The city is in talks to turn the former Child’s Restaurant and historical landmark on the Coney Island boardwalk into an entertainment complex, sources told NY1. The once-grand Spanish Baroque Revival landmark dates from 1923 and is vacant. Sources say the centerpiece will be a new concert venue, and that borough President Marty Markowitz has already raised about $50 million that will now go toward this project. The lot west of the building will also be developed as part of this pavilion, which will also include the historic B&B carousel. Its new operator is Zamperla, which already runs the Cyclone, Luna Park and Scream Zone, according to NY1. Also in the works is a Wet Willies Daquiri Bar franchise for a location on Surf and Stillwell avenues. Nearby, an unnamed contractor is building out space for two restaurants, he said. Hooters has reportedly expressed interest, NY1 reported. Meanwhile, Markowitz said he would like to bring gambling to Coney Island but Mayor Bloomberg opposes it, according to the Brooklyn Paper.
Sources Detail New Coney Island Development Plans [NY1]
Building of the Day: 2102 Boardwalk [Brownstoner]
Yesterday city officials revealed details of the tricked-out shark tank coming to the Coney Island Aquarium, part of the $150 million revamp planned for the space. The “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” complex will hold more than 100 species of sharks, sting rays, sea turtle sharks and other sea creatures. Visitors will be able to walk under the 500,000 gallon tank to see everything swimming around them. Sounds awesome! Curbed reported yesterday that the funding for the project was partially complete. The groundbreaking is scheduled for October with a grand opening in 2015. Other details of the renovation include a roof deck, cafe and a coral reef tunnel.
Sharks Circle in Closer to Coney Island With New Aquarium Plan [Curbed]
Giant Shark Tank Headed to Coney Island Aquarium [DNA Info]
$7.5 Million Gift for New York Aquarium on Coney Island [NY Daily News]
Another fantastic post by After the Final Curtain. This photo series focuses on Loew’s Coney Island Theatre, better known as the Shore Theater. The 2,387-seat Renaissance Revival-style theater opened in 1925. According to ATFC, “The theater was designed to be a combination house, showing both vaudeville and motion pictures, but eventually phased out the vaudeville performances.” The theater changed hands in 1964 and featured live performances, burlesque shows, and movies. In the early ’70s it was showing adult films before finally closing in 1973. Although designated a landmark in 2010, the interior isn’t landmarked and all the seats on the main level have been removed and the floor leveled. What a shame if anything more is lost. You can read more about the theater’s history in this Building of the Day post. The full photo essay lives here.
Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: The Cyclone Roller Coaster
Address: 834 Surf Avenue
Cross Streets: West 8th and West 10th Streets
Neighborhood: Coney Island
Year Built: 1927
Architect: Harry C. Baker, inventor. Vernon Keenan, engineer.
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (1988)
The story: It’s the middle of summer, it’s hot and muggy, a typical New York summer day, so let’s celebrate one of Brooklyn’s iconic summer pleasures; the Cyclone Roller Coaster. While it’s not technically a building, per se, it is an engineered hunk of wood and steel that sits on a piece of land, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission has deemed it landmark worthy, so here we go.
Sigmund Freud once said that Coney Island was the only place in America that interested him. I’m sure he could have found plenty of Coney Island devotees who would have agreed with him. Coney Island has been drawing people to its shores since the mid 1800’s, starting with the wealthy, who summered in large hotels, and walked the beaches, occasionally dipping a toe in the surf. By the beginning of the 20th century, Coney Island was well on its way to becoming the most famous and infamous, amusement park in the world, mixing middle class entertainment and fun, with the bawdy and sleazy. (more…)
Coney Island may not have made it into the the big New York Times piece on Brooklyn this morning but its resurgence was the subject of a Crain’s article over the weekend in which the business paper wonders if the South Brooklyn entertainment mecca, long on a downslide, is now poised to go the way of Times Square.
The gritty seaside strip has bounced back from the brink of desolation, and its boosters believe the best is yet to come. The honky-tonk boardwalk has shed most of its mangier haunts while preserving a few cherished venues, like Ruby’s Bar & Grill. Revamped roller coasters and new rides have lured record crowds to once-empty lots. Even seedy Surf Avenue has undergone a transformation—swapping rows of discount furniture stores for a biker bar and a Grimaldi’s Pizzeria—that is again making Coney Island a destination.
