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Archive for September, 2013

Steeplechase Pier

Workers at Coney Island’s Sandy-damaged Steeplechase Pier, September 28, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Over the weekend, word on the Boardwalk was that Steeplechase Pier, which has been under reconstruction since March due to damage sustained during Superstorm Sandy, would reopen on Tuesday. Work is almost complete and will be finished this week, according to the workers who were heading off the pier.

ATZ checked with the Parks Department today and the pier will indeed reopen sometime in October, though not on October 1st. The pier will need to be inspected first, a Parks Department official told ATZ. The 1,000-foot-pier is a popular spot for fishermen as well as for photographers, who were already making plans to return to their favorite spot tomorrow and will now have to wait a little bit longer. The pier had to be completely reconstructed post-Sandy and was originally expected to be finished by July.

Update: The pier reopened on Wednesday, October 2nd. Here are the first photos!

Steeplechase Pier

Work is Nearly Complete on Coney Island’s Sandy-damaged Steeplechase Pier, September 28, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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

March 14, 2013: Photo of the Day: Repairing Sandy-Damaged Steeplechase Pier

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

August 24, 2010: Video: Coney Island Pier Divers by Kevin C Downs

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Coney Island Boardwalk Kitty

Coney Island Boardwalk Kitty, September 28, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

This Coney Island kitten was sunning herself on the Boardwalk over the weekend. Donate to the New York City Feral Cat Initiative. $100 provides a winter shelter and straw insulation for 3 feral cats. $50 sends a TNR coach to provide hands-on assistance to a volunteer who is completing a Trap-Neuter-Return project for the first time.

Coney Island Kittens

Coney Island Boardwalk Kittens, September 28, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

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September 19, 2013: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Parakeets Go for a Walk

June 17, 2013: Photo of the Day: Paquito the Chihuahua in Coney Island

May 8, 2013: Traveler: The Cats of Rimini’s Italia in Miniatura Park

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Big Tex

The New “Big Tex” Was Unveiled at the State Fair of Texas on September 26. Photo via State Fair of Texas

The State of Fair of Texas opens on Friday with a new “Big Tex” who looks different from the old Big Tex ready to say “Howdy, folks!” with his new voice. The now 55-foot-tall figure stands in huge size 70 Lucchese boots featuring symbols of Texas such as the state flower and bird and Capitol building, as well as the State and U.S. flags. The welcome home ceremony will be streamed live at 2pm.

Last October, the original 60-year-old Big Tex was destroyed by flames from an electrical fire on the last weekend of the fair. The icon was rebuilt with the help of many donors, from Tall Texans ($1,000) and Big Tex – Reboot ($500) to Tex’s Friends ($25).

The new Big Tex’s big eyes, darker complexion and the configuration of his arms and hands are different than the old cowboy. On the Big Tex Grief Support Group page on Facebook, which was formed after the fire, reactions to the new Big Tex ranged from “Nothing like the old Big Tex!!!!!!” and “He looks great! – Just like a real Texan / Tejano! Love him!” to “He kind of looks like Howdy Doody!” and “Fail!” Here’s a slide show from KERA of North Texas showing how Big Tex has looked through the years.

Real Photo Post Card of The Worlds Largest Santa Clause Kerens, Texas 1949 Taylor Studio . From the Collection of Ed Williams

Real Photo Post Card of The Worlds Largest Santa Claus. Kerens, Texas 1949. Taylor Studio. Ed Williams Collection

Big Tex was originally a roadside “World’s Largest Santa Claus” built by the Chamber of Commerce in Kerens, Texas, according to The Great State Fair of Texas by Nancy Wiley. The 49-foot figure was constructed from iron-pipe drill casing and papier mache. The State Fair’s president bought the Santa in 1951 and hired Dallas artist Jack Bridges to transform him into a giant cowboy.

We’ve been fond of Big Tex since childhood. He was a familiar figure on vintage postcards in Mom’s shoebox of postcards from the road. ATZ met the big guy in 2006, the first time we visited the State Fair of Texas, which is worth a trip from anywhere. In 2012, the Dallas fair was once again no. 1 on Carnival Warehouse’s list of North America’s Top 50 Fairs, with an attendance of 2.56 million. The 2013 State Fair of Texas runs September 27 – October 20.

