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ATZ obtained a copy of the cruel kiss-off letter sent by the City’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to the Coney Island Boardwalk businesses on October 25th. The City’s lease with the businesses was set to expire just a few days later on the 31st. “Please be advised that effective as of the date of this letter, the NYCEDC (“Licensor”) has assigned its interest as Licensor under your license for the premises to Central Amusement International.”

It appears to be a slick legal maneuver by the City to abdicate responsibility for the November 1st eviction of these Mom and Pops from City-owned property by CAI, which the City certainly must have known about in advance. CAI’s Luna Park is a public-private partnership and everything of importance is done in consultation with the City. The letter is signed by John Cicerello, Executive Vice President of EDC’s Assets Management, which “manages, maintains and leases over 20 million square feet of City property assets with the goal of maximizing return on assets.”

The kiss-off letter begins “Dear Sir or Madam”– the same salutation as CAI’s October 29th surrender the premises letter— which ATZ previously posted. We have to wonder if both letters were drafted by the NYCEDC attorneys or is this type of letter always so generic and coldly impersonal?

The letter states that as of the date of this letter “any and all matters regarding your License and the Premises should be addressed with Central Amusement International.” Any license fees and charges. Any notices, inquiries, requests. Any anything. In other words, the City’s done with you, Sir or Madam. Don’t call us, blame us, bother us, ask us for support.

After the Boardwalk businesses received the eviction letters on November 1st, City officials–both elected and appointed–tried to distance themselves by referring all questions to the amusement operator. Officials told the business owners it was Zamperla’s decision and there was nothing they could do. The businesses, which had been expecting responses to their business plans, were shocked and dismayed to receive eviction notices instead.

In advance of an eviction hearing scheduled for January 10, both sides are expected to get together for talks today. Will there be an out of court settlement? At a previous hearing on December 10, NYCEDC attorneys and a representative of the asset management department were present along with Valerio Ferrari, CEO of Zamperla USA and Central Amusement International.

Paul's Daughter

Last Day at Paul's Daughter. Coney Island Boardwalk. November 13, 2010. © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Coney Island Eight’s new website asks “Who is behind the eviction of the Coney Island 8”? Their answer is that the City made the decision as to who was going to be on the boardwalk long before any proposals were submitted.

It has been reported that Central Amusements was responsible for the ousting of the Coney Island Boardwalk Businesses. This is not true. The City of New York under the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg are the primary developers of Coney Island. This became evident in meetings with Central Amusements when their top Management explained to the Boardwalk vendors that Mayor Bloomberg met with them and told them that he wanted the Boardwalk to have a fresh look. It was two days before the renewal of leases the owners of the land turned all the leases over to Central Amusements to give the impression that Central Amusements made this decision.

Save ruby's

Save Ruby's 'Axis of Evil' Protest Sign. January 1, 2011. Photo © Rubyshost via flickr

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December 9, 2011: Paul’s Daughter Signs 8-Year Lease for Coney Island Boardwalk

October 20, 2011: Reversal of Fortune on the Coney Island Boardwalk

November 10, 2010: This Week in Coney Island: Party at Paul’s Daughter, Hypocrisy at NYCEDC

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

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DOB

Screenshot of DOB webpage on Dec 30, 2010

Has Shoot the Freak won the latest skirmish in the Battle of the Boardwalk? Last week, Zamperla began constructing the entrance to Scream Zone after razing and boarding up Shoot the Freak without warning. The paintball game’s owner Anthony Berlingieri vowed to take the matter to court and have further construction stopped.

ATZ has learned that on Thursday the City’s Department of Buildings issued a stop work order at the Boardwalk property leased by Zamperla from the City’s Economic Development Corporation. The address is 1213-1223 Boardwalk West, between 12th and 15th Streets.

“This property has 1 open DOB ‘Work Without A Permit’ Violations and may be subject to DOB civil penalties upon application for a permit.

