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Posts Tagged ‘flat rides’

Thor's Coney Island

Thor’s Coney Island: Aerial view of vacant lots on south side of the Bowery between W 12th and W 15th where amusements once thrived. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Thor Equities’ huge vacant lots on Stillwell Avenue in the heart of Coney Island were cleaned up over the weekend and two different sources say rides are coming. The news is unconfirmed and it’s hard not to be skeptical considering the history of what’s been here since Joe Sitt acquired the land and began evicting longtime ride and park operators in 2006. But everybody — or almost everybody– wants to see the property activated instead of sadly sitting vacant (and yes, that is a pun). If temporary rides are in the stars for Thor’s Coney Island this season, let’s hope it works out this time. Despite various amusement operators efforts to negotiate lease deals, the lots remained vacant in 2010 and again last year, when a stop-work order was issued on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.”

Ring of Fire

Geren Rides’ Ring of Fire on Stillwell Ave in Coney Island, July 5, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

A little history in case you weren’t around to experience the drama: In October 2006, eight amusement businesses, including Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City and Eddie Miranda’s Zipper, which inspired the film Zipper, received notice from new property owner Thor Equities to be out by the end of the year. On Memorial Day Weekend 2008, Joe Sitt proclaimed “The Summer of Hope” and filled the reviled empty lots on Stillwell with carnival rides from Reithoffer Shows and Geren Rides for a limited run. Hope died when the rides left in mid-July and were replaced by a couple of inflatable bounces.

inflatable bouncer

After the carnival left: Batman and Cinderella’s Castle inflatable bounces on Thor’s vacant lot in Coney Island. August 8, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

Skeptics said the amusements were a ruse in the lead-up to the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009. At the time, Sitt and the City were at a standoff in negotiations over a compromise plan that would reduce the acreage of the amusement zone and allow high-rise hotels on the south side of Surf Avenue.

Cobra Ride

The Cobra was among the flat rides at Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park on Stillwell Avenue. June 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Failed flea markets made a mockery of the rezoning in 2009 and 2011. “Festival by the Sea” and the “BK Festival” were granted City permits as a “temporary fair” because a flea market is not a permitted use on this property in Coney Island. Clever, huh? In 2012, rides, games and sideshows returned to Thor’s Stillwell lots for the first time since 2008. As a critic of flea markets on land where the Tornado roller coaster (1927-1977) and the Bobsled (1941-1974) had once thrilled, we were happy to see the BK Festival and Thor Equities take this new direction.

Among the rides were the Cobra, which amusement park blogger The DOD3 describes as White Trash Carny Ride #7. “Every Cobra I’ve been on looks like it’s stuck in a 70s timewarp but they all give wonderfully intense rides,” he writes. Other WTCRs on his list are the Skydiver (#1), the Zipper (#3) and the Trabant (#9), all of which Coney used to have. A Trabant was one of the rides at Dreamland, a temporary park on the former Astroland site in 2009.

BK Festival: Giant Slide on Stillwell Avenue West. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

There were problems at the Stillwell Avenue park from the get-go. Originally set to open on Memorial Day Weekend 2012, the park was not able to open till four weeks later. A Giant Slide and Zipline never opened at all. Filing of paperwork with City agencies and bureaucratic red tape was blamed for the delay. City permitting issues relating to fencing closed the park intermittently and irregular hours had some visitors asking if and when it was open. The Mega Whirl, a prototype ride that combined the thrill of the Whip and the Tilt-A-Whirl debuted here and its abandoned platform remains on the lot, a symbol of financial ruin and broken dreams.

MegaWhirl Ride in Coney Island

MegaWhirl Ride and Zipline on Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. November 11, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

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March 11, 2014: Thor’s Coney Island: BurgerFi, Arcade Coming to Stillwell & Surf

March 10, 2014: High Hopes for Coney Island’s New Thunderbolt Coaster

October 17, 2013: The New Coney Island: Thor Equities Vacant Lots, Dummy Arcades

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

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Himalaya

BK Festival: Himalaya and Sunglasses Vendor. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

The Himalaya in the above photo may look like an ordinary Himi, but it marks the return of the native. For the first time since July 2008, there are rides on Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue lots, where amusements existed for more than 100 years until Joe Sitt bought the property and booted longtime ride and game operators in 2006. The Thor-owned Stillwell sites were used for a carnival in 2008, a flea market in 2009 and 2011, and remained vacant in 2010.

On Easter Sunday, we snapped these photos of the Himalaya, Scrambler, Fun House and three other carnival rides set up on Stillwell West behind Nathan’s. The rides were not yet open for business, though merchandise vendors, food concessions and a pony ride and petting zoo managed to open for Easter. All of the rides except the Giant Slide opened for business last weekend, but were torn down on Monday and are being set up again on the east side of Stillwell Avenue, reportedly due to permitting regulations.

Thor’s lots on both sides of Stillwell are leased to the BK Festival for a second season. As ATZ reported previously, Will McCarthy, event director of the BK Festival, said last year’s flea market didn’t mesh with the Coney Island location and this season the festival will bring in rides, games and amusements in addition to a smaller number of vendors. When the full complement of rides and attractions debut on Memorial Day Weekend, the BK Festival will be renamed Steeplechase Amusement Park. With the newly arrived rides, Coney’s ride count is over 65 and is likely to be over 70 by Memorial Day Weekend.