Big Tex Vintage Postcard

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September 20, 2013: Photo Album: 87th Annual Feast of San Gennaro

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August 9, 2012: Traveler: Skywheel at the Wisconsin State Fair 2012

October 8, 2010: Traveler: Most Beautiful Video of the State Fair of Texas

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Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk

Photographer and Model in front of Landmark Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk. September 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The fate of the landmark Childs Building on the Boardwalk is in limbo as Brooklyn’s Community Board 13 voted 15-7, with 7 abstentions, against the City’s plan to convert the former restaurant into an amphitheater for live concerts. Noise, traffic, parking and infrastructure issues were some of the reasons cited for the “no” votes. In public testimony at Monday night’s meeting, some residents of Coney Island said the plan was rushed, they needed to hear more about it. Others brought up the idea of a Community Benefits Agreement. Community garden advocates protested the loss and relocation of the Boardwalk garden adjacent to the building, which has been active since 1998 and has between 35-50 gardeners.

Boardwalk Community Garden

Community Garden on the Boardwalk adjacent to the Childs Building. September 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The problem is with less than 100 days left in this administration, time is running out to use the funds allocated for the project. If some kind of compromise plan isn’t worked out, the chance to restore and repurpose the vacant building could be lost. The City has the funds to bring the landmark back to life since Borough President Marty Markowitz will be able to use $50 million set aside in 2010 for a $64 million amphitheater in Seaside Park that was halted by a lawsuit. Since then, his free Seaside Concerts have been held on the Washington Baths site, a vacant lot across the street from the Childs Building.

If the $50 million isn’t spent by the time the Borough President’s third term ends on December 31, 2013, it would go back into the public coffers and be lost to Coney Island. The building’s deteriorating condition is also cause for concern. After Sandy, parts of the facade cracked and began falling off. The sidewalk shed was installed this summer.

Childs Building Coney Island

Landmark Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk. September 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Community Board’s vote is advisory only. Their recommendation is being forwarded to the City Planning Department and the Borough President’s Office, which may amend the proposal before sending it the City Council. It is customary for the Council to vote with the council member from the district. In 2011, when the community board voted 21 to 7 against the Parks Department’s plan to make a section of the Boardwalk concrete and plastic, the City pressed forward with the plan and won the necessary approval of the Public Design Commission, which is comprised of Mayoral appointees.

Dreamland Roller Rink

In 2008 and 2009, the Childs Building was used as Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Rink. August 2, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The City’s plan to develop the former Childs Restaurant building on the Boardwalk and adjacent lot into an entertainment complex with a rooftop restaurant was first reported by NY1 in August 2012 but detailed plans were not made public until April of this year. The property and surrounding lots zoned for high rise condos became part of the portfolio of iStar Financial when Taconic Investment Partners defaulted on loans. The developer plans to sell the building to the City and partner with nonprofit Coney Island USA to manage the programming.

As we noted last summer, 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.

UPDATE December 20, 2013:

The City Council approved the development of the Seaside Park and Community Art Center, an entertainment complex and public park at the site of the Childs Restaurant Building. The approval by the City Council was part of a public review process that also involved approvals by the City Planning Commission, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Public Design Commission.

The project will be developed and operated by a partnership between an affiliate of Coney Island Holdings LLC, and non-profit Coney Island USA, Inc., with $53 Million in city capital funds to develop the project, which involves the restoration and adaptive reuse of the Childs building as well as the development of a 5,100 seat amphitheater with a neighborhood park and playground overlooking Coney Island beachfront. Completion of the project is slated for June 2015.

UPDATE October 21, 2013:

There’s a public hearing on Wednesday, October 23rd, at 10:00 AM in Spector Hall, at the Department of City Planning (22 Reade Street, in Manhattan) to receive comments related to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Seaside Park and Community Arts Center project. According to the posted notice:

Comments are requested on the DEIS and will be accepted until 5:00p.m. on Monday, November 4, 2013. The Applicant, Coney Island Holdings LLC, is proposing a number of land use actions to facilitate the development of the Seaside Park and Community Arts Center (the “proposed project”) in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn. The proposed project involves the development of approximately 2.41-acres of publicly accessible open space, which would include an approximately 5,100-seat seasonal amphitheater for concerts and other events. The proposed project also includes the landmarked (Former) Childs Restaurant Building, which would be restored for reuse as a restaurant and banquet facility and renovated for adaptive reuse to provide the stage area for the open-air concert venue and use as an indoor entertainment venue during the off-season months. The Seaside Park and Community Arts Center would be a temporary use of the development site for a term of ten years from completion of construction.

