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Archive for January, 2015

Wahlburgers Coney Island

The location of the Wahlburgers celebrity burger franchise opening in Coney Island was publicly revealed for the first time today when signage went up on Thor Equities’ retail building. It’s no surprise –Coney insiders had already guessed because there’s one vacant retail space built for a restaurant and no other comparable spot for lease in the amusement area. In addition to the ground floor, the restaurant space offers rooftop seating.

The sign says “Coming Spring 2015 – Wahlburgers – Our Family – Our Story – Our Burgers” and promotes their website. The next guessing game is when the celebrity brothers–Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlberg– and a TV crew will turn up in Coney for a site visit. A May 1st opening date was previously announced.

The Wahlberg family’s adventures in the burger business is the subject of an A & E TV reality series that debuted in January 2014. The Coney Island location and the store’s opening are being scripted into the show’s 2015 season.

The building on Surf and Stillwell Avenues across from Nathan’s Famous has been long touted by Thor as “The Retail Ride of a Lifetime.” Current tenants include It’Sugar, Rainbow Shop, Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co. and two mini-arcades required by the City’s zoning law. Wahlburgers’ immediate neighbors will be the Brooklyn Nets Shop and Brooklyn Rock, which sells hand-printed clothing and gifts.

The company announced in December that New York-based franchisee Big Apple Burgers is preparing to launch six restaurants in Manhattan and one in Coney Island. Wahlburgers will join a number of other national chains and franchises slated to open this year in Coney Island. As ATZ reported earlier this week, Johnny Rockets, Checkers, and Subway Cafe are currently under construction, IHOP is finalizing a lease deal, and the Boston Beer Corporation got a license to operate a brewery to house their Coney Island Brewing Company division.

UPDATE April 27, 2015:

Last week, Wahlburgers released details of the 6,800 square foot franchise restaurant currently under construction in Coney Island and slated to open this summer. Read more at Coney Island 2015: Update on Wahlburgers, Temporary Fair at Thor’s Vacant Lots

Related posts on ATZ…

January 20, 2015: Boston Beer Corp’s Coney Island Brewery Gets Conditional Approval from NYSLA

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

December 5, 2014: Wahlburgers Burger Franchise to Open in Coney Island

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

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Astroland sign from Neptune's Flume

Astroland sign from Neptune’s Flume. January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

This set of photos was taken five years ago– January 31, 2009–on Astroland’s very last day. It was as bitter cold as it is today. In the months after the park closed in September 2008, the rides and games were dismantled and trucked away. According to the terms of Astroland’s lease extension with Thor Equities, the property had to vacated by February 1st. Amusing the Zillion did not debut until April 2009, but we posted these pix along with our thoughts on flickr:

I expected my Jan 28th visit to Astroland to be my last visit (see set). But I had some business in the area so I stopped by Astroland on Jan 31. By then there wasn’t much left and I didn’t have the heart to take more than a half dozen or so photos. Jan 31 was Astroland’s very last day, the day the lease expired and the property had to be vacated.

On Feb 1, 2009, the Astroland property became the former site of Astroland Park. Since then I refer to it as Thorland after Thor Equities. Others call it Sittville or Sittland East after Thor CEO Joe Sitt. The predatory real estate speculator who owns the 3-acre site is pressuring the city to allow for time-share high rises and shopping mall style retail. Astroland, and now the Boardwalk businesses threatened by huge Thor Space for Lease signs, are pawns or hostages in Thor’s high stakes game with the City. The City’s controversial rezoning of the C-7 amusement district is currently underway.

Abandoned old arcade machines

Abandoned old arcade machines on last day of Astroland. January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

Among the items that remained and were about to be thrown into a dumpster were these broken old arcade machines. Boxing machines manufactured by Zamperla! Ironically, the parks division of Zamperla would build Luna Park on the former Astroland site in 2010, after this lot and other boardwalk property was bought by the City from Thor Equities for $95.6 million.

Astroland's American flag

Rescuing Astroland’s American flag – where will she wave? January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

Jeff rescues Astroland’s American flag, which flew from the Astrotower, from soon to be Thorland. Astroland’s signs and rides are safe in storage. NOT sold to Australia or anywhere else, not yet! Perhaps the reconfigured “Astroland,” signs and all, will be able to return to a new location or its old location (if Sitt sells to the city) in Coney Island? That would be a “long shot” (Astroland owner’s words in the press). But I don’t think we should give up hope completely if the owner still has hope. Some of Astroland’s historic signs were rescued today by the Coney Island History Project.

