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Archive for the ‘Coney Island Redevelopment’ Category

Eric Adams Mark Treyger

Borough President Eric Adams and Councilman Mark Treyger and officials at Dec 18 Announcement for New Year’s Eve Celebration in Coney Island. Photo via Coney Island Facebook

Today’s 1pm rally moved to Boardwalk pavilion at Brighton 4th St, few blocks west of Coney Island Ave, if still raining. Please spread the word!

Borough President Eric Adams, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and possibly Senator Chuck Schumer are scheduled to join the January 18th community rally to save the historic Riegelmann Boardwalk. Councilman Mark Treyger and Councilman Chaim Deutsch, whose districts include the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Boardwalk, organized the rally, which is at 1pm on the Boardwalk at Coney Island Avenue in Brighton. Take the Q train to the Brighton Beach stop and then walk one block to the Boardwalk.

“I share their views on the Boardwalk,” Borough President Eric Adams said in a sitdown with the Brooklyn Daily last week. “We do need to protect Coney Island and what makes it so special — its history and traditions — and I think a wooden Boardwalk is a part of that.”

We hope YOU will join the rally, too. It’s not an exaggeration to say this may be our last chance to save the Boardwalk. Last month, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission used a form letter from 2012 and incorrect info to reject the Council Members’ petition, according to “Coney’s Boardwalk Should Be a Landmark,” an essay by historian Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project. Meanwhile, the City’s Parks Department and its commissioner Mitchell Silver are going ahead with a project to make a concrete roadway for so-called “emergency vehicles” (garbage trucks, Parks Dept vans etc.) on the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach, a pilot project approved in 2012 by six appointees of Mayor Bloomberg.

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk/No Concrete. Sign on Building Facing Boardwalk East of Ocean Parkway in Brighton Beach. Photo © Bruce Handy

The Borough President co-sponsored Coney Island’s first New Year’s Eve celebration including an LED light show and fireworks at the Parachute Jump, fulfilling a promise he made during the campaign. “The Riegelmann Boardwalk is imprinted with over 90 years of history, helping to establish Coney Island as America’s playground,” Adams said in December, in support of CM Treyger and Deutsch’s petition to make the boardwalk a Scenic Landmark.

“Millions of visitors have made the pilgrimage to southern Brooklyn, and we want to see millions more enjoy its unique, iconic character in the decades to come,” said the Borough President. “I support a scenic landmark designation for the Riegelmann Boardwalk because I believe it is in the best interest of Brooklyn’s cultural and economic well-being. I look forward to working with my elected colleagues and local stakeholders to advance this proposal.”

Boardwalk renovation 1934

The Boardwalk opened in 1923 and was already undergoing renovation in 1934: Group of men ripping up old planking on Coney Island boardwalk near Half Moon Hotel. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection

Mayor Bill de Blasio has not only continued the Bloomberg-approved Concretewalk but failed to listen to local council members and the community. All year, letters and requests for an environmental study and a meeting to discuss the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Boardwalk with Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver were rebuffed. A stakeholders’ meeting was belatedly arranged on the day before New Year’s Eve, according to a report by the NY Daily News titled “City won’t budge on plan to change Coney Island Boardwalk’s wooden planks to used plastic and concrete.”

“The fate of the Boardwalk is in your hands,” Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance president Rob Burstein wrote today in a letter calling for a huge turnout. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is our make or break moment! Please contribute to our common effort in the one way that you can make a difference- Show up and stand with us! I know that you believe that the Boardwalk is worth saving – for ourselves and for future generations – and should not be destroyed by uncaring bureaucrats. You must show up and say so!”

save the boardwalk

Related posts on ATZ…

December 20, 2014: Save the Boardwalk for Future Gens! Sign Brooklyn Pols Petition to Make it ‘Scenic Landmark’

March 22, 2012: The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues

March 9, 2012: The 10 People Who Will Decide the Fate of Coney Island Boardwalk

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

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Wahlburg family

The Wahlburg family at last month’s grand opening of Wahlburgers Toronto

Wahlburgers, a burger restaurant founded in Boston by the three Wahlberg brothers–actors Mark and Donnie, and chef Paul Wahlberg– is the latest national chain set to come to Coney Island. The company announced today that New York-based franchisee Big Apple Burgers is preparing to launch six restaurants in Manhattan and one in Coney Island.