The New Childs Restaurant

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

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

October 7, 2012: ATZ’s Big Wish List for the New Coney Island

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August 1, 2012: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Sunflower

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Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy (CRAB)

Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy (CRAB) on Coney Island Beach. September 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

It was a gorgeous Sunday for walking on the Coney Island Boardwalk but what in the world was that tripod-like vehicle on the beach? We knew it had something to do with the US Army Corps of Engineers Post-Sandy Beach Replenishment Project currently underway, so we phoned their Public Affairs Department. Press Officer Chris Gardner says it is a CRAB aka Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy. This unique 18,000 lb. vehicle has a top speed of 2 mph on land and somewhat less in the water. Power is supplied by a 53-hp Volkswagen engine on the deck which drives a hydraulic pump. In the photo below that Gardner took on Friday, the CRAB is surveying a profile of the beach. You can see more photos from the set here.

Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy (CRAB)

A Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy (CRAB) heads into the water by the Steeplechase Pier at Coney Island to gather data on the beach profile. September 20, 2013. Photo by Chris Gardener via New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

As ATZ reported earlier this month, the $7.2 million project to pump 600,000 cubic yards of sand along Coney Island’s shore began the weekend after Labor Day. Approximately 272,000 cubic yards of sand is replacing sand lost during Hurricane Sandy and the remaining amount of sand is to restore the project area to its original design after 20 years of erosion. According to the USACE, the engineered beach is designed to act as a buffer and reduce risks to homes and businesses from coastal storms like Hurricane Sandy. The crews will be working non-stop for another 2 to 3 weeks in order to be finished before the hurricane season.

Coney Island Post-Sandy Beach Restoration

Coney Island Post-Sandy Beach Restoration, September 20, 2013. Photo by Chris Gardener via New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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September 9, 2013: Photo Album: Post-Sandy Beach Replenishment Project in Coney Island

March 14, 2013: Photo of the Day: Repairing Sandy-Damaged Steeplechase Pier

February 1, 2013: Last Chance to See Coney Island’s 15th Street Sand Dunes

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

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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

“We are going to have a small gathering at the store this afternoon at 4pm to celebrate our 1 year anniversary,” says Jimmy Kokotas, owner of Tom’s Coney Island. One year ago today, September 23rd, the Boardwalk outpost of the popular Prospect Heights restaurant opened for business after many months of construction. Coney Island resident and ATZ contributing photographer Bruce Handy was one of their first customers and sent us the above photo of his first brunch.

Tom's Coney Island

Tom’s on the Coney Island Boardwalk. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

“I had two eggs over easy, home fries, whole wheat toast and coffee, all good,” said Bruce, whose photos of Tom’s first Sunday brunch he posted on his Coney Island Photo Diary. Are they serving pancakes yet? “Not sure, guy next to me had waffles,” he said. Since then, many eggs over easy, pancakes, sandwiches and wraps have been served at the Boardwalk establishment, which is open year round. “We will be staying open through the winter from 8-5, 7 days a week,” Jimmy Kokotas tells ATZ. “We are currently open 8-7 till daylight savings begins.”

Tom's Coney Island

Spinach and feta cheese omelet, Tom’s Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

What a year it’s been! A little over a month after Tom’s opened, Superstorm Sandy struck and flooding from Coney Island Creek devastated the neighborhood. The Boardwalk businesses miraculously escaped damage and Tom’s was of the few restaurants open in Coney Island. In the days after the storm, Tom’s became a hub of activity, serving as a command center for volunteers and a host for breakfast meetings about storm relief for local business owners and organizations.

Happy 1st Anniversary and many thanks to Jimmy Kokotas and family and Tom’s staff!

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

Tom's Coney Island

Post-Sandy meeting of neighborhood business owners at Tom’s Coney Island. November 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

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December 23, 2012: Photo of the Day: It’s a Wrap at Tom’s Coney Island

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Before television, newsreels like this one filmed in Coney Island circa 1945 were shown in movie theaters. The film starts with the Wonder Wheel (described by the narrator as “a mass of iron lace”) and ends with the Parachute Jump (“the highest in the whole United States”) and the Cyclone (“mountain climbing on wheels”). Among the long-vanished rides that appear are the Virginia Reel, Looper, Whip, Octopus, Caterpillar, Rocket Ships, a carousel with a ring machine and the original Steeplechase horse race.

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