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Posts Tagged ‘Grashorn Building’

Jones Walk

Long-shuttered storefronts on Thor Equities side of Jones Walk. Luna Park games on City-owned land on the Walk’s east side. June 21, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

With Mayor Bloomberg, Councilman Domenic Recchia and other electeds responsible for the rezoning of Coney Island leaving office in 120 days, and their would-be successors campaigning for the September 10th Primary, it’s time to look at the City’s accomplishments in Coney Island and what has yet to be done. The New Coney Island. We’ll also take a look at some of the casualties as well as some of the survivors of the July 2009 rezoning. ATZ hopes to cover these topics in a series of posts over the next couple of months.

Let’s start with the Surf Avenue side of Jones Walk, the last of Coney Island’s historic walks. Before Thor, it used to be a vibrant and authentic place, a midway of midways. Now “the Walk” looks like a victim of a split personality disorder. The City-owned east side of Jones Walk, re-activated by Luna Park with cute carnival games and a few food stands, and Thor Equities-owned west side, vacant since 2009, offers a stark contrast between Coney’s largest property owners. While the City has brought in replacement amusements, Thor–whose slogan for a time was “Coney Island, Retail Ride of a Lifetime”— has gotten rid of amusements.

Stinky Feet Water Race Game

Luna Park’s Stinky Feet Water Race Game, Jones Walk. Coney Island. May 27, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

You’d never know from looking at it, but the building on the west corner of the Walk is Coney Island’s oldest, the circa 1880s Grashorn Building. Originally Henry Grashorn’s hardware store, the building later housed shooting galleries, arcades, and cotton candy and taffy stands. Now it’s a victim of the continuing decimation of the amusement area by Thor CEO Joe Sitt. The Grashorn building fronts Surf Avenue and extends along the west side of the walk, yet this location has remained vacant and devoid of activity for five seasons. WHY? A business owner who had leased a small stand on the Walk from Thor in 2008 told us in 2009 that the rent had tripled from $8,000 to $24,000. He declined the space and left Coney Island, never to return.

Grashorn

Thor Equities Vacant & Shuttered Grashorn Building. August 15, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Since then, the Grashorn has fallen victim to squatters, blight and burst water pipes. A parade of sideshow operators and arcade owners tried but failed to lease the Jones Walk space from Thor. The only use that it has seen since we started blogging in 2009 was as a set for HBO’s Bored to Death (2011) and an office for the production company filming Men in Black 3 (2012).

Meanwhile, on the east side of the walk are carnival games, including the comical “Stinky Feet” water race, newly installed this year by Luna Park on property leased by the City to Zamperla in 2012. The city displaced independent operators with an RFP for a single operator to renovate and re-activate the property. The result was a few unsavory operators got the boot while the good guys relocated to City-owned or private property elsewhere in Coney.

We’re lucky the Grashorn Building is still standing. Unlike the Bank of Coney Island, the Surf Hotel and the Henderson Building, which Sitt demolished, the Grashorn parcel at Surf Ave and Jones Walk was not rezoned by the City for a 30-story high rise hotel. There’s also the fact that the building is just a few doors away from Luna Park’s entrance. And there’s also the fact the City owns the east side of Jones Walk. The demolition of the Grashorn would have created a desolate empty lot right next to the City’s showcase amusement park and completely killed business on the Walk.

 New Games on Jones Walk

Luna Park’s New Games on Jones Walk. Coney Island. May 27, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In Coney Island: Lost and Found, historian Charles Denson writes that the building at 1104 Surf dates back to the 1880’s and the Grashorn hardware store served Coney Island’s amusement businesses for more than 60 years: “The clapboard façade, dormers, cast iron resting, chimneys and fish-scale shingles were removed when the building was renovated in the 1980s but the mansard roof retains its shape.”

What will be the fate of Coney Island’s historic Jones Walk and its oldest building under the next administration? Will Thor Equities’ property remain vacant? Will it be sold? Will Joe Sitt seek a zoning variance from the next administration for this property or for any of his vacant lots? To be continued…

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

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Grashorn

Thor Equities Vacant & Shuttered Grashorn Building. August 15, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

We’re singing “Hooray for Hollywood, that phony super Coney Hollywood”! Not only is Men in Black 3 filming in Coney from May 2 through 6, they’ve leased Coney Island’s oldest building, the Grashorn, from Thor Equities and rescued it from oblivion. A construction crew is already fixing up the gutted interior of the building located at Surf and Jones Walk to use as their location headquarters.