Scrambler

BK Festival: Scrambler, Fun House and Bounce, Stillwell Ave West. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Yes, it’s been four long years since Joe Sitt has had amusements on the hallowed ground at Stillwell Avenue and the Bowery, where the Tornado Roller coaster (1927-1977) and the Bobsled (1941-1974) amused the zillion. On Memorial Day Weekend 2008, Joe Sitt proclaimed “The Summer of Hope” and filled the reviled empty lots on Stillwell with carnival rides from Reithoffer Shows and Geren Rides for a limited run. Hope died when the rides left in mid-July.

In October 2006, eight tenants, including Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City, Eddie Miranda’s Zipper and Spider rides on 12th Street, and game operators in the Henderson Building received notice from new property owner Thor Equities to be out by the end of the year. Thor’s spokesman told the Daily News: “The effort to transform Coney Island and recapture its past glory involves the demolition of a number of existing structures. Therefore, to allow the new development to proceed in a timely manner, occupancy agreements with some of the tenants are not being renewed.” Timely? Ha! Coney Island redevelopment has turned out to be a long, dragged-out drama punctuated by NY Post headlines like “The Grinch Who Stole Coney Island” and “Coney Zoney Furor: Chicken King Clucks.”

As a critic of flea markets on land that historically has been used for amusements, we’re happy to see this new direction for the BK Festival and Thor Equities and wish them a successful season. The rides are expected to open this weekend.

UPDATE April 22, 2012:

Although the rides remain set up on the Stillwell Avenue East lot, they did not open for business on Saturday. Permits are in process for a “temporary fair.” According to Will McCarthy of the BK Festival all of the rides will open on Memorial Day Weekend when the Festival brings in additional rides and attractions and debuts as “Steeplechase Park.” In the meantime, the merchandise vendors, food stands and Coney Island Dancers will continue to operate on the Stillwell West lot.

BK Festival: Giant Slide on Stillwell Avenue West. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

April 2, 2012: BK Festival’s 1st Amusement Rides Arrive in Coney Island

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

April 22, 2011: Coney Island Has 64 Rides and 30 Weekends of Summer!

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

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First rides for BK Festival's amusement park have arrived in Coney Island. April 1, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Over the weekend, Coney Island’s amusement parks, which have a total of 60 rides including the landmark Cyclone and Wonder Wheel, celebrated opening day with fanfare. The Eldorado Bumper Cars–the 61st ride–are expected to open for one last season. Meanwhile, the first rides for the BK Festival’s new Steeplechase Amusement Park arrived and were parked on Thor Equities lot on the west side of Stillwell Avenue. ATZ snapped these photos yesterday afternoon.

BK Festival event director Will McCarthy tells ATZ that the first rides include a Himalaya, Scrambler, Bumper Cars, Giant Slide and Fun House. Castle Rock Amusements of Pittsfield, Massachusetts and NJ Party Works of South Amboy, New Jersey are the ride suppliers. The rides are projected to open for Easter on the BK Festival’s Stillwell lot behind Nathan’s. “This is a soft opening with the grand opening coming for Memorial Day Weekend,” McCarthy said.

The flea market vendors along with food stands and trailers are expected to continue on the east side of Thor’s Stillwell lots until the new Steeplechase Amusement Park’s full complement of rides and attractions debuts on Memorial Day Weekend.

Last month, McCarthy told ATZ the flea market didn’t mesh with the Coney Island location and this season the BK Festival will bring in rides and amusements in addition to a smaller number of vendors. As a critic of flea markets on land that historically has been used for amusements, we are thrilled with this new direction for the BK Festival and Thor Equities and wish them success. We’re looking forward to the return of popular flat rides like the Scrambler and the Trabant. With the newly arrived rides, Coney’s ride count is once again going up and is likely to be over 70 by Memorial Day Weekend.

The new park will be the third Steeplechase. In 1967, Norman Kaufman leased part of the Tilyou’s Steeplechase site from Fred Trump and called his park Steeplechase Park, according to Charles Denson’s Coney Island: Lost and Found. The Jumbo Jet, Cortina, Bumper Cars, Go Karts, Batting Cages and a Miniature Golf Course were among Kaufman’s attractions over the years. Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City was on this piece of land until he was evicted by Thor Equities in 2007.

UPDATE April 22, 2012:

The rides opened last weekend on Stillwell West and have since been moved to the Stillwell Avenue East lot, where permits are in process for a “temporary fair.” According to Will McCarthy of the BK Festival all of the rides will open on Memorial Day Weekend when the Festival brings in additional rides and attractions and debuts as “Steeplechase Park.” In the meantime, the merchandise vendors, food stands and Coney Island Dancers will continue to operate on the Stillwell West lot.

Rides

First rides for BK Festival's amusement park have arrived in Coney Island. April 1, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

April 19, 2012: Rides Return to Thor’s Stillwell Lots for 1st Time Since 2008

March 5, 2012: Exclusive: Goodbye Flea Market, Hello “Steeplechase Park”

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

April 22, 2011: Coney Island Has 64 Rides and 30 Weekends of Summer!

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