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We’re marking the start of the new year with a look back at ATZ’s Top 10 news stories of 2010 listed in order of page views. The majority of the stories were first reported by ATZ. Thanks to our readers for your comments, both online and in person. Thanks to the bloggers and journos who have linked to our stories in 2010. Happy New Year to All and Happy New Year to Coney Island!

Fire at Arcade

Fire at Coney Island Arcade. May 5, 2010

1. Suspicious Fire at Coney Island Arcade Building – May 6, 2010

ATZ’s most viewed news story of 2010 was about the fire that destroyed Coney Island Arcade on the Bowery at 12th Street. After news of the fire was mentioned on Coney Island USA message board and twitter by neighborhood residents, we followed up by phone with eyewitnesses at the scene. The FDNY had to saw open the metal shutters and break through the roof to fight the stubborn fire, which took more than two-and-a-half hours to put out.

The building was not “unoccupied,” as was widely reported. Targette, one of the arcade’s beloved cats, died of smoke inhalation, but her brother Target managed to escape the fire when the firemen cut the gates. The next day, sources told ATZ the fire was caused by the use of a propane torch by roofers who had been tarring the arcade’s roof. The arcade machines were a total loss and the building still stands in ruins.

Luna Park at Night. Coney Island History Project Collection

Luna Park at Night. © Coney Island History Project Collection

2. Scoop: Zamperla’s $24M Coney Island Park to be Named Luna Park!— January 26, 2010

Two weeks after Zamperla was chosen to be the City’s amusement operator in Coney Island, ATZ discovered an Italian newspaper interview with Alberto Zamperla in which he revealed the previously undisclosed name of the soon-to-be built amusement park: “The park will be called, Luna Park, like the first, the only, the inimitable one, the one created by Frederic Thompson and Elmer ‘Skip’ Dundy.” In many countries, including Italy, “Luna Park” is a generic term for amusement park.

New Luna Park, Coney Island

New Luna Park, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

3. Luna Park Coney Island’s Pinwheel & Moon Gate Takes Shape! –May 23, 2010

One of the most exciting photo ops of the heroic round-the-clock race to build Luna Park occurred just one week before the grand opening. Workers from Zamperla and Paul Signs were putting four giant pinwheel and crescent moons into place on the front gate. We ran out from our booth to witness the historic occasion. At 6:30 pm, when the fourth pinwheel was in place, we stood with two other photographers in the middle of Surf Avenue getting shots of the magnificent gate, which pays homage to the entrance of the original Luna Park.

Signage at Paul's Daughter

Signage at Paul's Daughter, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr


4. Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back – November 1, 2010
On the day after the 2010 season ended, we were shocked to hear from Boardwalk folks that Ruby’s Bar and several other Boardwalk businesses had received vacate notices from CAI/Zamperla. We phoned Zamperla USA CEO Valerio Ferrari for confirmation. “They didn’t have the vision that we have for the Boardwalk,” Ferrari told ATZ. “It’s a business decision.” He said Zamperla/CAI’s vision is to revitalize the Boardwalk by making it a lively place open 365 days a year. But it’s also a matter of investment dollars. 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.

Ruby's Bar & Grill

Ruby's Bar & Grill, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

5. Friends of Ruby’s Bar Launch Petition, Plan Nov 6 Rally – November 3, 2010
After the Monday Morning Massacre of the Boardwalk businesses, friends of Ruby’s Bar spread the word via Facebook and email to “all Ruby’s family and friends” to gather for “last call” on November 6th. “We are not going quietly,” Rubyshost said in an email. A petition was launched that began: “Dear Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. Ferrari, It has been brought to my attention that a historic piece of Coney Island is being kicked out. How does a business that has been there since 1934 get kicked out?”

The eviction hearing of the Coney Island 8–Ruby’s, Paul’s Daughter, Cha Cha’s, Steve’s Grill House, Gyro Corner, Coney Island Souvenir Shop, Beer Island and Shoot the Freak–has been adjourned till January 10, 2011. UPDATE: In March 2011, all eight of the Coney Island 8 signed an agreement with property manager Zamperla’s Central Amusement International and the City that will allow 7 of them–Shoot the Freak is out– to lease their City-owned Boardwalk locations for one final summer.

