Posts Tagged ‘Shoot the Freak’

Shoot the Clown

Shoot the Clown on Coney Island’s Bowery. March 31, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Shoot the Freak has been reborn in Coney Island! A paintball game called Shoot the Clown opened on the Bowery this past weekend with a human target wearing a mask and body armor like the Boardwalk freak of yore. As you may remember, the game was evicted bulldozed by Zamperla in 2010 and replaced by the entrance to Scream Zone. But it seems long, long ago because so much has changed in Coney Island since then, including the building of Coney’s first new roller coasters in nearly 40 years and the devastation of Sandy.

Just to be clear, Shoot the Clown is run by longtime Coney Island game operator Caesar, who had to come up with a quick replacement for the Derby Racer destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. Framing a paintball game in the space was more practical than buying a brand-new track derby. In fact, another Coney Island operator had also considered the idea. The operator of Shoot the Freak on the Boardwalk was Anthony Berlingieri, who also operated Beer Island.

Shoot the Freak on Fourth of July. July 4, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Shoot the Freak on Fourth of July. July 4, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

It wasn’t until Shoot the Freak got evicted that we began to realize how intensely some people loved it and others hated it, including some of our close friends. There were even obituaries for the popular game like Gawker’s “Sad Things: America Loses A National Treasure: Shoot the Freak” and New York Magazine’s “Let Us Now Mourn the Loss of Coney Island’s Shoot the Freak.” They’re worth a re-read and so are the comments by people who called the game amazing, annoying or a dump. We like this one best: “How do you mention Shoot the Freak without mentioning the announcer? I always thought that getting told, “ya a freakin’ losah and my dead grammuddah could shoot bettah den ya, ya freakin’ freak!” by some grody carny was the high point,” says NYAARON in New York Magazine.

Shoot the Clown has a talker too, an unseen presence calling people in to play. Since the game had no customers when we passed by briefly on Sunday, we didn’t get to hear much talk or see any action yet. It’s 5 shots for $3, ten for $5, and 25 for a tenner.

Somebody needs to tell Amanda Burden. The City’s Planning Commissioner once said that she “loved” and “would put in a vote for” Shoot the Freak even though she hadn’t tried it. That was back in 2007 at a press conference hyping the rezoning of Coney Island. Here’s the vid of the Mayor, Burden and then Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff answering a reporter’s question about whether the new Coney Island was going to have room for Shoot the Freak and sword swallowers. The videographer is the late Bob Guskind of Gowanus Lounge, who was Brooklyn’s blogfather and the inspiration for Amusing the Zillion.

Update: The Shoot the Clown game on the Bowery has closed.


Related posts on ATZ…

May 16, 2013: Shooting Gallery Revival in Post-Sandy Coney Island

February 28, 2013: Coney Island Shooting Gallery from 1940s Makes Comeback

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

October 28, 2010: Photo Album: Requiem for Coney Island’s Shoot Out the Star

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Beer Island

The End of Beer Island. November 6, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy’s Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

Coney Island’s Beer Island is no more. The popular bar that sold a wide variety of beer on a sandy beach adjacent to the Boardwalk was trashed yesterday as you can see in the above photo. ATZ called Anthony Berlingieri, the bar’s co-owner, to ask what happened. “I wouldn’t say it’s trashed, it’s scrapped,” he said of the bar. “I told people, take whatever you want.” On Saturday and Sunday treasure hunters were combing through the ruins, picking up signs, plastic trophies and other souvenirs. The bar was one of the Boardwalk businesses evicted from City-owned property that had until November 4th to vacate the premises.

“The last thing I wanted to see was them use that bar that I built with my own hands,” said Berlingieri, who believes that Zamperla USA, the company that leases the City’s property in Coney Island is “looking to copy it and not give me a chance to run it. They would not even sit down to talk with me.”

After hearing the news that fellow evictees Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter were offered leases when a Miami restaurateur suddenly pulled out of a deal to develop the Boardwalk, Berlingieri phoned to pitch his proposal. But he says Valerio Ferrari, president of Zamperla, replied that it was time for him to move on. “If he would have said it in front of me, you would have read about it in the paper,” says Berlingieri, noting that he and his partner offered to pay for a redo of Beer Island, conforming in every detail to Ferrari’s “vision.” “I told him, just send me the blueprints. We will go partners, 50-50, on the gross. Not a dollar out of your pocket.”

