Tourists often ask “what are those ruins on the Boardwalk?” Some locals tell them the crumbling palazzo by the sea is an old bathhouse. The former Childs Restaurant building has been been vacant for so long, between stints as a chocolate factory, a roller rink, and a warehouse, most people have no memory of its glory days.
Last weekend, ATZ took these photos of the 1923 landmark, which is now in hibernation, awaiting restoration as part of a $53 million dollar City project. Terra-cotta fish and seashells and Neptune the god of the sea peek out from above the sidewalk shed and plywood fencing, which was recently installed around the property.
The construction of the shed and fencing and work on the floors are the only permits currently approved by the Department of Buildings. Several other permits are still listed as on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit by the New York City Community Garden Coalition (NYCCGC) and the Coney Island Boardwalk Community Garden members vs the City and developer iStar Financial. The clerk for Judge Peter Sweeney, who got the case after a prior judge recused himself, told ATZ last week that the judge has not yet made a decision. At a hearing in December, Judge Sweeney asked both sides to submit briefs arguing for or against a jury trial.
“There is a chance that, given his willingness to bring the parkland issue before a jury, he might break up the case along its two issues and rule separately on each,” writes Aziz Dekhan on the NYCCGC’s website.”Or he might wait to rule on either issue until after he or a jury decides on the parkland issue.”
The crux of the suit is the gardeners’ claim the land is public parkland and that the development project is an alienation of parkland without the required approval of the state legislature. In December 2013, the garden was razed without warning to make way for construction of the seating area for the amphitheater, which was initially expected to open in June 2015.
ATZ previously wrote about the project when it was under consideration (Clock Ticking on Plan for the Landmark Childs Building, September 25, 2013) and after the razing of the garden (Pre-Dawn Bulldozing of Coney Island Community Garden, December 29, 2013).
Designated a landmark nearly twelve years ago, on February 4, 2003, the building operated as a restaurant until the early 1950s. Childs was one of the largest restaurant chains in the country with 107 restaurants in 33 cities in the U.S. and Canada by the 1920s, but it was not a formula business. According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission report, the Boardwalk restaurant was designed specifically for Coney Island “in a fanciful resort style combining elements of the Spanish Colonial Revival with numerous maritime allusions that refer to its seaside location.”
UPDATE December 12, 2015:
What is going on here? The Boardwalk Community Garden lawsuit is on its third judge with no end in sight! On Monday morn, NYCCGC in court again vs the City and iStar.
Related posts on ATZ…
September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round