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Posts Tagged ‘Mom and Pop’

Monica

Monica, the High Striker Queen of Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s High Striker Queen is the first victim of the City’s scheme to use eminent domain to acquire six privately owned lots for “the revitalization of Coney Island.” One of the lots is the location where Monica and her partner Jeff ran their popular Mom & Pop “hit the hammer, ring the bell” game for the past four seasons. In an interview with ATZ, our crying and distraught friend said that on Sunday, just three weeks before Coney’s opening day, she was told by a rep of 12th Street Amusements that she could not set up this year. “I’m heartbroken. If I can’t find another place, I’m going to leave Coney Island for the last time.”

“Block 8696, parts of lot 140” at 3025 West 12th Street is owned by the Murray family and has been used for amusements for over 100 years, according to testimony by Carol Murray at the October 19, 2015 eminent domain hearing, as ATZ previously reported (“Goodbye Ghost Hole, MCU Parking Lot? City’s Coney Land Grab Not Just Vacant Land,” ATZ, October 20. 2015).

The Bloomberg administration was right to back off from the idea of taking land by condemnation from Thor Equities and other Coney Island property owners during the rezoning hearings in 2009. Under sharp questioning by City Council land use committee members, the NYCEDC’s Seth Pinsky was forced to admit, “I’m not saying we will use eminent domain, but in fairness to your question, I’m not saying we won’t.” In order to get Council members to agree to vote for the zoning, the NYCEDC instead had to negotiate an agreement to buy property from Thor Equities. At the same time, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and other property owners were no longer threatened by E.D.

Block 8696 parts of lot 140

Block 8696, parts of lot 140 on West 12th Street. The area marked in red, where the Ghost Hole is located and the High Striker was until recently, is to be taken by eminent domain. October 19, 2015

Now the de Blasio administration plans to take this piece of land by condemnation to complete Wonder Wheel Way, a pedestrian walkway hatched by city planners and enshrined in the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009. The idea is to connect the landmark Parachute Jump, Wonder Wheel and Cyclone. But the walkway would cut through 12th Street Amusements, as well as Wonder Wheel Park and Luna Park, forcing the removal or relocation of rides and attractions in its path, including 12th Street’s Ghost Hole and the indie High Striker.

Twelfth Street Amusement’s Guerrero family, who own and operate the Polar Express, Ghost Hole and two other rides, have a long-term lease on the Murray property and since 2012 had sublet the southernmost corner of it to Monica and Jeff for their High Striker. Just prior to the October 2015 hearing, Monica and her partner were forced to cut short the season and remove all of their equipment.

Ghost Hole

12th Street Amusements’ Ghost Hole and Monica’s High Striker are in the path of the City’s proposed extension of Wonder Wheel Way. October 11, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

“Up until today, I was led to believe there was a chance I could come back. Now I’m left scrambling,” said Monica, who has been displaced before due to changes in land ownership, yet she always managed to come back. When ATZ worked a game on Jones Walk in 2008, Monica was a few doors down. She had locations on the Bowery prior to moving to West 12th Street. Now however, Monica says: “There’s very limited space available for us. Because of people buying up property, there’s next to nothing.”

ATZ asked attorney Jennifer Polovetsky, whose law firm Sanchez & Polovetsky handles eminent domain cases, including the last holdouts at Atlantic Yards, whether displaced subtenants as well as tenants are eligible for compensation. “It depends on the terms of the lease and whether there are eligible trade fixtures,” said Polovetsky. “There’s not a blanket rule.”

Wonder Wheel Way

Wonder Wheel Way is a work in progress. Section between Stillwell Ave and West 15th St used as a parking lot for Luna Park. October 11, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

January 28, 2016: EXCLUSIVE: Jeff Persily Recalls Family’s Coney Island Years After Sale of Property to Thor Equities

November 9, 2015: Thor Equities Buying 3 Lots on Coney Island’s Bowery, Mom & Pops Await Rent Increase Amid Rumors of Hotel

October 20, 2015: Goodbye Ghost Hole, MCU Parking Lot? City’s Coney Land Grab Not Just Vacant Land

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

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Subway Cafe

Subway Cafe, Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

More than two years after ATZ posted “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” (December 19, 2012), the trend continues. Across the street from Luna Park, an IHOP is finalizing a deal to open a pancake restaurant while a Subway Cafe has their sign up and is set to open a year-and-a-half after signing a lease. New FEMA regulations after Sandy are partly to blame for construction delays at Subway Cafe, a restaurant concept featuring “Tuscany-style decor” aiming for a “coffeehouse ambiance” and a layout a little larger than an average Subway.