Scott Fitlin

Scott Fitlin at Coney Island's Eldorado. Photo © Charles Denson

6. Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man – October 13, 2010

Our eulogy to our friend Scott Fitlin, who operated the Eldorado Bumper cars for his family, was read by Scott’s many, many friends in Coney Island and around the world. Commenters from several audio forums paid tribute to Scott’s knowledge and generosity of spirit.

Scott was the DJ extraordinaire of Surf Avenue’s legendary disco palace of bumper cars and a steadfast defender of the amusement zone. Coney Island will miss him more than we can say. Coney Island raconteur Stan Fox, whose family operated the Playland arcade, recalled saying that when Mike Saltzstein of the B & B Carousell died in 2001, the music died. “Today’s another day when the music died,” Fox said. As we reported in November, the Fitlin family will reopen the Eldorado Bumper cars in 2011.

Tickler

Vintage postcard of Tickler Ride at Luna Park circa 1906. © Jeffrey Stanton. http://www.westland.net/coneyisland/

7. New Coney Island Coaster Pays Homage to Luna Park’s 1906 Tickler – April 28, 2010

When we heard that the new Luna Park’s Wild Mouse spinning coaster would be renamed “The Tickler,” we were delighted to be able to write about the innovative 1906 thrill ride in the original Luna Park and pay homage to its inventor Willliam F. Mangels. The Tickler was the first amusement ride “designed to jostle, jolt and jounce its riders about in their seats when the ride was in motion,” according to Mangels, who had his shop in Coney Island.

In his book The History of the Outdoor Amusement Industry, Mangels recalls bringing his sketch of the ride to Luna Park to apply for a location for the following season: “Frederic Thompson, then the manager, took the picture, held it at arm’s length and gazed at it a minute. Then in his brusque way, he said, ‘You will need barrels to take away your money. Come in tomorrow morning for your contract.’ The contract specified that twenty per cent of the gross receipts should go to the park.”

Miniature Golf Course

Before Thor: Miniature Golf Course on Stillwell West. Photo via coneyislandbattingrange.com

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

Visitors to Coney Island still ask us: Where are the batting cages? What happened to the go karts? ATZ discovered that the website of this popular and much missed Stillwell Avenue attraction lives on! Never mind that Thor Equities evicted amusement operator Norman Kaufman and bulldozed the property in 2007 to make way for “redevelopment” (translation: empty lots). This attractive mini-golf course was located on the west side of Stillwell behind the Grill House. We miss the bumper boats on the Bowery most of all.

Henderson Building

Velocity Nightclub in the Henderson Building, 2007. Photo © Charles Denson

9. Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall – April 28, 2010

The Velocity Nightclub occupied the second floor on the Bowery side of the former Henderson Music Hall until Thor Equities bought the building and proceeded to empty it of tenants. Charles Denson’s photo provides a rare glimpse inside the building, which a Thor spokesman described as “structurally questionable and potentially dangerous.” Thor announced plans to demolish the building and replace it with a one-story shopping mall. In the last months of 2010, the Thor-owned Bank of Coney Island and Shore Hotel were demolished and the Henderson is currently being taken down. See the “Video: Tribute to the Henderson Theater by Charles Denson” for a recent look inside the doomed building.

Feltman's kitchen

Tile floor in historic Feltman's kitchen. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

10. Nathan Slept Here! Coney Island’s Feltman’s Kitchen Set for Demolition – January 19, 2010

The first demolition of 2010 was the old Feltman’s kitchen on the former Astroland site. The City demolished the structure to make way for the new Luna Park. This humble building was the last remnant of the block-long restaurant and entertainment complex owned by Charles Feltman, the inventor of the hot dog. Before Nathan Handwerker founded Nathan’s, he worked for Feltman and legend has it that he slept on the kitchen floor! Tiles from Feltman’s kitchen were retrieved by the Coney Island History Project.

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Fire marshals at Coney Island Arcade on the day after the fire. © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Fire marshals at Coney Island Arcade on the day after the fire. May 6, 2010. © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

The day after the devastating fire at Coney Island Arcade, workers were busy clearing away debris and cutting planks to enclose the building at Bowery and 12th Street. We joined a group of amusement operators and owners surveying the damage and lamenting the terrible loss of our friend Manny’s arcade. Manny Cohen, owner and operator of Coney Island Arcade, was en route to New York after attending an amusement expo in China. His friends on Coney’s Bowery had stayed up all night guarding the contents of the arcade. Lights from the rides across the street shone into the open arcade. The FDNY had to saw open the metal shutters and break through the roof to fight the stubborn fire, which took more than two-and-a-half hours to put out.

