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Tom's Coney Island

Tom’s Coney Island Under Construction on the Boardwalk. August 25, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The long-awaited opening of Tom’s on the Coney Island Boardwalk is planned for this weekend, the manager at the restaurant’s Prospect Heights location told ATZ. We phoned Tom’s for confirmation after hearing from a friend who is a regular customer that Saturday was the day. Characterizing Saturday’s debut as a “soft opening” with the grand opening yet to come, the manager said “we’re trying to work out some last-minute details. Worst case scenario it will be Sunday. That’s why we’re not publicizing it.”

The full menu will be identical to that of the original location with the addition of seafood entrees, but their famous pancakes and some other items may not be available this Saturday. Asked if we could go in and sit down and order an omelette and coffee, the manager said yes. Sounds like a plan for Sunday brunch! In this Brooklyn Independent Television segment on the popular Tom’s of Prospect Heights, owner Jimmy Kokotas says a combination of “the homey feeling, the service and the food” have made his family’s restaurant a neighborhood favorite since 1936.

Tom’s Coney Island is located on the Boardwalk at the corner of Stillwell Avenue. Though it is opening near the end of the amusement park season, the new restaurant is expected to initially remain open at least nine months of the year. 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. Nathan’s moved to the Boardwalk and West 12th Street and Cha Cha’s relocated to the north side of Surf across from the original Nathan’s.

UPDATE September 23, 2012:

Yes, the full menu including pancakes is available! See Photo Album: First Brunch at Tom’s Coney Island by Bruce Handy

Related posts on ATZ…

August 14, 2012: Opening Soon? Zipline, Tom’s Coney Island, Place to Beach Bar

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

June 23, 2012: Opening Today: Coney Island Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

April 7, 2012: Cheers! First Drink at Relocated Cha Cha’s of Coney Island

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Tom's Coney Island

Tom’s Coney Island. August 14, 2012. Photo © Coney Island History Project

Summer’s almost over, but three Coney Island businesses still under construction– Tom’s Restaurant, Place to Beach Bar and the Zipline– are hoping to open soon and get in what’s left of the season. On Monday, Tom’s new blue-and-white sign and awnings went up on the facade. It’s official — the Boardwalk outpost of the Prospect Heights eatery will be called “Tom’s Coney Island.”

After Labor Day, Coney Island’s amusement parks are open weekends through the end of October. A few attractions and stores in the amusement area such as the New York Aquarium, Nathan’s on Surf Avenue and Coney Island Beach Shop are open daily year-round, but it remains to be seen how many of the new or rehabbed businesses will follow suit. When completed, Tom’s initially expects to remain open at least nine months of the year. One of the Coney Island Development Corporation’s goals is to develop year-round businesses to make Coney Island into “a year-round, world-class recreational oceanfront destination.”

Coney Island Zipline

Coney Island Zipline, View from West 15th Street. August 11, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

If you’re one of the adventurous souls who bought advance tix in June or July for the Coney Island Zipline, it’s been hurry up and wait some more. Last week, the crew was trained and the ride was tested, but the long-awaited zipline did not open over the weekend as expected. Coney Island Zipline manager James Wilcox told ATZ the zipline had been inspected and tested a thousand times, but the opening would be delayed till this week. Official sources tell ATZ that additional paperwork needs to be filed and the Zipline might open on Thursday or Friday.

Meanwhile, construction continued on the scaffolding platform as shown in the above photo. The BK Festival’s merchandise vendors have been put out of business by the ongoing work, but will be allowed to return to their tents once the adjacent zipline is open and the lot is no longer a construction site.

Tom's Coney Island

Tom’s Coney Island: Menu at Temporary Stand. August 11, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On the Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue, construction continues on Tom’s Coney Island and Zamperla’s Place To Beach Bar. Both were announced to open this summer but construction has been slow and their debut has been pushed back till the end of August or early September. Throughout the summer, Tom’s has been selling hot dogs, shrimp salad sandwiches and other beach food from a tent set up in front of the store. Once the place opens, we’re looking forward to sampling their signature pancakes and crab cakes.

Back in early July, ATZ wrote that by the looks of the gut rehab underway, it wouldn’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.

Across the street, Zamperla’s PTB —Place to Beach — Bar is under construction next to Scream Zone’s Skycoaster and Go Karts. It’s the former site of Steve’s Grill House and Beer Island. When we passed by on Saturday, the roof appeared to be sprouting the beginnings of a lighthouse!

UPDATE September 12, 2012

Place To Beach

Under Construction: Place To Beach. August 11, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

September 23, 2012: Photo Album: First Brunch at Tom’s Coney Island by Bruce Handy

August 10, 2012: Steeplechase Plaza Under Construction in Coney Island

August 2, 2012: New Building Breaks Ground Next to Coney Island’s Stillwell Terminal

February 2, 2012: Thor’s Coney Island: Generic New Building at Surf & Stillwell

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Under Construction:  Restaurant at Surf Ave and 10th Street in Luna Park. November 24, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57

Under Construction: Restaurant at Surf Ave and 10th Street in Luna Park. November 24, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57

At the corner of Surf Avenue and 10th Street in Coney Island, construction workers have been emptying rubble into a dumpster and digging up the street. It doesn’t look like much now, but by next season a $1.4 million sit-down restaurant with a view of the Cyclone roller coaster will be open for business.

