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Archive for March, 2014

Gogo and Didi Do NYC

Image on autographed T-shirts being auctioned on eBay Giving Works to benefit City Harvest

A series of photos of actors Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen hamming it up at New York City tourist spots during rehearsals for their Broadway run in Waiting for Godot and No Man’s Land has been a hit on twitter. Called “Gogo and Didi Do NYC,” the social media campaign took the bowler-hatted duo from the Empire State Building and Katz’s Deli to Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel and Nathan’s. With their last performance set for March 30th, McKellen and Stewart are now inviting fans to bid on three autographed T-shirts custom-printed with their image at a Coney Island souvenir shop during their September visit.

Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen riding Wonder Wheel,

Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen riding the Wonder Wheel, Coney Island, September 2013

Current bids on the shirts (small, medium and large) range from $560 to $625, making them the most expensive Coney Island Tees in history. It’s for a good cause. The proceeds of the eBay auction, which ends on April 3rd, will benefit City Harvest. As Stewart writes:

In Waiting for Godot, Gogo and Didi are two old tramps, needy indeed. They don’t know where they’ll sleep that night, they don’t know where their next meal will come from, and they hoard their meager resources, sharing whatever they do have. In short, they’re hungry. It seemed a natural fit—Gogo and Didi and City Harvest. City Harvest helps to feed nearly two million New Yorkers facing hunger each year. So bid early, bid often, bid high, and know that you’ll be funding a vital and important organization.

Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in Coney Island

Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen eating at Nathan’s, Coney Island, September 2013

As for Stewart and McKellen’s trip to Coney Island, it was memorable…

But one day in particular was unusually fun—we went out to the famous Coney Island and had a marvelous time. We played skee ball, hopped on the Wonder Wheel (the view from up there is lovely), and went and scoffed hotdogs at Nathan’s. (Ian, being a pescatarian, delighted in corn-on-the-cob and clam chowder.) In a truly bizarre moment, to our surprise we found Leonard Nimoy, seated outside a few tables away, himself indulging in Nathan’s for the first time. After lunch, we strolled back to the boardwalk. Ice cream for me, candyfloss for Sir Ian, on a bench, on the Coney Island boardwalk…two old(ish) Brits enjoying a classic American seaside landmark. As we left the fairground area and the late afternoon was approaching, we stopped off at a souvenir vendor’s booth and posed for a silly portrait that we impulsively had printed up onto three t-shirts.

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February 28, 2014: Photo Album: Wonder Wheel Park Preps for Coney Island’s Opening Day

November 16, 2013: Photo of the Day: Still Only 25 Cents to Fall in Love

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

October 3, 2012: Photo of the Day: The Weekday View from Ruby’s Bar

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'Mic Check" by RAE in Coney Island

‘Mic Check” by RAE in Coney Island, March 25, 2014

It wouldn’t be spring in Coney Island without street art by RAE popping up across from the Cyclone roller coaster. One of his Instagram followers calls it “Rae’s block.” This imposing and folksy character was created from scrap metal, handlebars, a BMW hubcap, Mardi Gras beads and of course a microphone. “All parts are found. I believe the hands are from a Bart Simpson doll,” RAE tells ATZ.

The last time we saw the Brooklyn-based artist’s work in Coney was around this time last year on the same block. “Rae practices good placement, which is one of the most important considerations for exciting street art,” says RJ Rushmore of street art blog Vandalog, who named RAE one of the “10 Street Artists to Watch in 2013.″

And watch him we did. Last year, RAE’s drawings, paintings and sculpture transformed an East Village bodega into a pop-up show titled “Word of Mouth” and his first solo show in London opened at the Signal Gallery.

