The City Planning Commission voted unanimously in support of outgoing Borough President Marty Markowitz’s plan to revamp the former Childs Restaurant in Coney Island and turn it into an amphitheater and upscale eatery, Brooklyn Paper reported.
However, local residents are less than thrilled about the plan, which will require $53,000,000 in city funds to transform the landmarked but dilapidated 89-year-old building. Neighborhood activists told the newspaper that the money would be better spent repairing Coney’s hurricane-shattered infrastructure, which still suffers from occasional heat and power outages, in addition to sewers that flood when it rains.
And others worried about the traffic and noise from the planned venue, which Markowitz hopes will host 40 concerts a year. The community board voted down Markowitz’s plan two months ago, and Landmarks approved it over the summer.
A Sleep Inn Hotel is going up at 2590 Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island, Amusing the Zillion reported. The Sleep Inn will have 12,989 square feet of space on a 13,000-square-foot lot.
The building will be four stories with 53 units, according to a new building application for which permits were issued in October. Based on photos from Amusing the Zillion, looks like the foundation is in and the walls are starting to rise. It will be the area’s “first new hotel in many decades,” said the blog.
The Coney Island Library re-opened today after Sandy with renovations that highlight the neighborhood’s history, like salvaged pieces of the boardwalk integrated into the ceiling and murals depicting its old theme parks. The Coney Island branch suffered the most damage of the six Brooklyn libraries pummeled during Hurricane Sandy, when five feet of flooding destroyed the first floor. The storm destroyed over 20,000 books, furniture, plumbing, electrical systems and HVAC. The $2,700,000 gut renovation added ADA-compliant features, a new ceiling that incorporates pieces of the destroyed boardwalk, photographic murals of early 20th century Coney Island, and two new public spaces and two meeting rooms. There’s also new children’s furniture, new computers and printers, and new staff work rooms and bathrooms. Westerman Construction and Beatty Harvey Coco Architects worked on the renovations.
See more photos of the new interiors after the jump!
Name: Former Herman Popper building Address: 1220 Surf Avenue Cross Streets: Stillwell Avenue and West 12th Street Neighborhood: Coney Island Year Built: 1904 Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival Architect: Perhaps E.H. Brinkerhoff, who did other buildings in the area for Popper Other works by architect: Many other buildings in Coney Island area Landmarked: No
The story: With a name like Herman Popper, what else could the man do but have a business on Coney Island? But Herman Popper was not a showman, or an entertainer, or owner of one of Coney’s many entertainment diversions. He was a purveyor of that substance that could make any place or occasion a Coney Island of the mind — he distilled, and was a wholesale distributor of liquor.
His business predates this building by almost 20 years, and he was a Coney Island fixture way back in the 1880s, when Gravesend and Coney Island were still debating the future of the beach community, and rich folks were traveling to the shore to take in the cooling breezes, walk along the beach, and stay at the enormous resort hotels that were being built in Coney Island and the adjoining communities along the shore.
Popper was a friend and crony of John McKane, the notorious boss of Coney Island. While all the swells were enjoying the hotels and the beach, McKane was behind the scenes, wheeling and dealing with the town, land owners, the hotel owners, and anyone who had a business, or wanted to open a business in Coney Island. Between the 1870s and end of the 1880s, he was the Man. He was notoriously corrupt, even by New York standards, and Herman Popper was one of his cohorts, supplying booze to most of the dive bars and saloons on the infamous Bowery, the seedy strip of ill repute that had grown up in Coney Island along with the more innocuous entertainment. (more…)
Community Board 13 voted down Borough President Marty Markowitz’s plan to convert the landmarked Childs Restaurant on Surf Avenue, the Daily News reports. The board voted 14 to seven against the plan to build a community arts center with a 5,000-seat amphitheater, a lawn behind it that can fit 2,000, and a restaurant. Board members said they were worried about traffic, noise from the concerts, and the projected $53,000,000 price tag. Markowitz said he was “disappointed” by the vote, especially after the Community Board 13 land-use committee approved the redevelopment 10 to one. As the Daily News points out, the board’s ruling is “merely advisory,” and City Planning will most likely vote to approve the plan next month. The LPC unanimously supported the plan back in July to transform the theater, which was built in 1923 and has been neglected since the restaurant closed in 1947.
