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Archive for the ‘amusement park’ Category

The return of the nervous kid who grew up in a house under a roller coaster? Woody Allen says his next movie will be set in an amusement park and could possibly be shot in Coney Island this summer. “If I can work out the logistics of it,” he told reporters at the Cannes Film Festival.

Scenes from Allen’s 1977 Annie Hall were filmed in Coney at the since demolished Thunderbolt roller coaster and the Cavalcade Bumper Cars on Surf Avenue. Where would he film today? Well, there’s Luna Park’s new Thunderbolt roller coaster, which does not have a house under it but does have a hair-raising 90 degree drop, and the roller coaster like thrill of the Wonder Wheel’s swinging cars, and the mighty Cyclone.

As Allen’s alter ego Alvy Singer says in Annie Hall, “My analyst says I exaggerate my childhood memories, but I swear I was brought up underneath the roller-coaster in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. Maybe that accounts for my personality, which is a little nervous, I think.”

The house under the roller coaster in Annie Hall was the real life home for 40 years of Mae Timpano, who shares vivid memories of good times and sad in a 2005 documentary by Lila Place. “If the wind was blowing towards the house, I heard everything going on in Coney Island,” says Timpano in the film.

Related posts on ATZ…

July 14, 2015L ‘Famous Nathan’ Documentary Gets Theatrical Run, VOD and DVD Release

April 19, 2015: USA Network’s Mr. Robot is Filming Again in Coney Island

January 1, 2015: Video of the Day: “Coney Island” with Arbuckle & Keaton (1917)

February 23, 2014: Sunday Matinee: Under the Roller Coaster (2005)

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Coney Island’s Opening Day ceremonies have been rescheduled for Saturday, March 26th, due to snow forecast for Palm Sunday. The parks will also be open March 25th, Good Friday, and March 27th, Easter Sunday.

In prep for Coney Island’s opening day on March 20th, the Wonder Wheel’s 24 cars were put back on the landmark ride on Friday. As we’ve noted in past years, the annual ritual is regarded as the first sign of spring in Coney Island. Being there to see the cars go up, the swinging blue and red ones first and then the stationary white, is like seeing crocuses bloom before your eyes.

This year, videographer Jim McDonnell recorded a wonderful up-close, behind-the-scenes look at the Vourderis family and their longtime crew returning the freshly painted and refurbished cars to the Wheel after the ride’s winter rest. At the 46 second mark, look for Wonder dog Ringo, park co-owner Steve Vourderis’s pet, cutely supervising. Ringo enjoys riding the Wheel and is no doubt anticipating his first ride of the season. So are we!

Deno’s Wonder Wheel and the rest of Coney Island’s rides will go for their first spin of the 2016 season on Palm Sunday, which also happens to be the first day of spring this year, and is just eight days away. The 31st annual Blessing of the Rides at Wonder Wheel Park starts at 11:00am. After the ceremony, there will be free rides for 300 children from the local Salt and Sea Mission, and free rides on Deno’s Wonder Wheel for the first 96 people on line in celebration of the 1920 Wheel’s 96th year.

Deno's Wonder Wheel

Wonder Wheel dog Ringo supervising the return of the cars to the Wheel. March 11, 2016. Photo © Jim McDonnell

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Monica

Monica, the High Striker Queen of Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s High Striker Queen is the first victim of the City’s scheme to use eminent domain to acquire six privately owned lots for “the revitalization of Coney Island.” One of the lots is the location where Monica and her partner Jeff ran their popular Mom & Pop “hit the hammer, ring the bell” game for the past four seasons. In an interview with ATZ, our crying and distraught friend said that on Sunday, just three weeks before Coney’s opening day, she was told by a rep of 12th Street Amusements that she could not set up this year. “I’m heartbroken. If I can’t find another place, I’m going to leave Coney Island for the last time.”

