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Posts Tagged ‘Economic Development Corporation’

Astroland Rocket

Astroland Rocket Back Home in Coney Island — Next to the Wonder Wheel in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park! June 4, 2014. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project flickr

Good morning and happy news! While you were sleeping the Astroland Rocket was returned to its rightful place in Coney Island after a five-year exile. The space-age attraction’s future couldn’t be brighter. Its new home is beside the magnificent Wonder Wheel in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. The long-retired Rocket ride will be made into a multimedia exhibit featuring the history of flight-themed attractions in Coney Island. The space simulator was the first attraction to arrive at Astroland in 1962. TIME hailed it as the “Cape Canaveral Satellite Jet” while Billboard called it “The Spaceship Auditorium.”

“Outer space simulators have played a prominent role in Coney’s amusement history,” said Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson, who will design the exhibit. “It began when Thompson and Dundy brought ‘A Trip to the Moon’ to Steeplechase Park in 1902 and culminated in 1962, at the height of the space race, with Astroland’s Moon Rocket.”

Star Flyrer Astroland

Star Flyer copyright Astroland Archives / Coney Island History Project

The History Project’s proposal was approved by the City’s Economic Development Corporation, which issued an RFP in November and transferred ownership to the nonprofit organization a few days ago. After Astroland lost its lease in 2009, the Rocket was removed from atop Gregory & Paul’s roof, where it perched for decades and had become part of the store’s vernacular signage. The space ship was donated to the City of New York by Astroland Park owners Carol and Jerry Albert. “The Rocket will become a permanent and iconic part of the 27 acre redeveloped amusement district in Coney Island,” said the press release from the Coney Island Development Corporation on January 28, 2009, the day the Rocket left Coney Island.

This summer, Wonder Wheel Park’s Steve and Stacy Vourderis hope to make the Rocket the focal point of the park’s annual History Day celebration on August 9th. But it may take awhile before the 26-seat Astro theater is in shipshape to welcome a new generation of space adventurers. The 71-foot-long, 12,000-pound Rocket was damaged during Superstorm Sandy while in storage at the City’s Staten Island Homeport facility. The restoration of the Rocket is in the very capable hands of Steve Vourderis, who meticulously restored the Wonder Wheel for the first time when his family bought it 30 years ago and has kept the 1920 landmark and the park’s other rides in perfect condition ever since.

Charles Denson, Executive Director of the Coney Island History Project, inside the Astroland Rocket awaiting a new generation of space adventurers! Photo © Astroland Archives/Coney Island History Project

The Rocket joins another survivor of Astroland in Wonder Wheel Park. The Bumper car ride with its distinctive rainbow marquee was refurbished and brought back to Coney Island in 2012. Signage from the Musik Express, Water Flume and other rides are in the collection of the Coney Island History Project. In the Washington D.C. area, one of the 8-foot by 7-and-a-half-foot lighted stars from the park’s gate, which was selected by curator Margaret Weitekamp for the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s collection, is slated to go on display next year in the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center .

Related posts on ATZ…

July 17, 2013: Astroland Rides Find Homes in Brooklyn, Costa Rica and Australia

March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

December 16, 2010: Blast from the Past: LFO’s Summer Girls Music Video

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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Promenading at Midland Beach

Vintage Postcard: Promenading at Midland Beach, Staten Island. Collection Milstein Division, New York Public Library

Staten Island’s east shore, once home to amusement parks with roller coasters, Ferris wheels and carousels, could be awhirl with seasonal rides again as early as this summer. A Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the Staten Island Beachfronts by the City mentions amusement rides at Midland Beach as well as carnivals, rides and stall-based amusements among over 30 suggested uses at 8 different sites. Respondents are encouraged to submit proposals for these ideas as well as others that they believe are suitable but not mentioned in the RFEI.

Big Mark’s Action Park and NY Carousel Entertainment LLC were among the amusement park operators eyeing the property in recent site visits held by the City’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Parks Department. Proposals are due on Tuesday and some of the ideas are expected to be activated in summer 2014.

