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Archive for October, 2012

Burger Girl

Burger Girl at Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island. November 13, 2010. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Have you seen Mama Burger? It seems that she was swept off the roof of Paul’s Daughter on the Coney Island Boardwalk by Hurricane Sandy. We’re not sure of her exact size but she’s smaller than Papa Burger who anchors the other end of the roof. He is 10 feet tall, 6 feet wide, and weighs 250 pounds. The Burger figures known as the A & W Root Beer Family were first made in the 1963 and are catalogued on Debra Jane Seltzer’s website roadsidearchitecture.com.

On Tuesday, Mama’s burger was spotted at West 15th Street by a photographer but Mama herself remains a missing person. Tina Georgoulakos, owner of Paul’s Daughter, wrote in an email to ATZ: “She must have blown away, We don’t know where she is. After all these years!!” If you find her please contact Paul’s Daughter at 917-607-4960 or via Facebook.

UPDATE November 12, 2012

GOOD NEWS: Mama Burger was found but her burger, last seen on 15th Street, is still missing. Update from Paul’s Daughter: “Just wanted to let you know that we found Mama Burger!! I posted about it on FB but wanted to let you know as well. She was on the roof, Burger-less and Beer-less but ok. We tried to find the Burger on 15th street (where someone posted a picture of it) but we couldn’t find it. At least we have her. Now we just have to get all of the sand out of the store.”

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Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Surf Avenue: Flood Line on Coney Island Mural. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

Jim McDonnell, whose beautiful photos and videos of Coney Island’s amusement area are frequently featured on ATZ, took this heartbreaking set of pix on Tuesday morning, the day after Hurricane Sandy struck. As you can see in the above photo of fellow photographer Bruce Handy at Surf and Stillwell Avenues, the flood line is at about 5 feet. During the peak of the storm, Surf Avenue as well as Mermaid and Neptune Avenues and adjacent streets were submerged in water that came from the bay, Coney Island Creek, overflowing sewers and the rising tide. In an image seen on the Coney Island webcam on October 29 at 7:53pm, the amusement parks appeared to be surrounded by a moat.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Surf Avenue, Coney Island: Interior of Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

Looking down from his apartment window high above the Aquarium, Bruce texted ATZ on Monday night at 9pm: “Coney completely flooded. Cars floating. Car on fire.” On Tuesday morning a tour of the area began to reveal the damage. Sad to see Grimaldi’s metal gate gave way to Sandy and the interior of the popular new pizzeria wrecked by the wind and flood waters. We dined there just a few days ago and it is one of our faves! The cobwebs in the above photo, which were part of the Halloween decor, look genuinely eerie. Eldorado Auto Skooter, Game World Arcade, Coney Island USA, Denny’s Ice Cream, Popeye’s, the Coney Island History Project and the game booths on both West 12th Street and the Bowery were flooded with 4 to 5 feet of water and left with interior damage yet to be assessed. November 1st Update: Also flooded in Coney’s amusement area were Nathan’s, the stores in Stillwell Terminal, the Wonder Wheel side of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the Aquarium. In fact all of the buildings on Surf, Mermaid and Neptune Avenues from one end of Coney Island to the other were inundated by the flood waters.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Surf Avenue, Coney Island: Shore Theater. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

The sign on the Shore Theater, a New York City landmark which is vacant and for sale, was twisted and appeared to be hanging by a thread. The street was blocked off with caution tape in case it fell. Coney’s landmark rides–the Cyclone, Wonder Wheel and Parachute Jump–stood their ground against Sandy, but Steeplechase Pier was damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Steeplechase Pier, Coney Island. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

While the sand was piled up two feet high on the Boardwalk, the sandbagged stores–including Ruby’s, Lola Star and Brooklyn Beach Shop–suffered blessedly little or no damage. On Monday night at 7pm, Jimmy Kokotas of Tom’s Coney Island came to check on his store. This morning he told ATZ that he managed to get out just in time before the flood waters starting rising on Surf Avenue.

Maya Haddad of Brooklyn Beach Shop said she was very grateful that the Parks Department put up sand walls to protect the boardwalk businesses. She was able to get into her shop on Tuesday and was happy to find no water damage from the storm surge. “It didn’t look like any water got in,” Maya said. On Stillwell Avenue it was another story: “Coney Island Beach Shop was flooded 4 feet high. Most merchandise and fixtures destroyed. Wasn’t able to get into the shop in the train station either. I will assume the merchandise there was most likely also damaged.” November 21 Update: While the Boardwalk businesses escaped structural damage, with the exception of Tom’s and Paul’s Daughter, all have electrical issues due to flooded basements and do not yet have power. The two parks have partial power or are using generators. The entire neighborhood is suffering from the same situation. Many have to redo the electrical wiring before they can get power restored.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Coney Island Boardwalk: Ruby’s Bar and Lola Star Boutique. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

A beloved icon is gone though. “So sad, it looks like Mama Burger is missing,” said Tina Georgoulakos, owner of Paul’s Daughter, in an email to ATZ. “She must have blown away, We don’t know where she is. After all these years!!” Papa Burger, the other half of the A & W root beer duo, withstood Sandy and anchors the other end of the building. “One of the gates blew open during the storm so the store is filled with sand but its way better than what happened on Surf,” Tina added. November 1st: GOOD NEWS Update from Paul’s Daughter: “Just wanted to let you know that we found Mama Burger!! I posted about it on FB but wanted to let you know as well. She was on the roof, Burger-less and Beer-less but ok. We tried to find the Burger on 15th street (where someone posted a picture of it) but we couldn’t find it. At least we have her. Now we just have to get all of the sand out of the store.”