Beer Island was launched in partnership with the owner of Cha Cha’s and a local arcade in 2008 on the site of the miniature golf course evicted by Thor Equities. When ATZ wrote about the bar last month in “Butterflies and Beer Island,” we discovered some reviews on Yelp that entertainingly convey its appeal. More than a decade ago, Berlingieri created another original, Shoot the Freak, which was evicted last year to make way for the new Scream Zone entrance. At the time of last year’s evictions, Zamperla issued a statement saying “We look forward to creating an incredible new experience on the boardwalk, while continuing to honor Coney Island’s magnificent past.”

“We kept Coney Island a place people came to all these years,” says Berlingieri. “The City gave it to a bunch of people who never stepped foot in Coney Island.” He is bitter that Zamperla pays only $100,000 rent and a small percentage of receipts for all of the City property they lease in Coney Island. Each of the Boardwalk businesses has been paying $100,000 per year rent, plus a $10,000 surcharge initiated this year. “Where do we go? It’s like a death sentence,” he says. “It’s not like there’s twenty amusement parks to move to. You’ve heard of the American Dream. It doesn’t apply in New York.”

Beer Island

The End of Beer Island. November 6, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy’s Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

The current tally is 7 out of the 11 businesses that were Hy Singer’s or Astroland’s and then Thor Equities tenants before the Boardwalk property was bought by the City of New York in 2009 are now goners–closed, moved, put out of business. Four businesses closed and moved out by the deadline of November 4th: Beer Island, Cha Cha’s, Gyro Corner Clam Bar and Coney Island Souvenir Shop. Steve’s Grill House has to move out within ten days. In addition, John’s Deli, which subleased from Steve’s, and Maritza’s Souvenir Shop (formerly in the now-demolished Henderson Building) on the Stillwell side of Cha Cha’s had to move out. Pio Pio Riko did not join the Coney Island 8 in contesting last year’s evictions and its location became the site of Coney Cones. Four Boardwalk businesses were invited back, but lease deals cannot be confirmed: Nathan’s, Lola Star Boutique, Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter. Some deals are still being negotiated and could go either way, according to the Coney Island Rumor Mill.

Asked if he planned to relocate his two businesses, Berlingieri said Beer Island is over because Zamperla plans to copy it. As for Shoot the Freak, he would reopen it if he could get a lease that wasn’t year to year. “I took two empty lots and turned them into the coolest things in Coney Island –Shoot the Freak and Beer Island. I can’t build it and not see it stay.”

Another casualty of the eviction of the Boardwalk businesses is the L.A. based Gents of Desire’s famed mural “Hey Joey!” A couple of days ago, Hey Joey’s face and plate of clams were scraped off and made into ghost signage by persons unknown. We expect that this sad but apt transformation will make it less painful when the mural is inevitably painted over to make way for the new. Many thanks to photographer Bruce Handy for these photos from his Coney Island Photo Diary.


The Ghost of the Famed Hey Joey!. November 6, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy’s Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr


Related posts on ATZ…

December 9, 2011: Paul’s Daughter Signs 8-Year Lease for Coney Island Boardwalk

October 11, 2011: Photo of the Day: Butterflies & Beer Island by Bruce Handy

October 10, 2011: Photo of the Day: Coney Island’s Famed “Hey Joey!” Doomed

December 22, 2010: Photo of the Day: Shoot the Freak Is Boarded Up

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Screenshot of DOB webpage on Dec 30, 2010

Has Shoot the Freak won the latest skirmish in the Battle of the Boardwalk? Last week, Zamperla began constructing the entrance to Scream Zone after razing and boarding up Shoot the Freak without warning. The paintball game’s owner Anthony Berlingieri vowed to take the matter to court and have further construction stopped.

