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Posts Tagged ‘12th Street Amusements’

Monica

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

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.

Ghost Hole

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

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

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Ghost Hole

12th Street Amusements’ Ghost Hole is smack dab in the path of the City’s proposed extension of Wonder Wheel Way. October 11, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

At Monday’s public hearing on the City’s controversial plan to use eminent domain to acquire six privately owned lots for “the revitalization of Coney Island,” drawings show 12th Street Amusements’ Ghost Hole ride on “Block 8696, parts of lot 140” destined for condemnation. The land to the right of the ride, where a longtime Mom and Pop sublease property to operate a High Striker, is also on the part of the lot to be seized by the City. “There are no proposed alternative locations,” the public notice for the hearing published in the NY Post sternly warns.

Block 8696 parts of lot 140

Block 8696, parts of lot 140. the area marked in red is to be taken by eminent domain. October 19, 2015

The reason for the acquisitions was revealed: “Certain replacement parkland” is needed because of “the de-mapping of existing parkland,” stated the Parks Department attorney who ran the hearing. He did not explicitly say which parkland would be demapped, and since “this is not a question and answer forum” (he said twice), no questions were answered. However, it is published information and old news dating back to the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009, except that most people either forgot or never knew that the MCU parking lot, which is parkland owned by the City, is to be de-mapped and sold to a developer. What for? The construction of residential towers with height limits in the range of the Parachute Jump.

Among those who spoke out against it at those long ago rezoning hearings was preservationist Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City, who said “In Paris, the Eiffel Tower is framed by parkland. Why is that impossible here?” Refresh your memory by looking at the City’s renderings from 2007. In order to de-map parkland, the State requires that it be replaced with parkland of equal acreage and the City must apply to the State for alienation legislation. However, with the Bloomberg administration’s zoning nearly 6 years ago and a new Mayor who ran as the anti-Bloomberg in place who knew the plan was still a go?

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering. CIDC Press Kit, 2007.

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering Shows Residential Towers West and North of Keyspan Park, now MCU Park. CIDC Press Kit, 2007

As we wrote in “Steeplechase Pool, Zip Coaster Sites to Be De-Mapped for Housing” (January 11, 2010)

It’s a shame that part of the City’s Steeplechase property is set to become a residential enclave with million dollar views instead of additional acreage for Coney Island’s new amusement park.The fact that the Giuliani administration paved over Paradise–part of the Steeplechase Park site–to allow parkland to be turned into the Keyspan parking lot is bad enough (nod to Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”). Now the Bloomberg administration is asking the state legislature to “alienate” and de-map the parkland/parking lot so it can be sold to a private developer to build 1,900 units of housing.

The Brooklyn Cyclones ballpark was built on the site of Steeplechase’s Pavilion of Fun, but the ballpark is a recreational use and helped revitalize Coney Island when it opened in 2001. A mass of apartment towers on the edge of a dwarfed amusement area is another story, though the City insists 5,000 units of housing is a necessary component of their plan to revitalize Coney Island.

Detail of CIDC Map of of Coney Island Redevelopment Plan.  Salmon and cream color denote residential and residential towers north and west of MCU Park

Detail of CIDC Map of of Coney Island Redevelopment Plan. Salmon and cream color denote residential and residential towers north and west of MCU Park, 2007

News reports prior to Monday’s hearing focused on the acquisition of long vacant land such as the former Thunderbolt lot, but the land grab is not about punishing property owners for keeping their holdings vacant. If it were, Thor Equities’ blighted lot on Surf Avenue and West 12th Street, among others, and Bullard’s Shore Theater, vacant for 40 years, would also be on the list of properties to be taken by condemnation.

As we already noted, the proposed acquisition includes property currently and historically used for amusement attractions. “Block 8696, parts of lot 140” is owned by the Murray family and has been used for amusement rides for over 100 years, Carol Murray said in her comments at the hearing. The taking of the land constituted “abuse,” she added. In negotiations with the City’s Economic Development Corporation, she said she is being asked to sell the property to the City, which will then lease a portion of it back to her to operate the amusements that already exist on the spot. “It fails to meet the standards of eminent domain,” she said.

eminent domain hearing

Carol Murray, whose family owns a lot leased to 12th St Amusements that is set to be taken by eminent domain by the City, calls the procedure “abuse” at public hearing. October 19, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