Notably absent from the article is any mention of folks who are already nostalgic for “the good old days,” an inevitable sentiment whenever change comes.
Brooklyn: A tipping point for Coney Island [Crain's]
Photo by inturne
Yesterday we ran a poll asking whether people supported Borough President Marty Markowitz’s call to bring legalized gambling to Coney Island. And guess what? A majority of readers who voted were in favor of the idea.
With Governor Cuomo’s dreams of a gambling mecca at Aqueduct in Queens dashed, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is reviving his calls for a roll of the dice in Coney Island. (He initially raised the idea back in January.) “It would be a tremendous thing for the future of Coney Island,” Markowitz told the Daily News, “and it’s the right place to put it.” And evidently some influential locals are in favor of the idea. “Coney Island is closer to Manhattan. It already has major transportation, four subway lines, we’re immediately off the Belt Parkway,” said Coney’s unofficial mayor Dick Zigun. “And we have other things to do with an amusement park and a beach.” As the photo above shows, there used to be gambling in Coney Island before the state made it illegal. What do you think of bringing it back?
Marty Markowitz renews push for gambling in Coney Island [NY Daily News]
Photo from New York Transit Museum
Via the Coney Island blog Amusing the Zillion, we have the photo above, as well as the following information: “Zamperla’s plans for Go Karts and a SkyCoaster on City-owned “Parcel C” in Coney Island were unveiled last November and on Friday the launch tower of the new thrill ride was put into place with a crane. Coney photographer Bruce Handy’s stunning photos juxtapose the SkyCoaster with the great-granddaddy of vertical thrill rides– the 250-foot tall tower of the landmark Parachute Jump. From the 1940s until it closed in 1964, the Jump was the high thrill in Coney Island and to this day it has supporters who clamor for it to be retrofit and made operable again. Will the new high thrill ride on the Boardwalk win them over? The Coney Island SkyCoaster will be called Boardwalk Flight, according to Luna Park’s website: ‘Take flight over the Atlantic Ocean at heights of over 200 feet. Not thrilling enough? Try it at over 60 mph! This Sky-Coaster will propel you mid-air giving you a sky-diving sensation.’ A SkyCoaster combines elements of skydiving and hang-gliding.” Upward!
SkyCoaster Under Construction in Coney Island [ATZ]
Photo copyright Amusing the Zillion
It’s fantastic to see all the open houses pop up in anticipation of the Partners and Preservation grant awards. There are nine scheduled for this weekend in Brooklyn alone. (And have you voted for your favorite restoration project yet?) Pictured above, the the Coney Island History Project will hold an open house for the B & B Carousel from noon to 4pm. Since the carousel is away in Ohio being restored, architectural renderings, photos, and film of the restoration process will be on view. There will also be a contest to name the first horse. Other Open Houses in Brooklyn include the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Tug Pegasus & Waterfront Museum Barge. The map of all BK locations can be peeped here [PDF]. Make sure to send along pictures of the historic sites you visit if this is part of your weekend!
Vote to Preserve NYC Historic Places [Brownstoner]
Photo by the Coney Island History Project
Coney Island blog Amusing the Zillion notes that Thor Equities has purchased another couple holdings on Surf Avenue in Coney Island, including the Eldorado Building, a longtime bumper-car business. Price tag? $4.5 million. The blog says the owners of the Eldorado and the neighboring ice cream shop are expected to stay open for at least this season and that both had been looking to retire and sell the properties. So what’s in it for Thor? Here’s what the rumor mill is saying: “[it could help] the controversial rezoning for ‘hotels’ of up to 27 stories on the south side of Surf. One of these parcels is the corner of Surf and Stillwell, where Thor demolished the century-old Henderson Music Hall to build a one-story building that remains vacant. Sitt is expected to tear down the Eldorado building, which dates back to 1928, and the Coney Island Rumor Mill is saying Thor will try to acquire other property on the Bowery.” As with all things Coney and Thor-Coney related, nothing seems to be moving terribly quickly in terms of large-scale new development, though.