“Block 8696, parts of lot 140” at 3025 West 12th Street is owned by the Murray family and has been used for amusements for over 100 years, according to testimony by Carol Murray at the October 19, 2015 eminent domain hearing, as ATZ previously reported (“Goodbye Ghost Hole, MCU Parking Lot? City’s Coney Land Grab Not Just Vacant Land,” ATZ, October 20. 2015).

The Bloomberg administration was right to back off from the idea of taking land by condemnation from Thor Equities and other Coney Island property owners during the rezoning hearings in 2009. Under sharp questioning by City Council land use committee members, the NYCEDC’s Seth Pinsky was forced to admit, “I’m not saying we will use eminent domain, but in fairness to your question, I’m not saying we won’t.” In order to get Council members to agree to vote for the zoning, the NYCEDC instead had to negotiate an agreement to buy property from Thor Equities. At the same time, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and other property owners were no longer threatened by E.D.

Block 8696 parts of lot 140

Block 8696, parts of lot 140 on West 12th Street. The area marked in red, where the Ghost Hole is located and the High Striker was until recently, is to be taken by eminent domain. October 19, 2015

Now the de Blasio administration plans to take this piece of land by condemnation to complete Wonder Wheel Way, a pedestrian walkway hatched by city planners and enshrined in the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009. The idea is to connect the landmark Parachute Jump, Wonder Wheel and Cyclone. But the walkway would cut through 12th Street Amusements, as well as Wonder Wheel Park and Luna Park, forcing the removal or relocation of rides and attractions in its path, including 12th Street’s Ghost Hole and the indie High Striker.

Twelfth Street Amusement’s Guerrero family, who own and operate the Polar Express, Ghost Hole and two other rides, have a long-term lease on the Murray property and since 2012 had sublet the southernmost corner of it to Monica and Jeff for their High Striker. Just prior to the October 2015 hearing, Monica and her partner were forced to cut short the season and remove all of their equipment.

Ghost Hole

12th Street Amusements’ Ghost Hole and Monica’s High Striker are in the path of the City’s proposed extension of Wonder Wheel Way. October 11, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

“Up until today, I was led to believe there was a chance I could come back. Now I’m left scrambling,” said Monica, who has been displaced before due to changes in land ownership, yet she always managed to come back. When ATZ worked a game on Jones Walk in 2008, Monica was a few doors down. She had locations on the Bowery prior to moving to West 12th Street. Now however, Monica says: “There’s very limited space available for us. Because of people buying up property, there’s next to nothing.”

ATZ asked attorney Jennifer Polovetsky, whose law firm Sanchez & Polovetsky handles eminent domain cases, including the last holdouts at Atlantic Yards, whether displaced subtenants as well as tenants are eligible for compensation. “It depends on the terms of the lease and whether there are eligible trade fixtures,” said Polovetsky. “There’s not a blanket rule.”

Wonder Wheel Way

Wonder Wheel Way is a work in progress. Section between Stillwell Ave and West 15th St used as a parking lot for Luna Park. October 11, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

January 28, 2016: EXCLUSIVE: Jeff Persily Recalls Family’s Coney Island Years After Sale of Property to Thor Equities

November 9, 2015: Thor Equities Buying 3 Lots on Coney Island’s Bowery, Mom & Pops Await Rent Increase Amid Rumors of Hotel

October 20, 2015: Goodbye Ghost Hole, MCU Parking Lot? City’s Coney Land Grab Not Just Vacant Land

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

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Miss Coney Island

Miss Coney Island – 25 cents to fall in love. December 6, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Miss Coney Island, the legendary dancing doll whose twin mottoes are “25¢ to Fall in Love” and “Don’t Postpone Joy,” will be open on New Year’s Day. Join her and her dancing cats– the cost of a dance will remain at 25 cents in 2016. She wants to show off her sweet new skirt, which her dresser did not get around to putting on till after the season was over. A favorite tape featuring reggae versions of Auld Lang Syne and Christmas carols will be played.

