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 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.
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 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