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Jones walk, Coney Island

Post-Sandy Renovation of Booths on Jones Walk, Coney Island. Coney Island. May 15, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island’s rides and Boardwalk businesses opened for the season on Palm Sunday, but new construction and post-Sandy renovations are still underway. In April’s photo album we focused on Steeplechase Pier, Steeplechase Plaza and the Boardwalk, and the Applebee’s on the north side of Surf Avenue. This month we’re looking at the south side of Surf Avenue and Jones Walk.

Last spring, the City leased the east side of Jones Walk to Luna Park, which installed a kid friendly Laser Maze and an interactive video booth. The corner stand, which used to house a water race game, was transformed into a face-painting concession. All were destroyed by Sandy. Last week the renovated booths were painted bright colors and prepped for new games to be run by Luna Park. Sources told ATZ that three adjacent booths were leased to food concessionaires including Italian, Mexican and ice cream.

On the section of Jones Walk operated by Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, the new game seen below was being built by Jimmy Balloons and friends next to his new dart game in time for Memorial Day Weekend.

Jones Walk, Coney Island

Construction of New Game on Jones Walk adjacent to Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island. May 15, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

There couldn’t be a greater contrast with Thor Equities property on the west side of Jones Walk, which has been shuttered since 2009. Back then, a business owner who had leased a small stand on the Walk from Thor in 2008 told us the rent had tripled from $8,000 to $24,000. He declined the space and left Coney Island. 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 though you’d never guess from its ugly siding. A few booths on the west side of the Walk adjacent to the Bowery are in a building owned by Jeff Persily and are expected to be leased this season.

Nathan's Original Location on Surf Avenue

Nathan’s Original Location on Surf Avenue, Coney Island. May 15, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Meanwhile on Surf Avenue, construction is underway at Coney Island USA’s first-floor theater, Freak Bar, and gift shop, which will officially reopen on Memorial Day Weekend while funds to put on the June 22nd Mermaid Parade are being raised on Kickstarter. Next door at the former Denny’s Ice Cream, also owned by CIUSA, a 1940s Mangels shooting gallery is being restored with the expectation of opening sometime in July.

Last week, Workers continued the gut rehab at Nathan’s Famous original location at Surf and Stillwell Avenues which officially reopens in time for Memorial Day Weekend after a soft opening on Monday. The interior as well as electrical and plumbing were ruined by the flood water and sewage that surged into the store during Superstorm Sandy. Nathan’s Boardwalk store has been open daily since March 23rd.

The original Lola Star Boutique on the Boardwalk is already open for business but her satellite shop in Stillwell Terminal was wrecked by Sandy. Renovations are underway at the tiny shop, which looks airy and festive in this photo. The store is being readied for a Memorial Day Weekend reopening.

Lola Star Boutique

Renovation at Lola Star Boutique in Stillwell Terminal. Boardwalk Shop Already Open Coney Island. May 15, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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March 4, 2013: Nathan’s on Coney Island Boardwalk to Open Mid-March, Surf Ave by May

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Wizard of Oz arcade

Luna Park’s New Arcade on Surf Avenue. June 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

These photos taken over the weekend in Coney Island show what’s new since our last report (“New Club Atlantis, MegaWhirl Ride Open in Coney Island,” ATZ, June 25) as well as ongoing construction on Jones Walk and the Boardwalk. As previously reported, Luna Park’s new state-of-the-art arcade, which takes only Luna cards, opened on Surf Avenue in the former Astroland Arcade. There were too many people crowded out front on Mermaid Day to get a good shot of this fantabulous Wizard of Oz crane and claw machine. What a showpiece! Selling for $50,000, the new, movie-themed moneymaker from Belgian manufacturer Elaut is the first-ever automatic coin pusher and the highest priced arcade machine of its kind in the world.

Jones Walk Coney Island

Under Construction: East Side of Jones Walk. June 29, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The east side of Jones Walk was leased to Luna Park in the spring after the City evicted longtime tenants and issued a Request for Proposals. Word on the street is that the first new stand, a Laser Maze, is expected to debut on July 4, with the rest of the stalls ready to open by mid- to late July. Four of the stands are expected to be games operated by Zamperla and four were leased to subtenants for food and shops, according to sources.

Word also that Zito’s Sandwich Shoppe of Park Slope, which recently expanded to a second location in the North Slope, will not be coming to Coney Island’s Jones Walk as announced in April. That’s disappointing because we were looking forward to picnicking on the Boardwalk with their chicken parm.

ATZ phoned Zito’s Marcello Bucca for confirmation. “Word on the street is correct,” he said. “They were not ready for us.” He said that Zamperla received financing at the end of June, later than they expected, thus delaying construction. The rehabbed Jones Walk stalls were originally slated to open on Memorial Day. Asked if Zito’s Sandwich Shoppe planned to open a location in Coney Island next season, Marcello said he hoped so, because so many people have been calling to ask about the new Coney Island location. “Ideally we’ll see what opens up. Right now it’s a no-go for this year.”

Tom's Restaurant Coney Island

Under Construction: Tom’s Restaurant, Coney Island Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue. June 29, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The gut rehab by Tom’s Restaurant of Prospect Heights of the Boardwalk store at the corner of Stillwell Avenue is still underway. By the looks of the construction, it won’t be ready till late July, if then. The former location of Nathan’s and Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis (as well as the original Club Atlantis) required by far the most work and investment of any of the rehabbed Boardwalk stores. Due to structural issues, the place had to be completely gutted and rebuilt, including the roof and some of the brickwork. Windows were installed in the west wall. A new roof deck for alfresco dining will have spectacular views of the beach and boardwalk. When completed, Tom’s initially expects to remain open approximately nine months of the year.