The doll and the cats are located on West 12th Street, under the Wonder Wheel, which will also be open for the first time ever on New Year’s, weather permitting.

Originally a circa 1935 Indian Princess at the Danbury Fair, the doll was bought at auction when the fair closed and soon underwent a sea change into Miss Coney Island. Father Time has been kind to her. Though you’d never guess it to look at Miss Coney, she is over 80, just ten years younger than Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s mechanical fortuneteller, Grandma’s Predictions.

Miss Coney Island

Father Time has been kind to Miss Coney Island, a circa 1935 dancing doll. December 6, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

October 4, 2015: Video: Coney Island Dancing 2015 by Jim McDonnell

April 6, 2014: Photo of the Day: Miss Coney Island’s Dancing Cat

September 30, 2012: Photo of the Day: Last Dance With Miss Coney Island

April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

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Astrolands Bright and Shining Gate On Surf Avenue, September 7, 2008. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita

Astroland's Bright and Shining Gate On Surf Avenue, September 7, 2008. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita

One of the eight-foot by seven-and-a-half-foot lighted stars from Astroland’s Surf Avenue gate is in the National Air and Space Museum among other space-age icons, but the second one could be yours for Christmas. Along with pieces of Dante’s Inferno dark ride, the Bonanza shooting gallery, and a variety of signage, the star is among the last vestiges of the Coney Island amusement park being offered for sale. Mark Blumenthal, Astroland’s longtime operations manager, has overseen the sale of the rides since the park closed and was dismantled at the end of 2008. If you’re interested in acquiring an Astro artifact, you can email Blumenthal at astrolandmark[at]aol[dot]com.

Dante's Inferno demon

Dante’s Inferno demon on crane, Astroland Park in Coney Island- Photo © Tricia Vita. December 26, 2008.

“We’d like to sell the ride as a whole,” Blumenthal said of Dante’s, which consists of the giant demon’s head and torso from the façade, props, track and cars in storage trailers. “But if someone has a home for the pieces, we’d entertain the idea of selling them.” Dante’s Inferno was made by the Italian manufacturer Soli and brought to Astroland in 1971, according to a tribute on Laff in the Dark’s website. More than a dozen stunts created by Lou Nasti’s Brooklyn-based Mechanical Displays in the 1990s are also for sale.

At the Brooklyn Museum, the Cyclops head from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s Spook-A-Rama dark ride, which is going into its 66th year of operation in Coney, is on display as part of the exhibit Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland. Can Dante’s demon make a similar transition from the amusement park midway to the art world? Or what about bringing it home to Coney and exercising a little creative reuse?

Also being offered for sale is the old-timey Bonanza shooting gallery, where you could shoot the piano player. You may recall it was located on the Surf Avenue side of the park next to Gregory & Paul’s. Manufactured by Taylor Engineering, Bonanza shooting galleries first debuted in 1958 and this one was brought to Coney Island by Gregory in the mid-’70s.

“It was redone a couple of years before we closed,” says Blumenthal. “It’s the old technology,” referring to the fact that vintage Bonanza galleries used photocell sensors activated by a bright light source, usually from the rifles. That’s why there were multiple signs saying “No Photography” and why we have no photos. You can catch a glimpse of it in the following video. Refurbished galleries such as “The World’s Largest Bonanza Gallery.” currently on the fair circuit, use an infrared beam of light instead of flashing light.

As we noted in a post in 2013, Astroland’s rides have found homes in Costa Rica, South America, Australia, New Jersey and Brooklyn. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park brought back the Barbieri Bumper Cars and Scrambler, and together with the Coney Island History Project, the 1960’s Astroland Rocket, which once perched on Gregory & Paul’s rooftop as an advertisement.

Signage from Astroland’s Surf and Boardwalk entrances to the park, as well as the arcade are also for sale.”I miss it, but a lot of us miss it,” Blumenthal says of Astroland. “Now it’s part of history.”

