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Mermaid Parade Kickstarter

In an article about Coney Island for Islands Magazine’s “Best Beaches” issue in 2000, I asked “How are mermaids different from mortal women?” A siren wearing little more than a sequined fishtail and a sprinkling of glitter looked me in the eye and said, “Mortal women don’t have the boom-boom shimmy-sham that mermaids possess. For another thing, we have all that fantasy on our side.” Everyone who comes to Coney Island partakes in that fantasy. It’s hard to imagine kicking off the summer in Coney Island without the Mermaid Parade, but it could happen for the first time in 31 years unless $100,000 is raised via Kickstarter by June 3rd.

Best Mermaid Kate Dale

Three-time “Best Mermaid” Kate Dale on Purple Sofa Float in 2008 Mermaid Parade. June 21, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island USA, the non-profit arts organization that puts on the free parade, was devastated by Superstorm Sandy. Its sideshow, burlesque shows and Freak Bar have yet to open for the season as renovation of the flood-damaged first floor is underway. While Coney Island’s rides, games and Boardwalk shops and eateries opened as usual on Palm Sunday, Coney Island USA’s theater has remained dark. With no revenue coming in, there’s a budget shortfall in the mermaid department.

Amy Winehouse Mermaids

Amy Winehouse Mermaids sing They Wanted Me to 2 Go CONDO but I said NO NO NO in 2008 Mermaid Parade. June 21, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

“A free parade is expensive,” says the intro on Kickstarter. “As the crowds have grown to 750,000 people over the past years, we’ve had to contend with more regulations and restrictions that have sharply increased the cost of the event.” The good news is the crowdfunding campaign to save the June 22nd event has already raised one-third of the $100,000 goal with contributions ranging from $1 to $250. But Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing funding model. The project must be fully funded for the parade to be saved. Thank you gifts include freak flags ($5 or more), pasties and tote bags ($40 or more), and a VIP spot on an elevated roof deck to watch the parade ($150 or more).

Lollipop and Candy Memaids

Lollipop and Candy Mermaids in 2009 Mermaid Parade. June 20, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Dunkin Donuts

Rebuilding After Sandy: Mario Tuna, owner of Dunkin Donuts in Stillwell Terminal, Coney Island. February 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On an average weekday in February, nearly 12,000 people swipe their MetroCards at Coney Island’s Stillwell Terminal, the terminus for the D, F, N and Q lines, but there’s no place to stop and get a cup of coffee since Sandy. Unless you count the food truck at the Stillwell Avenue entrance. Four months after flooding and sewage ravaged the terminal during SuperStorm Sandy, the 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts at Surf and Stillwell remains closed. On Friday we talked with Mario Tuna, the location’s franchisee, who happened to be painting the orange trim when we passed by. “We’re having a grand re-opening around March 15,” he told ATZ. The rehab of the store has been underway since January.

Painting

Painting in Progress. February 22, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins first opened in the reconstructed subway terminal in 2009. Due to extensive storm damage, the restaurant had to be completely renovated from the floor up and will get all new equipment. The cost of repairs is the responsibility of the franchisee, Tuna said. After Sandy, the stores that have managed to reopen in Stillwell Terminal are Subway, which is open 24 hours, and the newsstand. Neither of them sell coffee. The Bank of America’s ATMs have also been replaced.

Seasonal shops such as Lola Star Boutique, Brooklyn Beach Shop and two other gift shops in Stillwell Terminal also suffered damage and remain closed. Coney Island Gourmet Shop/Magic Gyro has not been been touched and essentially looks like it did in the days after the storm. McDonald’s on Stillwell and Mermaid Avenues, which was also open 24 hours, remains boarded up and closed but the majority of stores on Mermaid have reopened.

Dunkin Donuts Renovation

Dunkin Donuts Renovation: New floors, walls. January 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Miniature Biplane Ride

New ride at Coney Island Always Window on West 12th Street. February 17, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Among the new amusement rides coming to Coney Island this season are Watermania, a brand-new Zamperla water ride set to debut in Luna Park, and a rebuilt Spook-a-Rama dark ride with props from Scarefactory at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. In the meantime, Benny’s “Coney Island Always,” a window on West 12th Street showcasing a miniature animated amusement park, has the first new ride of 2013 already installed. It’s a model chair-o-plane with biplane seats. Along with its next-door neighbor the dancing doll “Miss Coney Island,” the coin-op attraction has fully recovered from Sandy and will be open for business on March 24th, Coney’s Opening Day. Both attractions still cost “25¢ to Have Fun & Feel Good.” Bring a roll of quarters.