Men In Black 3 stars Will Smith as Agent J traveling back in time to 1969 to stop a villain from killing a young Agent K played by Josh Brolin. According to the storyline, if the killing were carried out in the past, it would result in the destruction of Earth in the present. The production company is giving some of the buildings on Surf Avenue, Jones Walk and the Bowery a 1960’s look, including retro signage. At least one concessionaire on the Walk has plans to keep the look through the summer. Filming will also take place on the Boardwalk and in Wonder Wheel Park.

Target the Cat and Jimmy

On the Bowery: Target the Cat and Jimmy Waiting for Their Close-ups. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Jimmy, the Balloon Dart operator on the Bowery, is among the Coney Islanders who have been cast as extras. No word yet on whether Target the World-Famous Coney Arcade Cat has been hired for a walk-on. There was a casting call last week for “1969 New Yorkers (hippies, beatnik poets, ’60s celebrity look-a-likes, bikers, models, etc…), people who are less than 4′10 or more than 6′5, plus-sized people, and men and women with character faces.” Last year, the website joblo reported that ’60s era celebrities like Yoko Ono, Jimi Hendrix and Andy Warhol would appear in the film as aliens. The script has gone through a lot of changes. Filmed in 3-D, Men in Black 3 is set to be released on May 25, 2012.

As for the Grashorn, the fact that it’s getting rehabbed by the movie company has the Coney Island Rumor Mill saying it will be rented out afterward to game concessionaires. In Coney Island: Lost and Found, historian Charles Denson writes that the building at 1104 Surf dates back to the 1880’s and the Grashorn hardware store served Coney Island’s amusement businesses for more than 60 years: “The clapboard façade, dormers, cast iron resting, chimneys and fish-scale shingles were removed when the building was renovated in the 1980s but the mansard roof retains its shape.” Here’s a photo of the way the building looked in 1969. Will it look like this again when Men in Black 3 travels back in time next month?

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

Over the past two years, the Grashorn Building has fallen victim to squatters, blight and burst water pipes. Sideshow operator John Strong as well as two different arcade owners tried but failed to lease the space from Thor. The building remained shuttered and vacant during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In January, one of Thor Equities’ omnipresent “Stores for Lease” banners went up on the Grashorn Building.

UPDATE April 25, 2011:

Photo op! Booths and signs for the Men in Black 3 set started going up today on the beach side of Coney Island’s Boardwalk. Madame Zava Phrenology and a Balloon Dart have already been set up. Jones Walk and the Bowery are also expected to get some retro signage. Since the film shoot isn’t scheduled till May 2nd, you’ll be able to travel back to 1969 if you come to Coney Island next weekend!

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May 2, 2011: Men in Black 3 Set Transforms Coney Island Boardwalk

January 21, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Coney’s Oldest Building for Lease

January 1, 2011: Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island News Stories of 2010

February 5, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Burst Water Pipes & Onerous Deal at Grashorn for Freak Museum

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Grashorn

Stores for Lease: The Grashorn, Coney's Oldest Building. January 20, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

One of Thor Equities’ omnipresent “Stores for Lease” banners went up yesterday on the Grashorn Building. Thanks to Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy for stopping by and taking these photos last evening. The banner caused excitement as peeps realized it meant that Coney Island’s oldest was not going to be demolished after all! Not this season anyway. But will it be leased? We’d really like to hope so, though potential tenants’ efforts to lease the building last year fell through. ATZ knows a couple of people who have already expressed interest. Get your bid in now!

Grashorn

Stores for Lease: The Grashorn, Coney's Oldest Building. January 20, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

For the record, Thor Equities never got a demolition permit for the Grashorn. ATZ first noticed this in August when the demo permits for the now demolished Bank of Coney Island, the Shore Hotel and the Henderson Music Hall were first issued. We never mentioned it because by then not calling attention to the Grashorn seemed the best way to protect the building.

Why was Coney Island’s oldest building granted a reprieve? Unlike the Bank of Coney and the Henderson, the Grashorn parcel at Surf Ave and Jones Walk was not rezoned for a 30-story high rise hotel. There’s also the fact that the building is just a few doors away from Luna Park’s entrance. And there’s also the fact the City owns the east side of Jones Walk and leases it to game concessions. The demolition of the Grashorn would have created a desolate empty lot near the City’s showcase amusement park and killed business on the Walk. Hey maybe the Mayor said to Joe, no demo?

In Coney Island: Lost and Found, historian Charles Denson writes that the building at 1104 Surf dates back to the 1880’s and the Grashorn hardware store served Coney Island’s amusement businesses for more than 60 years: “The clapboard façade, dormers, cast iron resting, chimneys and fish-scale shingles were removed when the building was renovated in the 1980s but the mansard roof retains its shape.”

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

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