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Posts Tagged ‘Grashorn Building’

Grashorn Building

Burst Water Pipe in the Grashorn Building - The Oldest Building in Coney Island. February 4, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Yesterday a water pipe burst on the second floor of the Thor Equities-owned Grashorn Building, Coney Island’s oldest building. Water poured down the front of the vacant building, covering it in a sheet of ice and leaving an icy pile on the sidewalk by the end of day. We are of course worried that the leaking water may have done a significant amount of damage to the interior of the historic circa 1880s building. According to Coney Island: Lost and Found, the former Grashorn hardware store served Coney Island’s amusement businesses for more than 60 years. Will water damage plus onerous lease terms put the kibosh on John Strong’s deal to rent the building?

As first reported by ATZ on Monday, Texas-based sideshow operator John Strong came to New York and made a deal with Thor to rent the building at Surf Ave and Jones Walk for his freak and oddity museum. Sources told ATZ that when John Strong learned about the burst pipe, he phoned Thor Equities, which had already been notified of the problem. Strong also indicated that he might walk away from the deal because he had just received a copy of his lease from Thor and it contained a 30 day vacate clause. This clause means if Thor wants Strong out he’d have to leave within 30 days though he has offered to pay the entire season’s rent up front.

Can anyone explain the reason for a 30 day vacate clause on this seasonal lease? We’re told this clause was also in the leases that Thor gave to the Boardwalk businesses last year. Thor Equities onerous leases are infamous in Coney Island. But John Strong has a lot of work to do on both the interior and exterior of the vacant building to prepare it for his freak museum. The extra added attraction for Strong is the apartment on the upper floors of the Grashorn. Strong reportedly said he’d been told it would be up to him to get rid of the squatters and the garbage in the building!

Grashorn Building

Leak is from the second floor, dribbling down the front gates. Note Private security guard in Jones Walk. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

All we can say is if this is the way Thor Equities makes a deal with John Strong, who was instrumental in bringing rides and attractions to Sitt’s Dreamland last summer and has been one of Joe Sitt’s biggest boosters, newcomers beware. Oh yeah, that’s right: business is business. We hope that Thor Equities works out a more equitable lease agreement with John Strong so that the long vacant Grashorn Building will be “Alive!” and open for business this summer.

UPDATE 6:20 PM…ATZ has learned that Thor Equities had the water turned off in the Grashorn Building, salted the icy sidewalk and sent a locksmith to change all the locks. A security guard is now parked in front of the building keeping watch 24 hours a day. Our source speculates that instead of a burst water pipe, squatters who had been occupying the apartments on the upper floors turned all the faucets on and left the water running out of spite. If that’s the case, perhaps they got the idea from “the wet bandits” in the movie Home Alone. Their trademark was to leave the water running after they’d pulled a heist. Anyway, ATZ is glad Coney Island’s oldest building has its own personal security guard while we wait for it to be calendered by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. UPDATE FEB 6: A Little Publicity Doesn’t Hurt Dept: In response to ATZ’s email, John Strong writes: “As of today my concerns have been met and changed on the lease. I am moving forward coming to Coney Island.”

UPDATE April 29, 2010:

John Strong’s deal to rent the Grashorn is off! We’re sorry that rumors of Joe Sitt’s plans to demolish historic buildings which we reported in last week’s post “Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings” (ATZ, April 21, 2010) have turned out to be true. This is one time we would have preferred for the rumors to have remained just rumors.

Today, in response to a flurry of queries from reporters about Sitt’s still unleased empty lots and vacant properties, Thor Equities pr flack Knickerbocker SKD issued a press release announcing Sitt’s intention to begin demolishing the buildings and to replace them with other structures by May 2011. According to the release, “These structures will be replaced with more attractive, retail-friendly and up-to-code shops for the type of retailers Coney is famous for.” See “Thor’s Coney Island: Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt Is Baaack Playing Games!” (ATZ. April 29, 2010)

Translation: More Bull-Sitt from Thor Equities. More deliberately created empty lots.

Aerial view of Grashorn Building and 24 hour security guard. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Aerial view of Grashorn Building and its 24 hour security guard. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 9, 2009: Thor’s Coney Island: Wanna Lease Stillwell? That’ll Be $500K Up Front!