“We’re confident that our knowledge and expertise will be a great asset to the Wahlburgers brand,” said John Cestare of Big Apple Burgers. “It’s exciting to partner with the Wahlberg family and brand knowing we share the same values and family-work culture.” Ten days ago, John Castare registered the name “Coney Burgers LLC” after registering “Big Apple Burgers LLC” earlier in November. Since the deal has just been signed, no info on the franchise’s location has been released yet. (Update: here it is!)

The Wahlberg family’s adventures in the burger business is the subject of an A & E TV reality series that debuted in January. The Coney Island location, which is expected to open in May, will be scripted into the show. After opening the first restaurant in 2011, they made deals to open locations in Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Toronto. Today’s announcement also included 20 franchise locations in Florida.

Wahlburgers

Wahlburgers menu via Wahlburgersrestaurant.com

Will the Wahlbergs’ celebrity help them win the hamburger market share in Coney? Boardwalk mainstays Nathan’s, Tom’s, Ruby’s, and Paul’s Daughter have burgers on their menus as does Peggy O’Neill’s on Surf Avenue. White Castle Express serves their sliders at two seasonal locations in Luna Park. Burger franchises currently under construction in Coney include a Checkers in Stillwell Terminal and a Johnny Rockets next door. The Johnny Rockets as well as a Subway Cafe on the north side of Surf have faced construction delays due to post-Sandy FEMA regulations requiring them to raise the floor by 2-1/2 feet. “Some of the regulations they’re making up as they go along,” broker Joe Vitacco told ATZ.

No word on the status of the Burger-Fi which Thor Equities’ Glenn Vogel said last spring was coming to their retail building on Stillwell. Has Wahlburgers grabbed that spot, which includes a roof deck? It’s a pretty good bet. Rumor has it that’s the location and it’s set to be revealed during the reality show. Check back for updates.

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

UPDATE January 31, 2015:

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 on Stillwell Avenue.

Related posts on ATZ…

November 18, 2014: Coney Island Brewing Co. Applies for License for Surf Ave Brewery

May 25, 2014: Photo Album: Opening Day for 5 New Businesses & Exhibits in Coney Island

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

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

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Little Caesars

Little Caesars $5 Pizza at Thor’s Retail Building at Surf and Stillwell. May 31, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

The latest chain to put its name on the glittering marquee of Thor Equities building in the new Coney Island is Little Caesars Pizza. Over Memorial Day Weekend, there was a cart selling Little Caesars “Hot-n-Ready” $5.00 pizzas in front of Thor’s building at Surf and Stillwell. The price was right and they sold out. Afterwards, signs remained taped to the outside of the window advertising the food franchise. We wondered if it was a tryout by a franchisee or guerrilla marketing. The official sign for “Little Caesars Express” went up last week. The Detroit-based Little Caesars is the nation’s third largest pizza chain with over 35 locations in New York City. It joins Applebee’s, Dunkin Donuts, Subway, Rita’s Italian Ice, It’Sugar and Rainbow Shops in making Surf and Stillwell a new mecca for chains and franchises.

What’s up with the vacant “ARCADE” next door? According to the Coney Island Rumor Mill, an arcade operator has agreed to fill the building’s two dummy arcades with games but paperwork issues are delaying the deal. No surprise there. Making a mockery of the zoning laws, the designated “arcades” have remained vacant ever since the building’s first tenant, Miami candy chain It’Sugar, opened last year. The 2009 Coney Island Rezoning requires the building to have a percentage of amusements equal to the square footage allocated for the arcades. If something other than amusements went into the space, the building’s C of O would be in jeopardy.

Why doesn’t Thor CEO Joe Sitt just throw some arcade machines in the “arcades” and open them up to the public instead of taking advantage of what appears to be a loophole in the zoning law that allows the spaces to remain vacant? Based on Sitt’s eviction of amusements from his property (“Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt,” ATZ, March 3, 2010), it’s our opinion that he’s not in any hurry to replace them.

