Archive for April, 2013

Zip Line

Abandoned Zip Line on Stillwell Avenue, Coney Island. December 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The strange saga of the zip line that came to Coney Island last summer and never opened (except for an hour-and-a-half) due to a permitting snafu with the City is about to end. The attraction was supposed to be part of the BK Festival and was set up on Thor Equities Stillwell Avenue lot behind Nathan’s, where it was left standing after the festival closed. Bob Rigsby, Project Manager of Scaffold King Rentals, Inc. of Rockville, Indiana, the company that rented the scaffolding to independent operator CAT 5 Zipline, has come to Coney Island to reclaim it.

“There’s $80,000 worth of metal, if we had to replace it,” Rigsby says of the two towers, which survived Superstorm Sandy just fine. “Right now we’re $60,000 in the hole.”

Scaffold King has hired a local crew to take down the towers starting this morning. It took five months for Rigsby to prove ownership of the scaffolding and get the necessary permits to dismantle it. The actual zip line is from a company in Boston that Scaffold King works with frequently, he says. Rigsby added that they will be installing a zip line elsewhere in New York that will go over the rooftops. We’re jealous. It’s too bad Coney Island never got to see this attraction in action. Based on the astronomical number of hits on ATZ posts updating the status of the Coney Island Zip Line and the emails and comments from people eagerly waiting for it to open, it would have been very popular and could have been a year-round attraction.

In January 2012, Scaffold King erected the launch and landing towers for the first-ever Super Bowl zip line, which was the single-longest temporary one ever constructed. Here’s a video of the 800-foot zip line at Super Bowl XLVI Village along Capitol Street in downtown Indianapolis.

UPDATE May 5, 2013

Tangled Up in Red Tape Department: First the zip line couldn’t open because of City permitting issues, now it’s stuck here because of permitting issues. The dismantling of the zip wires got underway as scheduled on Monday, but before the scaffolding could be taken down, work was stopped due to the wording on the permit. “The I’s have to be dotted and the T’s have to be crossed,” Rigsby said before he went home to Indiana without his company’s zip line, leaving Thor Equities to work out the details of the permit to take it down this week. (It was finally dismantled and trucked away.)

Still wanna zip line in New York City? Last year, a 160-foot portable zip line was added to the Summer Streets Program, run by the City’s DOT. Locations included Union Square and Foley Square in Manhattan. The annual event is on three consecutive Saturdays in the summer. The zip line was offered free of charge and was very popular. Will it be back this year?



Related posts on ATZ…

August 19, 2012: BK Festival Vendors Back in Business, Coney Zipline Isn’t

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

August 5, 2012: Coney Island Zip Line Still Under Construction

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

Read Full Post »

Full Moon in Coney Island

Full Moon in Coney Island, March 26, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy

March 26th’s full moon peers over the top of the landmark Cyclone roller coaster and the Wonder Wheel’s “Thrills!” sign in this exquisite capture by Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy. The American flags are the cherry on top!


Related posts on ATZ…

April 16, 2013: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Sunset by Bruce Handy

January 26, 2013: Winter’s First Snow in Coney Island by Bruce Handy

August 31, 2012: Photo of the Day: Electric Eden Revisited By Bruce Handy

February 26, 2010: Photo of the Day: Snow Mermaid on Coney Island Beach

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April 22, 2013: View from DNALSI YENOC, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

This week, the framework for a large sign was erected on the roof of Thor Equities new building at Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island. Will it be a billboard for a business or another one of Thor Equities “Space for Lease” teasers? As a photographer friend says: “That’s how you can tell a Thor property in Coney Island…the ‘For Lease’ sign!”

The building is the first sight you see when exiting Stillwell Terminal and we’ve taken many photos from this vantage point. There’s even a flickr group called DNALSI YENOC — Coney Island spelled backwards– showing how this view has changed over the past few years. Watch this space to see yet one more. In the meantime, here’s a look back at the signage, dating back to 2007, on Joe Sitt’s properties in Coney Island.

