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Posts Tagged ‘landmark designation’

Pegasus

Pegasus statues from the Coney Island Pumping Station were removed to the Brooklyn Museum’s Sculpture Garden for safekeeping in 1980. Photo © Charles Denson via coneyislandhistory.org

Let’s bring the Pegasus statues home to Coney Island! The only way that can happen is if the long vacant Coney Island Pumping Station, which they once guarded, is landmarked and restored.

Today, October 22nd, is the last day to submit your comments to the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in support of landmarking the 1938 art moderne gem. The email address is backlog95@lpc.nyc.gov. “Anytime is fine,” Emily Rich, the LPC’s Public Information Officer told ATZ, so make sure to email your message before midnight.

If the city-owned building on Coney Island Creek wins designation, it would become Coney Island’s only official landmark outside of the amusement area, which has six official city landmarks–The Wonder Wheel, Cyclone and Parachute Jump, the two former Childs Restaurant buildings, and the former Shore Theater.

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Brighton Beach

A walk in the mist, Brighton Beach. April 3, 2009. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved

For friends of the Boardwalk, “Landmark the Boardwalk!” is a new rallying cry to go along with “Boardwalk Not Sidewalk!” thanks to City Councilman Mark Treyger. The council member for Coney Island and Bensonhurt told the New York Daily News that he sent a letter to the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to propose the boardwalk be designated a scenic landmark. “Historically, it’s been a boardwalk, not a sidewalk,” said Treyger, a former high school history teacher who has proven to be a champion of the community in the Council. Getting the boardwalk on the LPC’s calender could stop the Parks Department from redoing portions of it with concrete and plastic wood, a process already underway in Sea Gate and Brighton Beach.

concrete boardwalk

Concrete section of the Coney Island boardwalk in Brighton Beach. October 26, 2011. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved

In March of 2012, a ten-foot-wide Concrete Lane for so-called “emergency vehicles” and an adjoining Plasticwalk were unanimously approved by the Public Design Commission for a pilot project in Brighton Beach. At the charade of a public hearing, public testimony was cut to 2 minutes per person and six commissioners appointed by Mayor Bloomberg got to decide the future of the Boardwalk for the people of New York. One of the public comments at the hearing was that the Boardwalk should be renamed the Public Design Commission Concretewalk because it will no longer be the Riegelmann Boardwalk. As Borough President of Brooklyn, Edward Riegelmann took charge of building the Boardwalk, which opened in 1923, making it just a few years younger than the landmark Wonder Wheel.

Coney Island Concretewalk

Coney Island Concretewalk at West 36th Street near Sea Gate. June 22, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

We’ve been very disappointed with Mayor de Blasio’s decision to carry on with Mayor Bloomberg’s Coney Island Concretewalk despite letters from newly elected local councilmen Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch asking for a moratorium until further environmental studies could be done. Last June, Daniel Zarrilli, head of the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, a holdover from the Bloomberg administration, told the City Council: “The use of concrete in boardwalks is not going to change at this point, is a sound decision and that stands,” according to the Daily News. Ironically, the news was released on the eve of the Mermaid Parade, where the mayor and his wife marched on the Boardwalk not Sidewalk with their son and daughter, who were King and Queen of the Mermaid Parade.

Send a message to Bill de Blasio urging him to support the landmarking of the Coney Island Boardwalk. Here is a link to an online form to contact the Mayor.

UPDATE December 19, 2014:

City Council members Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch, whose districts include the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Boardwalk, have just launched a public petition calling for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the boardwalk a “Scenic Landmark.” Please help their efforts by signing this petition at Change.org and sharing it with your friends. It could be our last chance to stop the Boardwalk from becoming the Concretewalk.

If you do not wish your name to appear publicly simply uncheck the box beneath the red “Sign” tab before you click it.

Link to petition: https://www.change.org/p/nyc-landmarks-preservation-commission-designate-historic-riegelmann-boardwalk-as-scenic-landmark

Coney Island Boardwalk

Photos from Friends of the Boardwalk's website show the results of prior projects where the NYC Parks Department used concrete. Photos © Mary Ann De Luca via FOBConeyIsland.com

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March 9, 2012: The 10 People Who Will Decide the Fate of Coney Island Boardwalk

December 27, 2010: Photo of the Day: First Snow on Coney Island Boardwalk

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Coney Island USA Building

New lights illuminating Coney Island USA Building, which will be designated a landmark today. Photo © Fred Kahl

Let’s get this puzzler out of the way first: Why are Joe Sitt and Thor Equities mentioned in a press release heralding today’s landmark designation of Coney Island USA’s building?

Repair of the exterior architectural lighting was funded through the generosity of our individual and corporate supporters, including Melissa Baldock, Steve Bernstein and Joseph Sitt of Thor Equities.

Is it a typo? Or has Sitt seen the light, however briefly, and contributed to the renovation of an historic building in Coney Island?

It’s odd to see Sitt’s name alongside a noted preservationist and a CIUSA board member. It’s incongruous considering Sitt’s darkening of the amusement area and demolition of three buildings that he owns, including two that were nominated for landmark designation. His contribution would be more noble if his rampant destruction weren’t in evidence all around Coney Island. And if you’re wondering how much Sitt contributed to the renovations, so are we.