Midland Beach Site Opportunity Diagram

Carousel and Kiddie Rides in Midland Beach Opportunity Site Diagram, Staten Island Beachfronts RFEI, December 13, 2013. NYCEDC

Six concrete pads for future amusement rides with electrical utilities already installed are mentioned in the Midland Beach Site Opportunity section of the RFEI. The diagram above shows the pads occupied by a carousel, magic castle, sky glider, mini airport and spinning teacups circled by a trackless train, though these are just examples. There’s also a pad for a concession building with attached public restrooms, which are under construction.

Staten Island site visit attendee Mark Zientek of Big Mark’s Action Park says, “We put together some ideas we’re really excited about. We think the beachfronts offer a lot of promise.” Zientek is the owner of a long-established amusement rental and special events production company whose clients include AT&T, HBO, and Turner Construction. He’s also chairman of ROAR (Responsible Operators of Amusement Rentals) and a NAARSO (National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials) certified maintenance technician. Big Mark’s proposal is a two-phase plan, with an initial emphasis on participatory attractions for children like Little Mark’s climbing wall and slide, and a mechanically operated ride that lets the riders control the speed of the spin. A zip line and other action-oriented attractions are part of phase two.

Great Roller Boller Coaster

Vintage Postcard: Great Roller Boller Coaster Amusement Co., South Beach, Staten Island. Collection Milstein Division, New York Public Library

Also attending the site visit were David Galst and Ami Abramson of NY Carousel Entertainment LLC, which operates two historic Queens carousels for the Parks Department in Flushing Meadows and Forest Park. Last year, the company added a mini-amusement park at Flushing Meadows including Queens’ one and only roller coaster, a family ride called the Corona Cobra. Could a coaster for Staten Island be next? Galst and Abramson are also managing directors with Ride Entertainment Group, which not only operates carousels but also installs coasters and other high thrill rides. Past projects include the 110-foot-high SkyCoaster at Luna Park’s Scream Zone in Coney Island and Gerstlauer’s new FireChaser Express at Dollywood, the first dual-launch family coaster in the U.S.

One of the questions from a respondent in the RFEI’s Q & A about zoning restrictions as to height partly answers whether a SkyCoaster or similarly tall ride would fly on Staten Island’s beachfront. The answer: “NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) structures are not subject to zoning restrictions. Structure heights are subject to the NYC Parks Commissioner’s discretion. The construction of new structures will not be permitted at the Miller Field Opportunity Site.” NY Carousel Entertainment did not reply to ATZ’s request for comment on their proposal for the Staten Island beachfront.

The Whip at Midland Beach

Vintage Postcard: Everybody Rides the The Whip at Midland Beach, Staten Island. Collection Milstein Division, New York Public Library

According to the NYCEDC, the primary purpose of the RFEI is to generate ideas to enhance and re-invigorate Staten Island’s public beachfronts and open spaces after Superstorm Sandy. Proposals may consider one or more of eight locations, for temporary, seasonal, and/or permanent activations for early summer 2014 as well as long-term projects. In addition to small-scale amusements, suggested project concepts include food trucks, vending machines, beer gardens, cafes, skate parks, surf schools, skating rinks, mini golf, driving ranges, batting cages, recreational and beach equipment rental, educational programming, public art activations, festivals, performances and markets.

South Beach was once home to Happyland Amusement Park (1906-1935) and other independently owned amusements. In 1955, a project to extend the Boardwalk and provide parking and playing fields led to New York City’s condemnation of properties where rides, eateries and other amusements had been for decades. Beachland Amusements (1941-2006) survived by moving inland. Midland Beach, just south of South Beach, had hotels, beer gardens, bathing pavilions, theaters, carousels, Ferris wheels and amusements. Vintage postcards in the New York Public Library show a variety of entertainments, including trapeze performances on the boardwalk and a boxing exhibition by the world-famous Rossow Midgets.