Received: 12/30/2010 10:18 Block: 8695 Lot: 104 Community Board: 313
Owner: NEW YORK CITY ECONOMIC DEVELOP

Last Inspection: 12/30/2010 – – BY BADGE # 2369
Disposition: 12/30/2010 – L1 – PARTIAL STOP WORK ORDER
Comments: DEMOLITION WITHOUT A PERMIT. STOP ALL DEMOLITION WORK, PAY CIVIL PENALTY, OBTAIN PERMIT
DOB Violation #: 123010BS13GI01
ECB Violation #s: 34875289N

Along with Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter, Shoot the Freak is among the eight small businesses being evicted from the Boardwalk by CAI/Zamperla. The Coney Island 8′s court date for the eviction proceeding is scheduled for January 10. The property is owned by the City’s Economic Development Corporation and leased to CAI/Zamperla, which is allowing only 2 of 11 existing businesses to remain.

UPDATE… 9 am

This morning’s NY Post and Daily News report that the City fine for the violation is a whopping $5000! A DOB spokeswoman told the Post that the case is under investigation.

Formerly know as Shoot the Freak

The new boardwalk entrance to Scream Zone (Formerly know as Shoot the Freak). Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

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Outside Ruby's Bar on New Year's Day 2010 in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Outside Ruby's Bar on New Year's Day 2010 in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The judge adjourned this morning’s 10 a.m. court hearing for CAI Luna Park’s eviction of the “Coney Island Eight” till January 10, 2011. The postponement was at the request of the CI 8’s attorney Marc Aronson. ATZ was told that a postponement is common at the beginning of a case. We’re not reading anything into it. Not yet.

Does this mean Ruby’s will be open for the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim? We hope so. Otherwise it could be a BYOF (flask AND food) situation. Take a look at our Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010. It just won’t be a “Happy New Year!” on the Coney Island Boardwalk if Ruby’s is closed on the first day of 2011.

The eight businesses being booted from the Boardwalk are Ruby’s, Cha Cha’s, Paul’s Daughter, Grill House, Gyro Corner, Shoot the Freak, Beer Island and Coney Island Souvenir Shop. Only two of eleven existing Boardwalk businesses –Lola Star Boutique and Nathan’s — were invited back by CAI Luna Park for the 2011 season.

UPDATE… December 13, 2010

Forget Last Call! We hear RUBY’S IS OPENING NEW YEARS DAY 10:30 am till 6 pm to toast in 2011with the Coney Island Polar Bears and you!

UPDATE… December 23, 2010

The Coney Island 8 launched a new website to tell their story. The url is www.coneyisland8.com.

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December 27, 2011: Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island News Stories of 2011

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk
November 23, 2010: Meet Sodexo: Luna Park Coney Island’s Partner for “On-Site Service Solutions”

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

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Demolition of Thor Equities-Owned Shore Hotel, Coney Island. December 5, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

Demolition of Thor Equities-Owned Shore Hotel, Coney Island. December 5, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

Tis the season to be jolly, but there won’t be any fa-la-la-ing in good ol’ Coney Island this week. Last Wednesday, notices from attorneys for Luna Park operator Central Amusement International (CAI) were posted on the gates of the evicted Boardwalk businesses summoning them to court on December 10. CAI has retained the law firm of Davidoff, Malito & Hutcher, who filed a lawsuit to force the Coney Island 8 to “surrender the subject premises.” The eight businesses are Ruby’s, Cha Cha’s, Paul’s Daughter, Grill House, Gyro Corner, Shoot the Freak, Beer Island and Coney Island Souvenir Shop.

On Friday, Thor Equities demolition crew gutted the first floors of the Shore Hotel and the Bowery side of the Henderson Building. The dirty work will continue this week. Along with the demolished Bank of Coney Island, these historic buildings were doomed by the City’s rezoning of the parcels for high-rise hotels in 2009. A demolition permit was issued to Thor Equities in August and the Henderson’s remaining tenants were evicted, though a hotel is not expected to be built anytime soon. If you come to Coney Island for the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim, when you exit Stillwell Terminal and look across Surf, it’s likely the buildings will be demolished by then. What you’ll see is another empty lot to add to real estate speculator Joe Sitt’s collection of empty lots in Coney Island.

