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Archive for November, 2012

Coney Island Artist and Taxidermist Takeshi Yamada is one of the Immortalizers in AMC’s new series Immortalized. Photo via AMC

ATZ has learned that Coney Island artist and rogue taxidermist Takeshi Yamada will be one of the stars of the new AMC TV reality series “Immortalized” premiering on February 14th. “My sea rabbit will be a household name,” said Yamada, who is one of Coney Island’s most recognizable eccentrics. He is frequently photographed clad in a black tuxedo strolling the Beach and Boardwalk with his sea bunny Seara, a taxidermied wonder with webbed feet and a mermaid’s tail.

In the TV show, Yamada will be one of the taxidermists known as the Immortalizers. According to the press release for the unscripted new series: “Each episode will feature one of four highly regarded ‘Immortalizers’ facing off against a ‘Challenger’ in a competition. Their task is to create a piece to be judged on three criteria: originality, craftsmanship and interpretation of the designated theme. Whether the artists are known for their classic or rogue creations, each week they will work to perfect this centuries-old art form in an unprecedented battle.”

Rogue taxidermy is the creation of oddities and curiosities using traditional taxidermy materials and techniques. “I hope more people will be interested in the art of taxidermy (traditional taxidermy) and rogue taxidermy (freak show taxidermy or sideshow taxidermy) by watching this television show,” Yamada told ATZ. “I had a great time creating truly monumental scale and spectacular rogue taxidermy monsters for this TV series.”

When we first met Takeshi back in 2004, he was creating these gaffed specimens for traveling sideshows and museums. He uses a variety of natural materials to create his taxidermy art, which includes Fiji mermaids, two-headed babies, dog-headed spiders, and a mummified six-fingered hand. Having seen Yamada defend his Grand Master title at the Secret Science Club’s annual Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest at Bell House, we can honestly say his challengers are up against a formidable competitor.

Despite the fact that the first floor of Yamada’s home and studio on Neptune Avenue in Coney Island were devastated by five feet of sewage water during Hurricane Sandy, destroying most of his artwork, the artist remains stoic. “The show must go on,” he says. Takeshi was in the middle of producing two giant sculptures and a wooden crate to ship them to Los Angeles when the storm struck. “Some of the artwork was destroyed or heavily damaged. So, I stayed at my house with no heat, gas, land phone line or electricity for over a week after the hurricane for repairing them –some of my artworks were not saved– and finally FedExed them before the temperature dropped to 27 degrees.”

The AMC series “Immortalized” consists of eight, half-hour episodes and premieres on Thursday, February 14 at 10pm.

Dragons, mermaids, and other wonders on display at public lecture of Dr. Takeshi Yamada at Coney Island Library, October 29, 2010. Photo © Takeshi Yamada via flickr

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December 8, 2011: Takeshi Yamada’s Jersey Devil Set for Bell House Taxidermy Contest

December 7, 2010: Art of the Day: Freak Taxidermy Skull by Takeshi Yamada

September 18, 2010: Photo of the Day: Takeshi Yamada’s Freak Baby Museum at San Gennaro

September 24, 2009: Photo Album: Coney Islanders and Carnies at San Gennaro

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Sandy Cleanup Volunteers

Hurricane Sandy Cleanup Volunteers from the Barman’s Fund, Coney Island Boardwalk. November 11, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Among the last Hurricane Sandy volunteers to leave the Boardwalk on a recent Sunday evening was this bartender and her customers. They were from the Barman’s Fund, a group of bartenders who pool their tips to donate to charitable causes. This group told me they used the tips to buy the shovels and spent the day shoveling sand from the Coney Island Boardwalk. They were among the over 3,000 volunteers who participated in volunteer weekends organized by the Alliance for Coney Island’s Coney Recovers initiative. Cheers!

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November 25, 2012: Photos of the Day: Coney Island Street Dunes by Jay Singer

October 23, 2012: Photo of the Day: Flyering for the Boardwalk, Not Sidewalk!