Thor Equities Paid $4.5M for Coney Island’s Eldorado [ATZ]
Photo copyright Amusing the Zillion
The Daily News updates on the massive renovation of the New York Aquarium in Coney Island that’s been planned for some years now but is scheduled to actually break ground in the fall and be done by spring 2015. The project will cost $150 million. Here’s the exciting stuff from the article:
The 55,000-square-foot, three-story space will open to the public in spring 2015. It boasts a roof-deck overlooking the ocean, and a cafe, seating wall and sculptures on the iconic Boardwalk below. The cathedral-like open ocean shark tank will be the jewel in aquarium’s new crown. Schools of native fish and about 35 local sharks, including nurse sharks, blacktip reef sharks and sand tigers, will swim inside the 500,000-gallon tank. A coral reef tunnel will give guests a 360-degree shark experience.
The aquarium will stay open during the renovation process.
New York Aquarium Plans $150 Million Renovation, Including New Shark Exhibit [NY Daily News]
Coney Aquarium Gets Sparkling Makeover [Brownstoner]
The New York Post reports that city officials are earmarking $11 million for “for a new gateway to the beach that includes razing the decaying, six-decade-old West Eighth Street bridge over Surf Avenue, which connects the subway to the beachfront. In its place, a vacant nearby lot on West 10th Street near the landmark Cyclone rollercoaster will be transformed into a grand beachfront entrance rivaling the main amusement district entrance four blocks west on Stillwell Avenue.” The bridge is supposed to be demolished in the fall and be completed by summer 2014. The entryway would have lots of plantings, bike racks and be “covered in a smooth blue pavement comprised of a heat-resistant material made from recycled glass and cement.”
New Coney Entrance Just Beachy [NY Post]
Photo of current bridge by brianstromberg
Yesterday the New York City Public Design Commission voted to allow the Parks Dept. to install a section of plastic and concrete on a small stretch of the Coney Island Boardwalk. The city is looking to replace the iconic wooden planks on the boardwalk as a cost-saving measure. The Observer reports on the meeting’s colorful proceedings:
More than 50 community members turned out to decry the plan, with all but two of them opposing it for myriad reasons, from the historical to the aesthetic to the kinesthetic. After enduring hours of angry testimony, the commission considered a number of the community’s complaints, challenging the Parks Department to relocate the concrete swath set to run through the middle of the boardwalk, moving it away from the beach and closer to the land, as well as pressuring the department to include wood alternatives in other sections of what was deemed a pilot program for the eventual transformation of the entire 2.5 mile wooden way.
The vote was preliminary and the test section with the new materials is set to be installed on a Brighton Beach section of the boardwalk at an unspecified time.
Coney Island Boardwalk Closer to Concrete [NY Times]
Pave Paradise and Put Up a Sidewalk [NY Observer]
Controversial Coney Is. Concrete Boardwalk Plan Approved [NY Post]
Photo by patrick h. lauke
The latest classy move by Joe Sitt’s Thor Equities in Coney Island is to encase a new building in plywood, supposedly to prevent vandalism. Today the Daily News reports on the boarded-up structure at Surf and Stillwell, following up on a post on Amusing the Zillion about it. The News notes that the temporary building, the first that Thor’s constructed in Coney, is supposed to eventually house food concessions. It took the place of the 1899-vintage Henderson Building, which preservationists wanted to preserve. No tenants have been announced for the new structure, which is one of the first buildings you see after exiting the subway. As Amusing the Zillion noted: “The plywood-encased, suburban mall-like structure is on the southeast corner of Surf and Stillwell, the gateway to Coney’s Beach and Boardwalk as well as Scream Zone’s roller coasters and thrill rides.”
