Posts Tagged ‘Childs Building’

The New Childs Restaurant

The New Childs Restaurant on the Riegelmann Boardwalk, August 1924. Eugene L. Armbruster Collection, New York Public Library

Earlier this week, NY1 reported the excellent news that the City plans to develop the former Childs Restaurant building on the Boardwalk and an adjacent lot into an entertainment complex. It will be the new home of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s popular Seaside Summer Concerts. First we felt surprise, since the building was not on the market, and then a mixture of elation and relief.

It’s been sad to see Coney Island’s terracotta palace by the sea boarded up for the past few years after being enlivened by the Mermaid Parade Ball and Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Rink. Yet it’s hard to pass by without taking photos of its ornamental ships, seashells, fish and King Neptunes. When a tourist recently tweeted a photo describing the Childs as “the ruins,” we didn’t have the heart to respond. The 1923 Spanish Colonial Revival style building was designated a City landmark in 2003.


Detail of terracotta ornamentation on Childs Building. July 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Luckily, the City has the funds to bring the building back to life since the Borough President will be able to use $50 million already set aside for a $64 million amphitheater in Seaside Park that was halted by a lawsuit. This is great news because if the money wasn’t spent by the time his third term ends in December 2013, it would go back into the public coffers and be lost to Coney Island.

Taconic Investment Partners, which owns approximately four blocks west and north of MCU Park, also holds a 99-year lease on the Childs building. The NY1 report didn’t say whether the City would acquire the lease from the development company or buy the building from the owner. Back in 2007, Brooklyn’s blogfather Bob Guskind described Taconic as “Coney Island’s Sleeper Megadeveloper” and it’s still an apt description. The developer began buying property in 2005 but has yet to develop anything in Coney Island.

“Taconic is in the process of evaluating the economics of a planned development for some or all of our holdings,” according to a web page about their “Coney Island, North and South Ventures.” That’s been the message for the longest time, probably because the economy and inadequate infrastructure put a dent in their plans. The 2009 rezoning allows Taconic to build nearly 2,000 residential units and more than 200,000 square feet of retail west and north of MCU. A restaurant and catering hall were part of the original plans for the Childs building. Dreamland Roller Rink operated rent-free for two years until 2010, when the high cost of insurance caused Taconic to shutter the space.

Dreamland Roller Rink

Lola Staar’s Dreamland Roller Rink. August 2, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

According to NY1, the lot west of the building will also be developed as part of the entertainment complex. The City-owned lot is the community garden pictured below. Right now it’s filled with tomatoes and sunflowers. Taconic owns the land east of the building, the former Washington Baths site. Thor Equities bought the vacant lot from Horace Bullard for $13 million and then flipped it to Taconic for an exorbitant $90 million because both parties were sure the City would rezone it for residential.

The Washington Baths site has been the temporary home of the Seaside Concert Series for the past two summers and for the Ringling Circus in 2009 and 2010. During the rest of the year, it is used as a school bus parking lot.

UPDATE September 26, 2013:

The City’s plan to convert the former restaurant into an amphitheater for live concerts is now working its way through City Planning and the City Council approval, though it was voted down by the community board. “Clock Ticking on Plan for the Landmark Childs Building,” ATZ, September 25, 2013.

community garden

Coney Island Community Garden adjacent to Childs Building. July 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr


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Coney Island USA Building

New lights illuminating Coney Island USA Building, which will be designated a landmark today. Photo © Fred Kahl

Let’s get this puzzler out of the way first: Why are Joe Sitt and Thor Equities mentioned in a press release heralding today’s landmark designation of Coney Island USA’s building?

Repair of the exterior architectural lighting was funded through the generosity of our individual and corporate supporters, including Melissa Baldock, Steve Bernstein and Joseph Sitt of Thor Equities.

Is it a typo? Or has Sitt seen the light, however briefly, and contributed to the renovation of an historic building in Coney Island?

It’s odd to see Sitt’s name alongside a noted preservationist and a CIUSA board member. It’s incongruous considering Sitt’s darkening of the amusement area and demolition of three buildings that he owns, including two that were nominated for landmark designation. His contribution would be more noble if his rampant destruction weren’t in evidence all around Coney Island. And if you’re wondering how much Sitt contributed to the renovations, so are we.

Update…Dick Zigun, director of Coney Island USA writes: “Yes it is true he gave us money a year and a half ago but we just finished the project… not that much money $16,000… I asked him for funding it was not his idea… I ask everyone for money.” Zigun added that the total cost of the renovation was $70,000. As far as we know, this is the first time Joe Sitt and Thor Equities have contributed to the restoration of historic Coney Island. Way to go, Joe!

As for the topic of the press release, we’re thrilled that the Landmarks Preservation Commission will at long last designate the arts organization’s 1917 Child’s Restaurant Building a New York City landmark. It’s cause for celebration in Coney Island, especially amid the ongoing demolitions and evictions.

According to the designation report, “Although the Spanish (or the variant Mediterranean) Revival style was more often found on buildings in warmer climates, such as in Florida or the Caribbean, the designer of this structure (John Corley Westervelt) was hoping to suggest this same kind of vacation-oriented environment for a building in the heart of New York’s most popular resort area.”

Coney Island USA deserves credit for nominating 6 historic buildings for designation back in 2005. As we noted when the Shore Theater was designated in December, the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission delayed consideration of the buildings until February 2010, after Coney Island had been rezoned. Of the nominated buildings, only two–the Childs Restaurant (owned by CIUSA) and the Shore Theater (owned by Horace Bullard) were considered worthy of landmark designation. The Thor Equities-owned Bank of Coney Island and Shore Hotel were demolished and the Henderson Building demolition is underway. The doomed buildings were on parcels rezoned for high rise hotels.

Coney Island USA purchased the historic building in 2007 with funding from the City. When the Childs Building was first illuminated in mid-November, Coney Island USA founder Dick Zigun said it was part of a major upgrade to the exterior of the building. “The Surf Avenue facade will be illuminated every evening, 365 days a year; the West 12th Street lights will be on when we are open for business any evening,” noted Zigun.


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