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Posts Tagged ‘Stillwell Avenue’

Wahlburgers

Slated to open this summer, Wahlburgers will have a rooftop overlooking Thor’s Stillwell lots. April 18, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Last week, Wahlburgers released details of the 6,800 square foot franchise restaurant currently under construction in Coney Island and slated to open this summer. Eater dubbed it “a massive indoor/outdoor extravaganza.” Rooftop patio dining with a retractable glass roof sounds spectacular but it’s a stretch to say Wahlburgers “will overlook Coney Island’s famous boardwalk and beach” as the pr copy claims.

Located in Thor Equities’ retail building on Stillwell Avenue across from Nathan’s, the celebrity burger palace overlooks the Bowery and Thor CEO Joe Sitt’s long-vacant lots. That’s why we’re betting the rumors that began in November and continued this year about attractions coming to those lots for the summer are indeed true.

Wahlburgers

Architectural Rendering of Wahlburgers in Coney Island

Sources have told ATZ that Thor’s lots will host food and merch in 20 trailers. Rides and other attractions are now said to be part of the mix. Ironically there was an entire amusement park including bumper boats and a miniature golf course there before Joe Sitt bought the property in 2006 and promptly turned it into “Thor Equities Corridors of Blight.” The last time a carnival was here was 2012. The lots remained vacant in 2014 as well as in 2010 and 2013, when the City issued a stop-work order on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.”

MegaWhirl

Prototype MegaWhirl ride, abandoned after the 2012 season and damaged by Hurricane Sandy, is finally being demolished. April 25, 2015. Photo © anonymouse via AmusingtheZillion

While the DOB has yet to issue permits for a “temporary fair,” the property is being prepped in earnest. Last week, the MegaWhirl ride, abandoned after it debuted here in 2012 and was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, was being demolished and tossed in a dumpster. Underground electric utilities were installed last month and the Bowery was cleared of concession trailers adjacent to the lot.

ATZ’s first post back in December about the celebrity burger franchise opening in Coney Island and subsequent updates continue to be as popular as posts about Friday night fireworks! That makes us think it’s going to be a magnet for some of Mark Wahlberg’s 15+ million Facebook fans. The Wahlburgers restaurants are the backdrop for the A&E TV reality series about Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg’s adventures in the burger business. This summer’s opening of the Coney Island location is being scripted into the show. The original opening date of early May has been pushed back to June.

Wahlburgers

Signage on Wahlburgers currently under construction in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

UPDATE May 6, 2015:

Thor Equities has recruited Jeffrey Deitch, art advisor and former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, and food vendors from Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg to help activate one of their long vacant lots in Coney Island. Biederman Redevelopment Ventures (BRV), the consulting firm run by Bryant Park’s Dan Biederman, was hired by Thor to develop events and programming for and manage the lot as well as the one on the east side of Stillwell There will also be a music stage with live performances throughout the summer. (Thor Equities Recruits Jeffrey Deitch, Dan Biederman & Smorgasburg to Dress Up Vacant Coney Lot, ATZ, April 30, 2015).

Biederman will also manage a second long-vacant lot, on the east side of Stillwell Avenue, across from Coney Walls. “Our programming is still in flux, though we hope to announce some exciting things next week,” Ben Donsky, BRV’s senior project manager, told ATZ. “There will probably be performances on both lots. Gordon Lee of El Dorado is going to be putting up midway games along the Bowery.”

Related posts on ATZ…

April 10, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Power Surge and Enterprise-Style Ride Set for Comeback

February 13, 2015: Coney Island 2015: IHOP Franchisee Signs Lease for 5,400-Square-Foot Surf Ave Store

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

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Brooklyn Rock

Brooklyn Rock, 3015 Stillwell Avenue, in Coney Island. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

“The French have never left,” says Brooklyn Rock brand manager Seth Braunstein when ATZ asks where the year-round tourists who visit his Coney Island shop are coming from. Located across Stillwell Avenue from Nathan’s Famous, which is also open daily regardless of the season or the weather, this one-of-a-kind shop is one of the few places in Coney to buy a souvenir tee in February.

What makes Brooklyn Rock’s tees out of the ordinary, says Braunstein, is that each one of the shirts is 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 2002. “We start with white American Apparel tees made in the U.S. out of cotton grown in the U.S,” he says. In the afternoon sunlight, the colors are especially vibrant and conjure up summery dreams on a wintry day.

Brooklyn Rock

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

Coney Island’s landmark Cyclone, Wonder Wheel and Parachute Jump feature prominently in the designs along with the magical place names CONEY and BROOKLYN. Among the signature sayings printed on Brooklyn Rock’s tees are “Brooklyn, Entertaining Manhattan since 1646” and “Keep Brooklyn Offensive.”

Famous faces on their tees include Brooklyn-born comedian and Seinfeld writer Larry David, whose people once bought one for him, Braunstein says with pride. “Tonight, one of our people will be sitting in the third row wearing the Larry David tee at the preview performance of his Broadway show.”

Brooklyn Rock’s tees, hoodies, hats, totes, knapsacks, aprons and other hand-printed items range in price from $15-$60.

One specialty at Brooklyn Rock that you may not expect to find in Coney Island is their book rack, which is stocked with gently read copies of classics by Ayn Rand to Kurt Vonnegut. The used books come from their friends at Williamsburg’s Book Thug Nation and Bushwick’s Human Relations, whom they’ve known since their days as fellow street vendors. Books are priced at $5 and $8.