View of Thor Equities-owned Shore Hotel and Henderson Building in Coney Island. July 12, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Before the Demolition: View of Thor Equities-owned Shore Hotel and Henderson Building in Coney Island. July 12, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Will Ruby’s Bar be open on New Year’s Day? The Sarrels hope so, we hope so, but nobody knows. The future of the eight Boardwalk businesses will be the subject of legal wrangling this week, both behind the scenes and in court on Friday. According to the notice from CAI’s attorneys, copies of which were also sent by certified mail, “a hearing at which you must appear will be held at the Civil Court of the City of New York, 141 Livingston Street, Part 52, Room 94(C) on December 10 at 10 am.” (Update: The room number has been changed. We were requested not to post the new room number since the court date may not be open to the public.)

The notice also stated that “the license premises are an integral part of redevelopment” and that “time is of the essence.” Respondents were told to “surrender the subject premises” or face penalties of $2,000 per day. The previous notice to quit by November 19th, which ATZ posted last month, is referenced in the document. Central Amusement International states that the sublease with the businesses commenced on January 25, 2010 and ended on October 31, 2010.

Ruby's Rally, Party & Last Call. November 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Ruby's Rally, Party & Last Call. November 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

We hope some kind of agreement can be reached to allow indigenous Mom & Pops such as Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter to be part of the new Coney Island. The sudden notice to “vacate the premises” sent to the Boardwalk veterans on the day after the season ended calls to mind Thor Equities’ Christmas Eve lockout of 2008, when Joe Sitt was dubbed “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” by the NY Post. In that infamous incident, Sitt’s henchmen cut locks on Boardwalk businesses and hung up banners advertising Stores for Lease. Lynn Kelly, then president of the Coney Island Development Corporation, told the Post, ‘Sitt’s behavior shows why the mayor’s planned rezoning is needed, “so that the boardwalk businesses and all of Coney Island have a chance to thrive.'”

Just days before CAI’s “vacate the premises” notice was delivered to the Coney Island 8 on November 1st, Kelly left her longtime position with the CIDC and NYCEDC (Economic Development Corporation) for a new job as CEO of Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Too bad we’ll never get to hear Kelly’s explanation for the eviction of the Boardwalk businesses by Luna Park, which is a public private partnership with the EDC and Kelly was fond of calling “her park.” Neither the EDC nor the Mayor’s Office will comment to the press about the Mom & Pop businesses booted off City-owned property in Coney Island. The NYCEDC leased the Boardwalk property to CAI, the New Jersey-based operator of Coney Island’s new Luna Park. City officials–both appointed and elected–continue to distance themselves from responsibility for the evictions by remaining silent and referring all requests for comment to CAI.

UPDATE… December 9, 2010

Friday morning’s 10 a.m. court date for the eviction of the “Coney Island Eight” reportedly got postponed at the request of their attorney. ATZ was told that a postponement is a basic move at the beginning of a case. We’re not reading anything into it. Not yet. Stay tuned for new date.

UPDATE… December 10, 2010

The judge adjourned the hearing till January 10, 2011.

Boardwalk 8. November 27, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Sign on Grill House: Save Coney Island 8. What About Us? November 27, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

November 21, 2010: Goodbye (Or Maybe Not?) to My Coney Island Equivalent of Proust’s Madeleine

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010

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Connoisseurs of hypocrisy should enjoy this one: On Tuesday, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) tweeted “Support your small local business,” yet refuses to support or say a word to the press about the nine small local businesses booted off City-owned property in Coney Island. The NYCEDC leased the Boardwalk property to Central Amusement International, the New Jersey-based operator of Coney Island’s new Luna Park.

