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Posts Tagged ‘oldest building’

Surf Avenue

Guys in Hazmat suits doing interior demo work at Thor Equities-owned building at 1106 Surf Ave, December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

On Saturday, we were alarmed to receive a call about men in hazmat suits starting interior demolition on Thor Equities-owned Grashorn, Coney Island’s oldest building. Asked by a pedestrian if there was danger, a worker replied they were doing demolition. The work continued through the weekend. A dumpster in front of the building filled up with sheetrock, ductwork insulation, and mattresses. There are no permits posted, nor are there any work permits on the DOB website for the buildings at 1102-1106 Surf Avenue. Anonymous tipsters sent us these photos.

Last month ATZ posted “Rumor Mill Says Coney’s Oldest Building To be Demolished” (ATZ, November 15, 2013). Was the Rumor Mill right? As it turns out, the demo crew was working next door to the Grashorn building where Henry Grashorn’s hardware store was in the 1880s. They are doing interior demo in the neighboring space that was G. Grashorn’s Groceries. The buildings also housed the Grashorn family’s hotel but due to alterations to the facade were not considered eligible for landmarking by the City’s Landmark’s Commission.

Surf Avenue

Thor Equities-owned buildings on Surf Ave, December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

We’ll look into the matter of the permits this week. In the past, there’s been a lag on updates to the DOB site. In 2010, Thor’s teardown of the Henderson Music Hall caught people by surprise as the asbestos abatement that preceded the demo got underway. Also without any permits posted, it should be noted.

The storefronts at 1106 Surf Avenue are newly vacant, having been occupied by Gameworld arcade, a pina colada stand and other concessions for the past four seasons. The neighboring Grashorn building at 1102-1104 Surf Avenue, which also has frontage on Jones Walk, has been vacant since 2008 as ATZ reported in “The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks” (ATZ, Sept. 2, 2013).

The Grashorn no longer has a C of O after having been gutted, though it looked great as the Susquehanna Hat Company in an episode of HBO’s Bored to Death in 2011. Save Coney Island has published renderings showing the potential of the building if restored. Henry Grashorn was a founding director of the Bank of Coney Island, the Mardi Gras Association and the Coney Island Church and Rescue Home. His hardware store catered to Coney Island’s amusement businesses for six decades and the building later housed shooting galleries, arcades, and cotton candy and taffy stands.

Surf Avenue

Dumpster at Thor Equities Building on Surf Ave, Coney Island. December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

In addition to the Henderson, Thor CEO Joe Sitt demolished two other historic Surf Avenue properties–the Bank of Coney Island and the Shore Hotel in 2010, after his lots on the south side of Surf were rezoned by the city for 30 story hotels. Only the buildings that once housed the Grashorn hardware and grocery store remain. If Coney Island’s oldest is going down to become another empty lot to add to Joe Sitt’s collection of empty lots in Coney Island, it won’t happen unnoticed. We promise to make a lot of noise.

Thor Equities purchased the Grashorn (1102-1104 Surf Ave.) for $1.4 million in 2005 and the adjacent building at 1106 for $2.2 million in 2006, according to Property Shark.

UPDATE December 9, 2013:

Sources say the FDNY inspected the building last week and the property owner was fined and required to clean the fire hazard caused by squatters. Squatters have been living there since at least 2010. It takes the FDNY to get Thor to maintain their property and keep it safe? The public cannot access the FDNY’s database but has to put in a request for a search which takes 10 days and costs 10 bucks. Betcha 20 we’ll have more info from the Rumor Mill sooner than that!

Surf Avenue

Thor Equities-owned buildings at 1102-1106 Surf Ave, Coney Island. December 7, 2013. Photo by Anonymouse via Amusing the Zillion

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October 17, 2013: The New Coney Island: Thor Equities Vacant Lots, Dummy Arcades

September 2, 2013: The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks

September 9, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Faber’s Fascination Goes Dark After 50 Years

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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Grashorn

Stores for Lease: The Grashorn, Coney's Oldest Building. January 20, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

One of Thor Equities’ omnipresent “Stores for Lease” banners went up yesterday on the Grashorn Building. Thanks to Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy for stopping by and taking these photos last evening. The banner caused excitement as peeps realized it meant that Coney Island’s oldest was not going to be demolished after all! Not this season anyway. But will it be leased? We’d really like to hope so, though potential tenants’ efforts to lease the building last year fell through. ATZ knows a couple of people who have already expressed interest. Get your bid in now!

Grashorn

Stores for Lease: The Grashorn, Coney's Oldest Building. January 20, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

For the record, Thor Equities never got a demolition permit for the Grashorn. ATZ first noticed this in August when the demo permits for the now demolished Bank of Coney Island, the Shore Hotel and the Henderson Music Hall were first issued. We never mentioned it because by then not calling attention to the Grashorn seemed the best way to protect the building.

