Posts Tagged ‘Mom & Pops’

Wilensky Hardware

Wilensky Hardware at 2126 Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island, a third-generation family business founded in 1920. October 18, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

This year in Coney Island, Friscia Pharmacy and Wilensky Hardware on Mermaid Avenue and the landmark Wonder Wheel are marking their 95th anniversaries. All three first opened for business in 1920. That’s a remarkable feat of longevity in a City where every day we hear about another small business being pushed out by skyrocketing rent, the influx of chains or rampant redevelopment. According to blogger Jeremiah Moss of Vanishing New York, who recently launched the #SaveNYC campaign to help Mom & Pops, if you add up all the years in business represented, New York City lost 6,926 years of its history in the dozen years from 2001 to 2013.

What do Coney Island’s 95-year-old Mom & Pops have in common? One is still owned by its founding family while the other two were sold to new owners decades ago. All “own the premises,” as Carnegie Deli founder Milton Parker famously recommended in his 2005 memoir. Nowadays, that advice has almost become a prerequisite for survival in New York City.

Wilensky Hardware at 2126 Mermaid Avenue has been owned and operated by three generations of the Wilensky family. “It was started by my wife’s grandfather Samuel Wilensky in 1920,” says Steve Feinstein. Asked if he had any unusual and obsolete pieces of hardware that he could show us, he said the store used to supply Steeplechase Park with bolts up to 1″ x 36″. Unfortunately, everything in the store, including the old stock, was ruined by Hurricane Sandy.

Friscia Pharmacy

Friscia Pharmacy, at 1505 Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Down the block at 1505 Mermaid Avenue is Friscia Pharmacy, “The Oldest in Coney Island,” as a sign at its entrance proudly proclaims. The banner on the side of the building celebrating the store’s 94th anniversary caught our eye last year and inspired this story. Pharmacist Anthony Morano tells us he has been there 42 years. His partner Frank Giordano retired in 2014 after five decades of service to the community.

It was Giordano who bought the pharmacy from Anthony Friscia in 1960. While we were in the store, business was brisk and an old-timer told ATZ that there had been another owner before Friscia. A druggists directory from 1921 reveals that his name was S. Gentile. Giordano says the apothecary jars they once used to make ointments, as well as measuring scales and other antique items were destroyed when the pharmacy was flooded by Sandy and had to be rebuilt.

Friscia Pharmacy

Friscia Pharmacy, “The Oldest in Coney Island.” March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Wonder Wheel was built by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company in 1920 and designated an official New York City landmark in 1989. Today it is owned and operated by the second and third generations of the Vourderis family. The family patriarch, for whom “Denos D. Vourderis Place” (West 12th Street between the Boardwalk and the Bowery) is named, bought the Wheel 32 years ago this June.

A popular spot for engagement photos, the Wheel has a very romantic history: When Denos D. Vourderis was a hot dog vendor in the 1940s, he promised his sweetheart Lula that he would buy the Wonder Wheel for her as a wedding present if she would marry him. She said yes and he was able to buy the Wheel in 1983 when it was offered for sale by Fred Garms, whose father Herman was its first owner-operator. The Vourderis family restored the Wheel and made it the centerpiece of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.

“It takes a lifetime of devotion, hard work, and dedication to preserve this wonderful landmark attraction,” co-owner Steve Vourderis told Amusement Today on the 90th anniversary of the Wheel. “We have a responsibility to ourselves, our family and most of all to dad to make sure its legacy lives on. It also helps to love what you do.”

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island. August 9, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Turning 95 is a milestone but this trio of businesses have neighbors who have been around even longer. The original Nathan’s Famous, which will celebrate its centennial in 2016, is the City’s oldest hot dog stand and holds the City’s oldest beer license. Across Surf Avenue on West 15th Street is the 108-year-old Gargiulo’s Restaurant. Founded by Gus Gargiulo and owned by the Russo brothers since 1965, it serves classic Neapolitan cuisine and hosts special events from dinner dances and weddings to the annual Alliance for Coney Ialand Gala.

Two slightly younger neighbors are in their 80’s: The famed Totonno’s Pizzeria on Neptune Avenue since 1924 is on every list of The Ten Best Pizzas in New York City. The world-famous Cyclone Roller Coaster was built in 1927 by the Rosenthal brothers, saved from demolition by Astroland Park’s Dewey Albert in 1975 and is now operated by Luna Park.

