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Posts Tagged ‘Coney Island Polar Bear Club’

Snowy View from Jones Walk

Snowy view from Jones Walk of Luna Park pinwheels and Deno’s Wonder Wheel. January 23, 2016. Photo © Bruce Handy

For the first snow of past winters, ATZ has posted Bruce Handy’s exquisite photos of snow mermaids and the pattern of snow on the slats of the wooden boardwalk. Saturday’s snow was a blizzard of 26.8 inches, making it the city’s second largest snowstorm since 1869. It’s no wonder this year’s photos are less contemplative and more action-oriented.

Coney Island Polar Bear in the snow

Coney Island Polar Bear saoking up some snow on the beach. January 23, 2016. Photo © Bruce Handy

After weeks of balmy weather, several members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club gathered for a frolic on the snowy beach and a blizzard dip amid crashing waves and gusty winds.
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Coney Island Polar Bears Blizzard Swim

Coney Island Polar Bears Blizzard Swim. January 23, 2016. Photo © Bruce Handy

Want to go for a day after the blizzard swim with the Polar Bears on Sunday? You’re welcome to join as a guest. Just show up at the Bears’ “Clubhouse” at the Aquarium’s Education Hall on the Boardwalk at West 8th Street by 12:30 pm with your bathing suit, a towel, surf boots or an extra pair of sneakers, and some warm clothing.

Coney Island Beach Blizzard 2016

Photographer atop berm built by the Parks Department. January 23, 2016. Photo © Bruce Handy

Prior to the blizzard, the Parks Department built temporary berms on the beach to protect against possible coastal flooding. On Saturday afternoon, when Mayor De Blasio visited Coney Island with other elected officials, he climbed the berm to check out the waves. All was well, but he was surprised to see a jogger on the beach. A few hours earlier the Mayor might have seen a woman pushing a baby stroller along the shore. With no snow tires, it was easier for her to push the carriage in the sand than in the snow. “It was the clearest path,” says the photographer, who resides in Coney Island. “It was a Fellini moment to end the day.”

Blizzard 2016

Pushing a Baby Carriage on Coney Island Beach during Blizzard 2016. January 23, 2016. Photo © Bruce Handy

Oh, and you couldn’t even get a hot dog in Coney Island on Saturday. The century-old Nathan’s Famous on Surf Avenue, which is open daily year-round, was closed due to the snow. The 24-hour Dunkin Donuts in Stillwell Terminal was among the very few businesses that remained open during the storm

storm-shuttered Nathan's

View of Surf Avenue and a storm-shuttered Nathan’s from Stillwell Terminal. January 23, 2016. Photo © Bruce Handy

Related posts on ATZ...

January 9, 2015: Photo of the Day: Snowy Night in Coney Island by Bruce Handy

January 26, 2013: Winter’s First Snow in Coney Island by Bruce Handy

December 27, 2010: Photo of the Day: First Snow on Coney Island Boardwalk

February 26, 2010: Photo of the Day: Snow Mermaid on Coney Island Beach

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Snow Swim

Coney Island Polar Bears Snow Swim, March 1, 2015. Photo © Bruce Handy

After weeks of balmy winter weather, members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club are ready for their first snow swim of the season on Sunday at 1:00pm. Several Bears plan to meet for an unofficial blizzard dip at Stillwell Avenue on Saturday at 12 noon during the storm.

Snow swims during or just after a storm are a Polar Bear tradition. These photos were taken by Coney Island photographer and Polar Bear Bruce Handy last year and in 2010.

Snow Swim, Blizzard of 2010

Snow Swim, Blizzard of 2010. December 26, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy

The National Weather Service has forecast 12 to 18 inches of snow and winds of 30 to 35 mph with gusts up to 45 mph for Southern Brooklyn on Saturday. Photographer and Periscope user dutchmazz announced that he’ll be on Coney Island Beach at 11:50: “Watch the Bears swim in whiteout conditions from the comfort of your warm home! Tune in!”

Morning Update from Bruce Handy. It’s a go: “10 AM Polar Bear Report. Not too cold. Heavy numerous waves, gusting north wind, mild at times. Snow is 8″, drifts to 1.5, deep drifts beween the bathhouse and berm at Stillwell. All stores, Toms, Nathans, are closed. DD is open. Streets are getting unpassable. Sidewalks are unwalkable. Bathrooms are closed. Seagulls are serene. Few potential bears. No mermaid tracks although the grok is strong.”

UPDATE: Photos from Saturday’s swim and more in “Photo Album: Blizzard 2016 in Coney Island by Bruce Handy,” (ATZ, January 24, 2016)

Snow Swim

Snow Swim, Blizzard of 2010. December 26, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy

Related posts on ATZ…

January 8, 2016: Photo of the Day: Santa at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge by Barry Yanowitz

January 5, 2016: Coney Island New Year’s by the Numbers: 28K Visitors, Nearly $90K Raised for Charity

January 27, 2015: Photo Album: Coney Island’s First Hours of the Blizzard of 2015 by John Huntington

December 26, 2010: Video: Today’s Snow Swim with Coney Island Polar Bears

February 26, 2010: Photo of the Day: Snow Mermaid on Coney Island Beach

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New Years Day Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

New Years Day Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge, January 1, 2016. Photo © Barry Yanowitz

Brooklyn photographer Barry Yanowitz grew up in Coney Island and comes home every January 1st to photograph the colorful characters at the Polar Bear Plunge. “It’s the perfect way to begin the year,” he says. You can see more of Barry’s photos from his New Year’s Day set on his website.