The zoning states that “At least 15 percent of the Stillwell Avenue and West 10th Street street frontage of any zoning lot shall be occupied by Use Group A1 uses at the ground floor level.” Use Group “A1″ includes amusement arcades as well as open booths with games of skill or chance, such as water racing and shooting galleries, which used to occupy the spot in the demolished Henderson Building where the Brooklyn Nets Shop is now.

Related posts on ATZ…

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

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

September 2, 2013: The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks

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

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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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Related posts on ATZ…

December 7, 2013: New Construction: Coney Island Area’s 1st Hotel in Decades

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

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

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

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Runaway rabbit

Runaway bunny returns to bulldozed Coney Island Community Garden. January 7, 2013. Photo by Carolyn McCrory

The rabbit and the cats who ran off during the December 28th pre-dawn bulldozing of the Coney Island Community Garden, where they were cared for by the gardeners, have been spotted. “It is so sad to see them sitting on the barren land,” said Carolyn McCrory, who sent us a photo of the yet-to-be-rescued bunny, a white rabbit with black ears.

It’s distressing to imagine a domestic rabbit left to fend for itself in wintry Coney Island. All the more so because the place was named Conyne Eylandt –Rabbit Island– by the Dutch after the wild rabbits that lived here in the 17th century. This runaway rabbit, who fled when developer iStar bulldozed the garden after Christmas to make way for an amphitheater project, is the only one of its kind. He went back to the garden looking for shelter but found none. Did the bunny survive yesterday’s freeze? [Update: After several sightings, the bunny was finally “netted” by a rescuer on January 18th and is safe.]

Coney Island Kittens

Kittens from community garden ended up at ACC, where one was euthanized and these two were rescued by Empty Cages Collective. December 30, 2013.

Another sad story is that of a mother cat, a calico who has been seen returning repeatedly to the bulldozed lot looking for her kittens. As ATZ previously reported, when a gardener collected her chickens she also walked off with three kittens. As it turns out, the next morning a cat carrier with the kittens was left on the boardwalk in front of the demolished garden. Pleas for help were posted on Facebook but before a rescuer could get there, the carrier was picked up by the City’s Animal Care and Control, which is a kill shelter.

PJ McCosky of Empty Cages Collective, who has recently rescued several cats in Coney Island, was alerted and rushed to ACC to save them. One sickly kitten had already been euthanized. The other two kittens were rescued and are now in the care of Empty Cages foster homes. The kittens were about four weeks old when found and need to be bottle fed.

Empty Cages Collective is an all-volunteer organization. You can support the work they do for New York City’s animals by donating or volunteering to become a foster home and following their Facebook page.

Coney Island Kitten

Kitten from bulldozed community garden brought to ACC and rescued by Empty Cages Collective. December 30, 2013.

Since ATZ began covering Coney Island in 2009, the colonies of cats have been pushed farther west by the dismantling of Astroland and the demolition of vacant buildings such as the Henderson and the Playland Arcade. The construction on the Boardwalk at West 21st Street is causing further displacement. While there are many people feeding the cats, there is much more that needs to be done. With the new year and the new pro-animal rights administration of Mayor de Blasio, we would like to see a program modeled on Alley Cat Allies Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats Project. Since 2000, the national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats has cared for the feral cat colonies along the boardwalk as part of a city-supported Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. According to their website, Atlantic City Boardwalk’s famous cats draw visitors and admirers from all over the country. Can’t we do the same for cats on the Coney Island Boardwalk?

Coney Island Boardwalk Kitty

Coney Island Boardwalk Kitty, September 28, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Related Posts on ATZ…

December 27, 2013: Coney Island Mama Cat ‘Okaasan’ & Kittens Up for Adoption

December 10, 2013: Update on Coney Island Cat ‘Snow Coney’ & His Family

January 24, 2013: Landlord Evicting Famous Coney Island Cat and His Humans

January 26, 2011: Photo of the Day: Henderson Music Hall Cats Now Homeless

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Coney Island Fireworks

Alliance for Coney Island’s Poster for the 2013 Friday Night Fireworks. Photo via Facebook.com/coneyislandfun

Coney Island tourism was one of the winners in the third year of Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils competition. An award of $225,000 to the Alliance for Coney Island for improvements to the tourism initiative “The One and Only Coney” was among 824 statewide projects receiving a share of $715.9 million in New York State economic development funding.