For more info on Vanishing New York’s #SaveNYC, a crowd-sourcing campaign that aims to protect small businesses by passing long-stalled legislation in the City Council and starting a Cultural Landmarks Program, visit the website or join the Facebook group.

Gargiulo's Restaurant

Gargiulo’s Restaurant on West 15th Street in Coney Island. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

UPDATE March 11, 2015:

Thanks to photographer Lisanne Anderson for sending us her lovely photos of Friscia Pharmacy’s storefront taken five years ago, when they were celebrating their 90th anniversary. Note the neon signs!

Friscia Pharmacy

Friscia Pharmacy, on their 90th anniversary. Photo © Lisanne Anderson

Friscia Pharmacy

Prescriptions Sign at Friscia Pharmacy, on their 90th anniversary in 2010. Photo © Lisanne Anderson

Related posts on ATZ…

January 20, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park Adds Scrambler, ‘Twist & Shout’ Drop Tower

November 18, 2014: ATZ’s Guide to Coney Island’s Honorary Walks and Places

March 5, 2013: Coney Island’s Mermaid Avenue Four Months After Sandy

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

Read Full Post »

Brooklyn Rock

Display of Paintings of the Elephant Hotel and the Parachute Jump by Yukiko Wada, hand-screened Tees by Wada and husband Chris Smith at Brooklyn Rock. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Mom & Pop art T-shirt shop Brooklyn Rock is out but not down. After 21 months in Coney Island, the arrangement they had with Thor Equities for space in the developer’s retail building at Surf and Stillwell has come to an end. The 1,500-square-foot store, for which they paid a percentage of income as rent, will be partly taken over by celebrity burger chain Wahlburgers, which is set to open its first New York franchise in May in the vacant restaurant space next door.

As ATZ reported earlier this month, the one-of-a-kind Brooklyn Rock shop was open daily regardless of the season or the weather, and was one of the few places in Coney to buy a souvenir tee in February. “At the end of the proverbial day, it was a pop-up shop and we had a good run,” says Brooklyn Rock brand manager Seth Braunstein, who doesn’t want people to feel sorry for them or villainize Thor, with whom they parted on good terms. “I might get a call at some point to do a pop up in another of their Brooklyn locations. Who knows?”

Brooklyn Rock

Brooklyn Rock’s pop-up store at 3015 Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island closed in February. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Brooklyn Rock’s tees, hoodies, aprons and other items are hand-dyed in unique colors and hand-printed from hand-drawn designs by artists Chris Smith and Yukiko Wada, the couple who founded the business in their Bushwick apartment in 2002. Braunstein says they’re relocating the wholesale print operations to a mezzanine space within a larger retail environment in Greenpoint called the Flying Squirrel. “It is an amazing children’s shop that we’ve wholesaled our gear to since they were located on North 6th in Williamsburg. We’re excited at the huge wholesale opportunities ahead and are gratified at the run we enjoyed in Coney.”

Before opening their Coney Island store in May 2013, the Brooklyn Rock team also wholesaled their merchandise to Coney Island USA’s gift shop, which they hope to do once again. Their previous retail shops include a street kiosk on Bedford Avenue, a shipping container at the now defunct DeKalb Market where Century 21 was built, and a Pintchik property across from Barclays Center, where foot traffic turned out to be slow. “When you’re an independent little guy, you’re swimming with sharks. We’re still swimming. We’re good. Ultimately we’re survivors,” says Braunstein.

Brooklyn Rock Larry David

Audrey Jakeway wearing Brooklyn Rock’s Larry David tee at preview performance of his new Broadway show “Fish in the Dark.” February 5, 2015. Photo via Brooklyn Rock Facebook

When ATZ interviewed Braunstein for the post that ran earlier this month, the shop had already received the vacate notice, but we did not mention it because they were hoping for an extension from Thor, as had happened last year. At that time, Luna Park offered them a kiosk in the amusement park, but they declined since they were able to keep their store. As for the vacant stores on the north side of Surf, where property owners have leased to restaurant and food businesses, Braunstein doesn’t think the location would bring them as much foot traffic as the south side of Surf.