Community Board 13 is meeting tonight to discuss Marty Markowitz’s pet project for a $51,000,000 amphitheater and arts center inside the landmarked Child’s Restaurant on Surf Avenue in Coney Island. Community organizers are urging residents to come out and testify in support of the community garden next to the former restaurant, which could be bulldozed for the 5,000-seat theater. Local gardeners have just finished reviving the Coney Island Boardwalk Garden in the wake of Sandy’s destruction, and they don’t want to see it bulldozed for a new development. It was designated permanent “Parks Open Space” in a settlement between the City and the Attorney General’s office in 2002, when more than a dozen gardens were threatened with demolition in 2002. The meeting is 7 p.m. tonight at Coney Island Hospital in the 2nd floor auditorium.
Nathan’s is, of course, a Brooklyn institution. In its long history, its hot dogs have been fed to presidents, kings, and movie stars; more importantly, to millions of everyday Joes and Janes, who have made it the unofficial signature food of the city. You can sneer at it for its common-ness, dismiss it as junk food, or try to substitute it with tofu, but there’s no escaping the fact that Nathan’s is something special to all that is Brooklyn.
The story is a familiar rags to riches, immigrant success story. Nathan’s Famous began in the mind of an enterprising Polish immigrant named Nathan Handwerker. Prior to 1916, he was working at the famous Feltman’s German Gardens, an immensely popular restaurant on Coney Island. Charles Feltman was another success story, a German immigrant who came to the US in 1856 at the age of fifteen. His Coney Island career started with a food pushcart on the beach, but by the early 1900’s, that push cart had grown into an empire that took up an entire city block. Feltman’s entertainment and restaurant complex contained nine restaurants, a beer garden, two enormous bars, a carousel, a roller coaster, an outdoor movie theater, a hotel, a ballroom, a bathhouse, a pavilion, a maple garden and a Tyrolean village. He was now a millionaire many times over.
Today, few people remember the enormity of his business, but they do remember that here in New York, he is credited for the invention of the hot dog. (There are other contenders.) He would later comment that his decision to put a sausage on a roll was not an attempt to invent something new, but was just an expedient way of serving the meat, one that didn’t need expensive silverware, or even a plate. He sold his frankfurters for ten cents, and they quickly became the most popular item on his menu. (more…)
Coney Island wasn’t always honkytonk and amusement parks. Before the first rides, before Steeplechase Park, Luna Park and Dreamland, before the infamous Bowery and its lewd entertainment, there was the beach. The cooling ocean breezes, the fresh air, and the beautiful beach were the first draws to Coney Island, Brighton and Manhattan Beaches. Entirely new lines of transportation were established to get day trippers and summer travelers to the beaches, enormous hotels were constructed, and it would seem that the entire world revolved around getting people to the shore, where they could sit on wide porches and be served cooling drinks, or stroll along the boardwalk. And we’re not talking the poor folks suffering in their tenements, either. All of this was geared towards the well-to-do. Coney Island was originally for the rich.
The hotels started out relatively small, but like many things Victorian, they soon grew to immense proportions. The Oriental Hotel, the Brighton Beach Hotel and others were enormous institutions, with hundreds of rooms, as well as lavish dining rooms, parlors and ballrooms. The hotels especially prided themselves on their dining rooms and restaurants, filling their kitchens with top chefs, some of them from Manhattan’s best restaurants, and expert wait staff ready to tend to their every need. The resort hotels advertised themselves to be on the par with the best resort hotels on Long Island, Newport, Saratoga Springs, and the Jersey Shore, all prime destinations for New York City and Brooklyn’s wealthy set who wanted to leave the stink and heat of the city in the summer.
The Riccadonna Hotel was a late arrival to this scene. In fact, by the time it opened in 1906, Coney Island was no longer the rich man’s resort. The amusement parks were being built, and more and more, the area was becoming a summer destination for everyone. But the Riccadonna did have a couple of things going for it that boded well for its success. First of all, there was the name. (more…)
Architects are often remembered, not for who they were, but for the buildings they designed. Here in Brooklyn, names that had been lost for generations are now almost household names again, due to renewed interest in the neighborhoods they designed in, and, hopefully, from the attention given to them by myself and other writers and lovers of their architecture. But not even the greatest of them, those builders of skyscrapers, cathedrals and mansions, can boast of not one, but two buildings that have been classified into the rare category of “zoomorphic architecture.” J. Mason Kirby is one of those lucky few, blurring the line between architect and builder. When he wasn’t doing that, he was designing eye catching and inventive rows of houses here in Brooklyn.