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

January 27, 2011: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Snowmen at Dawn

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Street Dunes

W 15th Street Dunes, Coney Island. November 25, 2012. Photo © Jay Singer

During Hurricane Sandy, Coney Island’s beach lost two to three feet of sand. Windblown sand covered the boardwalk and adjacent streets, burying the kiddie rides and parking meters. Volunteers spent days sweeping and shoveling it back where it belonged. Over the weekend, the Parks Department U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed West 15th Street and created temporary sand dunes from the Boardwalk to Wonder Wheel Way, and they are still adding sand. It looks like a movie set. Somebody should make a movie before these dreamlike street dunes disappear. “The sand was all trucked over from the huge sand dunes the storm created at the foot of Ocean Parkway,” says Coney Island photographer and filmmaker Jay Singer, who snapped a series of surreal photos. “Fresh clean sand, to be redistributed back onto the beach.”

Parachute Jump and Street Dune

Parachute Jump and Street Dune. Coney Island. November 25, 2012. Photo © Jay Singer

UPDATE November 27, 2012:

More info on the street dunes via today’s post on the U.S. Army’s official homepage! According to the update, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and contracted crews have been working 12-hour night shifts to clear up the sand blown by Sandy onto Coney Island’s streets. In Army parlance, the West 15th Street dunes are a TSS –temporary storage site — and since Saturday over 230 trucks carried an estimated 4,600 cubic yards to the TSS.

To date, the Army Corps has moved an estimated 32,000 cubic yards of sand, the equivalent of roughly 12 Olympic-size swimming pools, out of Coney Island neighborhoods to nearby Jacob Riis Park, a temporary collection site currently used for holding Sandy-related debris.

Last week though, Riis was nearing its capacity for sand placement. In order to avoid any delays to cleanup, the Army Corps decided to establish a temporary storage site, or TSS, at West 15th Street on Coney Island. The site is located directly adjacent to the amusement park, home to such landmarks as Nathan’s Hotdogs and the Cyclone rollercoaster. With the street blocked off, the Army Corps has set up a scissor lift in order to scan trucks.

The article says the sand will eventually be returned to area beaches by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection after being inspected for public safety. In the meantime, instead of referring to Coney’s 15th Street dunes as a “TSS,” how about calling them a “TTA” – Temporary Tourist Attraction!

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November 1, 2012: Photos of the Day: Devastation at Coney Island’s Sea Gate

October 31, 2012: Photo Album: Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath in Coney Island

October 29, 2012: Photos of the Day: Hurricane Sandy Approaches Coney Island

September 25, 2012: Video of the Day: Gotta Love Coney Island by Jay Singer

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Ruby's Bar

Post-Sandy: Ruby’s Bar Same As It Ever Was. Coney Island Boardwalk. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Cleanup and recovery efforts, including the replacement of waterlogged sheetrock and restoration of damaged electrical systems, continue at flood-devastated businesses throughout Coney Island. More than three weeks after the storm, relatively few stores have managed to reopen for business. During the peak of Hurricane Sandy, Surf Avenue as well as Mermaid and Neptune Avenues and adjacent streets were submerged in five feet of water that came from the bay, the creek and overflowing sewers with the rising tide.

surf and stillwell

High Water Mark on Thor Equities Property, Shuttered Nathan’s. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Today, the good news was that Key Food, the only supermarket in Coney’s West End, opened for the first time since Hurricane Sandy with temporary generators providing power, according to a press release by the Alliance for Coney Island. Day by day, more stores will reopen and this post, which focuses on the businesses in and around the amusement area, will quickly (we hope) become out-of-date. Today’s other piece of good news was the Mayor’s announcement of a $5.5 million grant program to supplement $15 million in emergency loans offered to the City’s small businesses impacted by Sandy.

Tom's Coney Island

SBA Rep At Tom’s Coney Island: Informational Meeting for Assistance to Merchants Affected by the Storm. November 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

On the Boardwalk, Ruby’s Bar, Lola Star Boutique and Brooklyn Beach Shop opened for Small Business Saturday, though their building has no power. A few days ago they found out the distribution panel in the basement was destroyed and requires an electrician to repair and certify it before Con Edison will flick the switch. The situation is the same for many throughout Coney Island. No one on the Boardwalk is complaining about the delay because they say many people have it a lot worse. But the business owners would like locals and tourists to know their shops are now open on weekends. “We close at sundown, when we can’t see anything,” said Maya Haddad of Brooklyn Beach Shop. “Thanks to the Square app, we’re able to process credit cards in my cell.”