Astroland arcade sign

Astroland arcade sign. Photo © Tricia Vita. July 25, 2008

Related posts on ATZ…

June 4, 2014: Astroland Rocket Finds New Home Beside the Wonder Wheel

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

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Wonder Wheel and Spook-A-Rama Skeleton

Deno’s Wonder Wheel and Spook-A-Rama Skeleton. September 7, 2015.

Happy Halloween! Thanks to the extended season and the spooky holiday falling on a Saturday, which hasn’t happened in several years, Spook-A-Rama is open on Halloween Weekend for the first time ever. Coney Island’s legendary 60-year-old dark ride adjacent to Deno’s Wonder Wheel opens at 12 noon.

November 1st is the last day of the season for Coney Island’s two amusement parks – Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and Luna Park – which are scheduled to reopen on Coney’s traditional opening day, Palm Sunday, March 20, 2016. This weekend is your last chance to go for a first date or get engaged on the Wonder Wheel and brave the Cyclone roller coaster in 2015.

Related posts on ATZ…

December 23, 2013: Coney’s Parachute Jump & Wonder Wheel Lit for Christmas

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

March 29, 2013: Spook-A-Rama Revival: Vintage Cyclops Meets New Dragon

March 13, 2013: Coney Island 2013: New Ghouls Mingle with Old in Rebuilt Spook-A-Rama

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Ghost Hole

12th Street Amusements’ Ghost Hole is smack dab in the path of the City’s proposed extension of Wonder Wheel Way. October 11, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

At Monday’s public hearing on the City’s controversial plan to use eminent domain to acquire six privately owned lots for “the revitalization of Coney Island,” drawings show 12th Street Amusements’ Ghost Hole ride on “Block 8696, parts of lot 140” destined for condemnation. The land to the right of the ride, where a longtime Mom and Pop sublease property to operate a High Striker, is also on the part of the lot to be seized by the City. “There are no proposed alternative locations,” the public notice for the hearing published in the NY Post sternly warns.

Block 8696 parts of lot 140

Block 8696, parts of lot 140. the area marked in red is to be taken by eminent domain. October 19, 2015

The reason for the acquisitions was revealed: “Certain replacement parkland” is needed because of “the de-mapping of existing parkland,” stated the Parks Department attorney who ran the hearing. He did not explicitly say which parkland would be demapped, and since “this is not a question and answer forum” (he said twice), no questions were answered. However, it is published information and old news dating back to the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009, except that most people either forgot or never knew that the MCU parking lot, which is parkland owned by the City, is to be de-mapped and sold to a developer. What for? The construction of residential towers with height limits in the range of the Parachute Jump.

Among those who spoke out against it at those long ago rezoning hearings was preservationist Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City, who said “In Paris, the Eiffel Tower is framed by parkland. Why is that impossible here?” Refresh your memory by looking at the City’s renderings from 2007. In order to de-map parkland, the State requires that it be replaced with parkland of equal acreage and the City must apply to the State for alienation legislation. However, with the Bloomberg administration’s zoning nearly 6 years ago and a new Mayor who ran as the anti-Bloomberg in place who knew the plan was still a go?

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering. CIDC Press Kit, 2007.

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering Shows Residential Towers West and North of Keyspan Park, now MCU Park. CIDC Press Kit, 2007

As we wrote in “Steeplechase Pool, Zip Coaster Sites to Be De-Mapped for Housing” (January 11, 2010)

It’s a shame that part of the City’s Steeplechase property is set to become a residential enclave with million dollar views instead of additional acreage for Coney Island’s new amusement park.The fact that the Giuliani administration paved over Paradise–part of the Steeplechase Park site–to allow parkland to be turned into the Keyspan parking lot is bad enough (nod to Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”). Now the Bloomberg administration is asking the state legislature to “alienate” and de-map the parkland/parking lot so it can be sold to a private developer to build 1,900 units of housing.