ATZ has learned that on Thursday the City’s Department of Buildings issued a stop work order at the Boardwalk property leased by Zamperla from the City’s Economic Development Corporation. The address is 1213-1223 Boardwalk West, between 12th and 15th Streets.

“This property has 1 open DOB ‘Work Without A Permit’ Violations and may be subject to DOB civil penalties upon application for a permit.

Received: 12/30/2010 10:18 Block: 8695 Lot: 104 Community Board: 313

Last Inspection: 12/30/2010 – – BY BADGE # 2369
Disposition: 12/30/2010 – L1 – PARTIAL STOP WORK ORDER
DOB Violation #: 123010BS13GI01
ECB Violation #s: 34875289N

Along with Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter, Shoot the Freak is among the eight small businesses being evicted from the Boardwalk by CAI/Zamperla. The Coney Island 8′s court date for the eviction proceeding is scheduled for January 10. The property is owned by the City’s Economic Development Corporation and leased to CAI/Zamperla, which is allowing only 2 of 11 existing businesses to remain.

UPDATE… 9 am

This morning’s NY Post and Daily News report that the City fine for the violation is a whopping $5000! A DOB spokeswoman told the Post that the case is under investigation.

Formerly know as Shoot the Freak

The new boardwalk entrance to Scream Zone (Formerly know as Shoot the Freak). Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr


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Shoot The Freak.  Dec. 22, 2010.  Photo ©  Rubys Host via flickr

Shoot The Freak. Dec. 22, 2010. Photo © Rubys Host via flickr

If you were hoping to take one last souvenir photo in front of Shoot the Freak on New Year’s Day, fuhgeddaboutit. This afternoon, construction workers boarded up the front of the vacant lot where the famed Coney Island paintball game has been played since 2002. Central Amusement International/Zamperla has a DOB permit for “the installation of temporary fencing and site preparation.” Workers told the photographer: “It’s the new entrance to one of the roller coasters coming into Scream Zone for 2011.”

“The back wall/fences are now gone and the stuff inside removed, but that’s it,” said Rubyshost in an email. “They were bringing in new material for fencing, poles etc – part of the wall was open so I could see the entire back.”

Shoot the Freak is one of the eight Boardwalk businesses being evicted by CAI, which has leased the property from the City. The Coney Island 8’s court date was postponed till January 10, 2011

When news of the Boardwalk evictions broke in November, New York Magazine chimed in with “Let Us Now Mourn the Loss of Coney Island’s ‘Shoot the Freak’” to remind us that city planning commissioner Amanda Burden once assured New York that she “loved” and “would vote for” Shoot the Freak. That was back in 2007. No love now! Here’s the vid of the Mayor, Burden and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff answering a reporter’s question about the future of Shoot the Freak and other Coney Island attractions. The videographer is the late Bob Guskind of Gowanus Lounge. Bob would have appreciated the irony of this video showing up three years later in a post about the demise of Shoot the Freak.

UPDATE… December 23, 2010…11:00 pm

This afternoon, “The Coney Island 8” issued a press statement on the shuttering of Shoot the Freak. It says in part: “We are angered and saddened that, just a few days before Christmas, one of our businesses, ‘Shoot the Freak,’ has had its entrances illegally boarded up and all of its property removed. This was done without the knowledge of the owner Anthony Berlingieri.” The businesses, which are fighting their eviction in court, also launched a new website to tell their story and ask New Yorkers to call the Mayor’s office in support of the Coney Island 8. The url is www.coneyisland8.com.


Related posts on ATZ…

December 5, 2010: Bitter Week Ahead: Coney Island 8 Summoned to Court, Shore & Henderson Demo

November 21, 2010: Goodbye (Or Maybe Not?) to My Coney Island Equivalent of Proust’s Madeleine

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

January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010

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If you think “Ciao” means only hello or goodbye, we have news for you:  In NYCEDC (New York Economic Development Corporation) acronymese, CIAO stands for Coney Island Amusement Operator in the RFP (Request for Proposals) for a 10 year lease of the City’s newly purchased 6.9 acres in the People’s Playground. Today is the deadline for responses to the RFP and we’re set to be thrilled by the zillion dollar ride line up of the decade! Our guess is the successful bidder will be a team that not only has experience in park operations but also includes a top carnival  and a ride manufacturer with coaster creds.  Oh, and did we mention access to capital? But don’t expect to find out who gets to put in Coney Island’s interim midway–it’s the equivalent of a mega state fair contract– until early 2010.