DNALSI YENOC: View of Surf Ave from Stillwell Terminal

April 8, 2012: DNALSI YENOC: View of Thor’s New Building on Surf Ave from Stillwell Terminal. Photo © Tricia Vita

The photo above shows the same view one year ago, when Thor’s building was completed and then immediately covered with plywood and a signature banner trumpeting “Retail Space Available.” The building remained vacant but now has at least three tenants for the 2013 season that ATZ was able to confirm: Maritza’s Souvenir Shop, a longtime tenant of the historic Henderson Building which was demo’d to make way for the generic-looking new building, is back in her old spot for the summer. It’Sugar, a Miami-based candy retailer, has the corner store and is expected to open May 3. Wampum, a lifestyle clothing brand and skateboard shop with two other locations in Bridgehampton and Nolita, is slated to open in Coney on May 24.

May 28, 2012: Coney Island ‘Funny Face’ Mural on Thor Equities Building at Surf and Stillwell. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Memorial Day Weekend 2012, the plywood on the Surf Avenue side of Thor’s vacant building came alive with this Funny Face mural. On Stillwell, the plywood remained dotted with signs touting “CONEY ISLAND – The RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME – for leasing contact…” As we wrote previously: “Ain’t it just like Joe Sitt to tout retail when Coney Island, the birthplace of the amusement industry, is expecting its best season yet because of the success of Luna Park on land purchased by the City from Thor?”

View of Henderson Building and Shore Hotel

July 12, 2009: View of Henderson Building and Shore Hotel, Demolished in 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita

Now we’re time-traveling back to July 2009, a few weeks before the City Council passed the rezoning that allows high-rise hotels on Joe Sitt’s property on the south side side of Surf, including this lot! The original caption on the photo was “View of Endangered Historic Buildings Owned by Thor Equities” and called people to a rally to “Save Coney Island.” Sadly, the Henderson Building and the Shore Hotel, seen above, were demolished in December 2010.

During the 2009 season, Thor’s banners touted “Festival by the Sea. A Uniquely Entertaining and Amusing Flea Market in Coney Island. Head Straight on Stillwell for Tons of Fun.” It was not.

Closed due to threat of bad weather on a sunny day.

May 15, 2009: Thor Equities flea market ‘Closed due to threat of bad weather’ on a sunny day. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

One of the most eye-catching signs at the flea market was “Closed due to threat of bad weather” posted on a sunny day in May due to a tent malfunction. You can’t make this stuff up. It was soon replaced by one that read “Pardon our Appearance while we adjust our tents.” Translation: The City’s DOB was requiring that the tents and structures be able to withstand hurricane force winds before issuing a C of O.

Shore Hotel Nature's Paradise by the Sea

April 26, 2009: Shore Hotel Nature’s Paradise by the Sea. Photo © Tricia Vita

Plastered with Thor’s ubiquitous “Space for Lease” signs but never leased, Coney Island’s Shore Hotel was boarded up with plywood painted in festive colors. A much smaller sign on a fence said “ATTENTION The Shore Hotel has closed down.”

The Shore Hotel was built circa 1903 and demolished by Thor Equities on December 10, 2010. It took only a couple of days for the demo men to take down the century-old wood frame building. There was nothing left of “Nature’s Paradise by the Sea” but a pile of sticks to be hauled away.

The Shore Hotel has closed down.

September 3, 2007: ATTENTION The Shore Hotel has closed down. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

One signage-related highlight of 2008 was Joe Sitt being called “The Grinch Who Stole Coney Island” by the New York Post after cutting locks and hanging for lease banners on his Boardwalk and Stillwell properties on Christmas Eve. A section of the gigantic banner on the Henderson Building is seen in the photo below. R.I.P Shoot Out the Star. So far, Thor’s new building at Surf and Stillwell has no tenants with amusement games or arcades.

Thor Equities phone number dwarfs Shoot out the Star

January 1, 2009: Thor Equities phone number dwarfs Shoot out the Star, Coney Island.

Also in 2008, Thor’s “Future of Coney Island” banners were recycled by tenants as decorative backdrops for their games. In January 2009, the slogan was tarnished when Thor’s Future of Coney Island website URL was taken over by a Belgian porn entrepreneur. “Who ever would have thunk the Future of Coney Island would turn out to be Biker Chicks in Heat and Lust on the Beach? Our suggestion: Somebody reopen the Shore Hotel right away with free 24/7 Belgian porn,” wrote Gowanus Lounge’s Bob Guskind.