While many of our Coney friends have said they’re in the dark about what the City is up to, eminent domain in Coney Island is nothing new. Remember Robert Moses? (ICYMI Read Chapter 5 of Charles Denson’s Coney Island: Lost and Found). Remember the behind the scenes bargaining leading up to the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009? (ICYMI See Amy Nicholson’s film Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride). In fact, why write new text when we can recycle old ATZ blog posts that are pertinent once again. As we wrote in “Eminent Domain in Coney Island? Fuhgeddaboutit!” (July 31, 2012):

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 EDC’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 EDC instead had to negotiate an agreement to buy property from Thor Equities. At the same time, other property owners were no longer threatened by E.D.

We attended that land use committee hearing too, and left with the impression ED was off the table. But that was the Bloomberg administration. A new administration doesn’t have to follow the playbook of the previous one. Back in the ’60s Fred Trump destroyed Steeplechase Park, one of Coney Island’s most famous amusement parks, confident that he would get to develop the “south side” of Surf. That effort failed. The City rejected Trump’s proposed zoning change to develop Miami-style apartments on the beachfront where they approved them in the rezoning of 2009.

Fred’s son Donald Trump has been in the news recently for saying “eminent domain is wonderful.” No one suggested anything like that at Monday’s hearing. The support was tepid with the exception of Dick Zigun, Coney Island’s self-proclaimed Mayor, who jumped on the ED bandwagon by saying “Finish the job.”

Pamela Pettyjohn of the Coney Island Beautification Project said, “Once you open the door for eminent domain, you can’t close it back. It can be abused. Everyone can be in jeopardy.” Ironically the Supreme Court case of Kelo v the City of New London that makes it possible for the City to condemn privately owned property so that it could be used as part of a “comprehensive redevelopment plan” did not turn out to be for the public good in New London. The seized property is a vacant lot ten years after the court’s decision.

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12th Street Amusements, Coney Island

Post-Sandy Reconstruction Underway at 12th Street Amusements, Coney Island. March 24, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

While Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Luna Park, Scream Zone, the Cyclone and Eldorado Auto Skooters opened on Palm Sunday, post-Sandy recovery was still underway at the Guerrero family’s 12th Street Amusements. A crew working on the Polar Express told ATZ they expect to have the popular Himalaya ride open for Easter Weekend. Their Saturn 6 and Bumper Cars are also expected to reopen by Sunday, but the Ghost Hole dark ride may take a bit longer.

If you’ve never gone for a spin on the Saturn 6, it’s a classic flat ride and a rare find. “Right now, I believe the only one in existence is at Coney Island,” says a ride fan on the CoasterBuzz forum. “Some people think the newer Dartron Hurricane’s are the same thing but the Saturn 6 cars are fastened directly to the arm in a manner so as they do not pivot when they are raised. This is one of those rides you can hear from way down the midway. The loud pop of compressed air being released as the arms raise up & down.”

Here’s a photo of Coney Island’s Saturn 6 in action a few years ago by amusement park photographer Jim McDonnell:

The classic Saturn 6 ride is part of 12th Street Amusements. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

Related Posts on ATZ…

March 17, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island Getting Ready for Opening Day

March 15, 2013: Coney Island Cyclone Getting New Ticket Booths

March 13, 2013: Coney Island 2013: New Ghouls Mingle with Old in Rebuilt Spook-A-Rama

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

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Ghost Hole in Winter

Wonder Wheel, Ghost Hole & Astrotower in Winter. January 29, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On West 12th Street in Coney Island, the Ghost Hole Demon is still hibernating in his plastic shroud, but preparations are well underway for opening day of the 2012 season.

Next door in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, the kiddie rides have been reassembled, the Wonder Wheel is being painted, and the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops opened his eye and looked around. Putting the cars back on the Wheel is the last bit of business before Palm Sunday. Coney’s traditional opener is early this year. It’s on April 1st–yes, April Fool’s Day!–but some of Coney Island’s rides and attractions are expected to open for the weekend on Saturday, March 31st.

If you’re curious to see the demon on the Ghost Hole’s facade, here he is calling in customers courtesy of a 2009 video by magicalthemeparks. Formerly called “Geister Hohle”, the German dark ride came to Coney Island from Trimper’s Amusement Park in Maryland in 1999. The facade was updated and the demon was added by 12th Street Amusements in Coney Island.

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