If you missed Santa and the New Year’s Day Plunge, you can join the Coney Island Polar Bear Club as a guest at their Sunday swims between November and April. This Sunday, the forecast is a balmy 58 degrees! Just show up at the Bears “Clubhouse” at the Aquarium’s Education Hall on the Boardwalk at West 8th Street by 12:30 pm with your bathing suit, a towel, surf boots or an extra pair of sneakers, and some warm clothing.

Related posts on ATZ…

January 5, 2016: Coney Island New Year’s by the Numbers: 28K Visitors, Nearly $90K Raised for Charity

November 16, 2015: Photos of the Day: Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower Lit at Sunset in France’s Tricolor

March 1, 2015: Photo of the Day: Jones Walk, Off-Season

January 2, 2014: Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge’s Best Dressed of 2014

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Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

The Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge drew 3,000 swimmers and 10,000 spectators, and raised nearly $90K for Camp Sunshine. January 1, 2016. Photo © Norman Blake

Coney Island drew an astounding total of more than 28,000 visitors to its new New Year’s Eve Celebration and long-established New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge. The district’s City Councilman Mark Treyger tweeted the official tally that “Over 15,000 people turned out to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Coney Island!” Temps in the 40s and the promise of free rides, sideshow performances and fireworks helped triple attendance for the New Year’s Eve Party at the Parachute Jump, which was started by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and is in its second year. The free, family friendly celebration was sponsored by the Borough President along with Councilman Treyger and the Alliance for Coney Island.

On New Year’s Day, the Parks Department estimated there were 10,000 spectators at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge. “We had almost 3,000 swimmers participate in the plunge this year,” Polar Bear Club president Dennis Thomas tells ATZ. “I am sure it is a record. The past few years we have been averaging a little over 2,000 swimmers.” What’s more, the funds raised by the Polar Bears for Camp Sunshine have far exceeded their goal of last year’s total of $70K. Nearly $90K has been received so far, with donations still being accepted here. If the trend continues, next year the Bears could break $100K for the camp, which hosts children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

The novelty of major rides –the Wonder Wheel, B&B Carousell and Thunderbolt roller coaster– being open on New Year’s Eve and offering a free spin was a big draw. When we got here around 8:30pm, the atmosphere was festive but the crowd was still sparse, evoking memories of the first years of the Mermaid Parade, before it grew into the world’s largest art parade. Around 11:15, the vast majority of revelers began to arrive and gather around the dazzlingly lit Parachute Jump, Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, for Coney’s countdown to 2016.

Deno’s Wonder Wheel’s white cars rode approximately 2,000 people for free on New Year’s Eve, with the line snaking towards the boardwalk. On New Year’s Day, just over 500 tickets at $5 per ride were sold, with 50% of the proceeds — $1262.50 — donated to the Polar Bears’ charity Camp Sunshine. Over 400 cups of hot chocolate were handed out to guests. Will winter rides become an annual tradition? That depends: Coney’s outdoor rides operate “weather permitting,” and luckily this year’s weather permitted the first-ever New Year’s spin.

As for the Polar Bear Plunge, Thomas says the event has been growing every year. “Part of the increase in funds may be due to increasing number of plungers, but, again, all donations are voluntary and no one has to pay to participate, and some don’t,” he notes. “Participation by teams from Coney Island Brewery, Peggy O’Neill’s and Reyka Vodka helped with the fundraising. Generally, Coney Island is back on the map as a NYC destination like it hasn’t been in decades. People are not fearful about coming anymore, and the summers have been so popular, maybe some of that is rubbing off on the winter plunge there as well.”

Happy New Year to and from Coney Island! Stay tuned for a photo album of some of the best pix of this year’s plunge.

Thunderbolt Luna Park NYC

Crowds line up to ride Luna Park’s Thunderbolt for free on New Year’s Eve. December 31, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

December 29, 2015: Coney Island to Ring in 2016 with Parties, Free Rides, Light Shows, Fireworks, Polar Bear Plunge

December 11, 2015: Dance with Miss Coney Island on New Year’s Day

January 2, 2014: Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge’s Best Dressed of 2014

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

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Coney Island Polar Bear Club

Greetings from Coney Island! Coney Island Polar Bear Club poses for group photo before their first swim of the season on November 1, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Sunday, the 112-year-old Coney Island Polar Bear Club went for their first swim of the 2015-2016 season on the same day the amusement rides went for their last spin of the year. Today, Mayor de Blasio gave the Polar Bears a shout-out in a release for NYC & Company’s new winter tourism campaign. Called Unlock NYC and taglined “Find a Winter Less Ordinary,” the campaign was launched on Monday at World Travel Market in London.