The Brooklyn Cyclones ballpark was built on the site of Steeplechase’s Pavilion of Fun, but the ballpark is a recreational use and helped revitalize Coney Island when it opened in 2001. A mass of apartment towers on the edge of a dwarfed amusement area is another story, though the City insists 5,000 units of housing is a necessary component of their plan to revitalize Coney Island.

Detail of CIDC Map of of Coney Island Redevelopment Plan.  Salmon and cream color denote residential and residential towers north and west of MCU Park

Detail of CIDC Map of of Coney Island Redevelopment Plan. Salmon and cream color denote residential and residential towers north and west of MCU Park, 2007

News reports prior to Monday’s hearing focused on the acquisition of long vacant land such as the former Thunderbolt lot, but the land grab is not about punishing property owners for keeping their holdings vacant. If it were, Thor Equities’ blighted lot on Surf Avenue and West 12th Street, among others, and Bullard’s Shore Theater, vacant for 40 years, would also be on the list of properties to be taken by condemnation.

As we already noted, the proposed acquisition includes property currently and historically used for amusement attractions. “Block 8696, parts of lot 140” is owned by the Murray family and has been used for amusement rides for over 100 years, Carol Murray said in her comments at the hearing. The taking of the land constituted “abuse,” she added. In negotiations with the City’s Economic Development Corporation, she said she is being asked to sell the property to the City, which will then lease a portion of it back to her to operate the amusements that already exist on the spot. “It fails to meet the standards of eminent domain,” she said.

eminent domain hearing

Carol Murray, whose family owns a lot leased to 12th St Amusements that is set to be taken by eminent domain by the City, calls the procedure “abuse” at public hearing. October 19, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

While many of our Coney friends have said they’re in the dark about what the City is up to, eminent domain in Coney Island is nothing new. Remember Robert Moses? (ICYMI Read Chapter 5 of Charles Denson’s Coney Island: Lost and Found). Remember the behind the scenes bargaining leading up to the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009? (ICYMI See Amy Nicholson’s film Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride). In fact, why write new text when we can recycle old ATZ blog posts that are pertinent once again. As we wrote in “Eminent Domain in Coney Island? Fuhgeddaboutit!” (July 31, 2012):

The Bloomberg administration was right to back off from the idea of taking land by condemnation from Thor Equities and other Coney Island property owners during the rezoning hearings in 2009. Under sharp questioning by City Council land use committee members, the EDC’s Seth Pinsky was forced to admit, “I’m not saying we will use eminent domain, but in fairness to your question, I’m not saying we won’t.” In order to get Council members to agree to vote for the zoning, the EDC instead had to negotiate an agreement to buy property from Thor Equities. At the same time, other property owners were no longer threatened by E.D.

We attended that land use committee hearing too, and left with the impression ED was off the table. But that was the Bloomberg administration. A new administration doesn’t have to follow the playbook of the previous one. Back in the ’60s Fred Trump destroyed Steeplechase Park, one of Coney Island’s most famous amusement parks, confident that he would get to develop the “south side” of Surf. That effort failed. The City rejected Trump’s proposed zoning change to develop Miami-style apartments on the beachfront where they approved them in the rezoning of 2009.

Fred’s son Donald Trump has been in the news recently for saying “eminent domain is wonderful.” No one suggested anything like that at Monday’s hearing. The support was tepid with the exception of Dick Zigun, Coney Island’s self-proclaimed Mayor, who jumped on the ED bandwagon by saying “Finish the job.”

Pamela Pettyjohn of the Coney Island Beautification Project said, “Once you open the door for eminent domain, you can’t close it back. It can be abused. Everyone can be in jeopardy.” Ironically the Supreme Court case of Kelo v the City of New London that makes it possible for the City to condemn privately owned property so that it could be used as part of a “comprehensive redevelopment plan” did not turn out to be for the public good in New London. The seized property is a vacant lot ten years after the court’s decision.

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