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805 Surf Avenue

Vacant lot at 805-825 Surf Avenue, on the north side of Surf across from the Cyclone in Coney Island, May 5, 2015. Photo © anonymouse via AmusingtheZillion.com

PYE Properties, the owners of the Surf Avenue lot across the street from the Coney Island Cyclone, have started advertising for vendors for a flea market set to open in May. Like some of the furniture stores and a cafe on the north side of Surf, it’s named after one of Coney’s amusement parks — Luna Park Flea Market. According to their new website, the price for a spot on Friday, Saturday or Sunday is $50, while other days of the week will go for $30.

A kiddie ride park, a go kart track and a flea market housed in shipping containers have occupied the lot in the past. In 2001, the Giuliani administration repeatedly ticketed and finally got rid of the flea market that had operated there since the 1980s. The headline in the Daily News read “CONEY SMALL BIZ BLITZ STORM OF TICKETS TIED TO DEBUT OF CYCLONES.”

Over the past decade, the vacant lot, which has 140 feet of frontage on Surf and is 90 feet deep, has occasionally been used as a parking lot. For one day in 2011, the lot briefly hosted John Strong’s sideshow until the previous property owners abruptly did an about-face and went back to parking cars.

Bumper cars and other amusements were in the building on the site which was torn down in the 1950s. Until the early ’80s the north side of Surf Avenue was home to individually-owned penny arcades and a variety of rides including carousels and even a Jumbo Jet-style coaster.

Last year, the Surf Avenue lot at 805-825 Surf Avenue was Brighton Beach-based PYE Properties’ first acquisition in Coney Island. In January, PYE purchased the landmark Shore Theater for $14 million. According to the development company’s website, “PYE Properties is a full-service development company guided by our in-house team of result-driven real estate professionals whose expertise includes acquisition, design, development, construction and property management.” The flea market is a seasonal use for the short term until development gets underway.

Since the 2009 rezoning of Coney Island, the north side of Surf has seen restaurants such as Grimaldi’s, Applebee’s, and Subway Cafe rapidly replacing furniture stores and vacant lots. Johnny Rockets and IHOP franchises are under construction. Mom & Pops on the north side include Chill party space, Red Doors Bar & Grill, and Piece of Velvet Cupcakes.

The flea market did not open on July 4th Weekend and remains closed.

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Rcihard Eagan Photo by Hazel Hankin

Richard Eagan, the outside talker for a shark show in Coney Island, 1987. Photo © Hazel Hankin

“You’re going to meet Miss Atlantis, the daring young lady who will defy the devil and swim with three killer sharks,” says Brooklyn artist and performer Richard Eagan, recalling his spiel as an outside talker for the Florida Shark Show. His 1987 gig managing the Coney Island attraction is among the midway experiences that he relives in “Alive on the Inside,” on Thursday, January 28th at City Lore.

Eagan has performed the one-man theater piece since the late ’80s at venues from the Lower East Side to Coney Island, where it was last seen in 2007 as part of the Coney Island History Project’s folklore program. “Most of what I talk about is gone, so it is a memory piece,” Eagan tells ATZ. “When I was developing and performing it in earlier days, it was the last days of the old Coney Island hanging on by a thread. The characters were still there plying their trade. There’s so few of them left.”

Among the characters Eagan brings to life in the show are Buddy Cook, who is actually Norman Kaufman, owner of the Jumbo Jet coaster, whose Stillwell Avenue amusement park was evicted by Thor Equities in 2006 to make way for “redevelopment.” “I refer to him as ‘The Buddha of the ticketbox,'” says Eagan. Ronnie D is Ronnie Guerrero, the late owner of 12th Street’s famed Polar Express, which was located on Stillwell Avenue in the 1980s. Jake Fein is concessionaire Jack Merr, who operated a basketball game across from the Spookhouse.

Eagan co-founded the Coney Island Hysterical Society with fellow artist Philomena Marano in 1981 because they were “hysterical” at the rate that the amusement rides and attractions were shutting down. One of their projects was the transformation of the disused Dragon’s Cave ride on the Bowery into the Spookhouse, which they operated until 1984. Their visual art is on view in the exhibit “Boardwalk Renaissance: How the Arts Saved Coney Island,” at City Lore Gallery through March 13.