While Brooklyn Rock is confident about landing a better spot, this story underscores the dim prospects for Mom & Pops hoping to come to Coney Island amid the influx of chains, both at Thor’s property on the south side of Surf and with the property owners on the north side. Currently there are a dwindling number of spaces for lease and Coney Island’s risk-averse landlords prefer the better-funded chains and franchisees. Brooklyn Rock’s lucky break came when Braunstein saw a news article about space for lease in Thor’s then-vacant new building and sent them a proposal. Thor Equities had sent out a press release that said: “Thor To Add Local Flavor To Coney Island By Leasing Major Surf Avenue Parcels To Local Brooklyn Merchants At Reduced Rents For 2013.”

Tenants at Thor’s now fully-leased “Retail Ride of A Lifetime” building across from Stillwell Terminal include candy chain It’Sugar, apparel chain Rainbow Shop, the Brooklyn Nets Shop, Brooklyn Beach Shop spin-off Surf and Stillwell, and the soon-to-debut Wahlburgers. The building also had a Little Caesars Pizza pop-up last summer and two incredibly tiny mini-arcades, which are the shameful extent of the amusements required by the City’s Coney Island Comprehensive Rezoning Plan passed in 2009.

Thor Equities mini-arcade

The only amusements in Thor’s retail building are two mini-arcades, the size required by the City’s Rezoning Plan. One arcade is next door to the apparel chain Rainbow Shops. august 16, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

It’s telling that in recent weeks ATZ’s top ten posts have been about IHOP, Wahlburgers and other chains coming in 2015. In addition to the already opened national chains and franchises such as Applebee’s, Rita’s Italian Ice, and Dunkin’ Donuts on Surf Avenue, a few new Mom & Pops like Lunatics Ice Cream and Luna Park Cafe opened last season. An outpost of Piece of Velvet, a cake and cupcake shop with locations in Fort Greene and Harlem opened on Valentine’s Day. On the north side of Surf, IHOP recently signed a lease to open a restaurant while Johnny Rockets remains under construction and Subway Cafe and Checkers have put their signs up and are almost ready to open.

Related posts on ATZ…

February 4, 2015: In Wintry Coney, Brooklyn Rock’s Hand-Printed Tees Keep Summer Dreams Alive

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

December 5, 2014: Wahlburgers Burger Franchise to Open in Coney Island

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

Read Full Post »

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.


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

Read Full Post »

We’re marking the year’s end with a look back at ATZ’s Top 10 Coney Island News Stories of 2011. We’d also like to take this opportunity to toot the horn for New York City’s local blogs, which have become a mostly unheralded source of breaking news and features for mainstream media. Please visit our links page for a list of some of our friends and faves. Thank you to the bloggers and journos who have linked to our stories in 2011. Thanks to our readers for your comments, both online and in person. Happy New Year to All and Happy New Year to Coney Island!

Paul's Daughter at Dusk. Oct 30, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita

1. The top news story of the year was the victory of local Mom and Pops over a plan to gentrify and corporatize the Boardwalk with eateries run by a Miami restaurateur and French food giant Sodexo. After kicking out nine Coney Island Mom and Pops from City-owned property to make way for the newcomers, the park division of Italian ride manufacturer Zamperla did an about-face in October and offered multi-year leases to two local favorites — Paul’s Daughter and Ruby’s Bar. Even though all of the Boardwalk businesses weren’t invited back, we still count it as a rare victory for the City’s endangered Mom & Pops. It might not have happened if eight of them hadn’t banded together to take their case to court and negotiate a reprieve for the 2011 season. As we wrote in “Reversal of Fortune on the Coney Island Boardwalk”(October 20): We’re just glad some of the people in charge realized Coney Island is neither Miami Beach nor a corporate cafeteria before we lost all of our original, irreplaceable businesses and ended up with a shuttered Boardwalk.