The Day After the Fire at Coney Island Arcade. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

The Day After the Fire at Coney Island Arcade. May 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

One amusement operator alleged the fire was caused by the use of a propane torch by roofers who had been tarring the arcade’s roof on May 5th, the day of the fire. He claimed that when the roofers showed up the next day a fire marshal was waiting to arrest them. A quick search on the web turned up the info that it is illegal to use a propane torch on a combustible roof. According to an article by NYARM (New York Association of Realty Managers), “New York City Fire Chief Marshal Louis Garcia, Bureau of Fire Investigation, issued a directive, effective June 22, 1999, regarding what he described as ‘the reckless and illegal practice of using propane torches in installing modified roofing material on combustible [wood deck] roofs, and establishing guidelines for the arrest and prosecution of individuals and companies responsible for this reckless behavior. The penalty for violating these rules, built into the rules themselves, is arrest for endangerment of property. Further, anyone sanctioning the illegal use of propane on roofs, including board members, engineers or architects, attorneys who draw up contracts, managing agents and roofing companies, can all be subject to arrest!'”

The Day After the Fire at Coney Island Arcade. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

The Day After the Fire at Coney Island Arcade. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Another operator recalled that some of Coney Island’s most notorious fires had been caused by roof tarring. The Hell Gate fire which destroyed Dreamland Park in 1911 was among them. Hell Gate was a boat ride through the caverns of hell. “The fire started around 2 A.M., from an explosion of some light bulbs that were near a pail of tar in the Hellgate that was being repaired. Built of pine, paper mache and freshly painted for the new season, the fire spread very quickly,” according to the FDNY’s unofficial history page.

The Day After the Fire at Coney Island Arcade. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

The Day After the Fire at Coney Island Arcade. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

The Coney Island Arcade occupied a century-old timber frame building. Sources say the structure was damaged beyond repair by the fire and will have to be torn down. The building is owned by Jeff Persily. Just to clarify a popular misconception: Real estate speculator Joe Sitt of Thor Equities does not own the building, though he does own the adjacent Bank of Coney Island Building.

We’re told the arcade machines suffered water damage and are a total loss. Coney Island Arcade’s water race game, balloon dart and other games occupy an adjoining steel frame building, which was not damaged by the fire. The games are already open for business today.

Adjoining game concessions were in a steel building and have already reopened for business. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Adjoining game concessions were in a steel building and have already reopened for business. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Will Coney Island Arcade be rebuilt and back in business anytime soon? We hope so. It’s painful to see a burned out building where a thriving business was just last weekend. It will be painful to see this corner become an empty lot. The fire is a huge loss, not only for Manny Cohen, but for the entire amusement community in Coney Island. We hope the building owner takes a cue from the activity just down the street, where workers are laboring round the clock to finish the new Luna Park in time for the May 29th grand opening.

The Day After the Fire at Coney Island Arcade. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

The Day After the Fire at Coney Island Arcade. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

May 6, 2010: Suspicious Fire at Coney Island Arcade Building

May 6, 2010: R.I.P. Targette, the Coney Island Arcade Cat’s Shy Sister

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

August 15, 2009: Coney Island Carnival Games: My Photo Album

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Targette, the Sister of Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat.  Photo © Charles Denson

Targette, the Sister of Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat. Photo © Charles Denson

In our post about yesterday’s devastating fire at the Coney Island Arcade Building, we wondered about the fate of the cats who lived there.

Charles Denson just wrote with the good news that Target escaped the fire when the firemen cut the gates, and the sad news that his sister Targette (aka Targeretty) died in the fire. The firemen found her in the office where she probably died of smoke inhalation. Here’s Charlie’s portrait of her.

We’d been taking pix of Target the Coney Island Cat since 2007, but had never glimpsed his shy sister until this year. Targeretty would hide out in the office of the Coney Island Arcade while the gregarious Target made his rounds of the arcade and games and rides on the Bowery. Target will miss his little sister.