It appears that City officials are trying to distance themselves from responsibility for the eviction of Mom and Pops by referring all requests for comment to CAI. In an op-ed in this week’s Courier News, Valerio Ferrari, president of Central Amusement International promised a “multi-million dollar program that will bring back the world-class mix of entertainment, dining and nightlife that was once a hallmark of the famed Boardwalk.” Last week, Ferrari told us that Luna Park is investing $1.4 million in a new restaurant at the corner of Surf and 10th Street, formerly occupied by Gregory & Paul’s. A Boardwalk restaurant/bar hoping to get a lease renewal would have had to make a million dollar investment as well, Ferrari said.

Also on Tuesday, Paul’s Daughter, the Boardwalk restaurant formerly known as Gregory & Paul’s, posted an invite to a party on Saturday afternoon at 12:30. “It’s on the house!” Come out and enjoy the best french fries in all of Coney Island (yes, better than Nathan’s!) and photograph their iconic signage, perhaps for the very last time (we hope not). Watch for our photo album and reminiscences of the 40-year-old Boardwalk establishment coming tomorrow! Paul’s is one of the nine businesses being forced out by the redevelopment.

Paul's Daughter, formerly Gregory & Paul's, on the Coney Island Boardwalk. June 27, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Paul's Daughter, formerly Gregory & Paul's, on the Coney Island Boardwalk. June 27, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

ATZ learned that the businesses, which had been given only two weeks to vacate the premises, were granted a four-day reprieve, presumably to give them a little more time to pack up decades worth of memorabilia and get out. Or perhaps the extension has something to do with legal action taken by eight of the business owners reported in today’s New York Post. Yesterday the businesses received letters extending the original November 15th deadline to vacate till November 19th.

Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for the NYCEDC or its president Seth Pinsky to reply to our tweets: Waiting for @sethpinsky @NYCEDC to “figure out where it makes sense for the various tenants to remain as we build out the amusement park” and Let’s see if @NYCEDC will at least relocate the mom & pop businesses booted off City-owned land in Coney.

This Friday, November 12, will be the one-year anniversary of the city’s press conference on the land buy where Shoot the Freak’s Anthony Berlingieri posed the question directly to Mayor Bloomberg: “Is there a place for us?” NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky gave a diplomatic reply: “Our intention is for the foreseeable future to keep all the tenants in place, certainly through next summer [2010]. And we’re going to be looking to work with each of you to figure out where it makes sense for the various tenants to remain as we build out the amusement park.”

Hey Seth, come to the party at Paul’s Daughter on Saturday, November 13, at 12:30 pm, and support local small business in Coney Island!

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July 17, 2012: 50 Years on Coney Island Boardwalk for Paul & His Daughter

November 13, 2011: The End of Paul’s Daughter As We Know It–Will They Return?

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November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

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Coney Island Needs Your Help: The Official Poster from Friends of Ruby’s Bar & Grill

Coney Island Needs Your Help: The Official Poster from Friends of Ruby’s Bar & Grill

This weekend, patrons and friends of the nine booted out Boardwalk businesses will converge in Coney Island to party, rally and pay their respects. Ruby’s Bar will be open for “Last Call…for now” on Saturday from 12 noon till at least 6 pm. Friends of the beloved bar organized a rally and petition drive. You can sign the online petition here. We expect to see lots of protest signs and as many dear friends on this heartbreaking occasion as on New Year’s Day.

The businesses who lost their leases aka “The Coney Island Boardwalk 9” are Ruby’s, Cha Cha’s, Paul’s Daughter, Grill House, Gyro Corner, Shoot the Freak, Beer Island, Pio Pio Riko and Coney Island Souvenir Shop. Paul’s Daughter, who was interviewed yesterday by New York Magazine’s Grub Street, will also be open on Saturday for a farewell party. On Sunday, Coney Island band Neptune Jam will be playing in front of the Grill House. We wouldn’t be at all surprised if Cha Cha’s and Shoot the Freak are open, too. We’ll let you know! UPDATE 10:30 pm… Ruby’s was still rocking when we left around 8 pm! But Saturday was “Last Call” for now. Cha Cha’s and Shoot the Freak remained closed, but Gyro Corner was open. Both Paul’s Daughter and Grill House will be open on Sunday.