“There are endless reasons to love New York City in every season, but something special happens when the snow falls – from Lunar New Year celebrations in Flushing and the tree lighting in Rockefeller Center, to watching the Polar Bear Club brave the frigid waters on Coney Island,” says Mayor Bill de Blasio in the release. “People from around the world feel the pull of New York City, and with Unlock NYC visitors can find the hidden gems – the New Yorker’s New York – and experience our city on a budget.”

New Year's Day Polar Bear Dip at Coney Island

He Did It! Annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Dip at Coney Island Attracts Thousands. January 1, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita


On January 1st in Coney Island, people travel from near and far to welcome the New Year by joining the Polar Bears’ annual dip in the icy Atlantic. “I believe we had approximately 2,500 swimmers participate, very similar to last year,” Dennis Thomas, president of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club told ATZ a few days after this year’s swim. The event attracted just as many spectators and raised more than $70,000 for Camp Sunshine, where children with life-threatening illnesses can enjoy a summer vacation.

The Coney Island Polar Bears, who have about 125 members, swim on Sundays at 1pm from November through April. If you want to join them for the 2016 New Year’s Day Dip or as a guest at a Sunday swim, here’s how.

Coney Island Polar Bear Club

Coney Island Polar Club’s first swim of the 2015-2016 season. November 1, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

January 2, 2014: Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge’s Best Dressed of 2014

January 1, 2013: Videos of the Day: Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge 2013

January 3, 2012: Record 3,000 “Do It” at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

December 18, 2011: Playing Santa at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

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Photo © Barry Yanowitz

Coney Island New Years Day Polar Bear Dip, January 1, 2015. Photo © Barry Yanowitz

On January 1st in Coney Island, people came from near and far to welcome the New Year by joining the Polar Bears’ annual dip in the icy Atlantic. “I believe we had approximately 2,500 swimmers participate, very similar to last year,” Dennis Thomas, president of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club told ATZ.

The winter bathing, which celebrates its 112th anniversary this year, raised a record amount–more than $70,000– for Camp Sunshine, where children with life-threatening illnesses can enjoy a summer vacation. Thomas said he expects the amount to rise a bit more in the coming days. You can make a contribution here through June 30.

Photo © Barry Yanowitz

Coney Island New Years Day Polar Bear Dip, January 1, 2015. Photo © Barry Yanowitz

For Barry Yanowitz, who grew up in Coney Island, taking photos of the Polar Bear Dip is an annual ritual. “It does take a certain amount of crazy to go swimming in NYC in January. But it’s a crazy that I admire!” said the photographer, who waded into the surf with water-proof boots and got a bit soaked taking the above photos. Afterwards, on the beach and the boardwalk, revelers in zany headgear, costumes and accessories reminiscent of the Mermaid Parade happily posed for portraits. You can view Barry’s complete set here.

Brian Dillon sports his perennially popular Coney Island-themed hat

Brian Dillon sports his Coney Island-themed hat. Photo © Barry Yanowitz

For a Coney Island Polar Bear’s eye view of the New Year’s Day Dip, check out this video by club member Jim McDonnell. The Bears, who swim from November through April, went for an early morning swim on New Year’s Day prior to the public festivities.

If you missed the New Year’s Day Dip or want to give it another go, you can join the Polar Bears as a guest for one of their Sunday swims. Here’s how.

Related posts on ATZ…

December 10, 2014: ATZ’s 12 Days of Coney Island Christmas Gift Guide

January 2, 2014: Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge’s Best Dressed of 2014

November 28, 2013: Photo Album: Parachute Jump Lights Way to Year-Round Coney Island

January 3, 2012: Record 3,000 “Do It” at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

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Coney Island Polar Bear Club

Coney Island Polar Bear Club. November 2, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Sunday, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club went for their first swim of the season. “Summertime has gone away, Polar Bears are here to stay,” the Bears chanted as they warmed up by doing jumping jacks on the beach.

The Club swims at 1:00pm every Sunday from November through April. Membership is currently closed but you can join them for a guest swim. Just turn up at the Bears Clubhouse at the Aquarium’s Education Hall on the Boardwalk at West 8th Street by 12:30pm with your bathing suit, a towel, surf boots or an extra pair of sneakers, and some warm clothing. Or welcome the New Year by joining the annual January 1st Polar Bear Dip in Coney Island, a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine.

Polar Bear Club member and filmmaker Jim McDonnell shot this short video of Sunday’s swim to mark the 111th season of the winter swimming club. It was a windy day on the beach and boardwalk with air temps in the 40s.

Related posts on ATZ…

January 2, 2014: Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge’s Best Dressed of 2014

February 7, 2012: Video of the Day: The Coldest Thing on Coney Island

January 3, 2012: Record 3,000 “Do It” at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

December 26, 2010: Video: Today’s Snow Swim with Coney Island Polar Bears

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