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Sand Sculpting Contest

William Sandman Petrosino with his Sculptures at Sand Sculpting Contest, Coney Island. August 17, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Wow! This year is the 25th anniversary of Coney Island’s Sand Sculpting Contest. The free event will be held on Saturday, August 15, from 11am. If you’re planning to join the competition, we recommend registering now. Spots for some of the categories are already closed but you can still register as a group here. The event is open to amateurs and semi-professional sand sculpting artists of all ages and offers cash prizes as well as bragging rights. The Sand Sculpting Contest was founded in 1990 by Judi Orlando of Astella Development and is now run in partnership with Brooklyn Community Services.

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Tom's Coney Island

First Brunch at Tom’s Coney Island. September 23, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

“We are going to have a small gathering at the store this afternoon at 4pm to celebrate our 1 year anniversary,” says Jimmy Kokotas, owner of Tom’s Coney Island. One year ago today, September 23rd, the Boardwalk outpost of the popular Prospect Heights restaurant opened for business after many months of construction. Coney Island resident and ATZ contributing photographer Bruce Handy was one of their first customers and sent us the above photo of his first brunch.

Tom's Coney Island

Tom’s on the Coney Island Boardwalk. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

“I had two eggs over easy, home fries, whole wheat toast and coffee, all good,” said Bruce, whose photos of Tom’s first Sunday brunch he posted on his Coney Island Photo Diary. Are they serving pancakes yet? “Not sure, guy next to me had waffles,” he said. Since then, many eggs over easy, pancakes, sandwiches and wraps have been served at the Boardwalk establishment, which is open year round. “We will be staying open through the winter from 8-5, 7 days a week,” Jimmy Kokotas tells ATZ. “We are currently open 8-7 till daylight savings begins.”

Tom's Coney Island

Spinach and feta cheese omelet, Tom’s Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

What a year it’s been! A little over a month after Tom’s opened, Superstorm Sandy struck and flooding from Coney Island Creek devastated the neighborhood. The Boardwalk businesses miraculously escaped damage and Tom’s was of the few restaurants open in Coney Island. In the days after the storm, Tom’s became a hub of activity, serving as a command center for volunteers and a host for breakfast meetings about storm relief for local business owners and organizations.

Happy 1st Anniversary and many thanks to Jimmy Kokotas and family and Tom’s staff!

Tom’s Coney Island, 1229 Boardwalk (at Stillwell Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11224. Phone 718-942-4200

Tom's Coney Island

Post-Sandy meeting of neighborhood business owners at Tom’s Coney Island. November 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Go up...it's Great. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Go up...it's Great. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Today in Coney Island, the Wonder Wheel’s 90th Anniversary will be celebrated with suitable fanfare: live music by the Hungry March Band, the Banjo Rascals, and Curtis Eller, and a variety show featuring some of Coney’s most colorful performers. The free show on the Boardwalk is from 4 – 8 pm. Everyone who rides Deno’s Wonder Wheel on Saturday will receive a free Wonder Wheel 90th Anniversary collectible button. Here’s the place to buy your tickets…

The landmarked Wonder Wheel has a ticket booth that’s a Coney Island treasure. It’s a rare survivor of the early days of carnivals and amusement parks, when each ride had its own ticket booth and many rides were independently owned. Like the Wheel, the ticket booth was built in 1920 by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company. Originally called “Dip the Dips,” the new ride was described as a combination of the scenic railway, Ferris Wheel and Chute-the-Chutes.

Today when you ride the Wonder Wheel, your biggest decision will be Stationary or Swinging? The gliding and dipping cars, which are called the Swinging Cars, are a thrill not to be missed!

Wonder Wheel, Coney Island. Photo © brooklynnphoto via flickr

Wonder Wheel, Coney Island. Photo © brooklynnphoto via flickr

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, 3059 West 12th St at the Boardwalk, 718 372-2592

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The Original Astroland Shrine, December 26, 2008. Photo © Bruce Handy (Pablo57) via flickr

The Original Astroland Shrine, December 26, 2008. Photo © Bruce Handy (Pablo57) via flickr


Photographer and Coney Island resident Bruce Handy aka pablo57 has created a set of images on flickr to memorialize the first anniversary of the closing of Astroland. Titled “Astroland Shrine,” the photos and videos have an elegiac beauty and are certain to break your heart all over again. Seeing the removal of the demon from Dante’s Inferno and listening to the wail of the Astro Tower amid the teardown enveloped me in sadness. From Bruce’s intro:

Once upon a time, in the southern part of Brooklyn, in the land of rabbits, named Coney Island, there stood a timeless amusement park named Astroland. Astroland went dark on September 7, 2008 and this is the tale of the boardwalk shrine sprung from our sorrow and grief.

The original shrine was created on December 26, 2008. Four items, a bouquet of flowers, the shrine iconic collage, a hand written note saying to add more items, and a large ink drawing of a ballerina holding an umbrella.

The photo is taken from the point of view of mermaids looking at the shrine from the slats in the boardwalk.

The images in Bruce’s flickr set date from the day after Christmas in 2008, when the Astroland Shrine was created, to March 2009. “I just feel like it’s the right time to post the photos, all in one spot. It’s the gates, again locked,” Bruce says, referring to the locked gates of Dreamland Park. Following a dispute with Dreamland’s manager, property owner Thor Equities abruptly shut down the temporary amusement area on the former Astroland site. “I guess that has brought this on and the anniversary of Astroland going dark coming up. It is very emotional, I don’t know why I’m torturing myself doing it. I will be finished on Sept 7th.”