Sushi Lounge

Sushi Lounge, Surf Avenue at W 12th Street. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Amid the influx of already opened national chains and franchises such as It’Sugar, Applebee’s, Rita’s Italian Ice, and Dunkin’ Donuts on Surf Avenue, there have also been a few new Mom & Pops like Lunatics Ice Cream and Luna Park Cafe (no connection to the park). An outpost of Piece of Velvet, a cake and cupcake shop with locations in Fort Greene and Harlem, is opening across the street from old-time Mom & Pops Williams Candy and Pete’s Clam Stop

Sushi is coming to the corner of Surf Ave. and West 12th Street, across the street from Coney Island USA. Shalyapin Wonderwheel Karaoke (no connection to Wonder Wheel Park) morphed into Surf 12 Club and Lounge, which features live music, but their newest sign says “SUSHI LOUNGE.” A spokesman told ATZ they wanted to do something different. A new display case stood ready to serve desserts. Quartet of Catastrophe will play on Friday at 9:30pm.

Applebee's

Signs in Applebee’s windows on Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Applebee’s, which opened in June 2013, has proven popular with locals and extended its hours. Multiple signs on the street and one in the sky announce they now serve breakfast daily from 8am till 12 noon. A sideshow banner for Gary Dreifus’ “Magic at Coney!!!” graces the window. After completing its run at Coney Island USA, the magical variety show has moved across the street to Applebee’s second floor for Sunday performances in the winter.

Unlike Manhattan, where Mom and Pops are being forced out by landlords who triple the rent and then turn around and lease to chains or upscale businesses, the new franchises on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue are replacing illegal furniture stores which have existed for years in defiance of the zoning. Until the early 1980’s the north side of Surf was home to individually-owned penny arcades and a variety of rides including bumper cars, carousels and even a Jumbo Jet-style coaster. By the time the last ride– Coney Island’s B & B Carousell — closed in 2005, the north side was known as the wrong side of Surf Avenue to locate a business because of the lack of foot traffic. Not any more.

Checkers Coney Island

Checkers in Stillwell Terminal, Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Two other previously announced and long under construction franchises that are expected to open in 2015 are Checkers in Stillwell Terminal, which has finally put its sign up, and its next door neighbor, Johnny Rockets. Like Subway Cafe, these businesses have been delayed by new and ever-changing post-Sandy building regulations. Johnny Rockets is waiting for approval of a storm surge resistant front to resume construction.

Just off Surf, on Stillwell Avenue, Thor Equities’ retail building is the site of New York City’s first Wahlburgers –Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlberg’s burger franchise– opening in May and written into the script of the Wahlberg’s reality show on A & E.

UPDATE January 30, 2015:

The Coney Island Brewing Company, whose craft beers celebrate the iconography of Coney Island, may soon have a place to call its own on Surf Avenue. Boston Beer Corporation, which applied in September for a license to open a brewery under the trade name Coney Island Brewing Company at 1904 Surf Avenue, received a conditional letter of approval from the NY State Liquor Authority last week.

Johnny Rockets Coney Island

Johnny Rockets, Surf Avenue, January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

October 2, 2015: Coney Eats: Magic Gyro & Checkers to Open, Kosher Pizza Signs Lease, Johnny Rockets & IHOP Underway

May 26, 2014: Photo Album: Opening Day for 5 New Businesses & Exhibits in Coney Island

January 3, 2014: New Year, New Franchise: Rita’s Italian Ice Coming to Coney Island

September 11, 2013: Subway Cafe to Replace Furniture Store on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

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Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride

Extended through August 29: The Documentary “Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride” at IFC Center in the West Village. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

In the waning days of summer, there are two things we suggest you put on your to-do list if you’re in the City. “Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride,” Amy Nicholson’s documentary about the rezoning of Coney Island and the City’s standoff with Thor Equities’ Joe Sitt, opened earlier this month at the IFC Center to great reviews. If you haven’t seen it yet, the film has been held over for matinee screenings through August 29. Or see it in LA, beginning August 30. We had a second look at the Coney Island doc after having reviewed the film when it opened at DOCFEST last year. As we wrote last November…

Eddie and his Zipper crew–Don, Joe, Larry and Jerry–are a likeable bunch of guys who cut up jackpots about how far back they go in Coney and with each other. Watching them disassemble the Zipper is heartbreaking, all the more so because in the film, this scene happens as the City Council votes “Aye” on the rezoning that will shrink the amusement zone and allow retail and high rises on the south side Surf Avenue. It’s poetic license because the vote was held in July 2009, two years after the Zipper had left Coney Island. But it is exactly right, because the land remained vacant all that time.