UPDATE June 25, 2014

Fantasy Shore Amusement Park in Midland Beach opened on June 28th with four rides: Tea Cups, Train, Frog Hopper and a mini-roller coaster christened the Verrazano Viper. Fantasy Shore is run by NY Carousel Entertainment, which also operates Fantasy Forest Amusement Park at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens.

UPDATE March 17, 2014

The Parks Department has issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) for the development and operation of a Children’s Amusement Park as well as the operation of mobile food units and souvenir carts in Midland Beach, with a 12-year term. A site tour is set for March 28, with a due date for proposals of April 16th.

The Rossow Midgets

The Rossow Midgets, Midland Beach, Staten Island, NY. Collection Milstein Division, New York Public Library

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Related posts on ATZ…

June 25, 2014: Amusement Rides Return to Staten Island’s Beachfront

April 24, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island April 2013 Construction Update

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

February 1, 2011: Bring Back the Whip! A Birthday Gift for William F Mangels

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Steeplechase Plaza

B&B Carousell Pavilion Under Construction in Steeplechase Plaza, Coney Island. July 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

When the B&B Carousell reopens in Coney Island next season, the restored 1919 ride will spin in a glass pavilion next to the Parachute Jump. The progress of construction on the pavilion and its new home Steeplechase Plaza can be seen in the above photo. Large-scale neon lettering spelling B&B CAROUSELL will encircle the top of the completed pavilion. Coney Island’s last hand-carved carousel was saved from auction in 2005 when the City purchased it for $1.8 million from the McCullough family who operated it on the north side of Surf Avenue since the 1970s.

The Parachute Jump, the sole survivor of Steeplechase Park, is also a focal point of Steeplechase Plaza. The red, yellow and blue sheet metal panels and medallions at the base of the Jump are getting a redo as you can see in the photo below.

Construction at the Base of the Parachute Jump

Construction at the Base of the Parachute Jump. July 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

While fans of the Jump continue to hope that the landmark ride will someday be restored to operation, we don’t see that happening due to liability concerns and high costs. In an article that we wrote for Preservation Magazine in 2002, independent ride engineer and certified safety inspector Ed Pribonic expressed concerns about stress on the structure and the viability of reusing original components. “As a visual icon, it’s probably fine,” he said. “When you’re talking about turning it into an operating amusement ride that carries passengers and is subject to thousands of dynamic load cycles a day, then it becomes a different engineering problem.”

Besides, Coney Island is getting a 2.2 acre public plaza on the old Steeplechase site, not a new Steeplechase Park. According to the NYCEDC’s press release issued at the time of last November’s groundbreaking, the plaza will be the western gateway to the revitalized Coney Island and will be large enough to host a variety of events. For the first time, visitors will be able to walk directly underneath the Parachute Jump and gaze up at the latticework structure from the inside. The landmark will also get a new lighting scheme to “bring the bling to Coney Island,” in the words of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Parachute Jump Gateway

Artist Rendering of Parachute Jump Gateway. NYC Economic Development Corporation

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Related posts on ATZ…

August 2, 2012: New Building Breaks Ground Next to Coney Island’s Stillwell Terminal

May 29, 2012: Photo Album: Coney Island Lights & Signs of the Times

February 2, 2012: Thor’s Coney Island: Generic New Building at Surf & Stillwell

December 4, 2011: Brass Ring Dept: Coney Island “Carousell” RFP Up for Grabs

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B&B Carousell

The B&B Carousell’s first restored horse returns to Coney Island! Photo © Coney Island History Project via flickr

This sweet pony, the first restored horse from the B&B Carousell, looks happy to be back in Coney Island! What’s his or her name? That will be up to the popular vote on Facebook. At the moment “Cotton Candy” and “Ravishing Ruby” are the front runners. “Home Sweet Home,” “Thunderbolt,” “Tornado,” and “In Memory of Mike Saltzstein,” who operated the carousel for decades, are some of the other suggested names.