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Related Posts on ATZ…

March 27, 2010: Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Is On Twitter!

July 21, 2009: Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Introduces His Sister Targeretty

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Firefighters sawing into Coney Island Arcade thru the shutters to access fire.  Photo © Adam Richman via twitpic

Firefighters sawing into Coney Island Arcade thru the shutters to access fire. Photo © Adam Richman via twitpic

On the Coney Island Message Board and twitter, witnesses who live in the neighborhood began reporting a two-alarm fire at the Coney Island Arcade Building at West 12th Street and Bowery last night at 8:15 pm. The anonymous contributor who sent us the photo below said there were 7 fire trucks. The cause of the fire is unknown, but the FDNY scanner transcript reads: “20:42 hours – Duration 37 minutes. FieldCom: Transmit a 10-41 code 2 (Suspicious Fire, Vacant Structure), heavy volume of fire on arrival.”

The Coney Island Arcade and adjoining games are operated by Manny Cohen, who was attending an amusement expo in China. We’re greatly concerned about the damage to the building and his arcade business. One observer of the fire speculated: “The building structure is destroyed. They will need to build a new building there.”

We’re also concerned about the fate of the Coney Island Arcade’s beloved cats, Target and Targeretty, who live in the arcade. We frequently take photos of Target the Cat. Has anyone seen him or his sister? People on the scene informed the firefighters about the cats. We’re told that one of the cats was seen escaping from the building. (UPDATE: We just learned the sad news that Target’s sister Targette aka Targeretty died in the fire.)

On the Coney Island USA Message Board, the poster Coney Island Kid wrote: “I noticed the fire engines at approx. 8:15PM. looking toward W 12th St, I saw flames coming from the roof of the arcade at W 12th and the Bowery. Earlier today I saw workmen on the roof of that building applying a new layer of tar paper. The fire, from what I could see started inside, not on the roof.”

Coney Island Arcade, May 2, 2010. Photo © Jim McDonnell. Jimvid via smugmug

Photo taken a few days before the fire: Coney Island Arcade. May 2, 2010. Photo © Jim McDonnell. Jimvid via smugmug

On twitter, Adam Richman (mfbucket) reported “Firefighters sawing into coney island arcade thru the shutters to access” and “Smoke so thick u can’t see to the corner.” Photographer Bruce Handy told us by phone that the FDNY used a circular saw or acetylene torch to cut through the metal shutters. “The fire was stubborn because it was between the roof and the ceiling,” he said. “The firefighters had to cut open the roof to get at the fire.”

The firefighters also cut through the windows of the former Bank of Coney Island, which is next door to the arcade. But people on the scene said the arcade building was the only building damaged by the fire thanks to the fine work and fast response time of FDNY 161 and 153! The Coney Island Arcade Building is owned by Jeff Persily. Thor Equities owns the Bank of Coney Island Building, which is under threat of demolition.


Photo by Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

April 29, 2011: Burned Coney Arcade Building Finally Being Demolished

April 13, 2011: Coney Island Arcade Debuts Cobra, Braves Loss of Arcade

May 7, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Arcade Fire’s Awful Aftermath

May 6, 2010: R.I.P. Targette, the Coney Island Arcade Cat’s Shy Sister

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Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat on Opening Day 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat on Opening Day 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island’s 40 rides and diverse attractions start up again for the 2010 season in just one day! Since we work in Coney, it’s been so hectic getting ready for opening day that we haven’t had a minute to blog. Not so with Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat

Our favorite cat has started microblogging as ConeyICat via twitter! But he has quite a ways to go before he catches up with Sockington, a Massachusetts cat with 1.5 million followers! Please follow Target if you are on twitter. His latest tweet:

Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Has Something to Say...  Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Has Something to Say... Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Also opening on Sunday…Coney Island’s Cyclone Roller Coaster, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park (22 rides), McCullough’s Kiddie Park (a dozen rides), 12th St. Amusements (Polar Express and 4 other rides) and the Eldorado Bumper Cars.

The annual Blessing of the Rides is set for 11:00 am at Deno’s Wonder Wheel. Then at 12 noon, Borough President Marty Markowitz will break a bottle of homemade egg cream on the Cyclone’s first car as the Hungry March Band toot their horns in celebration. The first 100 people to arrive to the party will ride the Cyclone for free. The Coney Island History Project on Surf under the Cyclone will host an Open House from 12-3 pm. Free admission to one and all!