“The campaign aims to draw tourists by marketing and expanding seasonal events and programs that will reintroduce Coney Island as America’s Playground, furthering the appeal of Coney Island as a tourism destination,” according to a release from the Governor’s Press Office. New York City received $57.4 million, including funding for a tech incubator in Queens and program expansion and improved accessibility at New York Botanical Gardens.

Alliance for Coney Island

Johanna Zaki, Alliance for Coney Island’s Director of Operations at a presentation on the 2013 season at Tom’s Coney Island. November 15, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Founded in 2012, the Alliance for Coney Island is a successor to the Coney Island Development Corporation. The non-profit’s mission is “continuing the transformation of Coney Island into a year-round, world-class recreational oceanfront destination while improving the quality of life of the entire Coney Island community.”

Current opportunities on the organization’s website include RFPs for a creative agency/graphic designer firm as well as for fireworks shows and outdoor movie screening vendor services for the annual Flicks on the Beach program for 2014. The Alliance is also seeking sponsors for programming.

Free events such as Coney Island’s Friday night fireworks are currently supported by funding from the Alliance’s founding members. In the past, Schaefer Beer sponsored free Tuesday night fireworks from 1949 till they pulled out in 1968, writes Charles Denson in Coney Island: Lost and Found. The Village Voice sponsored the much-missed Siren Music Festival, a free indie rock concert from 2001-2010.

This promotional short “Coney Is…” showcases the Parachute Jump’s new lights, restored B&B Carousell and future improvements at the New York Aquarium. “The One and Only Coney” is Back, it says.

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Related posts on ATZ…

December 2, 2013: New Construction: Coney Island Area’s 1st Hotel in Decades

November 8, 2013: Photo Album: Early November in Coney Island

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

June 4, 2013: Coney Island Fireworks 2013: Fridays, 6 Saturdays and July 4th

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Childs Building

Childs Building, Proposed Elevation Boardwalk. GKV Architects, PC and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners via NYCEDC

Visitors to Coney Island frequently ask “What are those ruins on the Boardwalk?” From Steeplechase Pier, where the crumbling walls are not evident but the allure is unmistakeable, they simply ask “What is that building?” On Wednesday at 10:00 am, the City Planning Commission at 22 Reade St. will consider and is likely to approve the plan to convert the former Childs Restaurant building on the Boardwalk, a New York City landmark, into an amphitheater for live concerts and a restaurant. If the board votes yes, as expected, then it goes to the City Council on Dec 16

The project’s official name is “The Seaside Park and Community Arts Center” and it would also “provide the community with additional publicly accessible recreational and entertainment opportunities throughout the year,” according to the proposal. The application was submitted by property owner iStar Financial (AKA Coney Island Holdings) and the City’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

Anyone wishing to speak at the hearing is requested to fill out a speaker’s slip at the staff desk outside the hearing chambers. Remarks are limited to 3 minutes. The full agenda of the meeting –the Childs Building is “Nos. 9-14”– and information on submitting written statements can be found in the calendar[pdf].

Childs Building

section Looking at Stage, Childs Building in Season. GKV Architects, PC and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners via NYCEDC

As previously noted (“Clock Ticking on Plan for the Landmark Childs Building,” ATZ, September 25, 2013), the City has the funds to bring the landmark back to life since Borough President Marty Markowitz will be able to use $50 million set aside in 2010 for a $64 million amphitheater in Asser Levy Park that was halted by a lawsuit. Since then, his free Seaside Concerts have been held on the Washington Baths site, a vacant lot across 21st Street from the Childs Building.

If the $50 million isn’t spent by the time the Borough President’s third term ends on December 31, 2013, it would go back into the public coffers and be lost to Coney Island. The landmark building’s deteriorating condition is also cause for concern. After Sandy, parts of the terracotta facade cracked and began falling off. A sidewalk shed was installed this summer.

Childs Building

Childs Building, Proposed elevation West 21st Street. GKV Architects, PC and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners via NYCEDC

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Related posts on ATZ…

December 2, 2013: New Construction: Coney Island Area’s 1st Hotel in Decades

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

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

October 7, 2012: ATZ’s Big Wish List for the New Coney Island

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