The Zipper site is presently part of Wonder Wheel Way and Scream Zone, which along with Luna Park was built after the City ended the stand-off with Joe Sitt shown in the film and bought 6.9 acres of his land for $95.6 million in November 2009. “It’s a vision offering major new opportunities for retailing and thousands of new housing units,” says Mayor Bloomberg at the City Hall press conference announcing the land deal and the City’s own redevelopment plan for Coney Island.

In the doc, Eddie’s Zipper represents all of the mom-and-pops who were displaced by the real estate speculation that was set off by the Bloomberg administration’s rezoning of Coney Island and the rebuilding that followed the City’s purchase of Thor’s land. The names of the businesses, including Batting Cage and Go Kart City, Shoot Out the Star, Shoot the Freak and Steve’s Grill House, are memorialized on the screen in the final credits.

During the Q & A after a recent screening, a couple said they knew the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel were protected because they’re landmarked, but they wanted to know if any other mom-and-pops had survived. They hadn’t been to Coney Island in four or five years!

Grandma's Predictions

Grandma’s Predictions, newly restored 90-year-old fortunetelling machine under the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island. May 12, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Go before the end of the summer and help keep the surviving old timers alive and thriving. The good ol’ Coney Island to-do list includes getting your fortune told for 50 cents by Grandma’s Predictions, a 90-year-old arcade machine beneath the 93-year-old Wonder Wheel; clams on the half shell at Paul’s Daughter, the 50-year-old Boardwalk restaurant and clam bar formerly known as Gregory and Paul’s; marshmallow treats and candy apples at the nearly 75-year-old Williams Candy, Coney’s last old school candy store; and a ride on Eldorado Auto Skooters, a 40-year-old disco palace of bumper cars whose motto is “Bump Your Ass Off.”

ATZ also recommends the Coney Island History Project’s exhibit of murals from the demolished Playland arcade; the 25-cents-a-dance “Miss Coney Island” doll and the row of games next door; the restored 1940s Mangels Shooting Gallery at Coney Island USA; Spook-A-Rama, Deno’s classic 1950s Pretzel dark ride renovated post-Sandy; and Ruby’s, Coney Island’s oldest bar, where part of the ceiling is made from 1920s Boardwalk wood, making it one of the only places where you can still walk “Under the Boardwalk.”

Paul's Daughter Coney Island

Clams on the Half-shell at Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ...

May 7, 2013: Video of the Day: Restoration of Grandma’s Predictions

July 17, 2012: 50 Years on Coney Island Boardwalk for Paul & His Daughter

April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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Williams Candy, Coney Island

Marshmallow Treats and Candy Apples at Williams Candy, Coney Island. May 29, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Williams Candy, Coney Island’s last remaining Mom and Pop candy shop since Philips lost their space in Stillwell Terminal and moved to Staten Island, has been on Surf Avenue for 74 years. Their homemade marshmallow treats and candy apples are the quintessential Coney Island dessert after a hot dog at Nathan’s Famous, which is next door. Our favorite is their Caramel Marshmallow Sticks with Toasted Coconut and Chocolate Caramel Marshmallow Sticks with Chocolate Sprinkles! They sell ice cream cones and cotton candy, too.

With Surf Avenue morphing into a mecca for corporate chains and franchises like It’Sugar, Applebee’s and Johnny Rockets, we were happy to see the old-fashioned Williams get a shout out from mega food site The Daily Meal in “24 Best Boardwalks for Food in the U.S.” Fellow Mom & Pops Ruby’s Bar on the Boardwalk and Plaza Mexico Dona Zita on the Bowery also got a mention in the slideshow, which featured Coney Island as number one among 24 boardwalks.

Williams Candy, 1318 Surf Ave, Coney Island, 718-372-0302

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Related posts on ATZ…

May 13, 2013: Grimaldi’s Rings in Coney Island Comeback with Dreamland Bell

February 16, 2013: Williams Candy Moves Next Door During Post-Sandy Renovation

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

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Hey! Get It, Get It! at Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island Boardwalk. July 7, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

“Hey! Get it Get it!” is back at Paul’s Daughter in Coney Island. Snappy new signage with the familiar lettering and motto is hawking their delicious clams and calamari. What’s more, the Georgoulakos family’s recently renovated eatery on the Boardwalk — established as Gregory and Paul’s in 1962 — celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

“We have been so busy playing catch up that we haven’t celebrated,” Tina Georgoulakos told ATZ, adding that right now they are concentrating on getting the Paul’s Daughter sign installed on the upper part of the facade. “It’s a funny coincidence that I have been Paul’s daughter for fifty years and he opened his first store on the Boardwalk and West 8th fifty years ago. Hopefully in August when things slow down a little, we will celebrate.” ATZ recommends that you go directly to Paul’s Daughter for a plate of clams and a beer and be among the first to wish them a Happy Anniversary!