In the meantime, ATZ took a look at some of the questions potential CIAO’s have asked about the RFP and Coney Island in general, and the NYCEDC’s replies, for clues to the future. Will the oldies but goodies in the City owned Boardwalk properties like Ruby’s, Cha Cha’s, Shoot the Freak and the historic Astrotower get a new 10 year lease on life? Or will it be out with the old, in with the new starting in 2011?

View from Cha Chas

Coney Island, View from Cha Cha's Rooftop on Siren Day 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Free Rent In Coney Island?!

The full set of Q & A’s posted on the RFP site covered necessary stuff like electrical power to the sites, restrooms, lighting, fencing, security and rubbish removal, all of which the CIAO is expected to provide in addition to the rides and attractions. The site turnover date is April 15, 2010, leaving the operator only 6 weeks till Memorial Day to install everything and obtain the necessary permits and inspections. In 2010, the City will spend $2.2 million out of a total of $6.6 million in public funds on site improvements. What about the rent?

Q:  In the RFP, you mentioned terms including “free rent” and percentages.  Can you explain what is meant by these terms?

A:  Given the compressed timeline and the intermediate lease term offered, NYCEDC intends to be as flexible as possible in accommodating the needs of the operator.  Therefore, a variety of rent schedules and structures, which may or may not include percentage rent, base rent or free rent, will be considered.

Lotsa Interest in the Boardwalk Businesses

More revealing about the shape of things to come in Coney are the Q & A’s about the Boardwalk businesses, the Astrotower, and even the Astroland Rocket.

Q: What businesses are located on the Boardwalk? Do you have contact information?

A: The businesses currently located on the Boardwalk within the boundaries of Parcels A, B, and C are, from East to West: Paul’s Daughter, Pio Pio Rico, Gyro Corner, Coney Island Souvenirs, Ruby’s Bar and Grill, Shoot the Freak, Cha-Cha’s, Nathan’s Famous, Beer Island. Additional information for businesses in Coney Island can be found at www.coneyislandfunguide.com.

Ruby's Bar & Grill

Ruby's Bar & Grill, Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

The City has already offered one year leases for 2010 to the mom-and-pop businesses occupying the Boardwalk property formerly owned by Thor Equities. Lola Staar Boutique, which was evicted by Thor, was asked to return as well. But will they be back in 2011? It’s clear from the Q & A’s that some of the potential CIAO’s are very interested in the revenue generating potential of the bars and the Boardwalk property. It would be a sorry day if Coney Island mainstays Ruby’s, Cha Cha’s, Shoot the Freak and the other small businesses are “pratted out” (as we say in the carnival biz) after having survived the dark days of Thor.

Before the RFP release, Shoot the Freak’s Anthony Berlingieri made headlines when he appeared at the City’s press conference on the land buy and posed the question directly to Mayor Bloomberg: “Is there a place for us?” NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky gave a diplomatic reply: “Our intention is for the foreseeable future to keep all the tenants in place, certainly through next summer. And we’re going to be looking to work with each of you to figure out where it makes sense for the various tenants to remain as we build out the amusement park.”

More from the Coney Island RFP Q & A’s related to Boardwalk Businesses

Q: What is going to happen with the Boardwalk tenants in both the short term and throughout the lease period? Can responses to the RFP include those businesses and the space along the boardwalk?

A: For Year 1 of operations (the Summer 2010 season), NYCEDC intends to enter into one-year licenses directly with the Boardwalk businesses. Beginning in Year 2 of operations, Respondents may propose to include or exclude these businesses and structures from their proposals.

Q: What is the current rent from these tenants?

A: 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.

Shoot the Freak

Shoot the Freak on Fourth of July. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Q: Do the Boardwalk tenants have liquor licenses? Do these remain with the tenant or the structure?