Astroland signage

Rescuing signage from Astroland’s water flume. January 21, 2009

Home of the hot dog? This building has been used as a workshop for the last forty-some years. Astroland workers swept up for the last time on Jan 31, 2009 before vacating the property. I took these photos for my friend “Coney Islander.” who says the tiles are not only Coney Island history, but American history too. He wanted a tile as a keepsake, but we couldn’t find a loose one.

tile floor in the old Feltman's Kitchen

Home of the hot dog? The tile floor in the old Feltman’s Kitchen Bldg was swept on Astroland’s last day. January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

Of course “the first hot dog” was invented when Feltman was pushing a pie wagon in the 1860s. But the building is all that remains of Feltman’s empire in Coney Island. The floor definitely has character. It has a story to tell. We just have to figure out what it is. Sometimes if the true story isn’t known, an apochryphal one fills the vacuum. The floor looks so old it’s easy to imagine the original hot dog falling on it. It may be doubtful as history goes, but captures the imagination.

The story unfolded a year later, when the building was being demolished to make way for Luna Park: Nathan Slept Here! Coney Island’s Feltman’s Kitchen Set for Demolition, (ATZ, January 19, 2010)

Tile floor in Feltman's Kitchen, Coney Island

Tile floor swept clean in historic Feltman’s kitchen on Astroland property. January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

July 17, 2013: Astroland Rides Find Homes in Brooklyn, Costa Rica and Australia

March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

December 16, 2010: Blast from the Past: LFO’s Summer Girls Music Video

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

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coney Island Brewing Co.

Coney Island Brewing Co, and The Plunge, a Belgian-style Ale, were among the sponsors of this year’s Polar Bear Plunge. Photo via Coney Island Brewing Facebook.

The Coney Island Brewing Company, whose craft beers celebrate the iconography of Coney Island, may soon have a place to call its own on Surf Avenue. Boston Beer Corporation, which applied in September for a license to open a brewery under the trade name Coney Island Brewing Company at 1904 Surf Avenue, received a conditional letter of approval from the NY State Liquor Authority last week.

The line of Coney Island beers was relaunched in 2013 after being sold to Alchemy & Science, a division of Boston’s Samuel Adams. The brewery will be located in a retail space on the outside of MCU Park formerly occupied by Danny Boy’s Pizza and adjacent to Peggy O’Neill’s and the MCU Credit Union.

1904 Surf Avenue

Coney Island Brewing Co has applied for a brewer’s license at the 1904 Surf Ave store formerly occupied by Danny Boy’s Pizza. November 16, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

A conditional approval letter is issued upon completion of the license application process but prior to approval of the premises. According to the NYSLA, after a brewer’s license is granted, the permittee has the option of applying for a retail license and tasting permit.

“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Kathleen Barnes of the Coney Island Brewing Company told ATZ last year. She said they’re planning to have a tasting room, retail space, a community center, and tours of the brewing process. Draft beers will be sold in growlers. Retail items include Coney beer-themed tap handles, coolers, beach towels, T-shirts and trucker hats currently sold on the company’s online store. Asked if the brewery would be applying for a permit to operate a brew pub or restaurant at the location, Barnes said they were not.

The new brewery will mark a return to Coney for the namesake brand, which under Shmaltz Brewing ownership operated the “World’s Smallest Brewery” in a tiny storefront next to the freak show. That brewery was part of Coney Island USA’s small business incubator program from 2011 until it got washed away by Sandy.

New graphics on display

New graphics on display at Brass Monkey Launch Party, November 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

November 19, 2014: Coney Island Brewing Co. Applies for License for Surf Ave Brewery

November 25, 2013: Coney Island Freak Show-Inspired Beer Takes A New Ride

January 31, 2012: Remnant of Under Boardwalk Bar Found in Coney Island

October 11, 2011: Photo of the Day: Butterflies & Beer Island by Bruce Handy

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Subway Cafe

Subway Cafe, Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

More than two years after ATZ posted “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” (December 19, 2012), the trend continues. Across the street from Luna Park, an IHOP is finalizing a deal to open a pancake restaurant while a Subway Cafe has their sign up and is set to open a year-and-a-half after signing a lease. New FEMA regulations after Sandy are partly to blame for construction delays at Subway Cafe, a restaurant concept featuring “Tuscany-style decor” aiming for a “coffeehouse ambiance” and a layout a little larger than an average Subway.

