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Posts Tagged ‘zoning’

Thor Equities Rendering 2005

Flashback to an early rendering of the Vegas style shopping, entertainment, and hotel complex Joe Sitt first proposed for Coney Island. New York Magazine, 2005.

As part of the controversial Coney Island Rezoning of 2009, Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt got Mayor Bloomberg to rezone his Surf Avenue property in the amusement area for hotels of up to 30 stories. A century old music hall fell to the wrecking ball and a generic looking retail building went up in its place but Thor’s hotels have yet to materialize. Now Sitt says he “needs some zoning changes” to build “a great big hotel” and a “stadium-style movie theater” on Stillwell and Bowery, according to a recent interview with NY1’s Jeanine Ramirez.

We were shocked to read this news since the lots between Stillwell and West 12th bordered by the Bowery and Wonder Wheel Way were rezoned by the City for amusements, open and enclosed, and entertainment retail, not high-rise hotels. Why were we not surprised? In 2012, Thor Equities sent out a flyer for leasing opportunities touting “Future Hotel” across from the Wonder Wheel and adjacent to Scream Zone and “Future Movie Theater” behind Nathan’s Famous. So this was Sitt’s plan after the rezoning and remains the plan, though the graphics vanished from Thor’s website a few years ago?

Thor Equities Flyer

Thor Equities Flyer from 2012 touts “Future Movie Theater” and “Future Hotel” on lots zoned for amusements and entertainment retail

Thor Equities’ long vacant lots are back to being labelled “Stillwell East” and “Stillwell West” on their website. West is home to the second season of Coney Art Walls. East is expected to host Go Karts and Mini Golf, which ATZ first reported as a rumor in April. It’s great news if it’s true and proof that everything old is new again in Coney Island. Go Karts and Mini Golf were among the amusements evicted by Thor’s CEO in 2006, when he bought this property where rides had existed for more than 100 years. ATZ’s advice is to enjoy these attractions while you can because Sitt regards them as temporary activation of the property.

In 2009, Joe Sitt got his zoning for high-rise hotels on Surf despite opposition from activists and advocacy groups  and the New York Times. “We like the Municipal Art Society’s idea of doubling the size of the amusement area and removing hotels from the south side of Surf Avenue. This way, when visitors get off the subway, they will meet sunlight and open air, not a high-rise barricade,” said a Times editorial published on the eve of the 2009 rezoning vote at the City Council. The other fear voiced at protests and public hearings was that the “hotels” would eventually be converted to condos, which were part of Sitt’s original plans.

Here’s the NY City Planning Department’s zoning text for the property where Sitt now says he needs zoning changes: “Building frontage along Wonder Wheel Way and Bowery would be required to be occupied by at least 50 percent amusement uses within Use Group A1 [traditional amusement uses such as roller coasters, dark rides, circuses, arcades and midway attractions] and hotels located on lots larger than 20,000 sf would be required to dedicate 20 percent of their floor area towards Use Group A1 whether located on-site or off-site anywhere in the proposed Coney East subdistrict. This modification would strengthen the ground-floor requirements for traditional amusement uses to ensure that Coney Island maintains its one-of-a-kind amusement character.”

Sitt Bloomberg

One year after the long drawn out and contentious Coney Island Rezoning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Thor CEO Joe Sitt stroll past the Cyclone, May 2010. Edward Reed Photo

The truly alarming part in the NY1 piece is Sitt saying he’s “dealing with” the City on the issue of the zoning changes. Who is he lobbying– the Mayor’s Office, City Planning? Is he setting the stage for applying for an economic “hardship variance” from the Board of Standards and Appeals? Be vigilant, people of the People’s Playground. It wouldn’t be the first time the zoning passed by one administration has been undone by another.