A: Several of the businesses on the Boardwalk maintain liquor licenses with the New York State Liquor Authority (“SLA”). Most of the active licenses are seasonal (for a term of seven months) and are renewed annually. The process for the “transfer” of a license at an existing premises to a new business as well as other details regarding liquor licenses is available at the website of the SLA: http://www.abc.state.ny.us.

Q: Can the Boardwalk businesses make use of the Boardwalk?

A: Yes, businesses are generally permitted to occupy approximately 20 feet of the Boardwalk in front of the business premises with tables and chairs. Such use of the Boardwalk requires approval by and an annual fee paid to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

According to the Coney Island RFP, “Responses to this RFP should articulate whether they include or exclude these structures or footprints, beginning at the earliest in Year 2 of operations.”  But it also says “The Selected Respondent may propose to include subtenants for portions of their proposed operations, but such subtenants, and such subtenant agreements, shall be subject to NYCEDC approval.”  In other words, the City, which owns the property, has final say over which businesses come or go.

While the RFP encourages a plan for Minority/Women Business Enterprises (M/WBE) and local hiring, there’s no mention of protection for small businesses in general. In fact, the buildings could be demolished and the tenants displaced. Will the Boardwalk end up looking like the rest of New York City–out with the mom and pops, in with the formula businesses and chain restaurants? We hope not. But the Bloomberg adminstration’s opposition to Councilman Jackson’s proposed Small Business Survival Act, which has enough support to pass in the City Council, does not make us feel optimistic.

Astrotower. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Astrotower. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr


Despite the closing of Astroland and the fact that the Astrotower hasn’t operated as a ride for two years, Bruce Handy‘s photo gives us a hopeful feeling. We can imagine buds and then leaves on the tree and the Tower still standing tall. The Municipal Art Society and Save Coney Island say the structure is eligible for the State and National Registers. We hope the Astrotower will be a survivor like Steeplechase’s Parachute Jump.

Q: What are the future plans for the Astrotower? Could the operator choose to reactivate the Astrotower? Could the operator choose to remove the Astrotower from the site?

A: Respondents should include in their proposal how they will address the Astrotower. Reactivating the tower or removing it are both among the potential options.

Q: Do you have any drawings of the Astrotower? Can NYCEDC provide dimensions? Can NYCEDC provide the name of the manufacturer?

A. It is our understanding that the Astrotower was manufactured by the Swiss company Von Roll and installed in 1964. Von Roll was purchased by Doppelmayr Garaventa Group (www.doppelmayrctec.com) in 1996. The tower is approximately 260’ high.

Astroland Rocket

Jan 28, 2009 - Astroland Rocket in Aquarium Parking Lot ready to Go to Homeport Storage facility in Staten Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/Coney Island History Project

Astroland Rocket

When we look at this photo of the Rocket with the Cyclone, Tower and Wonder Wheel in the background, we can just imagine how wonderful it will be when the Rocket rejoins these landmarks in the new Coney Island. We hope the Tower will be there too!

Q: The City saved the Astroland Rocket last year. Will it return as a part of the new amusement park?

A: The City of New York accepted a donation in January 2009 of the Astroland Rocket, a 71-foot long 12,000 pound rocket ship flight simulator that was among the original rides at Astroland when the park opened in the 1960s. The Rocket is currently in an NYCEDC storage facility. NYCEDC anticipates discussing potential locations for the Rocket with the Selected Respondent following designation, although Respondents are welcome to propose a use for the Rocket in their proposals if they so choose.

The potential CIAO’s also had questions about adjacent property, asking for contact information  for “the owner of the lot immediately to the East of Keyspan Park” (Horace Bullard) and the “owner of the lots immediately north of Parcels B and C, south of the Bowery” (Thor Equities). If we’re lucky, the spillover of applicants for the RFP will fill Sitt’s and Bullard’s empty lots with amusements this summer.


Related posts on ATZ…

November 25, 2009: Photo Album: Coney Island Shines at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 in Vegas

November 23, 2009: The Contenders from A to Z: Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP

May 29, 2009: At Cha-Cha’s of Coney Island, Squidling Rhymes with Ringling

May 17, 2009: Joe Sitt’s No Show Rides

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