on the former Astroland site in April 2010, there’s been talk of Zamperla repurposing the tower as signage or possibly restoring it as a ride. Since nothing was done, the 270-foot observation tower got rusty and started to look like a neglected stepchild amid the glittering new rides on the skyline. Earlier this month, when a similar tower at Cedar Point was imploded, a fan on Luna Park’s Facebook page asked if the Astrotower would have the same fate. The answer was reassuring: “The Astrotower is going to stay up for posterity,” according to an official post on Luna Park’s Facebook. “It’s an historic ride. Luna Park will re-paint the ride, but it will no longer take guests up to give them views of Coney Island.”

According to the Coney Island History Project, the $1.7 million Astrotower was manufactured by the Swiss company Von Roll and installed in 1964. “It required a foundation of 1,100 tons of concrete and 13 tons of steel reinforcing bars. Like Astroland’s other space-age themed rides, the tower was built specifically for the park.” The Municipal Art Society and Save Coney Island have said the structure is eligible for the State and National Registers. We’d love to be able to ride the Astrotower once again. If that’s not in the stars, let’s hope it will be refurbished and illuminated like Steeplechase Park survivor the Parachute Jump.

UPDATE September 29, 2012

This evening, Luna Park confirmed on their Facebook page that the tower will be illuminated, but not reactivated as a ride. “Our electricians are testing the lighting system as we finalize plans to paint and rewire parts of the tower. The Astrotower will not operate as a ride – instead it will provide Coney Island with a spectacular, night-time extravaganza. Look to the Coney Island skies for some exciting new developments in 2013…”

It’s great news that the once proud and now forlorn looking tower will be a bright spot on the skyline of the new Coney Island. The painted and illuminated Astrotower will compliment the bling-y lights promised for the Parachute Jump in Steeplechase Plaza, which is set to open next season.

At the same time, we’re not buying the statement that “The Astrotower will not operate as a ride.” Perhaps it should be qualified with the two words “in 2013”? It’s hard to believe that Zamperla, one of the world’s largest ride manufacturers, can’t come up with a plan to reactivate the tower as a ride. Is it a matter of money or current priorities? In 2014, the tower will be 50 years old. The only question is when the Luna Park Astrotower opens, will the Zamperlas be serving bagels and lox as Jerry Albert did when the ride known as the bagel in the sky because of its circular car debuted in Astroland?

Astrotower

Astrotower and landmark Wonder Wheel, Coney Island. September 27, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy

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July 8, 2012: Video of the Day: Coney Island Lights by Jim McDonnell

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

April 14, 2012: Astroland Bumper Cars Return Home to Coney Island

May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

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Terminal Hotel, Mermaid Ave and Stillwell Ave, Coney Island. May 26, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

An Unexpected Encounter

I went to Moe’s Used Books
in Coney Island to look for
The Joys of Yinglish,
long out of print
and even though
it was the last week in September
the temperature hovered
in the mid 80s
and Moe’s store lacked an air-conditioner
because all his meager profits
would have been eaten up
by the cost of electricity. Soon I was
sweating and barely able
to breathe
my throat tight and swollen
so I needed
a cool liquid quickly
and plodded along Surf Avenue
to Corn Queen
and ordered a large root beer
but in this particular establishment
they don’t give you an item
until the money has been
deposited in their cash register.
I pulled out a fifty
all I had with me
placed it on the counter
and reached for the root beer
but the guy grabbed the cup
pointing to a sign on the wall:
no bills larger than $20 accepted.
For some reason I blurted out,
“Turn on the air-conditioner,
why don’t you?
It’s like the equator in here.”
He simply smiled.
“Look, I been coming in here
for twenty years.
Lemme drink,
then I’ll get change.”
He shook his head.
“Where’s the owner, Two Ton Tony?
He knows me.”
“Deceased, ” he said.
When I heard that
my knees buckled
and I clutched the counter. Suddenly
a woman appeared
placing a dollar bill on the counter.
“For the big man,” she said.
I immediately snatched
the soda
gulping it down,
then I turned to her
saying, “Thanks.”
She was a prostitute.
The outfit
plus make-up
gave her away
and one word led to another
and soon we were
in room 11 of the Terminal Hotel.
The dear woman
accepted
bills
larger than a twenty.

10/25/2005. Copyright © Charles Chaim Wax
via poemhunter.com

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September 29, 2011: Coney Island Poem from the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project

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One of the films in ATZ’s “5 Coney Must-Sees at the Coney Island Film Festival” is now on YouTube after premiering over the weekend. “Gotta Love Coney Island” by Brooklyn native and Coney Island regular Jay Singer is frenetic and hypnotic. If you’re at work, you may want to adjust the volume before watching. The soundtrack is Faith No More’s “Woodpecker from Mars.”

Scenes of the filmmaker being catapulted into the sky in Scream Zone’s Slingshot are intercut with vintage footage of Steeplechase Park’s Parachute Jump and Human Pool Table. “It is 275 separate scenes at various speeds composited into a ‘one reel’ experimental film,” Jay told ATZ last week. “The goal was to capture the ‘pulse’ of Coney Island on a busy day, with intercuts of vintage footage filmed by my grandfather alongside contemporary footage of my own.” “Gotta Love Coney Island” is dedicated to Scott Fitlin, the operator and DJ extraordinaire of the Eldorado Bumper Cars, which appears at the beginning of the film.

