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Stillwell Avenue West

BK Festival Vendors and Zipline, Stillwell Avenue West, Coney Island. August 18, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Saturday, the BK Festival vendors were happy to be back in business selling sunglasses, hats, dresses and what have you after a two-week hiatus caused by the construction of the Coney Island Zipline. The Stillwell Avenue lot where their tents are pitched was no longer a construction site because the zipline is built, though it did not open for the weekend.

Why not? A zipline crew member told ATZ one of the required permits had not been applied for and blamed the festival management. One of the vendors said the zipline would never open because Mayor Bloomberg had his own and didn’t want any competition! Was he referring to the free zipline at the City’s Summer Streets, which ended on August 18th? Does that mean another vendor’s prediction that Coney’s zipline would open next weekend is true? We probably should have asked Ana, the BK Festival’s resident psychic.

If you’re rarin’ to go ziplining in Coney Island, watch magicalthemepark’s video below of the ride being tested several days ago and wish you were there.

UPDATE September 12, 2012

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Coney Island Grill House

Steve’s Grill House on Shore Hotel Lot, Surf Avenue. May 9, 2012. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

Thor Equities’ Shore Hotel lot and adjoining Henderson Walk in Coney Island will be activated this summer with rides, concessions and other attractions, according to BK Festival promoter Will McCarthy. The first tenant pulled onto the empty lot on Monday. Steve Bitetzakis’ Grill House trailer was relocated from the BK Festival lot on Stillwell Avenue. The Grill House is now parked on the Surf Avenue side of the Shore Hotel lot at 1228 Surf, which goes through to Coney Island’s Bowery. The rides and other amusements are expected to open on Memorial Day Weekend.

As previously reported, Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue lots were leased to the BK Festival promoters for last year’s flea market and this year’s new Steeplechase Park. Thor’s Surf Avenue lots, including the former Shore Hotel site and the Bank of Coney Island lot at Surf and 12th, will also be part of the Coney Island amusement park slated to open Memorial Day Weekend.

Shore Hotel Lot and Henderson Walk

Paving Paradise By the Sea: Shore Hotel Lot and Henderson Walk , Coney Island. March 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

The Shore Hotel property has been vacant since Thor Equities demolished the circa 1903 hotel in December of 2010. The lot and the Walk were paved in March as seen in the above photo. Just to be clear–we’re talking about the Shore Hotel –here’s our flickr set “Coney Island’s Shore Hotel (Demolished)”— and not the landmarked Shore Theater, which is frequently misidentified as a hotel!

Henderson Walk, one of Coney Island’s historic walks, has been fenced off since the demolition of the Henderson Music Hall. The century-old Henderson Building and Shore Hotel were on opposite sides of the Walk. Thor Equities’ new building on the Henderson site remains vacant and encased in plywood.

On Easter Sunday, Steve Bitetzakis debuted his new Grill House trailer at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue next to Scream Zone. Located on the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1993, Bitetzakis was one of the “Coney Island 8″ evicted by Zamperla. In February he called off plans to have his modular building moved down Stillwell and instead sold it to Zamperla and purchased a concession trailer.

Steve's Grill House

Steve’s New Grill House at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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April 19, 2012: Rides Return to Thor’s Stillwell Lots for 1st Time Since 2008

March 5, 2012: Exclusive: Goodbye Flea Market, Hello “Steeplechase Park”

April 22, 2011: Coney Island Has 64 Rides and 30 Weekends of Summer!

December 13, 2010: R.I.P Coney Island’s Shore Hotel, Henderson Next on Hit List

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MegaWhirl

MegaWhirl Cars in Coney Island. May 6, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

ATZ snapped these photos over the weekend of the MegaWhirl under construction on the BK Festival lot in Coney Island. Set up in the center of the Stillwell East lot, the ride platform is surrounded by amusement rides including a Himalaya and Bumper Cars from Castle Rock Shows.

As previously reported, the MegaWhirl, a prototype ride described as combining the thrill of the Whip and the Tilt, is expected to make its debut on Memorial Day Weekend. Designed by Jonathan Gordon of Gordon Rides, the prototype was built by Larson International and was previously set up on the factory floor at Larson’s headquarters in Texas.

Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue lots were leased to the BK Festival promoters for last year’s flea market and this year’s new Steeplechase Park. Will McCarthy, event director of the BK festival, tells ATZ that the flea market didn’t mesh with the Coney Island location and this season the BK Festival will bring in rides and amusements along with a smaller number of vendors.

Coney Island

MegaWhirl Platform Under Construction in Coney Island. May 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

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June 28, 2011: New Ride: The Whip + Tilt-A-Whirl = MegaWhirl

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Himalaya

BK Festival: Himalaya and Sunglasses Vendor. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

The Himalaya in the above photo may look like an ordinary Himi, but it marks the return of the native. For the first time since July 2008, there are rides on Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue lots, where amusements existed for more than 100 years until Joe Sitt bought the property and booted longtime ride and game operators in 2006. The Thor-owned Stillwell sites were used for a carnival in 2008, a flea market in 2009 and 2011, and remained vacant in 2010.

On Easter Sunday, we snapped these photos of the Himalaya, Scrambler, Fun House and three other carnival rides set up on Stillwell West behind Nathan’s. The rides were not yet open for business, though merchandise vendors, food concessions and a pony ride and petting zoo managed to open for Easter. All of the rides except the Giant Slide opened for business last weekend, but were torn down on Monday and are being set up again on the east side of Stillwell Avenue, reportedly due to permitting regulations.

Thor’s lots on both sides of Stillwell are leased to the BK Festival for a second season. As ATZ reported previously, Will McCarthy, event director of the BK Festival, said last year’s flea market didn’t mesh with the Coney Island location and this season the festival will bring in rides, games and amusements in addition to a smaller number of vendors. When the full complement of rides and attractions debut on Memorial Day Weekend, the BK Festival will be renamed Steeplechase Amusement Park. With the newly arrived rides, Coney’s ride count is over 65 and is likely to be over 70 by Memorial Day Weekend.

Scrambler

BK Festival: Scrambler, Fun House and Bounce, Stillwell Ave West. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Yes, it’s been four long years since Joe Sitt has had amusements on the hallowed ground at Stillwell Avenue and the Bowery, where the Tornado Roller coaster (1927-1977) and the Bobsled (1941-1974) amused the zillion. On Memorial Day Weekend 2008, Joe Sitt proclaimed “The Summer of Hope” and filled the reviled empty lots on Stillwell with carnival rides from Reithoffer Shows and Geren Rides for a limited run. Hope died when the rides left in mid-July.

In October 2006, eight tenants, including Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City, Eddie Miranda’s Zipper and Spider rides on 12th Street, and game operators in the Henderson Building received notice from new property owner Thor Equities to be out by the end of the year. Thor’s spokesman told the Daily News: “The effort to transform Coney Island and recapture its past glory involves the demolition of a number of existing structures. Therefore, to allow the new development to proceed in a timely manner, occupancy agreements with some of the tenants are not being renewed.” Timely? Ha! Coney Island redevelopment has turned out to be a long, dragged-out drama punctuated by NY Post headlines like “The Grinch Who Stole Coney Island” and “Coney Zoney Furor: Chicken King Clucks.”

As a critic of flea markets on land that historically has been used for amusements, we’re happy to see this new direction for the BK Festival and Thor Equities and wish them a successful season. The rides are expected to open this weekend.

UPDATE April 22, 2012:

Although the rides remain set up on the Stillwell Avenue East lot, they did not open for business on Saturday. Permits are in process for a “temporary fair.” According to Will McCarthy of the BK Festival all of the rides will open on Memorial Day Weekend when the Festival brings in additional rides and attractions and debuts as “Steeplechase Park.” In the meantime, the merchandise vendors, food stands and Coney Island Dancers will continue to operate on the Stillwell West lot.

BK Festival: Giant Slide on Stillwell Avenue West. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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April 2, 2012: BK Festival’s 1st Amusement Rides Arrive in Coney Island

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

April 22, 2011: Coney Island Has 64 Rides and 30 Weekends of Summer!