Update…Dick Zigun, director of Coney Island USA writes: “Yes it is true he gave us money a year and a half ago but we just finished the project… not that much money $16,000… I asked him for funding it was not his idea… I ask everyone for money.” Zigun added that the total cost of the renovation was $70,000. As far as we know, this is the first time Joe Sitt and Thor Equities have contributed to the restoration of historic Coney Island. Way to go, Joe!

As for the topic of the press release, we’re thrilled that the Landmarks Preservation Commission will at long last designate the arts organization’s 1917 Child’s Restaurant Building a New York City landmark. It’s cause for celebration in Coney Island, especially amid the ongoing demolitions and evictions.

According to the designation report, “Although the Spanish (or the variant Mediterranean) Revival style was more often found on buildings in warmer climates, such as in Florida or the Caribbean, the designer of this structure (John Corley Westervelt) was hoping to suggest this same kind of vacation-oriented environment for a building in the heart of New York’s most popular resort area.”

Coney Island USA deserves credit for nominating 6 historic buildings for designation back in 2005. As we noted when the Shore Theater was designated in December, the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission delayed consideration of the buildings until February 2010, after Coney Island had been rezoned. Of the nominated buildings, only two–the Childs Restaurant (owned by CIUSA) and the Shore Theater (owned by Horace Bullard) were considered worthy of landmark designation. The Thor Equities-owned Bank of Coney Island and Shore Hotel were demolished and the Henderson Building demolition is underway. The doomed buildings were on parcels rezoned for high rise hotels.

Coney Island USA purchased the historic building in 2007 with funding from the City. When the Childs Building was first illuminated in mid-November, Coney Island USA founder Dick Zigun said it was part of a major upgrade to the exterior of the building. “The Surf Avenue facade will be illuminated every evening, 365 days a year; the West 12th Street lights will be on when we are open for business any evening,” noted Zigun.

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On Wednesday at the Brooklyn Central Library, theater historian Cezar Del Valle will give an illustrated talk on the history of the Legitimate Stage, Vaudeville, Burlesque and Minstrel Show in Brooklyn’s three entertainment districts: Fulton Street, Eastern District, and Coney Island.

Vintage Postcard of Henderson's Music Hall Stage in Coney Island. Cezar Del Valle Collection

Vintage Postcard of Henderson's Music Hall Stage in Coney Island. Cezar Del Valle Collection

Del Valle’s area of expertise is New York City popular entertainment between 1850 and the 1950s, including special emphasis on actual theater buildings. He has led walking tours of the lost theaters of Coney Island’s Bowery. “In its fabulous heyday, the resort was more than just rides and arcades; it was home to numerous cabarets, variety halls and movie shows – a training ground for a generation of legendary performers,” says Del Valle.

The subject is timely since Coney Island’s two historic theater buildings–the Shore Theater and the Henderson Music Hall— have been nominated for New York City landmark designation by Coney Island USA. A March 23 public hearing date has been set for the Shore Theater, a 2,500 seat movie and vaudeville house built in 1925. The building has been shuttered by owner Horace Bullard since the 1970s. Sources tell ATZ the City is trying to acquire the Shore Theater with the idea of reviving it as a year-round entertainment destination.

Also up for landmarking on March 23 is Coney Island USA’s Building (former Childs Restaurant), which is currently in use as a theater for the Coney Island Sideshow and Burlesque at the Beach. The second floor houses the Coney Island Museum. In 2008 the non-profit arts organization bought the 1917 building with $3.6 million funding from the City.

The Henderson Music Hall has yet to be calendared. Its chances of gaining landmark designation are thought to be slim since the building has been altered extensively. It was even cut in half! There’s also the unfortunate fact that the Henderson is owned by real estate speculator Joe Sitt of Thor Equities and occupies a prime site at the corner of Surf and Stillwell that has been rezoned for a high rise hotel. City rezoning documents detail the history of the Henderson Music Hall:

Fred Henderson opened the 3-story brick music hall on Stillwell Avenue at the Bowery around 1900. Henderson’s establishment began as a restaurant at Bowery and Henderson Walk in 1881. When that building burned in 1899, Henderson constructed the new structure to the designs of John B. McElfatrick. The original Italianate southern façade (which fronts on the Bowery) has brick piers, corbelling, stone window lintels, and a bracketed cornice. In 1923, Stillwell Avenue south of Surf Avenue was created by the widening of Stratton’s Walk, and Henderson’s Music Hall was cut in half. At that time, a new brick façade with decorative panels and a stepped parapet was added to the Stillwell Avenue frontage. Additional alterations include modern storefronts and replaced windows. The music hall operated until 1926 and featured such music and vaudeville acts as Al Jolson, the Marx Brothers, and Sophie Tucker. During its run, Henderson’s Music Hall was an important Coney Island entertainment venue. From 1926 to 1984, the building housed the World of Wax Musee. The former Henderson’s Music Hall has been extensively altered. This property was identified in the inventory of potential resources prepared by Coney Island USA.

February 24, 7:00 pm, “Brooklyn Stages,” Brooklyn Collection Reserve Room at Brooklyn Central Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, 718- 230-2762. “Seating is limited so come early and join us for wine and cheese from 6:30 to 7.”

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February 6, 2010: Feb 9: First Step in Landmark Designation of Coney Island’s Shore Theater

October 14, 2009: Q & A with Zero Boy: “A Trip to Coney Island with Uncle Zero Boy

October 9, 2009: A Rare Peek Inside Endangered Old Bank of Coney Island

July 7, 2009: Tall, Skinny & Destined to Kill Coney Island: High Rises on South Side of Surf

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