For more info on what’s open in Coney Island and a listing of upcoming events, sign up for the Coney Island Fun Guide newsletter or follow them on twitter.

See you tomorrow, March 28th at 12 noon?

Manny Cohen of Coney Island Arcade with his World-Famous Cat Target.  © 2010 Manny Cohen.  All rights reserved

Manny Cohen of Coney Island Arcade with his World-Famous Cat Target. © 2010 Manny Cohen. All rights reserved

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Related Posts on ATZ…

February 3, 2010: New in 2010: Coney Island Fun Phone Addition to CI Fun Guide

January 26, 2010: Scoop: Zamperla’s $24M Coney Island Park to be Named Luna Park!

July 21, 2009: Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Introduces His Sister Targeretty

June 4, 2009: Coney Island Ride Count: Veteran Ride Ops 40, Joe Sitt 10!

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Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat on Patrol. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat on Patrol. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Don’t worry, Manny Cohen and Target the Cat, who operate the world-famous Coney Island Arcade at Bowery and 12th Street in the heart of Coney Island, aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be open for business in 2010. On Saturday, November 28, Coney Island Arcade is making way for new equipment by auctioning old coin-op arcade games, pinball machines and more. The list of items includes Ms Pac Man, Carnevil, Addams Family and Austin Powers Pinball Machines, and Kiddie Ride Horses similar to the one pictured above. You can’t buy this one because Target likes to lounge on the saddle!

Last summer, Cohen operated a second arcade on Surf Avenue near Jones Walk. The auction and preview will be held at that location. The auction is on Saturday, November 28 at 10 am. Preview on Black Friday, the first day of the traditional Christmas shopping season (hint, hint) 1-6 pm, and on Saturday 8-10 am prior to the auction. For more info visit the auction site.

If you go to Saturday’s auction, you’ll find the Coney Island Museum, the New York Aquarium, Coney Island Beach Shop, Nathan’s Famous, and other shops and restaurants open for business. You can also download the Coney Island History Project’s free audio/video walking tour to your iPod or listen to it live on your iPhone and go for a stroll on the Boardwalk.

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Related posts on ATZ…

November 5, 2009: Museum Piece or Obsolete? Old Carnival Games, Stick Joints on eBay

November 3, 2009: Coney Island’s Shoot Out the Star Still Open… Players Wanted!

August 16, 2009: Coney Island Carnival Games: My Photo Album

July 8, 2009: Coney Island Wish List: Michael Jackson’s Bumper Car Ride for Sale on eBay

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Target the Cat in the Basketball Game, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Target the Cat in the Basketball Game on the Bowery near Jones Walk, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island Arcade operator Manny Cohen, who owns Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat, sent us this photo of our favorite Coney cat and his sister Targeretty. Although we’ve been taking pix of Target since 2007, we’ve never even glimpsed his shy sister.

Portrait of Target and Targeretty, the Coney Island Arcade Cats.  Photo © Manny Cohen.

Portrait of Target and Targeretty, the Coney Island Arcade Cats. Photo © Manny Cohen

Targeretty hides out in the office of the Coney Island Arcade while the gregarious Target makes his rounds of the arcade and the games and rides on the Bowery. Target is also the official mascot of the flickr group Coney Island is Alive and Kicking and Welcomes Visitors in 2009!

Target the Cat at Home in the Coney Island Arcade.  Photo © Manny Cohen

Target the Cat at Home in the Coney Island Arcade. Photo © Manny Cohen

At the beginning of the season Jimmy was interviewed for a story in the NY Times and Target’s photo was featured in the slide show along with pics of the world famous Cyclone Roller Coaster and the Wonder Wheel. I’ve taken enough photos to make a flickr set called Target the World Famous Coney Island Arcade Cat. But fame hasn’t changed Target one bit. Before the parade got started on Mermaid Day, I found Jimmy and Target working together as usual in the Balloon Dart.

Target & Jimmy Waiting for Customers. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Target & Jimmy Waiting for Customers. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Stretching. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Stretching. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Target the Cat Playing with a Prize. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Target the Cat Playing with a Prize. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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