Tom's Coney Island

Tom’s Restaurant’s Food Tent, Coney Island Boardwalk. June 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Since Memorial Day Weekend, Tom’s has had a tent set up on weekends in front of their future restaurant. You can buy Hot Dogs, Sausage and more adventurous fare like Shrimp Scampi and a Shrimp Chipotle Salad Sandwich, as well as cold drinks.

Across Stillwell Avenue, construction is also underway on Zamperla’s Place to Beach Bar, which is adjacent to Scream Zone’s new Sky Coaster and Go-Karts. The site is the former Steve’s Grill House and Beer Island.

Basketball Coney Island

Open for Business: Ray’s Basketball on Coney Island’s Bowery. June 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Yay for Ray’s Basketball on Coney Island’s Bowery! His concession stand is no longer “fenced off” and will be able to do biz on 4th of July. Ray finally managed to open on Friday for the first time this season after the chain link fence next to his awning was opened. City regulations had kept the fences closed, even after Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park opened last weekend. Note the portable fencing placed in front of the basketball game, probably as per the letter of the law.

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Miss Coney Island

Miss Coney Island with her dancing cats and her baby doll. West 12th Street. April 1, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

After 14 years on Jones Walk, the windows featuring the life-size dancing doll “Miss Coney Island” and the miniature animated rides of “Coney Island Always” have moved to West 12th Street along with Skin the Wire and other whimsical games. Mechanical wonders like Chuckles the Clown and dancing cats can be found there as well. The location is just off the Boardwalk, under Deno’s Wonder Wheel and next to the Coney Island History Project.

“Miss Coney Island” spoke with ATZ–yes, she speaks via twitter!–about the big move and the marvelous makeover that has fans saying she looks 30 years younger. The shimmying mannequin received a complete re-do, including new wig, makeup, manicure, costume, jewelry and music. Her motto remains “Don’t Postpone Joy” and it’s still only “25 cents to fall in LOVE.”

Miss Coney Island

Closeup of Miss Coney Island's Bejeweled Hand. March 23, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

You’d never know it to look at Miss Coney but she is well over 30. We’re not one to give away a woman’s age, but anecdotal evidence suggests the dancing mannequin may be a contemporary of the venerable Grandma’s Predictions, the fortunetelling automaton in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Earlier in her career, “Miss Coney Island” was an Indian Princess automaton at a fairground exhibition, she revealed. “My best friend was ‘Little Egypt.’ After the fair closed, everyone and everything was put up for auction. And here I am.”

The post-modern “Miss Coney Island” is a visual jukebox. This season there’s an emphasis on Doo Wop and Reggae music at Miss Coney’s request. “Most of the songs are oldies that were ‘newies’ when I was young,” she said wistfully. There’s “Little Darlin'” by the Diamonds, “Come Go with Me” by the Del-Vikings and of course “Under the Boardwalk” by the Drifters.” The song in the video that we made is “This Magic Moment.” While we were there a group of twenty-somethings came over and and started dancing. They kept putting quarters in the machine. Apparently they’d never heard music from the 1950s and ’60s and were enchanted. “What is this music,” they asked. “Where can we buy it?”

The usually silent Miss Coney decided to speak up after a New York tabloid recently dissed Jones Walk as “a longtime seedy strip” and claimed that the City cleared everyone out because it “had been filled with rigged carnival games and ripped off beachgoers for years.” She was furious. “In 14 years on the Walk, nobody but nobody has ever accused me or my friends of being seedy! Win or lose, people left with a smile on their faces,” Miss Coney said.

ATZ can vouch for Miss Coney’s veracity. Having worked games of skill on the Walk, it pained us to see the reputations of all of the concession operators tarnished so casually. There was ONE bad apple among the tenants in the City-owned booths. The majority of the operators were legit and were therefore able to relocate to City-owned or private property in Coney Island.

Miss Coney Island

Miss Coney Island Meets A Little Miss Coney Island. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

“It costs ’25 cents to fall in LOVE’ and ’25 cents to smile,’ but quarters don’t pay the rent in Coney Island,” according to Miss Coney, who depends on income from Skin the Wire and other $2 games of skill to fund her retirement. Three of the games made the move to 12th Street, but two money-making water games had to be left behind in the dumpster. “We just couldn’t fit them into our new space,” she added sadly.

Be that as it may, Miss Coney Island says “I’m sooo happy with my new location. More people walk by than on the Walk.” Earlier this month, singing sensation Rita Ora, who was in Coney to shoot her new music video, stopped by to pose in front of the windows. “Fingers crossed I’m in the video too,” said the dancing doll, who asked us to mention that she and “Coney Island Always” are available for film and TV shoots. “What I’d really love is a cameo on “30 Rock” and a mention on David Letterman’s Top 10 List.”

Coney Island animated toy window

Coney Island Always, West 12th Street. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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April 10, 2012: Up for Auction: Collection of Carnival Knockdown Dolls

December 7, 2011: Jones Walk’s “Miss Coney Island” Shimmies Over to 12th St

October 6, 2010: Traveler: Where You Can Play Fascination Year Round

July 14, 2009: Miss Coney Island on Jones Walk: 25 Cents to Fall in Love

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