Sushi Lounge

Sushi Lounge, Surf Avenue at W 12th Street. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Amid the influx of already opened national chains and franchises such as It’Sugar, Applebee’s, Rita’s Italian Ice, and Dunkin’ Donuts on Surf Avenue, there have also been a few new Mom & Pops like Lunatics Ice Cream and Luna Park Cafe (no connection to the park). An outpost of Piece of Velvet, a cake and cupcake shop with locations in Fort Greene and Harlem, is opening across the street from old-time Mom & Pops Williams Candy and Pete’s Clam Stop

Sushi is coming to the corner of Surf Ave. and West 12th Street, across the street from Coney Island USA. Shalyapin Wonderwheel Karaoke (no connection to Wonder Wheel Park) morphed into Surf 12 Club and Lounge, which features live music, but their newest sign says “SUSHI LOUNGE.” A spokesman told ATZ they wanted to do something different. A new display case stood ready to serve desserts. Quartet of Catastrophe will play on Friday at 9:30pm.

Applebee's

Signs in Applebee’s windows on Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Applebee’s, which opened in June 2013, has proven popular with locals and extended its hours. Multiple signs on the street and one in the sky announce they now serve breakfast daily from 8am till 12 noon. A sideshow banner for Gary Dreifus’ “Magic at Coney!!!” graces the window. After completing its run at Coney Island USA, the magical variety show has moved across the street to Applebee’s second floor for Sunday performances in the winter.

Unlike Manhattan, where Mom and Pops are being forced out by landlords who triple the rent and then turn around and lease to chains or upscale businesses, the new franchises on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue are replacing illegal furniture stores which have existed for years in defiance of the zoning. Until the early 1980’s the north side of Surf was home to individually-owned penny arcades and a variety of rides including bumper cars, carousels and even a Jumbo Jet-style coaster. By the time the last ride– Coney Island’s B & B Carousell — closed in 2005, the north side was known as the wrong side of Surf Avenue to locate a business because of the lack of foot traffic. Not any more.

Checkers Coney Island

Checkers in Stillwell Terminal, Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Two other previously announced and long under construction franchises that are expected to open in 2015 are Checkers in Stillwell Terminal, which has finally put its sign up, and its next door neighbor, Johnny Rockets. Like Subway Cafe, these businesses have been delayed by new and ever-changing post-Sandy building regulations. Johnny Rockets is waiting for approval of a storm surge resistant front to resume construction.

Just off Surf, on Stillwell Avenue, Thor Equities’ retail building is the site of New York City’s first Wahlburgers –Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlberg’s burger franchise– opening in May and written into the script of the Wahlberg’s reality show on A & E.

UPDATE January 30, 2015:

The Coney Island Brewing Company, whose craft beers celebrate the iconography of Coney Island, may soon have a place to call its own on Surf Avenue. Boston Beer Corporation, which applied in September for a license to open a brewery under the trade name Coney Island Brewing Company at 1904 Surf Avenue, received a conditional letter of approval from the NY State Liquor Authority last week.

Johnny Rockets Coney Island

Johnny Rockets, Surf Avenue, January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

October 2, 2015: Coney Eats: Magic Gyro & Checkers to Open, Kosher Pizza Signs Lease, Johnny Rockets & IHOP Underway

May 26, 2014: Photo Album: Opening Day for 5 New Businesses & Exhibits in Coney Island

January 3, 2014: New Year, New Franchise: Rita’s Italian Ice Coming to Coney Island

September 11, 2013: Subway Cafe to Replace Furniture Store on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

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Out of Disorder (Coney Island) 2012 by Takahiro Iwasaki.

Out of Disorder (ConeyIsland) 2012 by Takahiro Iwasaki. Asia Society Museum, thru April 26, 2015

The 150-foot tall steel Wonder Wheel inspired Takahiro Iwasaki’s ethereal ten-inch tall sculpture made of fibers pulled from the beach towels on which it is perched! The miniature landscape also includes neighboring Coney Island landmarks the Parachute Jump and Cyclone.