Developer Joe Sitt Tears Down Historic Coney Building For Temporary Structure – Then Boards it Up [NY Daily News]
Thor’s Coney Island: New Surf Ave Building Encased in Plywood [Amusing the Zillion]
Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Shore Theater, originally Coney Island, then Loew’s Coney Island Theater
Address: 1310 Surf Avenue
Cross Streets: on corner of Stillwell Avenue
Neighborhood: Coney Island
Year Built: 1925
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architects: Reilly & Hall
Other buildings by architects: Reilly-Church of Our Saviour, 38th/Park Ave, Manhattan, St. Ephrem’s, Dyker Hts. Hall-Loew’s Sheridan, Manhattan (closed), Ulster Performing Arts Center, Kingston, NY
Landmarked: Yes, Individual landmark, 2010
The story: If you have heard the names of some of Coney Island’s iconic old buildings: the Henderson Theater, the Shore Hotel, the Coney Island Theater or the Shore Theater, Child’s Restaurants, and the Famous Nathan’s, you might have wanted to go out there and see if any of them were left. If you took the subway to Stillwell Avenue, and you exit onto Stillwell Avenue and Surf, and see this building, with the large “Shore” signage on the side, it’s a logical guess to think that this building, the tallest old building in the area, is the old Shore Hotel. You would be wrong. The Shore Hotel is gone.
In the 1920’s, the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce was eager to turn CI into a year-round resort, like Atlantic City. The boardwalk had opened in 1920, the same year the subway was extended out to Stillwell Avenue. Getting to CI was now easy, as was walking around. In an effort to clean up some of Coney’s more infamous and tawdry spots, restaurants like Child’s Boardwalk, catering to a more dressed up crowd than Nathan’s, theaters, like the Coney Island Theater, and the Half Moon Hotel, the first area resort hotel since the Victorian mega-resorts, were seen as the precursor of better, more permanent things. (more…)
The Times has a story checking in on the city’s plans to replace sections of the iconic wooden Boardwalk in Coney Island and Brighton Beach: “After a yearlong fight over the city’s proposal to use concrete to replace the wooden boards along stretches of the aging, 2.7-mile Boardwalk, the city’s parks department is offering a compromise of sorts — but wood is not part of the plan. Instead, the department is promising to use a combination of concrete and a type of recycled plastic that looks like wood. They want a 12-foot concrete section for emergency vehicles, with 19-foot-wide sections of the plastic polymer on either side for pedestrians.” The city plans to first install the plastic sections on a 5-block stretch of the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach, and says that investigations into using wood as a replacement just didn’t pencil out. The plastic material is supposed to last 75 years, whereas some of the wood the city looked into using would only last around 8 years. While some preservationists are upset about the plans, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said “economic considerations outweighed the historical importance of the wood. ‘Suggesting that you can only have wooden Boardwalks because that’s what they were originally built of is like saying you should only have cobblestone streets,’ he said.”
Wood May Give Way to Plastic on Coney Island Boardwalk [NY Times]
Photo by berniepicso
We haven’t seen the Cyclone renovation documented anywhere else so even though this video’s almost a month old we thought it was worth sharing. Flickr user theoccasionalfag has a set of photos up from just a couple of weeks ago if you want to delve further. According to this post from Amusement Today, Zamperla has hired Great Coasters International, Inc. to do the rehab. Everyone’s shooting for the famous coaster to be back in business by April 1, 2012.
Will Coney Island become New York’s version of Atlantic City? Maybe, if Marty Markowitz has his druthers. The borough president says casinos on Coney Island would be “a natural” if Governor Cuomo’s proposal to legalize table gaming becomes a reality, according to the Brooklyn Paper. Markowitz says that casinos on Coney would bring jobs and revenue to the area, and “mayor of Coney Island” Dick Zigun likes the idea because it would bring tourists to the neighborhood. Cuomo’s proposal is unlikely to be voted on before 2013, according to the newspaper. The story notes that it’s unclear where casinos could operate since the city’s zoning laws don’t cover them.
Let’s Roll! Marty Wants Casinos on Coney Island [BK Paper]
Photo by rightsandwrongs
Speaking of Coney Island, there’s news this morning that Tom’s Restaurant, the beloved diner in Prospect Heights, is negotiating a lease for space on the boardwalk. NY1 has details about the possible expansion, saying the restaurant is looking to open in the space that used to be home to ChaCha’s and Nathan’s. The deal should be hammered out by the end of the week, and the second Tom’s could open by April. NY1′s story notes that Tom’s has been in business on Washington Avenue since 1936, and its owner, Jimmy Kokotas, says he’s like to have the Coney location open year-round.
Deal Will Bring Tom’s Restaurant To New Location On Coney Island Boardwalk [NY1]