“Alive on the Inside,” January 28th, 7:00pm. Tickets are $11.49 via Eventbrite. City Lore, 56 E 1st St, New York, New York 10003. 212-529-1955

Related posts on ATZ...

January 18, 2016: Art of the Day: Coney Island at Valentine Museum of Art

November 16, 2015: Art of the Day: Remembering Spookhouse – A Ride Through Gallery in the Dark

April 21, 2011: Remembering Coney Island’s Jumbo Jet Coaster 1972-2002

October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Richard Eagan of the Coney Island Hysterical Society

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Snow Swim

Coney Island Polar Bears Snow Swim, March 1, 2015. Photo © Bruce Handy

After weeks of balmy winter weather, members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club are ready for their first snow swim of the season on Sunday at 1:00pm. Several Bears plan to meet for an unofficial blizzard dip at Stillwell Avenue on Saturday at 12 noon during the storm.

Snow swims during or just after a storm are a Polar Bear tradition. These photos were taken by Coney Island photographer and Polar Bear Bruce Handy last year and in 2010.

Snow Swim, Blizzard of 2010

Snow Swim, Blizzard of 2010. December 26, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy

The National Weather Service has forecast 12 to 18 inches of snow and winds of 30 to 35 mph with gusts up to 45 mph for Southern Brooklyn on Saturday. Photographer and Periscope user dutchmazz announced that he’ll be on Coney Island Beach at 11:50: “Watch the Bears swim in whiteout conditions from the comfort of your warm home! Tune in!”

Morning Update from Bruce Handy. It’s a go: “10 AM Polar Bear Report. Not too cold. Heavy numerous waves, gusting north wind, mild at times. Snow is 8″, drifts to 1.5, deep drifts beween the bathhouse and berm at Stillwell. All stores, Toms, Nathans, are closed. DD is open. Streets are getting unpassable. Sidewalks are unwalkable. Bathrooms are closed. Seagulls are serene. Few potential bears. No mermaid tracks although the grok is strong.”

UPDATE: Photos from Saturday’s swim and more in “Photo Album: Blizzard 2016 in Coney Island by Bruce Handy,” (ATZ, January 24, 2016)

Snow Swim

Snow Swim, Blizzard of 2010. December 26, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy

Related posts on ATZ…

January 8, 2016: Photo of the Day: Santa at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge by Barry Yanowitz

January 5, 2016: Coney Island New Year’s by the Numbers: 28K Visitors, Nearly $90K Raised for Charity

January 27, 2015: Photo Album: Coney Island’s First Hours of the Blizzard of 2015 by John Huntington

December 26, 2010: Video: Today’s Snow Swim with Coney Island Polar Bears

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

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Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

The Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge drew 3,000 swimmers and 10,000 spectators, and raised nearly $90K for Camp Sunshine. January 1, 2016. Photo © Norman Blake

Coney Island drew an astounding total of more than 28,000 visitors to its new New Year’s Eve Celebration and long-established New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge. The district’s City Councilman Mark Treyger tweeted the official tally that “Over 15,000 people turned out to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Coney Island!” Temps in the 40s and the promise of free rides, sideshow performances and fireworks helped triple attendance for the New Year’s Eve Party at the Parachute Jump, which was started by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and is in its second year. The free, family friendly celebration was sponsored by the Borough President along with Councilman Treyger and the Alliance for Coney Island.

On New Year’s Day, the Parks Department estimated there were 10,000 spectators at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge. “We had almost 3,000 swimmers participate in the plunge this year,” Polar Bear Club president Dennis Thomas tells ATZ. “I am sure it is a record. The past few years we have been averaging a little over 2,000 swimmers.” What’s more, the funds raised by the Polar Bears for Camp Sunshine have far exceeded their goal of last year’s total of $70K. Nearly $90K has been received so far, with donations still being accepted here. If the trend continues, next year the Bears could break $100K for the camp, which hosts children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

The novelty of major rides –the Wonder Wheel, B&B Carousell and Thunderbolt roller coaster– being open on New Year’s Eve and offering a free spin was a big draw. When we got here around 8:30pm, the atmosphere was festive but the crowd was still sparse, evoking memories of the first years of the Mermaid Parade, before it grew into the world’s largest art parade. Around 11:15, the vast majority of revelers began to arrive and gather around the dazzlingly lit Parachute Jump, Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, for Coney’s countdown to 2016.