The Associated Press released a list of highlights in history for Sept 7 that includes “Astroland, New York City’s world famous amusement park at Coney Island, closed after 46 years.” Do you have any special plans to commemorate the anniversary? “Bring MORE flowers. People are afraid to destroy flowers,” says Bruce. ATZ plans to bring a bouquet to the Coney Island History Project’s Astroland Archives Photography Exhibit

The New York Times article from September 8, 2008, “Astroland Closes, This Time, It Appears, for Good,” is worth rereading for the graf about Thor Equities:

Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Thor Equities, said in a statement that the developer had been in touch with “numerous amusement operators” to discuss setting up “permanent year-round development.” The city and Joseph J. Sitt, the chairman of Thor Equities, which is now the largest landowner in the area, have yet to reach an agreement on how to redevelop Coney Island, though locals worry that the neighborhood will become awash in generic chain stores, condominiums and hotels.

One year later, Sitt has shut down the handful of mom-and-pop amusement operators brought to “Dreamland Park” this season to replace the evicted Astroland. Although the real estate speculator promised “more than 25 fun-filled rides” back in April to match Astroland’s ride count, only about a dozen rides came to Thor Equities’ Dreamland. The Coney rezoning passed in City Council at the end of the July, yet a deal to acquire Sitt’s property, including the former Astroland site, has yet to be announced. “Fundamentally, the deal with him is done,” Mayor Bloomberg recently told the Brooklyn Paper.

ATZ will be in Coney Island on Labor Day, September 7, to enjoy everything Coney Island has to offer in 2009: the 43 rides, the beach, the bars and the world-class people watching on the Boardwalk.

Full disclosure: I’m the Astro fan who created the Astroland collage which was stolen from the park’s gate. As I scrawled in the note begging for the icon’s return, which appears in one of Bruce’s photos: “Please put it back! It took me several hours to make it. I am not an artist, just made it to memorialize Astroland!” Put back Astroland, too! The park’s rides remain in storage.

This

This anonymous note disappeared within a day: Astroland R.I.P -- I Will Miss You 4-Ever. Photo © Bruce Handy (Pablo57) via flickr

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December 30, 2009: Looking Back & Forward: Astroland Shrine on New Year’s Day 2009

November 23, 2009: The Contenders from A to Z: Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP

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May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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Cyclone Roller Coaster, View #3. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Cyclone Roller Coaster, View #3. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

We’re going to a birthday party today in Coney Island. The Cyclone Roller Coaster, which gave its first ride on June 26, 1927, is 82 years young. As Gerry Menditto, the operations manager for the coaster told the Daily News, “I’ve been here 34 years, and we’ve probably rebuilt this entire ride while I’ve been here. While most of the steel has been around since the beginning, the wood gets replaced regularly.” This season we started taking photos (like the one above) that highlight the architectural beauty of the National Register-listed New York City landmark.

According to the official history of the Cyclone:

Brothers Jack and Irving Rosenthal commissioned the legendary Vernan Keenan to design, and Harry C. Baker to construct, the preeminent wooden-tracked roller coaster. The design had to be exceptionally tight and steep because of the relatively small ground space that was available for the attraction. The construction of this masterpiece began on a historical site which was significant in the world of roller coasters — the Cyclone graces the place which contained the world’s very first roller coaster, LaMarcus A. Thompson’s Switchback Railway.

Thompson’s “Roller Coasting Structure,” the first coaster to be designed as a U.S. amusement ride, opened in June 1884. National Geographic is celebrating the 125th anniversary with pictures of the Switchback Railway, the Cyclone and other notable coasters.

Today’s birthday celebration begins at 11 am. On its 82nd birthday the first 100 people in line get to ride the Cyclone for free. The coaster opens at 12 noon but the line is expected to start forming early. Miss Cyclone Angie Pontani will be there to meet, greet, and dance with visitors. From 11 am to 1 pm, the Cranky DJ will spin 78rpm records on his 1923 Brunswick phonograph and 1921 Victor Victrola.

“These songs are from a very special time in the history of recorded music<” says the Michael Haar aka The Cranky DJ. Some of the selections that will be played at the Cyclone Roller Coaster’s birthday party are Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and “Everybody’s Doing It” from 1911 and 1912, “The Sidewalks of New York,” singing sensations Al Jolson and Nora Bayes, and the vocal comedian Billy Murray. The party takes place at the Coney Island History Project’sexhibition center on Surf Ave under the Cyclone.

AUG. 28 UPDATE: Due to the ongoing Coney Island redevelopment hoopla, ATZ is getting more than the usual number of queries that ask: Will the Cyclone be open in 2010? The answer is YES, THE CYCLONE WILL BE OPEN IN 2010 and for many years to come. The roller coaster’s designation as an official New York City Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1988 is one of the strongest possible safeguards. The Cyclone is owned by the City, which leases it out to the Albert family (former owners of Astroland Park) to operate. The Cyclone is open daily, noon to closing, until September 7. Then it will be open weekends only through September 27.

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December 20, 2009: Coney Island Photo of the Day: First Snow on the Cyclone

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