Thor Equities Space for Lease

August 8, 2008: Thor Equities Space for Lease and ‘Future of Coney’ banners as backdrop for basketball joint on Surf Ave. Photo © Tricia Vita

Thor regained control of the URL but later gave it up. Yes, that’s right, Joe Sitt no longer owns “The FutureofConeyIsland.com”! If you type in the URL, you’re redirected to its new owner, real estate site LivingThere.com (“A Better Way to Find a Home”). Wanna buy an “exquisitely spacious 2 bedroom/1 bath coop in Trump Village Section 3 on a high floor offers spectacular views of the ocean from every room and balcony”?

The Future of Coney Island  Construction Banner

July 5, 2008: Thor Equities, The Future of Coney Island Construction Banner. Photo © Tricia Vita


Related posts on ATZ…

April 19, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Evicted Souvenir Shop Returns to Its Spot

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

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

Read Full Post »

Steeplechase Pier Reconstruction

Steeplechase Pier Reconstruction, Coney Island. April 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

While Coney Island’s Cyclone, Wonder Wheel and other amusement rides are awhirl on weekends and the Boardwalk eateries and shops are open daily– weather permitting– construction continues on the storm-damaged pier, the new Steeplechase Plaza and new buildings on Surf Avenue. Renovations are also underway at the New York Aquarium, Coney Island USA and Nathan’s Surf Avenue location, all of which expect to reopen by Memorial Day Weekend.

The post-Sandy reconstruction of Steeplechase Pier is back up to speed after a construction barge sank on April 13. Last week, sources told ATZ that the damaged barge had been repaired. This type of barge has four legs (called spud poles) which telescope for mooring and one of the spuds had cracked, which caused the barge to submerge.

“The entire Steeplechase Pier is being reconstructed. We expect to complete construction by July 4,” the Parks Department said in an email in March. According to an application with the DEP, “Work will include the removal and replacement of wood decking on the main walkway, installation of recycled plastic lumber on the wings on new reinforced concrete joists, and installation of new light poles, water line, benches, platforms and shade structures.”

B&B Carousell Pavilion

Construction underway on pavilion for B&B Carousell in Steeplechase Plaza, Coney Island. April 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Monday, while workers continued construction of the pavilion that will be the home of Coney’s antique B&B Carousell, an Atlas Van Lines truck arrived from Ohio with the restored ride including 49 of its 50 hand-carved wooden horses. The first restored horse had been put on display by the NYCEDC at the Coney Island History Project last May and named “Ravishing Ruby.” Coney’s last hand-carved carousel was saved from auction in 2005 when the City purchased the ride for $1.8 million. The B&B is currently being assembled in its new pavilion in Steeplechase Plaza and is expected to open on Memorial Day Weekend.

Temporary lights on the Boardwalk

Temporary lights on the Boardwalk in Coney Island’s amusement district. April 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Boardwalk’s distinctive twin cast iron light poles, which were installed with $1.2 million allocated in 2004, have not been operational since Sandy. These portable trailer-mounted lighting units were brought to the amusement area more than a month ago.

Meanwhile on the north side of Surf Avenue, construction is underway on a building for Applebee’s, among the first of several new franchises and chains coming to Coney Island’s main drag. Crews are working seven days a week with a target opening date in mid-June.

Applebee's Under Construction in Coney Island

Applebee’s Under Construction on the North side of Surf Ave, Coney Island. April 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr


Related Posts on ATZ…

April 17, 2013: Sandy-Damaged Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in Coney Island to Reopen in 2 Weeks

April 14, 2013: Photo Update: Sunken Barge at Steeplechase Pier in Coney Island

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

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

Read Full Post »

Manny Cohen and Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat

Manny Cohen and Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat. April 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

We’re sad to report that our friend Manny Cohen, longtime owner of Coney Island Arcade, and his beloved and much photographed cat Target are about to leave Coney Island forever. As ATZ reported previously, they’re moving to Vegas. Last week we took a few farewell photos but put off saying goodbye. After 22 years, Manny was evicted by the landlord (no, not Thor Equities) and has until the end of the month to leave his spot on Coney Island’s Bowery. The car with Target’s roomy traveling cage and a harness for walks in rest areas along the way is packed. Manny’s boxer machines have already been shipped West. “It’s time for me to move on. I don’t have the arcade anymore,” Manny told ATZ in February.