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

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Steve's Grill House

Steve's New Grill House at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Easter Sunday, Steve Bitetzakis opened his new Grill House at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue next to Scream Zone. The menu is the same as his previous spot on the Boardwalk– hamburgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, shish-ke-bab, chicken wings, french fries and knishes. Old friends and longtime customers were happy to see him back in business. The eatery is housed in a newly purchased concession trailer. The decorative flags, hand-painted signage and seating that gave the Boardwalk eatery a homey ambiance appear to be the next order of business.

Steve’s was among several food stands and trailers opening for Easter on Thor Equities’ Stillwell East lot leased to the BK Festival. On Memorial Day Weekend, rides and attractions are expected to fill the festival lot and it will be called “Steeplechase Amusement Park.”

Located on the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1993, Bitetzakis was one of the “Coney Island 8” evicted by Zamperla. In February he called off plans to have his modular building moved down Stillwell and instead sold it to Zamperla, which is remodeling it and the adjoining Beer Island to create their own beach bar on the Boardwalk.

Steve's Grill House

Steve Bitetzakis, the owner of Steve’s Grill House on the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1993, with his son at their new location. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Steve’s family has a long history of operating food concessions in Coney Island. His father Gregory Bitetzakis was the co-owner of Gregory & Paul’s and operated the G & P’s on West 10th Street opposite the Cyclone until his retirement in 2009.

As ATZ reported over the weekend, the majority of the original “Coney Island 8″ eateries are coming back this season. The relocated Cha Cha’s, the Grill House’s neighbor on the Boardwalk, also opened on Sunday. When we stopped by the new bar and restaurant on the north side of Surf across from Nathan’s Famous, John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia was holding court at a front table and regulars were dropping by for their first drinks of the season. Cha Cha’s new address is 1315 Surf Avenue, the space formerly occupied by Surf N Turf Grill.

Steve's Grill House

Steve's New Grill House at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

UPDATE June 25, 2012:

We’re sorry to report that Steve’s is temporarily closed. After losing his spot on Stillwell when the BK Festival closed to make way for the new Steeplechase Park, Steve’s trailer was relocated to Thor Equities’ Surf Avenue lot at West 12th Street. While Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park finally managed to open on Mermaid Parade Day after a four week delay, the satellite locations on Surf remain closed for now. In addition, Steve’s new location has literally left his trailer up against a fence. The original plans for the new Steeplechase park and the other two locations called for opening the fencing during business hours. It turns out that city regulations will not permit it.

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First rides for BK Festival's amusement park have arrived in Coney Island. April 1, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Over the weekend, Coney Island’s amusement parks, which have a total of 60 rides including the landmark Cyclone and Wonder Wheel, celebrated opening day with fanfare. The Eldorado Bumper Cars–the 61st ride–are expected to open for one last season. Meanwhile, the first rides for the BK Festival’s new Steeplechase Amusement Park arrived and were parked on Thor Equities lot on the west side of Stillwell Avenue. ATZ snapped these photos yesterday afternoon.

BK Festival event director Will McCarthy tells ATZ that the first rides include a Himalaya, Scrambler, Bumper Cars, Giant Slide and Fun House. Castle Rock Amusements of Pittsfield, Massachusetts and NJ Party Works of South Amboy, New Jersey are the ride suppliers. The rides are projected to open for Easter on the BK Festival’s Stillwell lot behind Nathan’s. “This is a soft opening with the grand opening coming for Memorial Day Weekend,” McCarthy said.

The flea market vendors along with food stands and trailers are expected to continue on the east side of Thor’s Stillwell lots until the new Steeplechase Amusement Park’s full complement of rides and attractions debuts on Memorial Day Weekend.

Last month, McCarthy told ATZ the flea market didn’t mesh with the Coney Island location and this season the BK Festival will bring in rides and amusements in addition to a smaller number of vendors. As a critic of flea markets on land that historically has been used for amusements, we are thrilled with this new direction for the BK Festival and Thor Equities and wish them success. We’re looking forward to the return of popular flat rides like the Scrambler and the Trabant. With the newly arrived rides, Coney’s ride count is once again going up and is likely to be over 70 by Memorial Day Weekend.

The new park will be the third Steeplechase. In 1967, Norman Kaufman leased part of the Tilyou’s Steeplechase site from Fred Trump and called his park Steeplechase Park, according to Charles Denson’s Coney Island: Lost and Found. The Jumbo Jet, Cortina, Bumper Cars, Go Karts, Batting Cages and a Miniature Golf Course were among Kaufman’s attractions over the years. Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City was on this piece of land until he was evicted by Thor Equities in 2007.