Lola Star Boutique

Coney Island Forever T’s at Lola Star Boutique on the Boardwalk. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Next door, Ruby’s Bar powered their jukebox and refrigerator by running extension cords to Tom’s Restaurant, which has electric and is open daily till at least 5pm. At Lola Star Boutique, where “Coney Island Forever” T-shirts were being sold to raise funds for Coney Island’s rebuilding efforts, extension cords replaced the gas-powered generator of last weekend. “In the true spirit of the spunky Coney Island business owner, my shop will be open for holiday shopping although we still don’t have electricity,” Lola Star owner Dianna Carlin wrote in her online diary. “There’s no better place on Earth to celebrate Small Business Saturday than Coney Island.”

Paul's Daughter

Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island Boardwalk. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Paul’s Daughter, undamaged except for the Burger Girl statue toppling over and losing her Burger to Sandy, was open through Sunday but is now closed for the season. Closed due to damage from the flooding are the Coney Island amusement area’s three nonprofit attractions: New York Aquarium, Coney Island USA and the Coney Island History Project. All are busy cleaning up and raising funds to rebuild and reopen in the spring. As we reported yesterday, the Aquarium’s annual holiday toy drive has been relocated to Tom’s Restaurant on the Boardwalk, which has also become the de facto gathering spot for meetings on local business recovery.

Williams Candy Coney Island

Coney Island After Sandy: Williams Candy On Surf Ave Reopened on Nov 12. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

The contrast between the Boardwalk stores, which escaped flood damage, and the rest of Coney Island could not be more stark. On Surf Avenue in the amusement area, one of the first shops to reopen was Williams Candy, which is open daily year-round. Their scrumptious and photogenic marshmallow treats and candy apples were on display as usual in the window. But the scene had a surreal air because everything else on the block was shuttered or being cleaned up. Next door, the original Nathan’s remains closed due to damage to electrical and plumbing. A manager said it is not expected to open until April. But you can still get a hamburger at Tom’s and a hot dog at Ruby’s!

Cha Cha's Coney Island

Coney Island After Sandy: Cleanup at Cha Cha’s Surf Avenue, November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Across the street, Cha Cha’s, which had already been emptied of wrecked furnishings, was being mopped by a man who shooed us away. In Stillwell Terminal, the newstand has reopened but Dunkin Donuts, Magic Gyro, Subway, and Bank of America remain closed. Also shuttered are the Stillwell Terminal outposts of Lola Star Boutique and Coney Island Beach Shop. The Beach Shop’s main store behind Nathan’s remains closed for cleanup as well. Pizza on the Run on both Stillwell Avenue and Mermaid Avenue, as well as Alex Deli Mexican Food on Mermaid have reopened. McDonald’s at Stillwell and Mermaid, which was open 24 hours, is closed and boarded up, and is not expected to reopen for two to three months.

McDonald's in Coney Island

Coney Island After Sandy: McDonald’s on Mermaid Avenue Is Closed and Boarded Up. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

On the south side of Surf Avenue, Popeye’s Chicken managed to reopen last week. The fast food restaurant relocated to the Popper Building in April and is on the same block as the devastated Eldorado Auto Skooters (“Coney Island’s Eldorado Wins Lease But Bumper Cars Soaked by Sandy,” ATZ, Nov. 13, 2012), Denny’s Ice Cream (“Coney Island Post-Sandy: Mini-Golf or Roller Rink to Replace Denny’s?,” ATZ, Nov 20, 2012) and Coney Island USA’s Freak Bar. Island Grocery remains shuttered. On the north side of Surf, the Karaoke bar has reopened along with the furniture stores. Grimaldi’s Pizzeria is rebuilding and expects to open by the end of the month. Totonno’s on Neptune Avenue is also rebuilding, though no reopening date has been announced. Wildwood Chicken along with Domino’s Pizza and the deli in the plaza on Neptune Avenue at West 12th are open. Today, Coney Island Gyro on Neptune Avenue announced they would be reopening on November 26: “Opening back up to feed the hungry public on Monday…can’t wait to see everybody’s face!!”

Gargiulo's

Coney Island After Sandy: Dumpster Pulling Up in Front of Gargiulo’s Restaurant, W 15th Street. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

When we passed by Gargiulo’s century-old Italian restaurant and catering hall on Saturday, a dumpster was being parked out front. Cars destroyed by Sandy were being towed in and out of the restaurant’s parking lot for insurance agents to inspect. More good news today: Gargiulo’s announced via twitter that they would reopen on December 1st…

UPDATES…

Coney Island’s amusement rides including Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park are closed for the winter and will reopen as usual on Palm Sunday, which is March 24, 2013. See comments section below for updates by readers. We will also post updates on stores and businesses here as time and space allow:

November 25, 2012:  Footprints Cafe, home of Rasta Pasta and one of our longtime fave dining spots in Coney, tweeted that they’ll reopen on December 31st. The first New Year’s Eve celebration that we know of on Surf Avenue! Update January 7, 2013: Reopening has been delayed for a couple of weeks.