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Coney Island Boardwalk: Mama Burger Blown Off Roof of Paul’s Daughter. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

Deno’s Wonder Wheel, built in 1920, has withstood many a storm including this historic hurricane. On Monday morning, co-owner Steve Vourderis put extra cables on the Wheel to further secure the landmark from Hurricane Sandy’s high winds.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Coney Island Boardwalk: Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

Luna Park, which took down its Halloween mazes and prepped for Sandy on Sunday, thankfully appeared to have no visible damage to the rides. A steel fence at the new Scream Zone annex was bent, but the 85-year-old Cyclone roller coaster withstood the storm. However, waterlogged equipment and cleanup is a concern for all of the parks, arcades and other businesses in Coney Island’s amusement area.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Coney Island Boardwalk: Scream Zone Fence. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

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Hurricane Sandy at Sea Gate

Hurricane Sandy: Waves Crashing at Sea Gate on the western end of Coney Island. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

This morning as Hurricane Sandy moved toward New Jersey and New York City, Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project snapped these dramatic photos at Sea Gate and Steeplechase Pier in Coney Island. The bulkheads at Sea Gate are already washing out, Denson said.

“History is being written as an extreme weather event continues to unfold, one which will occupy a place in the annals of weather history as one of the most extraordinary to have affected the United States,” said meteorologist Stu Ostro in a Weather Channel blog post. For Coney Island, the crucial time is during tonight’s full moon high tide at 8:22 PM, when a surge of 9 to 10 feet is possible say meteorologists.

Hurricane Sandy Steeplechase Pier

Hurricane Sandy: Steeplechase Pier, Coney Island. October 29, 2012. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

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Pink Sandbags

Boutique Owner Lola Star Filling Pink Sandbags as the Storm Blows in. Photo © @Lola_Star_ via twitter

Sandbagging was a popular Sunday pastime on the Coney Island beach and boardwalk in advance of the arrival of mega-storm Sandy. Lola Star boutique owner Dianna Carlin, whose famously fave color is pink, spent the day filling pink sandbags with the help of friends and customers. “Both shops successfully secured with pink sandbags! Now to secure my production/ design studio by the water,” she tweeted. Her neighbors on the Boardwalk, Brooklyn Beach Shop and Tom’s Coney Island, opted for basic black. A double row of white sandbags were placed across the front of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Skee-Ball Arcade.

Brooklyn Beach Shop

Sandy Prep: Steve Miller Sandbagging at Brooklyn Beach Shop, Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

Lola Star’s adorable pink sandbags and cheerful tweets were a welcome contrast to today’s anxiety-inducing news. This morning, Mayor Bloomberg issued a mandatory evacuation order for Zone A, which includes all of Coney Island, from Sea Gate to Brighton Beach, and other low-lying parts of the City. A significant storm surge is expected on Monday and Tuesday along with possible power outages. Watch the Coney Island Cam to keep an eye on Coney’s beloved Cyclone, Wonder Wheel and Parachute Jump during the storm.

Coney Island’s amusement parks–Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Luna Park and Scream Zone–had to end the season one day early to prep for Sandy. Park workers removed Halloween props as well as tables, chairs, garbage cans and canvas. Some of the rides like Luna Park’s Brooklyn Flyer and Deno’s carousel were partially dismantled. Other rides were folded up or secured.

Sandy Prep in Coney Island

Sandy Prep: Sandbags at Skee-Ball Arcade in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. October 27, 2012. Photo by Deno’s Wonder Wheel via flickr

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Dancing Cat

Miss Coney Island’s Dancing Cat, West 12th Street, Coney Island. October 14, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

As the sign on the window housing “Miss Coney Island” says: “DON’T POSTPONE JOY.” This weekend is your last chance to spend 25 cents to fall in love with the famed dancing doll and her dancing cat. Located on West 12th Street across from the Steeplechase coaster, the mechanical duo are dolled up for Saturday’s Halloween festivities. There’s no charge to take a souvenir photo, but we suggest you bring a roll of quarters to spend on Miss Coney Island and the neighboring miniature animated rides of “Coney Island Always” and Skin the Wire game before they close for the winter.

