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Archive for the ‘Look Back’ Category

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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View from DNALSI YENOC

April 22, 2013: View from DNALSI YENOC, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

This week, the framework for a large sign was erected on the roof of Thor Equities new building at Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island. Will it be a billboard for a business or another one of Thor Equities “Space for Lease” teasers? As a photographer friend says: “That’s how you can tell a Thor property in Coney Island…the ‘For Lease’ sign!”

The building is the first sight you see when exiting Stillwell Terminal and we’ve taken many photos from this vantage point. There’s even a flickr group called DNALSI YENOC — Coney Island spelled backwards– showing how this view has changed over the past few years. Watch this space to see yet one more. In the meantime, here’s a look back at the signage, dating back to 2007, on Joe Sitt’s properties in Coney Island.

DNALSI YENOC: View of Surf Ave from Stillwell Terminal

April 8, 2012: DNALSI YENOC: View of Thor’s New Building on Surf Ave from Stillwell Terminal. Photo © Tricia Vita

The photo above shows the same view one year ago, when Thor’s building was completed and then immediately covered with plywood and a signature banner trumpeting “Retail Space Available.” The building remained vacant but now has at least three tenants for the 2013 season that ATZ was able to confirm: Maritza’s Souvenir Shop, a longtime tenant of the historic Henderson Building which was demo’d to make way for the generic-looking new building, is back in her old spot for the summer. It’Sugar, a Miami-based candy retailer, has the corner store and is expected to open May 3. Wampum, a lifestyle clothing brand and skateboard shop with two other locations in Bridgehampton and Nolita, is slated to open in Coney on May 24.

May 28, 2012: Coney Island ‘Funny Face’ Mural on Thor Equities Building at Surf and Stillwell. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Memorial Day Weekend 2012, the plywood on the Surf Avenue side of Thor’s vacant building came alive with this Funny Face mural. On Stillwell, the plywood remained dotted with signs touting “CONEY ISLAND – The RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME – for leasing contact…” As we wrote previously: “Ain’t it just like Joe Sitt to tout retail when Coney Island, the birthplace of the amusement industry, is expecting its best season yet because of the success of Luna Park on land purchased by the City from Thor?”

View of Henderson Building and Shore Hotel

July 12, 2009: View of Henderson Building and Shore Hotel, Demolished in 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita

Now we’re time-traveling back to July 2009, a few weeks before the City Council passed the rezoning that allows high-rise hotels on Joe Sitt’s property on the south side side of Surf, including this lot! The original caption on the photo was “View of Endangered Historic Buildings Owned by Thor Equities” and called people to a rally to “Save Coney Island.” Sadly, the Henderson Building and the Shore Hotel, seen above, were demolished in December 2010.

During the 2009 season, Thor’s banners touted “Festival by the Sea. A Uniquely Entertaining and Amusing Flea Market in Coney Island. Head Straight on Stillwell for Tons of Fun.” It was not.

Closed due to threat of bad weather on a sunny day.

May 15, 2009: Thor Equities flea market ‘Closed due to threat of bad weather’ on a sunny day. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

One of the most eye-catching signs at the flea market was “Closed due to threat of bad weather” posted on a sunny day in May due to a tent malfunction. You can’t make this stuff up. It was soon replaced by one that read “Pardon our Appearance while we adjust our tents.” Translation: The City’s DOB was requiring that the tents and structures be able to withstand hurricane force winds before issuing a C of O.

Shore Hotel Nature's Paradise by the Sea

April 26, 2009: Shore Hotel Nature’s Paradise by the Sea. Photo © Tricia Vita

Plastered with Thor’s ubiquitous “Space for Lease” signs but never leased, Coney Island’s Shore Hotel was boarded up with plywood painted in festive colors. A much smaller sign on a fence said “ATTENTION The Shore Hotel has closed down.”

The Shore Hotel was built circa 1903 and demolished by Thor Equities on December 10, 2010. It took only a couple of days for the demo men to take down the century-old wood frame building. There was nothing left of “Nature’s Paradise by the Sea” but a pile of sticks to be hauled away.

The Shore Hotel has closed down.

September 3, 2007: ATTENTION The Shore Hotel has closed down. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

One signage-related highlight of 2008 was Joe Sitt being called “The Grinch Who Stole Coney Island” by the New York Post after cutting locks and hanging for lease banners on his Boardwalk and Stillwell properties on Christmas Eve. A section of the gigantic banner on the Henderson Building is seen in the photo below. R.I.P Shoot Out the Star. So far, Thor’s new building at Surf and Stillwell has no tenants with amusement games or arcades.

Thor Equities phone number dwarfs Shoot out the Star

January 1, 2009: Thor Equities phone number dwarfs Shoot out the Star, Coney Island.

Also in 2008, Thor’s “Future of Coney Island” banners were recycled by tenants as decorative backdrops for their games. In January 2009, the slogan was tarnished when Thor’s Future of Coney Island website URL was taken over by a Belgian porn entrepreneur. “Who ever would have thunk the Future of Coney Island would turn out to be Biker Chicks in Heat and Lust on the Beach? Our suggestion: Somebody reopen the Shore Hotel right away with free 24/7 Belgian porn,” wrote Gowanus Lounge’s Bob Guskind.

Thor Equities Space for Lease

August 8, 2008: Thor Equities Space for Lease and ‘Future of Coney’ banners as backdrop for basketball joint on Surf Ave. Photo © Tricia Vita

Thor regained control of the URL but later gave it up. Yes, that’s right, Joe Sitt no longer owns “The FutureofConeyIsland.com”! If you type in the URL, you’re redirected to its new owner, real estate site LivingThere.com (“A Better Way to Find a Home”). Wanna buy an “exquisitely spacious 2 bedroom/1 bath coop in Trump Village Section 3 on a high floor offers spectacular views of the ocean from every room and balcony”?

The Future of Coney Island  Construction Banner

July 5, 2008: Thor Equities, The Future of Coney Island Construction Banner. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Related posts on ATZ…

April 19, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Evicted Souvenir Shop Returns to Its Spot

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

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

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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