Paul Georgoulakos

Paul Georgoulakos, 83, the Boardwalk’s Oldest Operator. June 28, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The timeline on Paul’s Daughter’s Facebook Page begins six decades ago in 1951, when 21-year-old Paul Georgoulakos started his first Coney Island business—a milk stand at Stillwell Terminal—with a $500 loan from his aunt. A store on West 12th Street and the Bowery soon followed. Gregory & Paul’s got started in 1962, when Paul partnered with Gregory Bitetzakis and took over the old Howard Johnson’s on West 8th Street and the Boardwalk. The partners survived their first eviction in 1968: “Rockefeller buys the property their store is on and donates it to the Aquarium, putting them (and seven other stores) out of business,” notes the timeline.

Paul's Daughter Coney Island

Clams on the Half-shell at Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island Boardwalk. July 7, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The current location on the Boardwalk at West 10th Street opened in 1970 and was leased from Astroland Park. The famed Astroland Rocket was perched on the roof of the store until the park closed in 2008. When Gregory, who operated the G & P’s on West 10th Street opposite the Cyclone retired in 2009, Paul’s Boardwalk store remained open, leasing from new landlord Thor Equities and changing its name to Paul’s Daughter.

Last year, it looked like the veteran Mom-and-Pop would close forever just short of its 50th anniversary when Paul’s was evicted along with seven others. Zamperla, which opened Luna Park, had assumed management of the Boardwalk property now owned by the City and planned a glitzy redo by French food giant Sodexo and a Miami Beach restaurateur. In a surprising about-face, the amusement operator later offered eight-year leases to two of the businesses–Paul’s Daughter and Ruby’s Bar– with the stipulation that they invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in gut rehabs of their stores.

Paul's Daughter Coney Island

The New Bar at Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island Boardwalk. June 28, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

How does the new Paul’s Daughter look? As we wrote in May, our first impression was that both Paul’s and Ruby’s stores looked refreshed and ready to compete for customers in the new Coney Island while paying tribute to the spirit of the past and continuing to embody the personalities of their owners. Check out our flickr slide show of the New Paul’s Daughter, but keep in mind the photos document a work-in-progress and some of the changes that you will notice this summer were required by the landlord or city regulations.

When Paul’s Daughter officially reopened on the weekend before Memorial Day 2012, we were happy to see the beloved signs for “Mr. Shrimp” and “Chiefito and Chiefita — the Nice N Sweet/Fluffy Cotton Candy Kids” and “Clams” returned to the new facade. The A & W Mama and Papa Burger remain on the roof and the vintage signs were restored and brought back to the lower facade. Additional signage was needed due to building renovations and adjustments to the menu.

Paul's Daughter

Vintage Signs at Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island Boardwalk. July 14, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The building’s square corners were rounded to resemble the way it looked when it was built shortly after the Boardwalk was moved in 1939. A photo on the Coney Island History Project website shows “the new fireproof, streamlined, Art Moderne-style building that replaced the ornate wooden Feltman’s Boardwalk restaurant.”

The new signage was painted by Brooklyn artist and School of Visual Arts instructor Stephen Gaffney, whose work as a muralist is on view in City parks and schools. Having previously restored G & P’s hand-painted signs when the restaurant’s name was changed to Paul’s Daughter, Gaffney was able to recapture the spirit of the old signs in his new work.

Paul's Daughter, Coney Island

Papa Burger and New Signs at Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island Boardwalk. July 7, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Half of the storefront is now a stand-up bar made with wood salvaged from the roof joists of the former Club Atlantis/Cha Cha’s, which is undergoing a gut rehab by Tom’s Restaurant of Prospect Heights. Photos of Paul and his family and the stores that he operated over the past sixty years fill the wall behind the open-air bar and the interior of the pillars. In the photo below, the large poster shows Paul in 1954, leaning on the glass case at his store on West 12th Street and the Bowery, where Chinese egg rolls and hot knishes were a popular item. Soda was ten cents!