Burned-out lot

Arcade machines damaged by Sandy on the burned out lot where Coney Island Arcade stood until the May 2010 fire. April 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Since May of 2010, when a terrible fire destroyed his amusement arcade on the day that workers sent by the landlord tarred the roof, Manny’s business has focused on selling new arcade machines and parts, which he will continue to do in Vegas. He has also operated a few games on the Bowery. ATZ’s very first post, on April 9, 2009, featured a favorite photo of Target on the counter of the Balloon Dart. Goodbyes are hard. Instead, we’ll look back at some of what we’ve written over the years.

When we started working in Coney Island, Target the Cat was already sitting on the counter of Jimmy’s Balloon Dart on the Bowery calling the people in to play. Some girls can’t walk by without stopping to pet him and ask his name. Next thing you know they’re busting balloons and winning prizes. The gregarious cat is world-famous thanks to having posed for many photographs including one that appeared in the New York Times.

Target and his late sister Targeretty were born at Spook-A-Rama in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. When a worker heard mewing and went to investigate, he found the motherless kittens. They were kept warm with a portable heater and fed with a dropper. Two weeks later, Manny Cohen adopted them and raised them at the arcade.
—from “Landlord Evicting Famous Coney Island Cat and His Humans,” ATZ, January 14, 2013

Manny Cohen and Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat

Manny Cohen and Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat. April 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Will Coney Island Arcade be rebuilt and back in business anytime soon? We hope so. It’s painful to see a burned out building where a thriving business was just last weekend. It will be painful to see this corner become an empty lot. The fire is a huge loss, not only for Manny Cohen, but for the entire amusement community in Coney Island. We hope the building owner takes a cue from the activity just down the street, where workers are laboring round the clock to finish the new Luna Park in time for the May 29th grand opening. — “Photo Album: Coney Island Arcade Fire’s Awful Aftermath,” ATZ, May 7, 2010

In Coney Island, Target has used at least two of his nine lives. He escaped the arcade fire when the firemen cut the gates. They found his sister Targeretty in the office where she probably died of smoke inhalation. Target and his feline friend Pretty survived the flood waters of Sandy by climbing up to the rafters where they were marooned for days until the electric lock could be picked. We wish Manny Cohen and his lucky cat all the best in their new home. We’ll especially miss taking photos of Target working the Balloon Dart with Jimmy, asking to be petted and rubbing his face against the lens. Will the famous Coney Island Cat miss Coney? In Las Vegas, Target will prowl the casinos on a leash and hunt chipmunk, says Manny.

Target the Cat

Last Lens Nuzzle from Target the Cat. April 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr


Related posts on ATZ…

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

May 7, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Arcade Fire’s Awful Aftermath

May 6, 2010: Suspicious Fire at Coney Island Arcade Building

July 21, 2009: Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Introduces His Sister Targeretty

Read Full Post »

With atmospheric footage shot in 2009, this new video by Steven Day vividly captures the late night scene at Coney Island’s legendary Polar Express. The independently owned ride on West 12th Street is famed for its mega sound system, live DJs, and long ride cycle with cars moving both forwards and backwards.

There’s also the allure of the crowd that gathers in front of the ride to see and be seen dancing in the street. Now required to shut down by midnight, the Polar Express as well as the rides at the now closed McCullough’s Kiddie Park across the street used to spin till 2 or 3 AM. Back in the day, Coney Island’s Himalayas would stay open till 4 or 5 AM!

The late Scott Fitlin, who made his family’s Eldorado Bumper Cars into a Studio 54-inspired disco palace with its own legendary sound system, once shared his boyhood memories of 12th Street’s Himalaya on the Coney Island Message board:

And back in 1969, I would be in my families place, and they would let me go out in the evening BY MYSELF, to go on some rides, everybody knew who I was so I was ok to walk around, and my dad would always tell me stay off of W12th st. The Himalaya was where the Black Spider is now, and they had the best sound and music at that time, a HUGE crowd dancing in front of the ride, and thats where my dad would always come find me. Hanging out dancing to Stax, and Motown in front of The Twins Himalaya! Then they would call out my name over the speakers from the DJ booth, and I would go up on the ride to the booth, Big Willie was the DJ, and he would show me how the ride ran, and the how the music was played. Then he would put me on the mic to scream out, HIMALAYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. Oh, I thought I was so cool, the stuff kids only dream about, I was doing!