Joseph Mason Kirby was born in New Jersey in 1837. By the time he was in his twenties, he was living in Philadelphia, and was listed in city directories as a carpenter, and later, by the 1870s, a builder. His experience in both crafts may have landed him the job that would earn him a place in architectural history: novelty division. In 1881, he was hired to build a huge, 65 foot high elephant building in South Atlantic City. That city is now called “Margate”, and is a resort town on the Jersey Shore.
The 65 foot high elephant, called “Lucy,” was constructed with a strong wooden frame, covered in tin. It had stairways and rooms with windows, and one entered from the hind leg and exited from the front leg. The highlight of the elephant was the view from the “howdah,” the canopied seat on top of the elephant. From there, one could see for miles in every direction. Lucy belonged to James V. Lafferty, Jr., who built the structure as an advertising tool for his real estate developments. One could see his offerings from the howdah, and it was a huge success. Lucy was quite a complicated and technical feat, and once figured out, Lafferty wanted to build more of them. He applied for, and won the patent for “a building in the form of an animal,” in 1882. (more…)
Welcome to The Hot Seat, where we interview folks in real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Amy Nicholson, the director of Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride. The documentary focuses on the fight between Zipper operator Eddie Miranda, Coney Island real estate developers, and the City of New York. The film begins its theatrical run today, August 9, at the IFC Center. UPDATE: The IFC has extended Zipper with an additional week on a matinee schedule – 2:15 pm daily starting Friday, August 16th and going through next Thursday, August 22nd.
Brownstoner: Where do you live, and how did you end up there?
Amy Nicholson: I live on West 12th Street in the Village. I got here by way of Baltimore, San Francisco, Chicago, New York (Soho), Minneapolis, and San Francisco again before I got back here. Once I figured out that this was place I really wanted to live, I hunkered in on West 12th Street. I will leave when I am an old lady.
BS: What first drew you to Coney Island and how did you decide to start filming there?
AN: Well, I grew up in Baltimore and spent my summers at the county and state fairs and also going to local carnivals. There was always a Zipper. It was a mean ride and it was my favorite. I also lived in Ocean City, M.D., during the summers as a teenager and the same beach/carnival culture combination exists there as it does in Coney Island. So the Zipper represents my entire childhood – before computers and iPads there were black light posters, Wacky Packages and rides like the Zipper. When I read in the Daily News back in 2006 that the Zipper was leaving Coney Island, my heart sank. I had to do something.
After the jump, Amy discusses the controversy over Joe Sitt, her thoughts on the redevelopment of Coney, and her favorite moment shooting the film. (more…)
Zipper, a documentary about the battle over Coney Island and the Zipper ride, is beginning its theatrical run in New York City at the IFC Center next month. The first showing will be on August 9. Here’s the trailer for the film, which documents the complicated fight between Zipper operator Eddie Miranda, Coney Island real estate developers, and the City of New York. The filmmakers speak with former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Bob Lieber, President of EDC Seth Pinsky, Commissioner of Department of City Planning Amanda Burden, the well-known developer Joe Sitt of Thor Equities and, of course, the Zipper crew. All the upcoming film showings are listed here.
At yesterday’s Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting, the commissioners unanimously and enthusiastically approved the proposal to transform the Coney Island Childs Restaurant building into a theater on a 9-0 vote. GKV Architects will restore the terracotta exterior detailing and renovate the interior for a high-end restaurant operator, Curbed reported. They will also construct a rooftop addition for seating. The theater, built in 1932 and landmarked in 2003, is currently a wreck. The LPC has some great historic photos of the Spanish Colonial Revival exterior and its terracotta ornament on its Facebook page. Outside the theater, GKV will build a semi-circular seating bowl underneath a tent for performances (rendered above) and a public park. Here’s what Commission Chairman Robert B. Tierney said about the plans to restore the building: “You’ve done a superb job of adaptive reuse, preservation and restoration. I enthusiastically support it and applaud it.” Commissioner Elizabeth Ryan stated that “the city is lucky to have this project.” The complex will be named Seaside Park and Community Arts Center, added Curbed. Click through for more images and renderings! (more…)