Steeplechase died in 1966, after Fred Trump bought the property and threw a party to celebrate the destruction of the Pavilion of Fun, which is the subject of a new exhibit opening this weekend at the Coney Island History Project. “The Trump Organization office views the acreage as a potential site for a modern Miami Beach type high rise apartment,” according to the New York Times clipping of “6 Bikinied Beauties Attend Demolishing of Coney Landmark.” Trump’s effort to get the zoning changed to residential failed to get approval. Thanks to the Rezoning of 2009, the City itself is planning to do what the City wouldn’t let Fred Trump do 50 years ago: Build residential towers on part of the Steeplechase site, where the MCU parking lot is now.

Detail of CIDC Map of of Coney Island Redevelopment Plan.  Salmon and cream color denote residential and residential towers.

Detail of CIDC Map of of Coney Island Redevelopment Plan. Salmon and cream color denote residential and residential towers. Aqua denotes amuseemnts

Color Key for CIDC Map of Redeveloped Coney Island

Color Key for CIDC Map of Redeveloped Coney Island

Related posts on ATZ…

April 8, 2016: Thor’s Coney Island: Coney Art Walls Return Minus Smorgasburg, Go Karts May Be On The Way

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

May 4, 2011: Thor Equities Touts Coney Island as “RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME”

March 2, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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Little Caesars

Little Caesars $5 Pizza at Thor’s Retail Building at Surf and Stillwell. May 31, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

The latest chain to put its name on the glittering marquee of Thor Equities building in the new Coney Island is Little Caesars Pizza. Over Memorial Day Weekend, there was a cart selling Little Caesars “Hot-n-Ready” $5.00 pizzas in front of Thor’s building at Surf and Stillwell. The price was right and they sold out. Afterwards, signs remained taped to the outside of the window advertising the food franchise. We wondered if it was a tryout by a franchisee or guerrilla marketing. The official sign for “Little Caesars Express” went up last week. The Detroit-based Little Caesars is the nation’s third largest pizza chain with over 35 locations in New York City. It joins Applebee’s, Dunkin Donuts, Subway, Rita’s Italian Ice, It’Sugar and Rainbow Shops in making Surf and Stillwell a new mecca for chains and franchises.

What’s up with the vacant “ARCADE” next door? According to the Coney Island Rumor Mill, an arcade operator has agreed to fill the building’s two dummy arcades with games but paperwork issues are delaying the deal. No surprise there. Making a mockery of the zoning laws, the designated “arcades” have remained vacant ever since the building’s first tenant, Miami candy chain It’Sugar, opened last year. The 2009 Coney Island Rezoning requires the building to have a percentage of amusements equal to the square footage allocated for the arcades. If something other than amusements went into the space, the building’s C of O would be in jeopardy.

Why doesn’t Thor CEO Joe Sitt just throw some arcade machines in the “arcades” and open them up to the public instead of taking advantage of what appears to be a loophole in the zoning law that allows the spaces to remain vacant? Based on Sitt’s eviction of amusements from his property (“Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt,” ATZ, March 3, 2010), it’s our opinion that he’s not in any hurry to replace them.

The zoning states that “At least 15 percent of the Stillwell Avenue and West 10th Street street frontage of any zoning lot shall be occupied by Use Group A1 uses at the ground floor level.” Use Group “A1″ includes amusement arcades as well as open booths with games of skill or chance, such as water racing and shooting galleries, which used to occupy the spot in the demolished Henderson Building where the Brooklyn Nets Shop is now.

Related posts on ATZ…

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

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

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

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Rainbow Shops

Rainbow Shops in Thor Equities Retail Ride of a Lifetime building in Coney Island. May 3, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Last June, Rainbow Shops, a retail chain featuring discount clothing and shoes, opened on the Stillwell Avenue side of Thor Equities’ “Retail Ride of a Lifetime” Building across the street from Nathan’s Famous. At the end of October, Rainbow closed and was emptied out, but now they’re baa-ack with sun hats and flip flops galore. The Bloomberg administration’s 2009 rezoning of Coney Island’s amusement area allows accessory retail on the block where Shoot Out the Star and other games once amused in the demolished Henderson Building and where they would no longer be able to afford the rent.

Founded in 1935 and headquartered in Brooklyn, Rainbow Shops and sister brands have over 1,000 locations and join a slew of chains and franchises leasing space in the new Coney Island, including It’Sugar, Applebee’s, Johnny Rockets, Burger-Fi and Subway Cafe.