There’s also “William,” for the carousel’s builder William F Mangels, and “Marcus,” for Marcus Illions, the carver of the lead horse. This horse, as well as the others, was carved by Charles Carmel.

The name “Ravishing Ruby” is being championed by Brooklyn-born actress Annabella Sciorra, who writes on her Facebook page: “They’re looking to name the first restored carousel horse in Coney Island. If you like my page please vote for the name ‘Ravishing Ruby’ after one of my best friends who grew up on the beaches of Coney Island!!” Ravishing Ruby is also the title of a country song from the ’70s! Our guess is that some who are voting for the name are associating it with Coney’s beloved Ruby’s Bar and Grill.

“Cotton Candy” is a cute choice, but please be advised if it wins that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to bring actual cotton candy on the ride.

Inspired by the creative names of the horses at the Kentucky Derby, which was run yesterday, ATZ’s choice is “Home Sweet Home.” We think it’s the perfect name since this B&B horse is the first to come home to Coney from Ohio, where the carousel has been undergoing restoration, after an absence of seven years. Go, Go, Go, Home Sweet Home!

As for “Mikey” or “In Memory of Mike Saltzstein,” we agree with a commenter on the voting page who writes: “May the last horse in be named ‘In Memory of Mike Saltzstein.’ Mike kept those horses going … God rest his soul.”

Today is the second and final day of the B&B Carousell Open House presented by the City’s Economic Development Corporation at the Coney Island History Project, where you can get your picture taken with the horse and cast your vote in person. If you live too far away to visit, you can still vote on Facebook to name the horse.

The B&B Carousell is also in a very competitive online horse race with 40 historic properties for a share of $3 million from Partners in Preservation. New Yorkers as well as anyone who loves New York may cast one vote daily on the Partners in Preservation New York City website or via Facebook, smartphone or tablet.

UPDATE May 7, 2012:

Congratulations to Dano Panariello, who suggested the name “Ravishing Ruby” in honor of his mother! The Open House and the naming contest are over, but everybody please remember to vote for the B&B Carousell every day thru May 21 at Partners in Preservation, where it is in a horse race to win a grant.

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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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Related posts on ATZ…

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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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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Under Construction:  Restaurant at Surf Ave and 10th Street in Luna Park. November 24, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57

Under Construction: Restaurant at Surf Ave and 10th Street in Luna Park. November 24, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57

At the corner of Surf Avenue and 10th Street in Coney Island, construction workers have been emptying rubble into a dumpster and digging up the street. It doesn’t look like much now, but by next season a $1.4 million sit-down restaurant with a view of the Cyclone roller coaster will be open for business.

As ATZ reported last week, the new restaurant will be run by Luna Park’s partner Sodexo, one of the largest food and facilities management companies in the world. Luna Park CEO Valerio Ferrari told ATZ that $1.4 million is being invested in the restaurant, which will be open year-round and feature waiter service and a variety of food.

Unlike the Sodexo-run restaurants set to take over what Ferrari described as “some but not all” of the Boardwalk businesses, this location is not controversial since the property was already vacant. Gregory & Paul’s Surf Avenue eatery closed after Thor Equities booted out Astroland two years ago. What’s controversial is corporate giant Sodexo’s highly unpublicized partnership with Luna Park Coney Island, which is itself a public private partnership with the City of New York. Why didn’t the NYCEDC issue a press release in May?

Since ATZ broke the news in Meet Sodexo: Luna Park Coney Island’s Partner for “On-Site Service Solutions” (November 23, 2010), readers have emailed us links to articles about everything from high prices in Sodexo-run college cafeterias in New York and New Jersey to the Washington Post’s “D” grade for the Sodexo-run cafeteria at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The most notable link is a press release from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in July announcing “a $20 million settlement with food services provider Sodexo for overcharging 21 New York school districts as well as the SUNY system…” Said Cuomo, “This company cut sweetheart deals with suppliers and then denied taxpayer-supported schools the benefits. The state and federal regulations regarding such contracts exist to protect taxpayers, and I thank the whistleblowers for having the courage to bring this to our attention.”