Created in 2012 during the Hiroshima-based artist’s International Studio and Curatorial Program residency in Brooklyn, “Out of Disorder (Coney Island) 2012” is among the works on view at Asia Society in the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the U.S. A newly commissioned piece created from kimono fibers takes its inspiration from a pair of 17th century Japanese folding screens from the Asia Society Museum Collection and will be shown alongside the six-panel screens.

Asia Society Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am-6pm and on Friday from 11am– 9pm. General admission is $12, seniors $10, students $7, and admission is free for members and persons under 16. Free admission Friday evenings, 6pm – 9pm.

“Takahiro Iwasaki: In Focus,” January 27 thru April 26, 2015 at Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue New York, NY, 212-288-6400

Related posts on ATZ…

December 13, 2014: Art of the Day: David Levine’s Watercolors of Coney Island

October 4, 2013: Art of the Day: John Dunivant’s Bizarre Midway

May 22, 2013: Art of the Day: Girl to Gorilla Showfront by Lew Stamm

September 17, 2011: Photography: Floating Above the Coney Island Boardwalk

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Photo © John Huntington

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

When Brooklyn photographer John Huntington took the subway to Coney Island at the start of the “Blizzard of 2015,” it was just before dusk and he had a subway car all to himself. He saw a few people heading home along Surf Avenue and a solitary figure seated on a bench looking out at the ocean. On the boardwalk, the patterns of freshly fallen snow on the slats are a lovely sight to see and to photograph, and one that will soon disappear if the Parks Department is allowed to continue replacing the wooden boards with concrete and plastic. The hibernating amusement parks and attractions provide a colorful backdrop for this storm chaser’s photos.

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard,

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

“Storm chasing requires knowledge of weather, mobility, and patience. I shoot any storm I can here in New York City, and in the spring I often chase across the great plains and beyond,” says the intro to a page with storm photos on Huntington’s blog. Among his photos are images of tornadoes in Kansas and Texas, and Coney Island and the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy.

Photo © John Huntington

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

“I’ve been chasing probably since the 80’s–my first chase was Hurricane Gloria,” Huntington told ATZ. The photographer hoped to go back to Coney on Tuesday. “I won’t be able to get out there tomorrow with no subway. This is apparently the first time they EVER shut the trains down for a snow storm,” he said. According to a popular post last night on the blog Second Avenue Sagas, the closing of the subway for a blizzard was ironic because it was built in response to people not being able to get around during the Blizzard of 1888.

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

Coney Island’s Parachute Jump, also known as Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, is lit nightly from dusk until midnight or later. Its 8,000 LEDs, which are said to be visible from Mars and are definitely visible on the Coney Island Cam, remained a beacon during the storm.

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

Nathan’s, which usually closes at 1 am, was one of the few places open on Monday evening. “I actually first told them trains were shutting down,” tweeted Huntington. “Kid behind the counter said he might sleep there and work tomorrow.”

How much snow did he predict for Coney? Some forecasters had begun revising projected snow totals downward.

“I won’t even guess :-) NWS is sticking to 18″ +.”

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard

Coney Island at the start of a blizzard, January 26, 2015. Photo © John Huntington

Related posts on ATZ…

December 29, 2014: Parachute Jump ‘Ball Drop,’ Sideshow & Fireworks at Coney Island on New Year’s Eve

November 18, 2014: ATZ’s Guide to Coney Island’s Honorary Walks and Places

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

November 28, 2013: Photo Album: Parachute Jump Lights Way to Year-Round Coney Island

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Snowy Cyclone

Snowy Cyclone. January 24, 2015. Photo © Bruce Handy

In this striking photo of Saturday morning’s snowfall by Coney Island resident Bruce Handy, the Cyclone is transformed into veritable “Russian Mountains,” as the world’s first roller coasters were called. The Beach and Boardwalk are a Winter Wonderland. It was a perfect day for Brooklyn’s Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, who brought their homemade sleds to Coney Island for the annual Klondike Derby. More snow is predicted for Monday and Tuesday.

Snowy Parachute Jump

Snowy Parachute Jump. January 24, 2015. Photo © Bruce Handy

Related posts on ATZ...

April 20, 2013: Photo of the Day: Moon Viewing in Coney Island by Bruce Handy

December 27, 2010: Photo of the Day: First Snow on Coney Island Boardwalk

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

December 20, 2009: Coney Island Photo of the Day: First Snow on the Cyclone

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