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Archive for February, 2014

Wonder Wheel and Tilt-A-Whirl Cars

The cars of the Wonder Wheel and other rides are removed and refurbished during the winter at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. February 22, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

It’s 20° and more snow (insert groans) is predicted for the weekend, but Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park is busy preparing for Coney Island’s Opening Day. Palm Sunday is a mere 7 weeks away, on April 13th! ATZ got a behind-the-scenes look at the park’s annual maintenance rituals. If these photos make you yearn for spring and summer, you’re not the only one.

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Getting ready for opening day at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. February 22, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

At this time of year, the Vourderis family and their crew are at work daily getting the rides ready for the first spin of the 2014 season. Every year, the landmark 1920 Wheel is overhauled and painted, along with the park’s 20 other rides. The red, white and blue cars of Deno’s Wonder Wheel are always taken down at the end of the season and their return to the Wheel is the first sign of spring in Coney Island.

Mangels Ponycart and Wonder Wheel Cars

Mangels Ponycart and Freshly Painted Wonder Wheel Cars in Winter Storage at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. February 22, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

The date the Wonder Wheel cars go up is subject to the vagaries of wind, weather and work schedules, but it’s usually about a week before Opening Day. As we wrote last year: Being there to see the 24 cars go up, the Swinging ones first and then the Stationary, is like seeing crocuses bloom before your eyes.

Wonder Wheel Car being painted

Wonder Wheel Car being painted, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. February 22, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Among the other rides currently taken apart for refurbishment and painting are the Kiddie Park’s Rio Grande Train and Big Trucks. The tops of the Tilt-A-Whirl buckets are also getting a fresh coat of red.

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

Steve Vourderis and crew with car from Rio Grande Train, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. February 22, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

The traditional Palm Sunday opener for Coney Island’s amusement parks is a bit later this year since the April 13th holiday is a moveable feast. Last year, Opening Day was March 24th and in 2012 it was April 1st. Opening Day festivities include the Blessing of the Rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the ceremonial Egg Cream Christening of the first car on the Cyclone Roller Coaster. Until then, this ticket booth tantalizes walkers on the snow-dappled Boardwalk.

Ticket Booth at Deno's Wonder Wonder Park in Winter.

Ticket Booth at Deno’s Wonder Wonder Park in Winter. February 22, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

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September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

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

March 28, 2012: Photo Album: Looking Back at Coney Island’s Opening Day

March 19, 2012: In Just-Spring, the Wonder Wheel’s Cars Return

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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown/

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown. Photo © Feld Entertainment

Last week’s headlines were about a national clown shortage. This week brings news of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus holding auditions for their Clown Alley on March 12th at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Auditionees must be 18 or older and come prepared to show a 3-5 minute routine. This routine should display exaggerated facial expressions and body language, showcase any unique physical skills (juggling, unicycle riding, gymnastics, etc.) and demonstrate an understanding of their comedy, a sense of personality and a true desire to become a member of the world famous, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Clown Alley.

IMPORTANT: Auditionees should not wear any clown makeup and should not wear any costumes. Loose, comfortable clothing should be worn. It is preferred, but not required, that you bring a headshot and a resume to your audition.

Register for the New Jersey audition here. If you can’t make it, here’s where to send your DVD.

Competition for these jobs is always keen. According to Feld Entertainment, approximately 14 people are selected from the more than 4000 per year who apply for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. Would Judy Garland and Gene Kelly have made the grade?

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January 10, 2014: A Head Start on Summer Jobs in Coney Island

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August 31, 2010: Snapshots of the Coney Island Illuscination

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Surf Avenue

On the Market: Taconic’s former ‘Coney Island North Venture,’ vacant parcels of land on north side of Surf Ave. between W 16th and W 20th Streets

Last year, the landmark Childs Building on the Boardwalk and a neighboring lot zoned for condos became part of iStar Financial’s portfolio when Taconic Investment Partners, which acquired the properties in 2005, defaulted on loans. Now the other shoe has dropped. Taconic’s former “Coney Island North Venture,” three city blocks on the north side of Surf Avenue across from the Brooklyn Cyclones stadium totaling over 100,000 square feet of vacant land, is on the market.

ATZ learned of the offering from Coney Island broker Joe Vitacco. Neither Taconic nor iStar is mentioned in a two-page teaser for “Surf Avenue Assemblage: Prime Coney Island Mixed Use Development Opportunity.” Nor is the price. Interested persons are required to sign a nondisclosure agreement with the listing broker to find out additional info.

According to the brokers, R7-X and C2-4 zoning allows for approximately 380,426 buildable square feet as-of-right or up to 507,235 buildable square feet with inclusionary housing on 101,447 square feet of parcels. Combined Assessment/Taxes Due for 2013 and ’14 are $1,668,753/$185,488.

“Buyers can also explore a larger assemblage opportunity by incorporating adjacent sites currently owned by HPD,” says the flier. “Developers will also be able to take advantage of the property’s significant retail frontage. With few assemblages of this scale ever coming to market, the Surf Avenue Assemblage represents a unique opportunity to develop a project in one of New York City’s most dynamic submarkets.”

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering. CIDC Press Kit

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering Shows Residential Towers West and North of the Brooklyn Cyclones Stadium. CIDC Press Kit, 2009

Up until a few years ago when they fell silent, Taconic Investment Partners planned to build a glittering city of high-rise apartments and retail west and north of MCU Park. Their Senior VP of Acquisitions and his colleagues were a regular presence at hearings leading up to the Coney Island Rezoning of July 2009. According to Taconic’s website, the rezoning “significantly increased our buildable floor areas for mixed-use residential and retail projects to between 1.8 million and 2.4 million square feet, with the potential to create nearly 2,000 residential units and more than 200,000 square feet of retail space.”

The parcels between W 16th and W 20th Streets have been vacant since the wave of urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s, says Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson, who grew up a few blocks away and documented the razing of the neighborhood in his photos. The RKO Tilyou, operated by the Tilyou family across the street from their Steeplechase Park on Surf at West 17th was demolished in 1973.

Coney Island North and South Venture

Rendering of Coney Island North and South Venture, Taconic Real Estate Investment Partners

Taconic’s plans for their “Coney Island North and South Venture” remain on their website. Only the players are changing.

As Taconic CEO William Bendit told Eliot Brown of the New York Observer in an interview in 2009: “What attracted us to Coney Island was the fact that it’s vacant land—we didn’t have to dispossess anybody, relocate anybody. And it’s the beachfront. How much beachfront land is there in New York City? Not only that, but beachfront land that’s accessible to the subway. So, if you think about it, how many young people, or anybody, for that matter, would like to commute into New York or Brooklyn, and go home at night and live on the beach?”

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October 30, 2013: Photo Album: Four Transformations, One Year After Sandy

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February 17, 2011: New Construction: Coney Island’s 1st Private Beachfront Condos on Boardwalk

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