Paul's Daughter on Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Forty Year Old Business Being Replaced by Sodexo: Paul's Daughter on Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

New York Magazine’s Grub Street asked “Could a 40-Year-Old Coney Institution Be Replaced By a Corporate Cafeteria Giant?” Yes, according to Ferrari, Sodexo is expected to take over the Boardwalk outpost of G & P’s, now called Paul’s Daughter, so it looks like it will indeed be Goodbye to My Coney Island Equivalent of Proust’s Madeleine, barring a reprieve by a judge or the Mayor. Merde alors.

Our readers were equally unenthusiastic about a French multinational best known for running cafeterias for schools, corporations, hospitals, prisons and the military taking over the food operation at the People’s Playground and pushing out the indigenous Mom and Pops. “Sodexo was sub-contracted to handle all food & beverage services at the Fortune 50 corporation that I used to work for,” commented one of our readers. “In a nutshell, it is sterile, soul-less, generic food and beverage service.”

But that’s not why ATZ is unlikely to become a regular patron of the new Sodexo restaurant. As someone who works in Coney Island, we simply don’t have time or money to wait on line with the tourists. When we’re on the job, we brown bag it or a few of us will order from reasonably priced neighborhood places like Classic Heros and Pizza on the Run, which are just outside the amusement area. The prices at Luna Park’s Sodexo kiosks were on the high side for Coney Island. $5.00 plus tax for a cup of watermelon that could be bought for a couple of bucks from a vendor just down the block. $2.50 plus tax for a 20 ounce bottle of water which cost $2.00 in a vending machine across the street. Who’s pocketing the extra quarters and dollars?

Sodexo Kiosk at Luna Park Coney Island. May 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Sodexo Kiosk at Luna Park Coney Island. May 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Ask New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, the secretive, quasi-governmental entity that is the City’s vehicle for promoting economic growth. It is the NYCEDC that made the 10-year contract with Zamperla for $100,000 annual rent plus a reported 10% of the gross in the first year of operation and pulls their strings like a puppeteer.

Interestingly, an Associated Press article about the eviction of the Boardwalk businesses misreported that the company is “paying the city $1 million plus part of gross receipts.” We got a laugh out of that, but the reporter can be forgiven for thinking the correct $100K figure was so paltry as to be a typo. To put this number in perspective, consider that Boardwalk businesses like Ruby’s and Cha Cha’s have been paying $100,000 annual rent in recent years. As for Luna Park’s second year of operation, including who stands to earn what from the Boardwalk leases and Sodexo’s cut, neither the NYCEDC nor Zamperla is saying, despite ATZ’s repeated requests.

Last year when the Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP was issued, NYCEDC disclosed to potential bidders that “While we cannot share information on individual licenses at this time, we can report that in the past, the gross potential rent for the Boardwalk tenants was approximately $750,000 to $900,000.” Considering that the property is City-owned and was purchased with $95.6 million of public funds, do you think this information is proprietary or public? We’ll let you know when we receive the results of our Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request.

UPDATE March 31, 2013:

Surf’s Up for CAI Foods in Coney Island, Sodexo Is Out. Sodexo’s departure had long been rumored and is something to cheer about. According to the partnership agreement, after 3 years either party was free to terminate the lease, with CAI having to reimburse the remaining value of Sodexo’s initial investment, with interest.

CIDC Map of the Coney Island Amusement Operator Sites.  Credit: Coney Island Development Corporation

CIDC Map of the Coney Island Amusement Operator Sites. Credit: Coney Island Development Corporation

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 31, 2013: Surf’s Up for CAI Foods in Coney Island, Sodexo Is Out

November 23, 2010: Meet Sodexo: Luna Park Coney Island’s Partner for “On-Site Service Solutions”

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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