Paul's Daughter, Coney Island Boardwalk. Last day of season, Oct 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Paul's Daughter, Coney Island Boardwalk. Last day of season, Oct 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

As we said on the eve of Coney Island’s official last day of the season, which was October 31: If you have a sentimental favorite on the Boardwalk, come out and show them some love. And don’t forget to take souvenir photos. This weekend could be your very last chance.

If you can’t make it and want to make your voice heard, we recommend calling 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside NYC) and leaving a comment for the Mayor or sending an email via the City’s website. The property is City-owned, yet the City has been silent since the news broke. Plans for a revamped Boardwalk were probably part of the original proposal for the new Luna Park and certainly had input from the City’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). It’s pretty clear the City wanted these old Boardwalk businesses gone from the new Coney Island or we’d have heard about a plan to relocate them instead of silence.

The only politician who has commented on the situation is Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who told Grub Street: “As a Brooklynite, I have great respect for all boardwalk businesses that have kept the faith during hard times, therefore I’m calling on the City to see if we can help them stay in the area if not on the boardwalk.” You can encourage Marty to broker a deal by emailing askmarty@brooklynbp.nyc.gov or phoning 718-802-3700.

Grill House, Coney Island Boardwalk. Last day of season, Oct 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Grill House, Coney Island Boardwalk. Last day of season, Oct 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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November 3, 2010: Friends of Ruby’s Bar Launch Petition, Plan Nov 6 Rally

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

April 23, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk Businesses Open for 2010

January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010

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On Wednesday afternoon, several owners of mom-and-pop businesses on Coney Island’s Boardwalk met to discuss taking legal action against eviction by Central Amusement International/Luna Park. ATZ obtained a copy of the two-page vacate the premises notice sent to the business owners. We’re told all nine of the booted businesses received the same form letter, down to the generic salutation “Dear Sir or Madam…”

When the business owners received the Fedex envelopes containing the long-awaited letter on Monday morning, they expected to read CAI’s specific response to the business plans which they had prepared and submitted. But the letter doesn’t contain so much as a “We regret to inform you that your business plan was not selected.”

According to the letter’s second graf, the City’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) licensed the Boardwalk properties to CAI. The deal was done in February. “As part of our arrangement with the EDC, we licensed those Boardwalk properties (including your site) to EDC, which made it possible for EDC to grant you the License Agreement for the 2010 summer season.”

New kid on the block Luna Park plans to replace the gritty authenticity of the Boardwalk’s oldest bar and sausage and clam joints with a huge sports bar, an upscale year-round restaurant, another Nathan’s satellite and a beer garden. The new businesses would flank the Luna-esque entrance to CAI’s Scream Zone, which will be where Shoot the Freak is now.

The cruellest part of the letter calls for the business owners, some of whom have occupied the same spot for decades, to formally acknowledge the surrender of the licensed premises and vacate within 15 days or face penalties. Coney Island history, including the Boardwalk’s vernacular signage, will be swept away to make way for the new Luna Park-inspired fronts shown in CAI’s renderings. “They didn’t have the vision that we have for the Boardwalk,” Valerio Ferrari, president of CAI/ZAmperla USA told ATZ on Monday. “It’s a business decision.” The letter says….

We want you to understand that while our company is affording you fifteen additional days in which to leave the licensed premises, the timing is critical in order for the Boardwalk properties to be ready for operations next season. For this reason, please be aware that Central Amusement International will enforce the penalties provisions in your License Agreement as well as seek all available legal and equitable remedies in the event that you should fail to leave by November 15, 2010.

ATZ learned from one of the business owners that the penalty is $2,500 per day for each day after November 15th.

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November 3, 2010: Friends of Ruby’s Bar Launch Petition, Plan Nov 6 Rally

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

April 23, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk Businesses Open for 2010

January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010

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