Deno’s Wonder Wheel’s white cars rode approximately 2,000 people for free on New Year’s Eve, with the line snaking towards the boardwalk. On New Year’s Day, just over 500 tickets at $5 per ride were sold, with 50% of the proceeds — $1262.50 — donated to the Polar Bears’ charity Camp Sunshine. Over 400 cups of hot chocolate were handed out to guests. Will winter rides become an annual tradition? That depends: Coney’s outdoor rides operate “weather permitting,” and luckily this year’s weather permitted the first-ever New Year’s spin.

As for the Polar Bear Plunge, Thomas says the event has been growing every year. “Part of the increase in funds may be due to increasing number of plungers, but, again, all donations are voluntary and no one has to pay to participate, and some don’t,” he notes. “Participation by teams from Coney Island Brewery, Peggy O’Neill’s and Reyka Vodka helped with the fundraising. Generally, Coney Island is back on the map as a NYC destination like it hasn’t been in decades. People are not fearful about coming anymore, and the summers have been so popular, maybe some of that is rubbing off on the winter plunge there as well.”

Happy New Year to and from Coney Island! Stay tuned for a photo album of some of the best pix of this year’s plunge.

Thunderbolt Luna Park NYC

Crowds line up to ride Luna Park’s Thunderbolt for free on New Year’s Eve. December 31, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

December 29, 2015: Coney Island to Ring in 2016 with Parties, Free Rides, Light Shows, Fireworks, Polar Bear Plunge

December 11, 2015: Dance with Miss Coney Island on New Year’s Day

January 2, 2014: Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge’s Best Dressed of 2014

January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010

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Coney Islan New Year's Eve

Ringing in the New Year in Coney Island with the Parachute Jump’s dazzling display of 8000 LEDs and fireworks shot off from the beach. January 1, 2015. Photo © Jim McDonnell via Coney Island Fun

For the first time in decades, Coney Island will offer a glittering array of parties on New Year’s Eve and for the first time in the winter, weather permitting, a trio of major rides –The Wonder Wheel, B&B Carousell and Thunderbolt roller coaster–will be awhirl. These additions to Coney’s entertainment calendar coincide with the trailblazing New Year’s Eve celebration started last year by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and now in its second year.

On New Year’s Day, the annual Polar Bear Plunge into the not quite as icy as usual Atlantic-the water temp was only 51 on Christmas Day- is likely to draw more participants than ever, and will be accompanied by the traditional parties at Ruby’s Bar and Peggy O’Neill’s and the first spin of 2016 on Deno’s Wonder Wheel and the Eldorado Bumper Cars.

Deno's Wonder Wheel

Deno’s Wonder Wheel will be open on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day for the first time in the ride’s 95 year history. Photo © Jim McDonnell

The fun begins this New Year’s Eve at 9:00pm with music and giveaways at Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, the Parachute Jump, located on the boardwalk just west of 16th Street. After performances by Coney Island USA’s Circus Sideshow, you can ring in the New Year watching the Parachute Jump’s dazzling display of 8000 LEDs featuring a digital “ball drop” at midnight and fireworks shot off from the beach. The free, family friendly celebration is sponsored by the Borough President along with Coney Island’s City Councilman Mark Treyger and the Alliance for Coney Island.

Kicking off the countdown to its 100th anniversary in 2020, Deno’s Wonder Wheel will spin for the first-time in its 95-year history on New Year’s, including free rides on New Year’s Eve from 9:00-11:00pm. The antique B&B Carousell, which until about 15 years ago was open year round, and the new Thunderbolt roller coaster will spin on New Year’s Eve for free from 8:00-11:00pm. Abe Stark, an indoor skating rink on the Boardwalk, will offer free ice skating from 7:00-11:00pm. There will be free parking at MCU parking lot.