As ATZ reported last week, the new restaurant will be run by Luna Park’s partner Sodexo, one of the largest food and facilities management companies in the world. Luna Park CEO Valerio Ferrari told ATZ that $1.4 million is being invested in the restaurant, which will be open year-round and feature waiter service and a variety of food.

Unlike the Sodexo-run restaurants set to take over what Ferrari described as “some but not all” of the Boardwalk businesses, this location is not controversial since the property was already vacant. Gregory & Paul’s Surf Avenue eatery closed after Thor Equities booted out Astroland two years ago. What’s controversial is corporate giant Sodexo’s highly unpublicized partnership with Luna Park Coney Island, which is itself a public private partnership with the City of New York. Why didn’t the NYCEDC issue a press release in May?

Since ATZ broke the news in Meet Sodexo: Luna Park Coney Island’s Partner for “On-Site Service Solutions” (November 23, 2010), readers have emailed us links to articles about everything from high prices in Sodexo-run college cafeterias in New York and New Jersey to the Washington Post’s “D” grade for the Sodexo-run cafeteria at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The most notable link is a press release from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in July announcing “a $20 million settlement with food services provider Sodexo for overcharging 21 New York school districts as well as the SUNY system…” Said Cuomo, “This company cut sweetheart deals with suppliers and then denied taxpayer-supported schools the benefits. The state and federal regulations regarding such contracts exist to protect taxpayers, and I thank the whistleblowers for having the courage to bring this to our attention.”

Paul's Daughter on Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Forty Year Old Business Being Replaced by Sodexo: Paul's Daughter on Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

New York Magazine’s Grub Street asked “Could a 40-Year-Old Coney Institution Be Replaced By a Corporate Cafeteria Giant?” Yes, according to Ferrari, Sodexo is expected to take over the Boardwalk outpost of G & P’s, now called Paul’s Daughter, so it looks like it will indeed be Goodbye to My Coney Island Equivalent of Proust’s Madeleine, barring a reprieve by a judge or the Mayor. Merde alors.

Our readers were equally unenthusiastic about a French multinational best known for running cafeterias for schools, corporations, hospitals, prisons and the military taking over the food operation at the People’s Playground and pushing out the indigenous Mom and Pops. “Sodexo was sub-contracted to handle all food & beverage services at the Fortune 50 corporation that I used to work for,” commented one of our readers. “In a nutshell, it is sterile, soul-less, generic food and beverage service.”

But that’s not why ATZ is unlikely to become a regular patron of the new Sodexo restaurant. As someone who works in Coney Island, we simply don’t have time or money to wait on line with the tourists. When we’re on the job, we brown bag it or a few of us will order from reasonably priced neighborhood places like Classic Heros and Pizza on the Run, which are just outside the amusement area. The prices at Luna Park’s Sodexo kiosks were on the high side for Coney Island. $5.00 plus tax for a cup of watermelon that could be bought for a couple of bucks from a vendor just down the block. $2.50 plus tax for a 20 ounce bottle of water which cost $2.00 in a vending machine across the street. Who’s pocketing the extra quarters and dollars?

Sodexo Kiosk at Luna Park Coney Island. May 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Sodexo Kiosk at Luna Park Coney Island. May 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Ask New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, the secretive, quasi-governmental entity that is the City’s vehicle for promoting economic growth. It is the NYCEDC that made the 10-year contract with Zamperla for $100,000 annual rent plus a reported 10% of the gross in the first year of operation and pulls their strings like a puppeteer.

Interestingly, an Associated Press article about the eviction of the Boardwalk businesses misreported that the company is “paying the city $1 million plus part of gross receipts.” We got a laugh out of that, but the reporter can be forgiven for thinking the correct $100K figure was so paltry as to be a typo. To put this number in perspective, consider that Boardwalk businesses like Ruby’s and Cha Cha’s have been paying $100,000 annual rent in recent years. As for Luna Park’s second year of operation, including who stands to earn what from the Boardwalk leases and Sodexo’s cut, neither the NYCEDC nor Zamperla is saying, despite ATZ’s repeated requests.

Last year when the Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP was issued, NYCEDC disclosed to potential bidders that “While we cannot share information on individual licenses at this time, we can report that in the past, the gross potential rent for the Boardwalk tenants was approximately $750,000 to $900,000.” Considering that the property is City-owned and was purchased with $95.6 million of public funds, do you think this information is proprietary or public? We’ll let you know when we receive the results of our Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request.

UPDATE March 31, 2013:

Surf’s Up for CAI Foods in Coney Island, Sodexo Is Out. Sodexo’s departure had long been rumored and is something to cheer about. According to the partnership agreement, after 3 years either party was free to terminate the lease, with CAI having to reimburse the remaining value of Sodexo’s initial investment, with interest.

CIDC Map of the Coney Island Amusement Operator Sites.  Credit: Coney Island Development Corporation

CIDC Map of the Coney Island Amusement Operator Sites. Credit: Coney Island Development Corporation

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 31, 2013: Surf’s Up for CAI Foods in Coney Island, Sodexo Is Out

November 23, 2010: Meet Sodexo: Luna Park Coney Island’s Partner for “On-Site Service Solutions”

November 10, 2010: This Week in Coney Island: Party at Paul’s Daughter, Hypocrisy at NYCEDC

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

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