Sodexo sign

Sodexo, the World's 21st Largest Corporation, in Coney Island: Sign directing trainees to Sodexo restaurant in Luna Park. April 12, 2011. Photo © Mr Jones

ATZ covered the year-long saga in numerous posts, including “Paul’s Daughter Dishes on the Boardwalk Brawl”(Jan. 13), “Coney Island Boardwalk 8 Lease Deal in the Works for 2011” (Feb. 15), “The Lowdown on Sodexo’s Sweet Deal in Coney Island“(March 3) and finally (and thankfully) “Paul’s Daughter Signs 8-Year Lease for Coney Island Boardwalk” (Dec 9). We hope everyone learned a lesson from this bitter chapter and can now move forward. For a sneak peek at the new Boardwalk, which features genuine Coney Island and Brooklyn businesses, see #10. Meanwhile, some of the Boardwalk vets who weren’t offered leases, including Cha Cha’s and Steve’s Grill House, are seeking to relocate nearby. As the saying goes in Coney Island, once you’ve got sand in your shoes, you can’t get it out.

Coney Island Rides

Luna Park's Electro Spin and Deno's Wonder Wheel. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

2. Coney Island Has 64 Rides and 30 Weekends of Summer! – April 22, 2011

ATZ’s #2 news story based on page views was our annual ride census. At the start of the 2011 season, the Coney Island ride count was Central Amusements International’s Luna Park (19), Scream Zone (4) and Cyclone (1); Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park (22); Eldorado Bumper Cars (1); Polar Express and 12th Street Amusements (5), and McCullough’s Kiddie Park (12). In mid-June, McCullough’s had to reconfigure the park and remove two kiddie rides when a sublease on property owned by Thor Equities expired. Coney Island finished the season with 62 rides. The total number of rides is expected to go up with the opening of CAI’s Speed Zone in 2012, which will feature Go Karts and a Sky Coaster.

Saturn 6

Rare and Classic: Saturn 6, 12th Street Amusements. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

ATZ has been doing an annotated ride census since the closing of Astroland’s 24 rides put the tally at “Coney Island Ride Count: Veteran Ride Ops 40, Joe Sitt 10!” (ATZ, June 4, 2009). Back then, the dwindling number of rides and the empty lots had people asking “Is Coney Island Closed?” and gave rise to the marketing slogan “Coney Island: Really Fun, Really Open.” In 2011, the number of rides and operators in Coney Island was still a surprise to people, since most Coney news coverage focuses on the new rides at Luna Park and Scream Zone or the landmark Cyclone and Wonder Wheel. As we explain in the comment section of the census: Coney Island is NOT and never has been a single operator park like Disneyland or Six Flags. Historically, Coney Island’s unique character and vitality comes from the fact that it is a neighborhood with many individually owned and operated amusements. Let’s hope we can keep this tradition.

Men in Black 3 Set

Men in Black 3 Set on Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Diana Taft Shumate

3. Men In Black 3 Rescues Coney Island’s Oldest Building – April 10, 2011

In April, ATZ broke the news that Men in Black 3 had leased Coney Island’s oldest building, the Grashorn, from Thor Equities and rescued it from oblivion. The production crew fixed up the gutted interior of the vacant building located at Surf and Jones Walk to use as their location headquarters. Over the past two years, the Grashorn Building had 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, which dates back to the 1880s, remained shuttered and vacant during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Susquehanna Hat Co

HBO Brings Susquehanna Hat Co. to Grashorn Bldg. June 6, 2011. Photo © Charles Denson/ConeyIsland History Project

In May, Men in Black 3, which stars Will Smith as Agent J traveling back in time to 1969, filmed on the Coney Island Boardwalk, which was outfitted with retro-looking carnival booths. Then in June, HBO’s Bored to Death transformed the Grashorn into the Susquehanna Hat Company for an episode that aired this month in which Stacy Keach played the shop’s proprietor. With the exception of the film shoots, Coney Island’s oldest building remained vacant in 2011, though squatters were again locked out last week.