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

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

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

November 30, 2010: Video: The Wanted’s Lose My Mind at Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel Park

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Tom's Coney Island

First Brunch at Tom’s Coney Island. September 23, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

Coney Island resident and photographer Bruce Handy was one of the first customers at Tom’s Coney Island’s soft opening at 9am this morning. “I had two eggs over easy, home fries, whole wheat toast and coffee, all good,” said Bruce, who posted these photos of Tom’s first Sunday brunch on his Coney Island Photo Diary.

Are they serving pancakes yet? “Not sure, guy next to me had waffles,” he said. On Friday, Tom’s manager told ATZ the full menu will be identical to that of Tom’s Prospect Heights location with the addition of seafood entrees, but their famous pancakes and some other items may not be available just yet. We’ll let you know later. ATZ’s afternoon plans include popping into Tom’s before heading over to a screening of four of these five Coney-themed films at the Coney Island Film Festival.

Update… Yes, Tom’s Coney Island has pancakes! We tried the Danish pancakes made with ricotta cheese and served with a choice of flavored butter. Delicious! Breakfast is served all day. Our friend had the turkey club sandwich which is his favorite at Tom’s in Prospect Heights. Vegetarians will be happy to know there’s a vegie burger on the menu and it is cooked on a grill separate from the one used for meat.  Owner Jimmy Kokotas says weekday hours are 8am till 5pm.  On weekends, he hopes to stay open till 7pm. In addition, Tom’s has a liquor license and is serving beer. Other alcoholic drinks will be available after they get a delivery, probably the end of the week or next week. At that time, beer and alcohol will be on a separate menu.

Tom’s Coney Island is located on the Boardwalk at the corner of Stillwell Avenue. Though the restaurant is opening near the end of the amusement park season due to months of construction, it is expected to initially remain open at least nine months of the year. We predict it will become a neighborhood favorite. Join us in welcoming Tom’s to Coney Island by dropping by for breakfast or lunch!

Tom’s Coney Island, 1229 Boardwalk (at Stillwell Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11224. Phone 718-942-4200

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This rare footage from 1992 is all that remains of the Mite Mouse roller coaster, which was in Coney Island for just a few seasons. Nestled against the Jumbo Jet, seen in the background, the little coaster kept a low profile. When YouTube user swampfoxer posted this video clip of two friends riding the Mite Mouse, he noted that “most people I know that frequent Coney Island never knew it was even there. Guess I picked the lucky year to visit Coney Island.” His footage of the Jumbo Jet, shot the same day, was featured in “Remembering Coney Island’s Jumbo Jet Coaster 1972-2002” (ATZ, April 21, 2011).

The first Mite Mouse came out of the Allan Herschell factory in North Tonawanda, New York, in 1959 and traveled with Conklin Shows. The manufacturer described the ride as “extremely portable and ideal for smaller carnivals and such permanent installations which want a Mouse ride but do not require the larger Mad Mouse.” The Coney Island ride had previously operated at a park in Ocean City, Maryland, where it was called Miller’s Gold Mine.

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Tom's Coney Island

Tom’s Coney Island Under Construction on the Boardwalk. August 25, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The long-awaited opening of Tom’s on the Coney Island Boardwalk is planned for this weekend, the manager at the restaurant’s Prospect Heights location told ATZ. We phoned Tom’s for confirmation after hearing from a friend who is a regular customer that Saturday was the day. Characterizing Saturday’s debut as a “soft opening” with the grand opening yet to come, the manager said “we’re trying to work out some last-minute details. Worst case scenario it will be Sunday. That’s why we’re not publicizing it.”

The full menu will be identical to that of the original location with the addition of seafood entrees, but their famous pancakes and some other items may not be available this Saturday. Asked if we could go in and sit down and order an omelette and coffee, the manager said yes. Sounds like a plan for Sunday brunch! In this Brooklyn Independent Television segment on the popular Tom’s of Prospect Heights, owner Jimmy Kokotas says a combination of “the homey feeling, the service and the food” have made his family’s restaurant a neighborhood favorite since 1936.

Tom’s Coney Island is located on the Boardwalk at the corner of Stillwell Avenue. Though it is opening near the end of the amusement park season, the new restaurant is expected to initially remain open at least nine months of the year. The former location of Nathan’s and Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis (as well as the original Club Atlantis) required by far the most work and investment of any of the rehabbed Boardwalk stores. Due to structural issues, the place had to be completely gutted and rebuilt, including the roof and some of the brickwork. Windows were installed in the west wall. A new roof deck for alfresco dining will have spectacular views of the beach and boardwalk. Nathan’s moved to the Boardwalk and West 12th Street and Cha Cha’s relocated to the north side of Surf across from the original Nathan’s.

UPDATE September 23, 2012:

Yes, the full menu including pancakes is available! See Photo Album: First Brunch at Tom’s Coney Island by Bruce Handy

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