Hand-Printed Tee at Brooklyn Rock

Sleeveless Hand-printed Coney Tee at Brooklyn Rock in Coney Island. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Before opening their Coney Island store in May 2013, the Brooklyn Rock team wholesaled to children’s shops and Coney Island USA’s gift shop. They set up shop in a street kiosk on Bedford Avenue, a shipping container at the now defunct DeKalb Market, and a store across from Barclays Center, where foot traffic turned out to be slow.

Their Coney Island store is in Thor Equities’ retail building at Surf and Stillwell, where current tenants include It’Sugar, Rainbow Shops, Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co., the Brooklyn Nets Shop, a couple of mini-arcades and the soon-to open Wahlburgers franchise. Only It’Sugar and Brooklyn Rock remain open year round. How did this Bushwick-born Mom and Pop get their foot in the door?

Brooklyn Rock

Hand-printed shirt at Brooklyn Rock on Stillwell Avenue, Coney Island. November 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

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.”

We remember it well. For ATZ, the biggest surprise of the release was what Thor CEO Joe Sitt had to say about chains vs local businesses: “Coney Island’s popularity has reached record proportions, but we can never forget what got us here – local, ahead-of-their-time business owners who brought flair, hipness and edge to the People’s Playground,” Sitt said. “While it is wonderful that national chains are now coming to Coney, providing needed jobs and year-round revenue to the community, we must always remember the history of this iconic neighborhood.”

Hear, hear!

Brooklyn Rock, 3015 Stillwell Avenue, between Surf Ave and the Bowery, Coney Island, 11224. Winter hours are 12 noon till 7pm.

UPDATE: This store has closed! Read “Thor’s Coney Island: Brooklyn Mom & Pop Out But Not Down” (February 25, 2015) for details.

Hand-printed Tees and Hats at Brooklyn Rock

Hand-printed Tees, Totes and Hats at Brooklyn Rock. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

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

January 22, 2015: Coney Island Rumor Mill: No Rides But Games, Food & Merch Coming to Thor’s Lot

November 28, 2014: ATZ Previews Coney Island’s Small Business Saturday

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

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Thor's Coney Island

Thor’s Coney Island: Aerial view of vacant lots on south side of the Bowery between W 12th and W 15th where amusements once thrived. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Thor Equities’ huge vacant lots on Stillwell Avenue in the heart of Coney Island were cleaned up over the weekend and two different sources say rides are coming. The news is unconfirmed and it’s hard not to be skeptical considering the history of what’s been here since Joe Sitt acquired the land and began evicting longtime ride and park operators in 2006. But everybody — or almost everybody– wants to see the property activated instead of sadly sitting vacant (and yes, that is a pun). If temporary rides are in the stars for Thor’s Coney Island this season, let’s hope it works out this time. Despite various amusement operators efforts to negotiate lease deals, the lots remained vacant in 2010 and again last year, when a stop-work order was issued on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.”

Ring of Fire

Geren Rides’ Ring of Fire on Stillwell Ave in Coney Island, July 5, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

A little history in case you weren’t around to experience the drama: In October 2006, eight amusement businesses, including Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City and Eddie Miranda’s Zipper, which inspired the film Zipper, received notice from new property owner Thor Equities to be out by the end of the year. On Memorial Day Weekend 2008, Joe Sitt proclaimed “The Summer of Hope” and filled the reviled empty lots on Stillwell with carnival rides from Reithoffer Shows and Geren Rides for a limited run. Hope died when the rides left in mid-July and were replaced by a couple of inflatable bounces.

inflatable bouncer

After the carnival left: Batman and Cinderella’s Castle inflatable bounces on Thor’s vacant lot in Coney Island. August 8, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

Skeptics said the amusements were a ruse in the lead-up to the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009. At the time, Sitt and the City were at a standoff in negotiations over a compromise plan that would reduce the acreage of the amusement zone and allow high-rise hotels on the south side of Surf Avenue.

Cobra Ride

The Cobra was among the flat rides at Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park on Stillwell Avenue. June 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Failed flea markets made a mockery of the rezoning in 2009 and 2011. “Festival by the Sea” and the “BK Festival” were granted City permits as a “temporary fair” because a flea market is not a permitted use on this property in Coney Island. Clever, huh? In 2012, rides, games and sideshows returned to Thor’s Stillwell lots for the first time since 2008. As a critic of flea markets on land where the Tornado roller coaster (1927-1977) and the Bobsled (1941-1974) had once thrilled, we were happy to see the BK Festival and Thor Equities take this new direction.

Among the rides were the Cobra, which amusement park blogger The DOD3 describes as White Trash Carny Ride #7. “Every Cobra I’ve been on looks like it’s stuck in a 70s timewarp but they all give wonderfully intense rides,” he writes. Other WTCRs on his list are the Skydiver (#1), the Zipper (#3) and the Trabant (#9), all of which Coney used to have. A Trabant was one of the rides at Dreamland, a temporary park on the former Astroland site in 2009.

BK Festival: Giant Slide on Stillwell Avenue West. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

There were problems at the Stillwell Avenue park from the get-go. Originally set to open on Memorial Day Weekend 2012, the park was not able to open till four weeks later. A Giant Slide and Zipline never opened at all. Filing of paperwork with City agencies and bureaucratic red tape was blamed for the delay. City permitting issues relating to fencing closed the park intermittently and irregular hours had some visitors asking if and when it was open. The Mega Whirl, a prototype ride that combined the thrill of the Whip and the Tilt-A-Whirl debuted here and its abandoned platform remains on the lot, a symbol of financial ruin and broken dreams.

MegaWhirl Ride in Coney Island

MegaWhirl Ride and Zipline on Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. November 11, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 11, 2014: Thor’s Coney Island: BurgerFi, Arcade Coming to Stillwell & Surf

March 10, 2014: High Hopes for Coney Island’s New Thunderbolt Coaster

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

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

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