Coney Island Always

Coney Island Always. 25 cents To Laugh and Feel Good. West 12th St, Coney Island. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

“Coney Island Always” is located on West 12th Street next to the Coney Island History Project and across from the Steeplechase coaster. The model amusemwnts include a Carousel, Wave Swinger, Parachute Jump, Giant Wheel and Ice Skating Rink. During the season, children and their families crowd around the window to see the miniature park awhirl. Miss Coney Island, whose motto is “Don’t Postpone Joy” and “25¢ to Fall in LOVE” is very popular too. Earlier in her career, the shimmying mannequin was an Indian Princess automaton at a fairground exhibition. You can read ATZ’s interview with her here.

Miss Coney Island

After Sandy: Miss Coney Island and Her Dancing Cat Peek Out Their Window. January 30, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Target the Coney Island Cat

Target the Cat & Jimmy Working the Balloon Dart, Coney Island Opening Day, April 5, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

We’re sorry to report that our friends Target the Coney Island Cat and his human, Manny Cohen of Coney Island Arcade, are leaving Coney Island’s Bowery forever. Evicted by the landlord, they’re moving to Las Vegas, where Target will prowl the casinos on a leash and hunt chipmunk, says Manny. We’ll especially miss taking photos of the cat working the Balloon Dart with Jimmy. Cohen, who has been a tenant on the Bowery for 22 years, has until May 1 to vacate the premises, according to a court ruling on Monday. “It’s time for me to move on. I don’t have the arcade anymore,” said Cohen, whose business now primarily consists of selling arcade machines and parts. In May of 2010, a terrible fire destroyed his amusement arcade on a day that workers sent by the landlord tarred the roof.

Coney Island Cat

Manny Cohen and Target the Coney Island Cat. Photo © Coney Island Arcade

The future of Target’s feline friend Pretty is uncertain. After Target’s sister perished in the arcade fire, Manny took in the feral calico cat to keep Target company. Pretty’s territory is more wide ranging than Target’s and includes Wonder Wheel Park as well as 12th Street. Though she runs inside the arcade’s warehouse at mealtime and bedtime, neither Manny nor his friends have been able to pet her or get within several inches of her over the past three years. Getting the cat into a carrier and taking her on a road trip would be daunting, so she will remain in Coney Island. The two game concessions that Manny still operates on the Bowery will open on Coney Island’s Opening Day and Easter Sunday. We hope that Jimmy Balloons is able to rent the game for the remainder of this season and that Pretty doesn’t become another homeless Coney cat. She’s had a pretty sweet deal for the past few years.

Pretty the Cat

Pretty the Cat, Coney Island. February 11, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Cha Cha's

Cha Cha’s Surf Avenue Bar and Grill, Coney Island. April 2012

Cha Cha’s of Coney Island, which relocated to Surf Avenue last spring after losing their lease on the Boardwalk, is closing for good. The announcement was made last night via the bar and restaurant’s Facebook and twitter:

Reactions from fans and followers ranged from “NOOOO!” and “I’ll miss those gogo times we had!!” to “Thanks for the good times over the years.”

As recently as January, the plan was to fix the place up after flood damage from Sandy and make a go of it. “OK! we had our meeting and the game plan is being set in motion to rebuild and open the old Cha Chas space on Surf Ave by spring. As info comes in we’ll keep everyone informed with the new and improved space on Surf Ave.”

Yesterday’s announcement did not give a reason for the closing. Given the challenges faced by businesses in their rebuilding efforts, we’d have to guess that Sandy is responsible for shuttering this Coney Island mainstay, which had survived the death of its manager “JT” and eviction by Zamperla. Cha Cha’s former Boardwalk location was the site of the original Club Atlantis and is now Tom’s Restaurant.

Cha Cha's Coney Island

Coney Island After Sandy: Cleanup at Cha Cha’s Surf Avenue, November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia also owns Cha Cha’s In Bocca Al Lupo in Manhattan’s Little Italy. Last season, in addition to relocating his Coney Island bar to Surf Avenue, he put his name on Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park on Thor’s Stillwell Avenue property. The park had carnival rides as well as an al fresco bar. Will Cha Cha’s name turn up in another location in Coney Island? That depends whether he still has sand in his shoes after Sandy. We’re not saying goodbye to Coney Island’s “Home of Wild Women and Wise Guys” and “Live Entertainment for the Hole Family” just yet.

Cha Cha's

Cha Cha’s Bar & Cafe on the Coney Island Boardwalk. June 1, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Update November 19th: Over the weekend, For Animals reported that Mermaid the Cat needs an MRI and asked supporters to chip in to help fund the expensive diagnostic procedure: “Sadly the biopsy results from Mermaid’s ear polyp came back as ceruminous adenocarcinoma — a locally invasive, aggressive cancer. There is a chance that the TECA surgery (total ear canal ablation) could prove curative if it hasn’t spread. Please help us continue to raise funds for this sweet cat whose new life is just beginning.”