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March 18, 2013: Art of the Day: Street Art by RAE in Coney Island

June 21, 2012: Photo Album: Mermaid Avenue Murals and Public Art

May 3, 2011: Photo of the Day: Street Art by RAE in Coney Island

April 15, 2011: Photo Album: Whimsical Murals Blossom in Coney Island

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Thor's Coney Island

Thor’s Coney Island: Aerial view of vacant lots on south side of the Bowery between W 12th and W 15th where amusements once thrived. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Thor Equities’ huge vacant lots on Stillwell Avenue in the heart of Coney Island were cleaned up over the weekend and two different sources say rides are coming. The news is unconfirmed and it’s hard not to be skeptical considering the history of what’s been here since Joe Sitt acquired the land and began evicting longtime ride and park operators in 2006. But everybody — or almost everybody– wants to see the property activated instead of sadly sitting vacant (and yes, that is a pun). If temporary rides are in the stars for Thor’s Coney Island this season, let’s hope it works out this time. Despite various amusement operators efforts to negotiate lease deals, the lots remained vacant in 2010 and again last year, when a stop-work order was issued on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.”

Ring of Fire

Geren Rides’ Ring of Fire on Stillwell Ave in Coney Island, July 5, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

A little history in case you weren’t around to experience the drama: In October 2006, eight amusement businesses, including Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City and Eddie Miranda’s Zipper, which inspired the film Zipper, received notice from new property owner Thor Equities to be out by the end of the year. On Memorial Day Weekend 2008, Joe Sitt proclaimed “The Summer of Hope” and filled the reviled empty lots on Stillwell with carnival rides from Reithoffer Shows and Geren Rides for a limited run. Hope died when the rides left in mid-July and were replaced by a couple of inflatable bounces.

inflatable bouncer

After the carnival left: Batman and Cinderella’s Castle inflatable bounces on Thor’s vacant lot in Coney Island. August 8, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

Skeptics said the amusements were a ruse in the lead-up to the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009. At the time, Sitt and the City were at a standoff in negotiations over a compromise plan that would reduce the acreage of the amusement zone and allow high-rise hotels on the south side of Surf Avenue.

Cobra Ride

The Cobra was among the flat rides at Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park on Stillwell Avenue. June 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Failed flea markets made a mockery of the rezoning in 2009 and 2011. “Festival by the Sea” and the “BK Festival” were granted City permits as a “temporary fair” because a flea market is not a permitted use on this property in Coney Island. Clever, huh? In 2012, rides, games and sideshows returned to Thor’s Stillwell lots for the first time since 2008. As a critic of flea markets on land where the Tornado roller coaster (1927-1977) and the Bobsled (1941-1974) had once thrilled, we were happy to see the BK Festival and Thor Equities take this new direction.

Among the rides were the Cobra, which amusement park blogger The DOD3 describes as White Trash Carny Ride #7. “Every Cobra I’ve been on looks like it’s stuck in a 70s timewarp but they all give wonderfully intense rides,” he writes. Other WTCRs on his list are the Skydiver (#1), the Zipper (#3) and the Trabant (#9), all of which Coney used to have. A Trabant was one of the rides at Dreamland, a temporary park on the former Astroland site in 2009.

BK Festival: Giant Slide on Stillwell Avenue West. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

There were problems at the Stillwell Avenue park from the get-go. Originally set to open on Memorial Day Weekend 2012, the park was not able to open till four weeks later. A Giant Slide and Zipline never opened at all. Filing of paperwork with City agencies and bureaucratic red tape was blamed for the delay. City permitting issues relating to fencing closed the park intermittently and irregular hours had some visitors asking if and when it was open. The Mega Whirl, a prototype ride that combined the thrill of the Whip and the Tilt-A-Whirl debuted here and its abandoned platform remains on the lot, a symbol of financial ruin and broken dreams.

MegaWhirl Ride in Coney Island

MegaWhirl Ride and Zipline on Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. November 11, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

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March 11, 2014: Thor’s Coney Island: BurgerFi, Arcade Coming to Stillwell & Surf

March 10, 2014: High Hopes for Coney Island’s New Thunderbolt Coaster

October 17, 2013: The New Coney Island: Thor Equities Vacant Lots, Dummy Arcades

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

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