Thunderbolt Luna Park NYC

Luna Park’s Thunderbolt roller coaster and B&B Carousell will be open on New Year’s eve for free rides from 8-11pm. Photo via Luna Park NYC

Among the Coney Island venues holding ticketed events on New Year’s Eve are Eldorado Auto Skooters, Coney Island USA, Coney Island Brewery and Gargiulo’s.

Eldorado Auto Skooters (1216 Surf Avenue) will host Studio 54 DJ Nicky Siano’s Last New Year’s Eve Disco Extravaganza with singers Rochelle Fleming, Melba Moore and D.C. LaRue performing their hits from the disco era of the ’70s. “We will be dancing on the floor, not riding,” says the invite. The Eldorado is home to a one-of-a-kind sound system built by Paradise Garage and Studio 54’s Richard Long. “Our sound is extremely powerful yet very easy to listen to, it doesn’t hurt the ear,” as Eldorado’s Scott Fitlin told ATZ in an interview before he died in 2010. “Our bass is tremendous, and I play dance music, the sound that has energy and life, and POSITIVITY!” (10:00pm – 6:00am; $75 in advance, $150 at the door, includes drinks and food. The arcade’s Skeeballs, Basketballs, and a couple of video games and cranes will be available to play.)

Nicky Siano

Banner for DJ Nicky Siano’s Last New Year’s Eve Disco Extravaganza at Eldorado. Photo via Nicky Siano

Popular arts organization and Mermaid Parade producer Coney Island USA (1208 Surf Avenue) is having its first-ever “How Cool Is This New Year’s Party.” Entertainment includes “New Year’s Eve in Heaven,” a performance art collaboration featuring Dick Zigun as Father Time vs Eckszooberante as Baby New Year; a rock and roll themed laser show; a hike to the Parachute Jump to see the ball drop; and the first performance of 2016 by the Coney Island Circus Sideshow at 1:00am (Doors open at 8:00 with half-price beer and wine till midnight for all ticket holders, at the Freak Bar. $40 in advance, $50 at the door)

The Coney Island Brewery (1904 Surf Avenue) is throwing a Coney Brew Year’s Party at their new brewery, with unlimited craft beer from eight taps and food catered by Gargiulo’s. The outdoor beer garden will be heated so guests can step outside to see the Parachute Jump’s light show and the fireworks. (9:00pm – 12:00am, brewery open till 2:00am. Tickets are $77.87 via eventbrite.)

Coney Island USA Ray Valenz

Coney Island USA Fire Breather Ray Valenz performing at last year’s New Year’s Eve Celebration in Coney Island. Photo © Norman Blake

Having served classic Neapolitan cuisine since 1907, Gargiulo’s Restaurant (2911 West 15th Street) is a veteran when it comes to New Year’s Eve parties that are elegant and old school. “Champagne all Night” is at the top of the menu, followed by Cocktail Extravaganza, dining and dancing to live music, party hats and noisemakers, and “Gargiulo’s Special Venetian Hour.” (7:30pm – 2:00am, $200 per person, tax, gratuity and valet parking included.)

A number of local bars and eateries will be open for New Year’s Eve with their regular menus and offering extended hours. Tom’s Coney Island, the Boardwalk outpost of the Prospect Park eatery, which has a full bar, will be serving till at least 12:30am. The original Nathan’s Famous on Surf Avenue will be open till 1:00am, as will Wahlburger’s, the celebrity eatery across the street. Surf Avenue restaurants with bars keeping later hours–till at least 1:00am include Peggy O’Neill’s (1904 Surf Avenue), Footprints (1521 Surf Avenue) and Applebee’s (1217 Surf Avenue), which is offering a free champagne toast at midnight. Grimaldi’s Pizzeria (1215 Surf Avenue) is open for a prix fixe dinner of pizza, appetizer, drinks and a glass of champagne for $30 per person. All will be open again for New Year’s Day.

Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge

Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge, January 1, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

if you plan to join the annual January 1st Polar Bear Plunge, it is at 1:00pm sharp, with on-site registration from 10:00am, the same hour when Ruby’s Bar opens for libations on New Year’s Day. Did you know the Bears’ hugely popular swim is also a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families can enjoy a summer vacation? You can save time with online registration and make a suggested $20 pledge for this year’s Plunge or help teams like The Ice Warriors, Never Too Cold for the Bold, and the Empire Strikes Coney meet their fundraising goals. Last year, the club raised over $70,000 for the camp and hopes to exceed that amount this year.

On January 1st, the New York Aquarium is offering free admission to all registered Polar Bear Plungers with a wristband (10:00am-4:30pm). It will cost $5 to ride the Wonder Wheel, which will be open from 11am to 2pm, and is donating 50% of the proceeds to the Polar Bear Club’s fundraiser for Camp Sunshine. The Coney Island History Project will have interviewers at the Wheel recording New Year’s messages for their Oral History Project.

On West 12th Street, “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, along with the animated amusement park “Coney Island Always” (25 cents). Also on New Year’s Day, the Eldorado Auto Skooter will be open for the first ride of 2016 ($7.00 per ride) and the Coney Island Circus Sideshow will be performing from 2:00pm-6:00pm ($10 for adults, $5 for kids).

A look at last year’s Parachute Jump light show and fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Coney Island via a video by dutchmazz…

Related posts on ATZ…

January 5, 2016: Coney Island New Year’s by the Numbers: 28K Visitors, Nearly $90K Raised for Charity

December 25, 2015: Holiday Videos of Parks & Attractions Around the World

December 11, 2015: Dance with Miss Coney Island on New Year’s Day

November 2, 2015: Coney Island Polar Bears Get Shout-Out from Mayor in Winter Tourism Campaign

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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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NeildeMause

Start off your weekend early with a Friday morning breakfast talk on “The New Coney Island: Who Gains, Who Loses?” by Brooklyn journo Neil deMause. CUNY – City Tech’s Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center is sponsoring the free event in downtown Brooklyn at 300 Jay Street (Room N119) from 8:30-10:00am. Reserve a seat via their eventbrite page.

A contributing editor for City Limits magazine and 25-year Brooklyn resident, deMause is co-author of “Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit”(2008). He is currently at work on “The Brooklyn Wars,” which comes out next year. “The talk is probably best described as a Powerpoint that draws on a chapter from my book. Which is almost done now, so it should be out by April-ish,” deMause tells ATZ.

Neil is one of our fave reporters from the frenzied years leading up to the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009. One of his reports that comes to mind was titled — we kid you not– CONEY COMMUNITY BOARD VOTES YES TO REZONING PLAN, NO TO PLAN’S ACTUAL DETAILS (Village Voice, March 11, 2009). Among that CB13 meeting’s memorable moments was then-Councilman Domenic Recchia’s screaming tirade, which the reporter recorded and posted the next day.

That was nearly seven years ago but it’s only now that the plan’s very scary actual details are looming: The City recently invoked eminent domain to complete a controversial parkland swap to be able to sell off MCU parking lot to hi-rise developers. Thor Equities is snapping up more Coney Island lots to consolidate ownership of a Surf Avenue block zoned for a 30-story hotel.

It will be interesting to hear this veteran reporter on the Brooklyn beat’s take on who gains, who loses in the new Coney Island, as it begins to come into view.

What’s deMause’s favorite piece that he wrote about Coney during the rezoning hoopla?

“I’m not sure I can single out a particular favorite,” he says. “The Recchia one was absurd, certainly, as was the one from Sitt’s bizarro sideshow agglomeration he put up after he forced out Astroland. (I can still hear the tape loop: ‘Rat! Rat! Giant rat!’)”

“If I had to pick just one, it might be the very first long piece I did after Sitt started bringing in the bulldozers, since it still lays out the basics of what went down: The city’s rezoning process, inadvertently or not, set off a land war that almost ended up destroying the neighborhood that it was trying to save. It’s a stark cautionary tale about how ‘revitalization’ is a weapon that must be handled with care, and how city officials have steadfastly refused to learn that lesson — not just in Coney Island, but the rest of Brooklyn as well.”

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