Thor Equities

Flipflops galore at Rainbow Shops in Thor Equities Retail Ride of a Lifetime building in the New Coney Island. May 3, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Meanwhile, the dummy “ARCADE” next door to Rainbow Shop remains as vacant as ever. Thor’s retail building continues to flaunt two ARCADE signs but no arcades, despite the fact that 15% of amusement frontage was required by zoning regulations to obtain the Certificate of Occupancy from the City. ATZ wrote about this sham in June 2013 and again in October 2013. We tweeted about it last week.

Apparently having an ARCADE sign is fine with the City’s Department of Planning and Department of Buildings as long as the space is not occupied by say a chain store? Aww, don’t be cynical. The Funny Face, Steeplechase Park’s ubiquitous symbol of merriment, smiles down from the marquee. As the sign atop the building says: “Thor Equities and Brooklyn Welcome You to Coney Island!”

DUMMY ARCADE

DUMMY ARCADE sign on Thor Equities Retail Building where THERE IS NO ARCADE. Stillwell Avenue, Coney Island. May 3, 204. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 17, 2014: Will Rides Return to Thor Equities Vacant Lots in Coney Island?

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

June 18, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Shoe Store Invades Amusement Area

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

Read Full Post »

Thor's Coney Island

Shoes galore at Rainbow Shops in Thor Equities Retail Ride of a Lifetime building in the New Coney Island. June 15, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The latest chain store to invade Coney Island’s amusement district has opened and it is neither “hip” nor “glitzy,” words used by the mainstream media in recent weeks to describe the chainification of Coney’s Surf Avenue. Over the weekend, Rainbow Shops, which sells discount clothing and shoes, opened on the Stillwell Avenue side of Thor Equities’ “Retail Ride of a Lifetime” Building, across the street from Nathan’s Famous. Shoot Out the Star, Basketball, Balloon Dart and Water Racing as well as the Fascination Arcade were among the amusements in the Henderson Building, which was on this corner until Thor CEO Joe Sitt demolished it in 2010.

This is the new retail building flaunting two ARCADE signs but no arcades, despite the fact that 15% of amusement frontage was required by zoning regulations to obtain the Certificate of Occupancy from the City. We wrote about this sham last week. The “ARCADES” remain vacant. Apparently, having an ARCADE in name only is fine with the City. Anything goes as long as Thor’s Coney Island has shoes galore!

ARCADE

ARCADE sign on Thor Equities Retail Building with No Arcade on Stillwell Avenue, Coney Island. June 1, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The 2,500 square foot Rainbow Shop, the maximum size allowed by the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009, is filled with aisle after aisle of shoes in shoeboxes, just like a warehouse outlet. It’s as if the store owners expected the “PEDESTRIANS GALORE” (“4.7 million subway riders visit Coney Island every year, 13 million people visit the beach every season and over 100,000 people visit Coney Island’s Luna Park on the 4th of July!”) touted in Thor Equities property description to arrive shoeless.

Flea by the Sea

Shoes Galore at Anchor Store # 7 at Joe Sitt’s Flea by the Sea. July 12, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In 2008, Thor Equities dismal flea market on the Coney lot where the Tornado Roller Coaster once thrilled had vendors selling clothing and shoes, both new and used. At the time, it was a reminder that Joe Sitt’s pitch book unsuccessfully used to lobby Borough President Marty Markowitz for 10,000 square foot retail touted flagship retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap/Banana Republic, and DSW (“Thousands of shoes…prices you love”). Now it appears to have been a dress rehearsal for Rainbow Shops. The Brooklyn-headquartered retailer has 28 stores in Brooklyn and over 1,000 locations nationwide.

Rainbow Shop

Rainbow Shop on Stillwell Ave opposite Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island. June 15, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

June 12, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Retail Ride of a Lifetime’s Phantom Arcade

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

May 4, 2011: Thor Equities Touts Coney Island as “RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME”

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

Read Full Post »

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