Souvenir Photo with Miss Coney Island

Visitors Pose for Souvenir Photo with Miss Coney Island. October 14, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Sunset over Coney Carnival

Sunset over Coney Carnival, Luna Park. October 12, 2012. Photo © Luna Park Coney Island via flickr

October sunsets in Coney Island have been intense, a last burst of light and color before the Boardwalk amusement parks shutter for the season. This weekend is your last chance to go for a spin on Coney’s rides until next year’s Palm Sunday opener on March 24, 2013! On Saturday and Sunday, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Luna Park and Scream Zone open at 12 noon. For kids, there’s Saturday’s Halloween Parade, the New York Aquarium’s Ascarium, Spook-A-Rama at Deno’s and Game World’s Haunted Arcade.

Coney’s Halloween haunts start at 6pm with Nights of Horror featuring two mazes and unlimited rides at Luna Park (October 26 thru 28 27). Dick Zigun’s play “Dirty Work at the Wax Works” runs hourly at CreepShow at the Freak Show (October 25 thru 31 27, October 31 TBD). Beginning at 9pm on Friday night, it’ll be “Bump Bump Bump Your Ass Off” for the last time in 2012 and possibly forever– though we hope not– at Coney Island’s Eldorado Disco Palace of Bumper Cars. The last ride weekend party continues on Saturday night and into Sunday morning with go go dancers, a Skeeball Contest, unlimited Bumper car rides and a raffle of Eldorado tricks and treats.

Eldorado Auto Skooter

Eldorado Auto Skooter, Coney Island. September 3, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Does this mean Coney Island’s beach and boardwalk close after Halloween? Not at all. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club goes for their first Sunday swim of the season beginning in November. The high point of the Polar Bear season is the New Year’s Day Plunge, which attracted a record 3,000 swimmers this year and an even bigger crowd of onlookers.

Owners of a few of the new and the newly renovated Boardwalk businesses including Tom’s Coney Island, Ruby’s Bar, Brooklyn Beach Shop and Lola Star Boutique tell ATZ they hope to stay open year-round. “Already our shelves are filling up with tons of new holiday gift items and there’s lots more on the way. We are in it for the long haul,” says Lola Star’s Dianna Carlin. “We are installing a glass storefront and we’ll be open, weather permitting, all winter long!” Michael and Melody Sarrel of Ruby’s Bar have also ordered a glass front – it’s removable in the summertime — to keep out the wintry wind while preserving the famous view of the boardwalk.

Ruby's Bar

October View from Ruby’s Bar, Coney Island Boardwalk. October 13, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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PLayland Arcade

Playland Arcade Building, August 12, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Demolition began today of the long vacant Playland Arcade, which has been closed since 1981. The interior walls were gutted by a demo crew using a small bulldozer. Asbestos removal is slated for Thursday with the exterior walls expected to come down soon afterwards.

ATZ asked former arcade operator and Coney Island regular Stan Fox, who operated Playland with his brother from 1957 until 1971, how he felt seeing the last of the arcade. “As I would walk by the empty arcade thousands of times over the years, in my mind’s eye I would see the ghosts of people who worked in Playland,” said Fox. “I would hear the sound of Skee-Ball going up and down the alleys, the ka-chunk of the plates rolling over, the ding-ding of the pinball machines and the jingling of coins being emptied into change bags.”

Owned by Horace Bullard, the Playland building was posted with a City-issued demolition order in September. Bullard is also the owner of the adjacent Thunderbolt lot, which has been vacant since the City tore down the roller coaster in 2000. In recent days, City workers cleared weeds from the lot. Bullard also owns the landmarked Shore Theater, which is for sale for $13.5 million.

An arcade operated in the Playland building from the 1930s until 1981, according to Stan Fox, who grew up working in his brother’s penny arcades in Coney Island. He says the arcades were operated by four sets of brothers over a 50-year period: the Silver brothers (Silver’s Penny Arcade), the Katz brothers (Star Penny Arcade), Alex Elowitz and Stan Fox (Playland Arcade), and the Getlan brothers, who kept the Playland name.

Alex Elowitz got his start in the arcade business working as a 12-year old change boy for the Silver brothers, says Fox. After a stint in the Army, Alex returned to Coney Island and in 1949 opened his first Playland Arcade on 20th Street and the Boardwalk in the Washington Baths building. Playlands at 15th Street and the Boardwalk and 12th Street and the Boardwalk (where Nathan’s is now) followed.

In 1957, Alex and Stan opened their fourth Playland Arcade in the building currently under demolition. They bought the business from the surviving Katz brother for $50,000 and leased the building from Klein and Moran, who also owned the Thunderbolt. “Rent for the whole season was $15,000 in 1957,” says Fox. “In those days 10th Avenue between 42nd and 49th Streets was Coin Machine Row. We ordered a ton of new equipment and renovated the place.” The brothers operated the arcade until 1977, when they sold the business to the Getlan brothers. In 1981 the arcade machines were auctioned and the business closed, leaving Playland vacant for the past thirty years.

UPDATE February 14, 2013:

The demolition of Coney Island’s Playland Arcade, which got underway in October, was interrupted by SuperStorm Sandy. The job was finished today. It’s gone! Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project managed to save the remaining letters on the facade– L, N and D– and several of the murals. An exhibit is scheduled for this summer.

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