Stephen Gaffney

Artist Stephen Gaffney behind the counter at Paul’s Daughter. July 14, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Related posts on ATZ...

May 22, 2012: Photo Album: Welcome Back, Paul’s Daughter & Ruby’s Bar!

May 19, 2012: Paul’s Daughter & Ruby’s Bar Reopen on Saturday, Restored Signs to Return!

December 8, 2011: Paul’s Daughter Signs 8-Year Lease for Coney Island Boardwalk

November 13, 2011: The End of Paul’s Daughter As We Know It–Will They Return?

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CLOSEd

CLOSED: Coney Island Souvenir Shop, 1987-2011. Its signs were put in the dumpster. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

One of Coney Island’s oldest Mom & Pops quietly went out of business after losing their lease due to Zamperla USA’s redevelopment of the City-owned Boardwalk. Coney Island Souvenir Shop, located next to Ruby’s Bar on the Boardwalk, was started 25 years ago by Tommy Suh. After he died last year, his wife Sue and their son Rob carried on the family business.

Last week in Coney Island, work crews were busy cleaning out whatever had been left behind by the evicted Boardwalk shops. It was sad to see the familiar red-and-white sign from the Souvenir Shop about to be rolled into a dumpster. A second sign was already inside, its yellow lettering peering over the top. For as long as we’ve been coming to Coney Island, the Suh family has been rolling these signs in and out of the shop at the beginning and end of the business day.

Mrs. Suh in her family's souvenir shop on the Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Mrs. Suh in her family's souvenir shop on the Boardwalk in happier days. April 1, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Compared to Ruby’s or Paul’s Daughter, the closing of Coney Island Souvenir and the other small businesses on the Boardwalk attracted very little media attention. In Bloomberg’s New York City, seeing a shuttered store where a longtime business was yesterday is so common that it’s not newsworthy unless the place is a local legend or the last of its kind. Even the blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, which has paid tribute to hundreds of vanished places since 2007 couldn’t possibly cover them all. After looking up VNY’s first year-end tally— “Combined, we’ve seen close to 1,000 years of New York history vanish in 2007”– we didn’t have the fortitude to continue the count.

Last November, when the Boardwalk Mom and Pops were fighting their eviction, we first came across this 2009 article on the web: “New York Closes Shop” by small business advocate Stephen Null. It contains some stunning statistics on the number of small businesses that have closed during the Bloomberg administration:

A reliable way to evaluate the stability of New York City’s small business community is to examine the number of Commercial Warrants for Eviction. The majority of these warrants are issued to “holdover commercial tenants” whose leases have expired, and who can’t afford to pay the new, higher rent. The consensus of business organizations is that these warrants represent about one third of small businesses; the ones that stay and fight in court. The other two-thirds walk away without a fight.During what many consider the reign of terror for small businesses — 1986-1989, the last 4 years of Koch’s term — 17,433 warrants were issued to evict small businesses, out of approximately 53,000 total small business failures. During the last full four years under Bloomberg, 2005-2008, 27,809 warrants were issued to evict, with about 83,000 small businesses forced to close. Since the successful businessman Bloomberg took office, around 152,964 small businesses have been forced to go out of business.

Keep in mind Null’s article was published in August 2009 and the stats do not cover the last three years of the Bloomberg administration. Is anyone still keeping track? To these statistics, we add six of the original Coney Island 8: Coney Island Souvenir Shop, Steve’s Grill House, Beer Island, Shoot the Freak, Cha Cha’s and Gyro Corner Clam Bar.

Zamperla’s policy of squeezing out Boardwalk businesses through evictions and offering ridiculously expensive lease deals is counter to the Coney Island Development Corporation’s mission of encouraging the development and retention of existing businesses. If the Coney Island 8 hadn’t fought in court and won a one-year reprieve, it’s very likely we’d have a shuttered Boardwalk and a Miami restaurateur would be bankrupt. The CI8 did the City and Zamperla a favor.

Now let’s see if Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter can afford to sign those leases that they were offered more than one month ago by CAI, operator of Zamperla’s Luna Park. Sources tell ATZ that negotiations were extended another two weeks. Nobody wants to see the last of the Boardwalk Mom & Pops join the sad statistics of small businesses forced to close during the Bloomberg administration.

souvenir shop

Closed: Coney Island Souvenir Shop, 1987-2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

November 13, 2011: The End of Paul’s Daughter As We Know It–Will They Return?

October 20, 2011: Reversal of Fortune on the Coney Island Boardwalk

March 3, 2011: The Lowdown on Sodexo’s Sweet Deal in Coney Island

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

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