Coney Island flea market

BK Festival Flea Market Vendor next to Scream Zone in Coney Island. May 14, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

4. Aqueduct Flea Vendors Close to Deal in Coney Island – March 29, 2011

The buzz about the displaced Aqueduct Flea Market relocating to Joe Sitt’s empty lots in Coney Island, which ATZ first reported last December, continued through the first quarter of 2011 as Queens vendors showed up to check out the new lot. When the flea market called the BK Festival opened in May we photographed it for “Thor’s Coney Island: Aqueduct Flea Vendors Make Dismal Debut.” It was not in any way “like a state fair,” as hyped by the festival management in advertisements, nor did it feature “upscale product,” as hyped by the New York Times in a puff piece on Joe Sitt.

flea market

Spice, 2 for $5: Aqueduct Flea Market Vendors Come to Coney Island. May 14, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Like Thor’s 2009 “Festival by the Sea,” the new flea market billed itself as a festival because a flea market is not a permitted use on this property in Coney Island. In response to ATZ’s query about the zoning, Purnima Kapur, Brooklyn City Planning Director, confirmed in an email: “The C7 zoning district in Coney Island does not permit Flea Markets as a permitted use; however small scale retail and restaurants are permitted in addition to amusements.” There are Use Groups A, B and C, with A being for Amusements, and a formula for their allocation. But of course, no one reads the zoning and in any case the City rarely enforces its own zoning against flea markets in Coney. To people who say it’s better than an empty lot, ATZ says it’s a desecration to have a flea market on hallowed ground where the Tornado Roller Coaster and other amusements thrived for more than 100 years until Joe Sitt bought the property and evicted the remaining amusement operators.

Coney Island Film Series

Coney Island Flicks on the Beach Summer Film Series. Photo Courtesy of EPIX

5. Coney Island 2011: Free Movie Screenings on the Beach – April 27, 2011

In April, Rooftop Films, a nonprofit which has been showing underground films outdoors in New York City since 1997, tweeted the news that it would bring free outdoor movie screenings to Coney Island’s beach in the summer of 2011. The Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC), NYC & Company and EpixHD partnered with Rooftop to launch the new Coney Island Film Series. The event drew over 3,000 attendees to its eight movie screenings featuring such popular films as Saturday Night Fever, Annie Hall and Moonstruck along with pre-show entertainment and contests. Flicks on the Beach was a welcome new addition to Coney’s roster of free summer-long events, which include Friday Night Fireworks, Karaoke on the Boardwalk, the Coney Island Dancers and the Seaside Summer Concert Series.

Luna Park

Luna Park, Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy via flickr

6. Coney Island’s Luna Park Hiring for 2011 Season – January 27, 2011

Last January, Luna Park jumpstarted the process for job seekers by posting some plum jobs on Craigslist. They were looking for an Assistant Operations Manager to help oversee the park operation (salary of $30,000-$40,000 per year) as well as a Seasonal Assistant Operations Coordinator and a Seasonal Assistant Administrative Manager (pay rate of $14.45-$19.25 per hour). Information about entry level jobs such as ride operator, game operator, ticketseller and retail sales was also available on the park’s website. In November, a press release from the Mayor’s Office noted that over 400 jobs were created by the new amusement parks with approximately half filled by local residents.

Andy Badalamenti

Andy Badalamenti Tries Out the 120-year old chair at the Coney Island History Project, August 29, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

7. Coney Island Lost A Good Friend: RIP Andy Badalamenti – July 27, 2011

Among the notable deaths in 2011 were Rabbi Abraham Abraham, the leader of the Ice Breakers, whose synagogue was the beach, and Andy Badalamenti, who operated such legendary rides as the Tornado and the Bobsled, and lived in the house under the Thunderbolt roller coaster when he worked as its caretaker. This photo of Andy trying out a 120-year-old chair from Feltman’s Maple Garden Restaurant was taken at the Coney Island History Project on August 29, 2008. Astroland was set to close forever on the next weekend. After winning a one-year reprieve, many of us felt despondent about not being able to save the park again. But Andy wasn’t about to give up hope. He had dreams of moving the rides a few blocks away and was busily talking up the idea. Rest in peace, Andy. Coney Island misses you.

Beachfront Condos Under Construction on Boardwalk at 32nd St, Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy

8. New Construction: Coney Island’s 1st Private Beachfront Condos on Boardwalk – February 17, 2011

After realizing that this February post was among the Top 10 for 2011, ATZ asked photographer Bruce Handy to take an updated photo of the construction, which we posted last week. Current prices are $510,000 for a one-bedroom, $685,000 for a two-bedroom and $840,00 to $910,000 for a three-bedroom unit. Located in the West End of Coney Island, across the street from the NYC Housing Authority’s Coney Island Houses, this 11-unit beachfront project is a harbinger of more beachfront condos to come further east, where 5.5 blocks of vacant land west of MCU Park were rezoned for high rise condos. It’s not surprising people are waiting to see how it fares. Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson, who grew up in Coney Island Houses, told ATZ that the lot on West 32nd Street has been vacant since 1982. “It was the site of Sam’s Knishes and the Lincoln Baths,” said Denson. “Sam’s had the best cherry cheese knishes in the world and the Lincoln Baths go back over 110 years.”

