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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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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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