Among the stories of animals being rescued post-Hurricane Sandy, this one caught our eye. A cat named Mermaid rescued in Coney Island! On Friday, a Queens animal rescue group saved the sick cat left behind in Coney Island when its elderly owner was evacuated to a nursing home after Hurricane Sandy. Rescuers from For Animals, Inc. climbed to the 14th floor of a Coney housing project that has no power or heat to get the cat since its guardian will not be returning home. The group has started a chip-in to raise funds for the cat’s medical bills. Mermaid needs a procedure called Total Ear Canal Ablation on her left ear as well as dental work. The cat is now in foster care, where she is eating and even purring, say her rescuers. For Animals posted news and videos of the lucky Mermaid on their Facebook page.

When her rescuer went in to save her she was found hiding in an empty cabinet, completely terrified. She was covered in a towel to keep her calm, placed in a carrier, and brought to the vet. Weighing just 4.4 lbs, she was treated for:
– pyometra (an infected uterus)
– an ear polyp that was plucked and sent for biopsy
– ear mites
– shave down due to severely matted fur
– nail trim due to overgrown claws

A full blood panel revealed her WBC were through the roof which could be related to the pyometra or ear polyp. However, the rest of her bloodwork was normal and she is FIV/FeLV negative. Mermaid only has 2 teeth left and they need to be removed but there are a ton of roots so it’s going to be a big dental. We are holding off on this procedure until her overall health improves.

You can sponsor a shelter cat by making a donation at For Animals website. The private animal shelter in Ozone Park, Queens also has volunteer opportunities for animal lovers to help socialize and care for rescued cats and kittens. Duties include petting, holding and bonding with cats; socializing kittens; brushing and nail trimming; scooping litter boxes and playing with interactive toys.

Mermaid the Coney Island Cat

Mermaid enjoying lunch her first full day in foster care. Photo via For Animals Inc Facebook

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Rainbow at Wonder Wheel

Rainbow at Wonder Wheel, Coney Island. September 20, 2012. Photo © Kim Lofgren

Coney Island girl Kim Lofgren is a writer and performing magician who lives on the 7th and top floor of a privately owned building on Stillwell Avenue that’s been without power for 13 days. Before Hurricane Sandy, Kim was best known to us for her exquisite photos of Coney Island rainbows taken from her balcony across the street from Stillwell Terminal. On Monday, when we happened to see her having lunch at Tom’s on the Boardwalk, Kim pulled out her phone and showed us the horrifying video posted below of the storm surge on Stillwell. “I really felt that’s what it looks like when Armageddon begins. Lost power after that-water surged 4-8 ft looking inky in darkness,” she wrote yesterday after posting a link on twitter.

As one of @KimberLofgren’s twitter friends, we’ve been following her ordeal via a series of increasingly desperate tweets to Con Edison, some of which are posted below. As it happens, we have other friends in the building, which is of recent construction and very well maintained. Also living on the 7th floor are an elderly couple who evacuated from Sea Gate, where their home was destroyed, to the safety of their daughter’s apartment. The father is in very poor health. We have not been able to reach them by phone but have been getting reports via their relatives and mutual friends. Some of our other friends in Coney Island are in buildings where power was restored temporarily–and in some cases intermittently– by generators.

Looking at Kim’s video of the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy, you’ll understand why each building needs to be certified and why everyone we know in Coney Island lost their car.

UPDATE November 11, 2012:

While Kim’s building got power back on Sunday at around 4pm, many other buildings in Coney Island –both privately owned and city housing projects– remain without power. According to a New York Times article on service updates, Con Edison said it had restored power to all but 2,617 customers (an apartment building is sometimes counted as one customer) in New York City as of Sunday evening. BUT that number does not include 22,000 still without power in low-lying neighborhoods like Coney Island who must first have an electrician certify the building as safe, which was the case with Kim’s building.

Friends in Amalgamated Warbasse – 5 buildings, about 2,700 families – are reporting intermittent power. “Here I go walking down 159 steps again! Building 4 Warbasse is doomed!” said a friend on Facebook. “Our power is still run by a generator and they keep switching them.”

Also as of Sunday, the following NYCHA housing in the west end of Coney Island had no electricity: Coney Island I (Site 8)- 1 building housing 361 people, Surfside Gardens- 5 buildings housing 1,167 residents, O’Dwyer Gardens- 6 buildings housing 974 residents. The following had no heat or hot water: Carey Gardens- 4 buildings housing 1,642 residents; Coney Island- 5 buildings housing 1,203 residents, Coney Island I (Site 8) – 1 building housing 361 residents, Coney Island I (Sites 4 and 5)- 2 buildings housing 1,075 residents, O’Dwyer Gardens- 6 buildings housing 974 residents, and Surfside Gardens- 5 buildings housing 1,167 residents. Excellent reporting on the dire situation in these buildings by the New York Daily News (Video) and The Guardian.

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