UPDATE April 22, 2012:

The rides opened last weekend on Stillwell West and have since been moved to the Stillwell Avenue East lot, where permits are in process for a “temporary fair.” According to Will McCarthy of the BK Festival all of the rides will open on Memorial Day Weekend when the Festival brings in additional rides and attractions and debuts as “Steeplechase Park.” In the meantime, the merchandise vendors, food stands and Coney Island Dancers will continue to operate on the Stillwell West lot.

Rides

First rides for BK Festival's amusement park have arrived in Coney Island. April 1, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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April 19, 2012: Rides Return to Thor’s Stillwell Lots for 1st Time Since 2008

March 5, 2012: Exclusive: Goodbye Flea Market, Hello “Steeplechase Park”

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

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Amusement Park Opening Soon

Steeplechase the Fun Place Amusement Park Opening Soon. Photo © Jim McDonnell. All rights Reserved

On Sunday, a sign appeared on the fence at the Thor Equities lot on Stillwell Avenue leased to the BK Festival announcing the opening of “Steeplechase Amusement Park.” We’ve known for several weeks that rides and amusements were planned for the former flea market this summer, but details were pending.

Will McCarthy, event director of the BK festival, tells ATZ that the flea market didn’t mesh with the Coney Island location and this season the BK Festival will bring in rides and amusements in addition to a smaller number of vendors. The flea market is expected to continue until the rides debut in May. Among the old school carnival flat rides confirmed for the event are a Himalaya, Ring of Fire, Trabant and Cakewalk. There will be also be a climbing wall, McCarthy said. Additional rides and amusements will be announced soon. The BK Festival’s partners went to the carnival convention in Gibsonton, Florida, last month to recruit ride operators for Coney Island.

Why did they choose the name Steeplechase Park? “We want to bring back a lot of things that used to be on the property,” says McCarthy. “It’s a tribute to Steeplechase Park.”

sign

Steeplechase Park Sign Already Defaced. © Magical Theme Parks. All Rights Reserved

And why not? Coney Island’s three grand amusement parks of the early 20th century were Steeplechase, Dreamland and Luna Park, and the names of the last two are already taken. When Joe Sitt brought carnivals to his property in the summers leading up to the 2009 rezoning, he called it Dreamland Amusement Park. Zamperla named their park after Thompson and Dundy’s Luna Park. Although the new parks bear very little resemblance to the originals, the familiar names evoke memories and exert a powerful pull. We’re just happy the BK Festival, which has a three-year lease, will not be a flea market this summer. We wish them well. Evidently one person wasn’t thrilled with this iteration of the Funny Face. The sign, which has a couple of unfortunate misspellings, was almost immediately defaced.

The park will be the third Steeplechase. In 1967, Norman Kaufman leased part of the Tilyou’s Steeplechase site from Fred Trump and called his park Steeplechase Park, according to Charles Denson’s Coney Island: Lost and Found. The Jumbo Jet, Cortina, Bumper Cars, Go Karts, Batting Cages and a Miniature Golf Course were among Kaufman’s attractions over the years. Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City was on this piece of land until he was evicted by Thor Equities in 2007.

Club Atlantis

Cha Cha's Club Atlantis Opening Soon. Photo © Magical Theme Parks. All Rights Reserved

Another sign on the fence announced “Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis Opening Soon,” setting the stage for two clubs with the same name. Cha Cha, one of the Coney Island 8 evicted from the Boardwalk by Zamperla, is opening a restaurant on Surf Avenue as well as a reincarnation of his Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis. His former Boardwalk location, which will become Tom’s Restaurant, was the site of the original Club Atlantis. Across the way, the former Steve’s Grill House and Beer Island are set to become Zamperla’s Club Atlantis. Last month, Zamperla CEO Valerio Ferrari told the NY Post that a new beach bar called Club Atlantis would offer beer, wine and dancing.

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April 2, 2012: BK Festival’s 1st Amusement Rides Arrive in Coney Island

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

May 16, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Aqueduct Flea Vendors Make Dismal Debut

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

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