Sling Shot

The Sling Shot Ride in Coney Island's Scream Zone Thrill Park. Photo © NYCEDC via flickr

9. Coney Island Scream Zone’s Official Opening Set for Today – April 20, 2011

Scream Zone, Zamperla USA’s thrill park in Coney Island, officially opened when Mayor Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz pulled the switch on the Sling Shot to launch a couple of daring 12-year-old kids into the air. The park’s four rides include Zamperla’s Turboforce (“Zenobio”), a Steeplechase-themed MotoCoaster and a Volare coaster (“Soarin’ Eagle”). You can see them in action in “Coney Island 2011: Videos of New Scream Zone Rides” (ATZ, May 2, 2011)

Pauls' Daughter

Architectural rendering for the new Paul's Daughter shown at November 11 Coney Island Panel at AIA. Photo via Amusing the Zillion

10. Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk – November 12, 2011

In November, ATZ attended an AIA panel on “Planning the Future of Coney Island’s Amusement District,” at which an audience of architects and Coney Island regulars got a sneak peek at what the Boardwalk might look like in 2012 and beyond. Luna Park’s plans for Go Karts and a Sky Coaster in a new “Speed Zone” were unveiled along with the Boardwalk businesses renderings for new stores in 2012. Among the designs shown in the photos are Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter, as well as Brooklyn Beach Shop, Lola Star and Nathan’s. The rendering for Paul’s Daughter, a Boardwalk icon founded in 1962 as Gregory & Paul’s, shows the spruced up Burger statues on the roof and what appears to be new hand-painted signage along the bottom. Like Ruby’s, Paul’s Daughter signed an 8-year lease with Zamperla this month, and will be back along with a mix of other Coney Island and Brooklyn businesses. The Boardwalk will not be gentrified or corporatized after all! It’s looking like a Happy New Year for Coney Island.

Related posts on ATZ…

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

October 25, 2011: Coney Island 2012: Go Karts Return, Concretewalk Stopped

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

Read Full Post »

Yes, all eight of the Coney Island 8 signed the agreement with property manager Zamperla’s Central Amusement International and the City that will allow 7 of them–Shoot the Freak is out– to lease their City-owned Boardwalk locations for one final summer. The Georgoulakos family, owners of Paul’s Daughter, one of the Coney Island 8 Mom & Pop businesses, sent out the following statement today:

We are excited about returning for the 2011 season, but at the same time, this settlement is bittersweet. It is not the outcome we were hoping for, but the one we thought attainable. We love Coney Island and we love what we do. We have been in this location for 41 years through the good and the bad. It has been our living, our family, our heart and soul. We do not know what the future holds, but it is our wish that Coney Island remain the unique, quirky, fun place for all that is has always been — with or without us. Hope to see you on the Boardwalk this summer!

Happily, we’ll have to revise the captions on our photos of “the last French fry” at Paul’s Daughter and “last call” at Ruby’s. Let’s see plenty of eating, drinking and being merry at the Boardwalk establishments this summer, for they are contractually obligated to exit quietly at the end of the season.

As ATZ reported in January, Sodexo, the world’s 22nd 21st largest corporation, will open their own restaurant at Paul’s Daughter’s location. A year-round sports bar is planned for the space occupied by Ruby’s and Coney Island Souvenirs.

The other evicted businesses granted a reprieve for 2011 are Ruby’s Bar, Cha Cha’s, Steve’s Grill House, Gyro Corner, Beer Island and Coney Island Souvenirs. Ruby’s posted a message on their Facebook page:

It is Official. A deal was signed yesterday, and we are happy to announce that RUBY’S will be celebrating our 36th year in business, and will be open for the 2011 season. This small victory has happened in part due to the help and support of ALL of our loyal friends, and patrons. THANK YOU!!!


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

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