And to a young boy, looking out at the street with what seemed to be thousands of people boogieing, THAT was THE ENTIRE WORLD for me right there! I honestly think that was the moment I got the sand in my shoes!

The Guerrero family, who own the Polar Express, have actually operated four or five different Himalayas in Coney Island, beginning around 1975 next to the Thunderbolt roller coaster. They moved the ride to Stillwell Avenue behind Nathan’s before buying the Himi on 12th Street from “The Twins.” The ride was later replaced with the Polar Express. In Day’s video, you’ll also catch glimpses of West 12th Street’s now demolished Bank of Coney Island and Coney Island Arcade.


Related posts on ATZ...

March 27, 2013: Coney Island’s 12th Street Amusements to Reopen for Easter

September 13, 2012: Video: Coney Island Dancing 2012 by Jim McDonnell

August 19, 2012: Dance Video: Coney Island Dancers Street Festival

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

Read Full Post »

Souvenir Shop coney Island

Maritza Suriano behind the new counter at her souvenir shop in Coney Island. April 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On Thursday in Coney Island, ATZ found longtime souvenir shop owner Maritza Suriano moving into Thor Equities new building at Surf and Stillwell Avenues. The most remarkable thing is that her storefront on Stillwell is pretty much the same spot that she leased for decades in the Henderson Building until she got notice to leave before the building’s demolition by Thor. The space is about three times the size of her former space, she said. The lease is for one season and runs through Labor Day.

As ATZ first reported, the building has two other tenants that we were able to confirm: It’Sugar, a Miami-based candy retailer, has the corner store and is expected to open May 3. Wampum, a lifestyle clothing brand and skateboard shop featuring 90% clothing which has two other locations in Bridgehampton and Nolita is slated to open in Coney on May 24.

According to the Coney Island Rumor Mill, a restaurant and bar with a roof deck are coming too but the name is top secret, though it’s said not to be a Hooters. Previous rumors have focused on Wet Willie’s and Hooters. What’s missing from this mix? The bells and whistles of an arcade or other “Group A” amusement attraction required by the City’s zoning in Coney Island. In the past, Thor Equities had advertisements touting Coney Island as “The Retail Ride of A Lifetime,” but has since replaced them with photos of the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel.


Stocking up at Maritza’s Souvenir Shop. April 18, 2013, Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

The last time ATZ wrote about Maritza was in August 2010, when her business along with Popeye’s Chicken were being evicted from the soon-to-be demolished Henderson Building. At the time, Maritza said, “When [Thor Equities] makes the new building he promised to give me a 10 year lease, but I don’t know. They’re supposed to talk to me about it, but I’m still here waiting.”

After Thor CEO Joe Sitt announced demolition plans in April 2010, a rendering was released of a cheesy looking temporary one-story building occupied by hamburger and taco food joints. At the time we thought it was a ploy to get demo permits from the City and put an end to preservationists’ efforts to get approval for an historic district in Coney Island. The site is zoned for a hotel of up to 30 stories. Thor’s new building on the Henderson site was finished last year but has remained vacant till now.

After losing her space in the Henderson Building, Maritza relocated in 2011 to a cubbyhole of a shop on Stillwell Avenue under Cha Cha’s. In 2012 she had to relocate again and opened her souvenir stand in a trailer at Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park. “I’ve been in Coney Island for 25, 30 years,” said Maritza, “Before Stillwell, I was on Surf where the grocery store is.” Her spacious new store has room for groceries and beach gear.

Souvenir Shop

Maritza surveys her new space in Thor Equities building at Surf and Stillwell. April 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr


Related posts on ATZ…

April 11, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Wampum Clothing & Skate Pop-Up to Open in May

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

December 24, 2012: In Thor’s Coney Island, Discount on Retail Ride of a Lifetime

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

Read Full Post »

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