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sea Rabbits

Sea Rabbits. Photo © Dr. Takeshi Yamada at the Coney Island Sea Rabbit Repopulation Center

The sea rabbits that swam ashore on Coney Island beach near West 28th Street on Easter Sunday will be up for adoption today. This unique sea-dwelling rabbit was believed to be extinct in the wild until yesterday, when two fishermen walking west on the beach towards Sea Gate saw several of the web-footed rabbits scurrying ashore. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” said Mikey, a resident of Avenue U, who had come to Coney to fish from the pier but found it closed for repairs. A local animal rescue group picked up the sea rabbits and plans to put them up for adoption or foster care.

ATZ was unable to reach Dr. Takeshi Yamada, the world-renowned expert on the species, for comment on the discovery. Yamada is currently filming the AMC TV reality series “Immortalized.” According to his research, the sea-rabbit is a close relative of the sea lion, and was officially discovered and investigated by Henry Hudson when he first visited this land to colonize the area for the Dutch government. Coney Island was named Conyne Eylandt –Rabbit Island– by the Dutch.

The above photo shows two sea rabbits which are in Dr. Yamada’s care at the Coney Island Sea Rabbit Repopulation Center in Brooklyn, New York. They are Coney Island Sea Rabbit (Monafluffchus americanus) called “Seara” and Coney Island Tiger-striped Sea Rabbit (Monafluffchus konjinicus) called “Stripes.”

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Randazzo's

Randazzo's Clam Bar, a Sheepshead Bay Landmark. Photo © Charles Denson. All Rights Reserved

Last week, the buzz in Coney Island was that the folks from Randazzo’s Clam Bar, a landmark in Sheepshead Bay, were seen eyeing Cha Cha’s location on the Boardwalk. Coincidentally, “randazzosclambk” joined twitter and began following ATZ. The twitter page proclaims: “Randazzo’s is king of clams and lobster, shrimp and calamari, too!!! But it is most certainly all about grandma Helen Randazzo’s HOT or MEDIUM sauce!!!” Our appetite was piqued.

ATZ phoned Randazzo’s to ask if the rumor was true that they have plans to open a restaurant on the Coney Island Boardwalk. “It’s a possibility. We’re trying to,” said Joey Randazzo, son of Paul Randazzo, who is the star of the “Art of Opening a Clam” video on the New York Times website. Their family-owned and operated restaurant began in 1908 and is a perennial “Best” among New York City seafood restaurants. “We’re still trying to work out negotiations,” Joey Randazzo told ATZ. “There’s a committee that evaluates you. You have to be approved.”

Hmmm, well, we approve of their menu and their South Brooklyn cred. Randazzo’s has the potential to be a destination restaurant in Coney Island. We wish them the best of luck negotiating with Valerio Ferrari’s Vision for the Boardwalk Committee. As Ruby’s fan Bogframe writes on the Coney Island Message Board, “every time Valerio Ferrari says ‘vision,’ something valuable dies.” Last year at this time, Ferrari, CEO of Zamperla USA and Luna Park, told ATZ that the evicted Boardwalk Mom & Pops “didn’t have the vision that we have for the Boardwalk.” An investment of $1.4 million was being made by Sodexo in a new restaurant at the corner of Surf and 10th Street, formerly occupied by Gregory & Paul’s. He said that a Boardwalk restaurant/bar hoping to get a lease renewal would have had to make a million dollar investment as well.

ATZ asked Joey Randazzo if they were contemplating a $1 million investment at Cha Cha’s location. He said it could be half a million or a million, they’re not sure yet. As for the “randazzosclambk” twitter account, it stopped tweeting almost as soon as it started and Joey Randazzo says it’s not theirs.

The opportunity for Randazzo’s and others who are eyeing the Boardwalk opened up after a Miami restaurateur pulled out of a $5 million dollar deal to open four upscale eateries on the Boardwalk between Stillwell Avenue and West 12th Street. Unlike Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter, Cha Cha’s was not offered a new lease by Zamperla USA, which has a ten-year deal to develop the City-owned Boardwalk property purchased from Thor Equities in 2009.

Cha Cha’s last call was on Sunday and some of their restaurant equipment, furnishings and memorabilia was auctioned on Tuesday. Club owner John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia, an actor in The Sopranos who also owns a restaurant in Little Italy, has been looking at other locations in Coney Island, including Surf Avenue and the Bowery. As the saying goes in Coney Island, once you’ve got sand in your shoes, you can’t get it out.

UPDATE December 12, 2011Tom’s Restaurant, a popular family-owned Prospect Heights eatery founded in 1936, edged out Randazzo’s for the space formerly occupied by Cha Cha’s and Nathan’s. Tom’s of Coney Island expects to open in April 2012. For a sneak peek at the Boardwalk line-up for 2012, see “Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk” (ATZ, Nov. 15, 2011).

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

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