December 1, 2012: Remas Gourmet deli and Hot Food in the old Terminal Hotel building at the corner of Stillwell and Mermaid Avenues has reopened. Also….

December 18, 2012: In “Restoring Our Church of Pizza: The Rebuilding and Repairing of Totonno’s After Hurricane Sandy,” food blog Serious Eats reports that Totonno’s Pizzeria hopes to re-open by mid-January. Check out the photos and in-depth story on the family’s efforts by Chris Crowley here.

December 20, 2012: Peggy O’Neill’s on Surf Avenue reopened today. On New Year’s Day, their annual party after the Polar Bear Swim starts at 1pm with entertainment by Cardone and Adam RealMan from 3pm.

December 30, 2012: On New Year’s Eve, good news from Cha Cha’s of Coney Island…

January 7, 2013: Subway Sandwich Shop in Stillwell Terminal has reopened.

February 6, 2013: Cha Cha’s on Surf Avenue in Coney Island “Officially Closed”

February 15, 2013: Williams Candy Moves Next Door During Post-Sandy Renovation

February 27, 2013: Dunkin Donuts in Stillwell Terminal to reopen in March.

February 28, 2013: Coney Island Shooting Gallery from 1940s Makes Comeback

March 4, 2013: Nathan’s on Coney Island Boardwalk to Open Mid-March, Surf Ave by May

March 5, 2013: Coney Island’s Mermaid Avenue Four Months After Sandy

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March 17, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island Getting Ready for Opening Day

December 10, 2012: Coney Island Nonprofits Begin to Raise Funds After Sandy

December 7, 2012: Photo Album: Signs of the Times in Post-Sandy Coney Island

November 9, 2012: Update on Coney Island’s Amusement Area After Sandy

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Toys for Coney Island Kids

Donate Here: Toys (New Only) for Coney, Tom Restaurant, Coney Island. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Last weekend at Tom’s Restaurant on the Coney Island Boardwalk, ATZ spotted this sign for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s annual toy drive. A hand-lettered note says “Toys (New Only) for Coney” and there’s a donation box on the floor. From November 17th through December 31st, the WCS is accepting new, unwrapped toys at the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo. Due to recovery efforts at the Aquarium, which was flooded by Hurricane Sandy and remains closed, donations in Coney Island are instead being accepted at Tom’s.

“Thank you for joining the New York Aquarium along with the newly formed Alliance of Coney Island to collect toys for families in need this holiday season,” says a post on the WCS website. “Toys donated will benefit families in need as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Donations can be dropped off at Tom’s Diner on the Coney Island boardwalk.” Donors will receive one free general admission ticket to the Bronx Zoo for every donated toy.

Tom’s Coney Island is open daily from 8am till 5pm with weekend hours till 7pm. The new restaurant, which opened only a few weeks ago, was miraculously spared damage from Hurricane Sandy and is one of the few stores in the area with electricity. Owner Jimmy Kokotas was able to quickly reopen and be here for the community. Tom’s has served as a command center for volunteers and a host for breakfast meetings about storm relief for Coney Island business owners.

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

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November 18, 2012: Photos of the Day: Mayor Bloomberg at Tom’s Coney Island

November 9, 2012: Update on Coney Island’s Amusement Area After Sandy

October 30, 2012: Photo Album: Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath in Coney Island

September 23, 2012: Photo Album: First Brunch at Tom’s Coney Island by Bruce Handy

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Kiddie Ferris Wheel

Kiddie Ferris Wheel at McCullough’s Kiddie Park, Coney Island. June 14, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Black Friday is here and it’s time to shop for toys to put under the Christmas tree. If the tree is growing in your backyard, a kiddie ride would fit just fine though you’d better check zoning regulations. Generations of kids have grown up riding this little Ferris Wheel at McCullough’s Kiddie Park on the Bowery at West 12th Street in Coney Island, but now it’s for sale. As previously reported by ATZ, the family-owned park closed in September after fifty years when the owners weren’t able to come to a lease agreement with property owner Thor Equities. The park’s rides are being offered for sale by usedrides.com. The Wheel is ten grand and the much-photographed Bumblebees are $42,000. Among the other rides are a Mini-Himalaya ($17,000), Alan Herschell Carousel ($50,000) and Zamperla Rockin’ Tug ($42,000). The rides were moved to the broker’s lot in Greer, South Carolina.