Why was Coney Island’s oldest building granted a reprieve? Unlike the Bank of Coney and the Henderson, the Grashorn parcel at Surf Ave and Jones Walk was not rezoned for a 30-story high rise hotel. There’s also the fact that the building is just a few doors away from Luna Park’s entrance. And there’s also the fact the City owns the east side of Jones Walk and leases it to game concessions. The demolition of the Grashorn would have created a desolate empty lot near the City’s showcase amusement park and killed business on the Walk. Hey maybe the Mayor said to Joe, no demo?

In Coney Island: Lost and Found, historian Charles Denson writes that the building at 1104 Surf dates back to the 1880’s and the Grashorn hardware store served Coney Island’s amusement businesses for more than 60 years: “The clapboard façade, dormers, cast iron resting, chimneys and fish-scale shingles were removed when the building was renovated in the 1980s but the mansard roof retains its shape.”

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

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Thor Equities Shuttered Grashorn Bldg, Surf Ave & Jones Walk, Coney Island, August 15, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Thor Equities Shuttered Grashorn Bldg, Surf Ave & Jones Walk, Coney Island, August 15, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

ATZ has learned that sideshow operator John Strong has made a deal with Thor Equities to return to Coney Island for the 2010 season. In lieu of last year’s location in the former Astroland arcade, which was sold to the City, Strong’s freak museum will occupy Thor Equities’ owned 1104 Surf Ave at Jones Walk. Known as the Grashorn Building after Henry Grashorn’s Hardware store, which was in business in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the building is Coney Island’s oldest. The Texas-based showman flew into New York last week for a meeting with Thor Equities.

The building fronts Surf Avenue and extends along the west side of Jones Walk. Yet this prime location remained vacant and devoid of activity in 2009 (see photo above) due to Thor CEO Joe Sitt’s soaring rents. Last summer, a business owner who had leased a small stand on the Walk from Thor in 2008 told us the 2009 rent had tripled from $8,000 to $24,000. He declined the space and left Coney Island.

John Strong was mum on the cost of his lease for the Grashorn but is said to be happy with the deal. His museum of live and preserved freaks and oddities will occupy a prime location between Zamperla’s new Luna Park on the former Astroland site and Coney Island USA’s Sideshow and Museum at Surf Ave and 12th Street. The extra added attraction for Strong and company is the apartment on the upper floors.

Grashorn Building, April 19, 2003.  Municipal Art Society via flickr

Grashorn Building, April 19, 2003. Municipal Art Society via flickr

As ATZ reported in “John Strong Sideshow Aims for Coney Island Comeback” (Jan 13, 2010), Strong also proposes putting his ten-in-one sideshow as well as a circus on Thor’s Stillwell property. But several carnivals and amusement operators, including the also rans for the City’s RFP, are vying to lease what remains of Thor’s lots on Stillwell. A decision is expected by mid-February.

In Coney Island: Lost and Found, historian Charles Denson writes that the building at 1104 Surf dates back to the 1880’s and the Grashorn hardware store served Coney Island’s amusement businesses for more than 60 years: “The clapboard façade, dormers, cast iron resting, chimneys and fish-scale shingles were removed when the building was renovated in the 1980s but the mansard roof retains its shape.”

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

The Grashorn is one of six historic structures proposed for city landmark designation by Coney Island USA, the Municipal Art Society and Save Coney Island. In 2004, Coney Island USA received a grant from the JM Kaplan Fund to hire an architectural historian and research old buildings in Coney Island. The City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has delayed calendaring the buildings during the rezoning process.

MAS’s Melissa Baldock makes a plea for the Grashorn Building’s landmark designation: “The building could be restored to be a wonderful showpiece of Coney Island’s historic vernacular architecture. It is remarkable that this building, which predates Coney Island’s first enclosed amusement parks and was built around the same time as Coney Island (and America’s) first roller coaster, survives in 2009. However, without landmark status, there is no guarantee that this piece of Coney Island history will be part of its future.”

UPDATE April 29, 2010:

John Strong’s deal to rent the Grashorn is off! We’re sorry that rumors of Joe Sitt’s plans to demolish historic buildings which we reported in last week’s post “Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings” (ATZ, April 21, 2010) have turned out to be true. This is one time we would have preferred for the rumors to have remained just rumors.

Today, in response to a flurry of queries from reporters about Sitt’s still unleased empty lots and vacant properties, Thor Equities pr flack Knickerbocker SKD issued a press release announcing Sitt’s intention to begin demolishing the buildings and to replace them with other structures by May 2011. According to the release, “These structures will be replaced with more attractive, retail-friendly and up-to-code shops for the type of retailers Coney is famous for.” See “Thor’s Coney Island: Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt Is Baaack Playing Games!” (ATZ. April 29, 2010)

Translation: More Bull-Sitt from Thor Equities. More deliberately created empty lots.

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March 9, 2009: Thor’s Coney Island: Wanna Lease Stillwell? That’ll Be $500K Up Front!

April 29, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt Is Baaack Playing Games!

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

January 13, 2010: John Strong Sideshow Aims for Coney Island Comeback”>John Strong Sideshow Aims for Coney Island Comeback

January 8, 2010: Coney Island 2010: Good Riddance to Thor Equities Flopped Flea Market, Hello Rides?

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