January 31, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Freak Museum to Lease Coney’s Oldest Building

January 13, 2010: John Strong Sideshow Aims for Coney Island Comeback

January 8, 2010: Coney Island 2010: Good Riddance to Thor Equities Flopped Flea Market, Hello Rides?

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Thor Equities Shuttered Grashorn Bldg, Surf Ave & Jones Walk, Coney Island, August 15, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Thor Equities Shuttered Grashorn Bldg, Surf Ave & Jones Walk, Coney Island, August 15, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

ATZ has learned that sideshow operator John Strong has made a deal with Thor Equities to return to Coney Island for the 2010 season. In lieu of last year’s location in the former Astroland arcade, which was sold to the City, Strong’s freak museum will occupy Thor Equities’ owned 1104 Surf Ave at Jones Walk. Known as the Grashorn Building after Henry Grashorn’s Hardware store, which was in business in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the building is Coney Island’s oldest. The Texas-based showman flew into New York last week for a meeting with Thor Equities.

The building fronts Surf Avenue and extends along the west side of Jones Walk. Yet this prime location remained vacant and devoid of activity in 2009 (see photo above) due to Thor CEO Joe Sitt’s soaring rents. Last summer, a business owner who had leased a small stand on the Walk from Thor in 2008 told us the 2009 rent had tripled from $8,000 to $24,000. He declined the space and left Coney Island.

John Strong was mum on the cost of his lease for the Grashorn but is said to be happy with the deal. His museum of live and preserved freaks and oddities will occupy a prime location between Zamperla’s new Luna Park on the former Astroland site and Coney Island USA’s Sideshow and Museum at Surf Ave and 12th Street. The extra added attraction for Strong and company is the apartment on the upper floors.

Grashorn Building, April 19, 2003.  Municipal Art Society via flickr

Grashorn Building, April 19, 2003. Municipal Art Society via flickr

As ATZ reported in “John Strong Sideshow Aims for Coney Island Comeback” (Jan 13, 2010), Strong also proposes putting his ten-in-one sideshow as well as a circus on Thor’s Stillwell property. But several carnivals and amusement operators, including the also rans for the City’s RFP, are vying to lease what remains of Thor’s lots on Stillwell. A decision is expected by mid-February.

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

The Grashorn is one of six historic structures proposed for city landmark designation by Coney Island USA, the Municipal Art Society and Save Coney Island. In 2004, Coney Island USA received a grant from the JM Kaplan Fund to hire an architectural historian and research old buildings in Coney Island. The City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has delayed calendaring the buildings during the rezoning process.

MAS’s Melissa Baldock makes a plea for the Grashorn Building’s landmark designation: “The building could be restored to be a wonderful showpiece of Coney Island’s historic vernacular architecture. It is remarkable that this building, which predates Coney Island’s first enclosed amusement parks and was built around the same time as Coney Island (and America’s) first roller coaster, survives in 2009. However, without landmark status, there is no guarantee that this piece of Coney Island history will be part of its future.”

UPDATE April 29, 2010:

John Strong’s deal to rent the Grashorn is off! We’re sorry that rumors of Joe Sitt’s plans to demolish historic buildings which we reported in last week’s post “Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings” (ATZ, April 21, 2010) have turned out to be true. This is one time we would have preferred for the rumors to have remained just rumors.

Today, in response to a flurry of queries from reporters about Sitt’s still unleased empty lots and vacant properties, Thor Equities pr flack Knickerbocker SKD issued a press release announcing Sitt’s intention to begin demolishing the buildings and to replace them with other structures by May 2011. According to the release, “These structures will be replaced with more attractive, retail-friendly and up-to-code shops for the type of retailers Coney is famous for.” See “Thor’s Coney Island: Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt Is Baaack Playing Games!” (ATZ. April 29, 2010)

Translation: More Bull-Sitt from Thor Equities. More deliberately created empty lots.

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 9, 2009: Thor’s Coney Island: Wanna Lease Stillwell? That’ll Be $500K Up Front!

April 29, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt Is Baaack Playing Games!

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

January 13, 2010: John Strong Sideshow Aims for Coney Island Comeback”>John Strong Sideshow Aims for Coney Island Comeback

January 8, 2010: Coney Island 2010: Good Riddance to Thor Equities Flopped Flea Market, Hello Rides?

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