Although McCullough’s Kiddie Park has operated on 12th Street since the 1960s, the family’s history in Coney Island goes back much further. Four generations of McCulloughs have owned and operated amusement rides here. They are related to the Tilyou family of Steeplechase Park as well as to the Stubbmann family, whose Coney Island carousel became part of the one in Flushing Meadows. The McCulloughs are also the former owners of the B&B Carousell, which will reopen in Coney Island’s new Steeplechase Plaza next year. It’s sad that McCullough’s is closing and that Coney is losing another indie operator. They will be missed and so will their bees. But Coney Island isn’t losing all of its kiddie rides: Deno’s Kiddie Park on the Boardwalk has 17 rides for children, including the beloved Mangels Pony Cart and Fire Engine, and will reopen in the spring.

Bumble Bee Ride

Bumble Bees and Herschell Carousel at McCullough’s Kiddie Park, Coney Island, September 3, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

May 18, 2012: Rare & Vintage: Pinto Bros. Pony Cart from Coney Island

June 8, 2009: Coney Island Rides: Tug Boat and Carousel in McCullough’s Kiddie Park

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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Spook-A-Rama

Power-Washed Spook-A-Rama Cars and Murals Drying Out at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Coney Island. November 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Coney Island’s oldest dark ride, which dates back to the 1950s and is part of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, was severely damaged due to flooding during Superstorm Sandy. Spook-A-Rama’s electrical, interior props and the floor inside the ride were destroyed but park owners Dennis and Steve Vourderis have vowed to rebuild the attraction. At last week’s IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando, they contracted with Scarefactory, Inc. to come in and lay out new props, according to Dennis Vourderis. The giant skeleton on Spook-A-Rama’s roof is a product of the design and fabrication studio, which specializes in creating haunted attractions and everything that goes into them.

Spook-A-Rama Skeleton

Giant Skeleton from Spook-A-Rama’s Roof Recuperating After Superstorm Sandy. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Sadly, some of the destroyed props original to Spook-A-Rama and other historic Coney Island dark rides cannot be replaced. If it’s possible to save them, the old props will be put on static display (February 2013 Update: some of the rescued props will get new electronics!) The good news is that the legendary Cyclops, which came out of retirement two years ago to be inducted into the Coney Island History Project’s Hall of Fame, was unharmed. Another old-timer at the Wonder Wheel, the 1920’s fortunetelling machine Grandma’s Predictions, suffered water damage, but is being restored by an expert in antique arcade machines. Grandma’s “boyfriend” Zoltar was not so lucky –the popular machine which debuted at the park in 2011 will be replaced by a brand-new one.

zoltar

Zoltar Destroyed by Sandy, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Coney Island. November 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Also destroyed in the flood waters and being replaced is the Scarface-themed shooting gallery next to Spook-A-Rama. The new shooting gallery will be themed with some of the same spooky characters that visitors will see inside the refurbished dark ride. While the Wonder Wheel side of the park and the area beneath the kiddie park were inundated with 5 to 7 feet of flood waters, the 92-year-old landmark Wonder Wheel and the rides and games in Deno’s Kiddie Park on the Boardwalk escaped serious damage though a lot of work remains to be done. The park will re-open with its 25th Annual Blessing of the Rides Ceremony on Palm Sunday, which is Coney Island’s opening day and falls on March 24, 2013. (Update: On opening day, rides on the Wonder Wheel will be free of charge for one and all.)

Spook-A-Rama's Cyclops

Spook-A-Rama’s Cyclops Survived the Super Storm. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Coney Island. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

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November 20, 2012: Coney Island Post-Sandy: Mini-Golf or Roller Rink to Replace Denny’s?

November 13, 2012: Coney Island’s Eldorado Wins Lease But Bumper Cars Soaked by Sandy

November 9, 2012: Update on Coney Island’s Amusement Area After Sandy

October 30, 2012: Photo Album: Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath in Coney Island

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