Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Astroland Sold To Thor Equities!

Coney’s Astroland amusement park announced yesterday – as reported through the Daily News – that is has been acquired by Thor Equities. Thor states, that the new development in place of Astroland will be an extension of enclosed amusements and attractions geared for the 21st century as a year-round destination. Thor is destined to create the 1.2 Billion project as a new kind of entertainment destination with a show that never stops. No longer are amusements in areas prone to cold climates useless during the winter. But perhaps may prove claustrophobic in the summer when we invite our relationship with the outdoors.

Joe Sitt of Thor Equities plans to develop everything from the Aquarium to the Cyclone stadium. Most likely Deno’s Play Land will be the next acquisition. And perhaps the Wonder Wheel will most likely be resituated somewhere else in the area - probably next to wherever they place B&B Carousel.

The three main criteria of the project’s fundamental principles are: To create thousands of jobs for the community, a promise to expand the amusement district, and a wide variety of mix usage bustling with shopping, dining, and of course the residential component.

All this to include a luxury high-rise hotel to accommodate the influx of visitors. As well as a year-round indoor waterpark. New Yorkers will have two water parks to visit if Randall's Island water park is realized.

What was beginning to sound like smoke and mirrors in order to flip the property and make a profit could now turn out to be an inaccurate speculation due to their continued push about amusements. Thor also announced yesterday that they are kicking off an ad campaign blitz to sway the public perception in order to generate support. And now with the purchase of the Astroland property and the intention of converting it into an ‘extension’ of the amusements it could more likely validate their claims. Perhaps…or perhaps not. Thor has done this type of flip with the purchase the Washington bathhouse. They purchased it for $12 million (well over the asking price) and sold it for an unheard of tag of $84 million. A huge profit within nine months.

What worries some about this speculation is the possibility that if Thor does not get the rezoning changes it seeks; they could leave empty lots in their wake. Like Fred Trump did when he couldn’t get the city to change the zoning variances and as a result the lot was left abandoned. But then again it was a different time. A time without the development boom that Brooklyn and the rest of the country is experiencing.

Still, more has yet to be seen. As part of their campaign, Thor has announced they will release newsletters and put up a website. It is still hopeful that these will result in more specific designs unlike the fantasy renderings that were dished out recently that included a generic roller coaster. An attraction that loops and weaves in and out of parts of the main structure would have to be the beacon of the ‘resort’ since it will be such a permanent feature competing with the buildings’ themes.

Renderings were laden with virtual holographic whales and mermaids that perhaps can only appear at night if the technology even exists. A 150 ft high attraction: The Coney Island Splash? The intention and maybe even heart are in the right place and in the right direction, as Dick Zigun commented. But all appears to lack concrete creative thought. It’s difficult to imagine an amusement park of the kind that Disney, Universal, or Las Vegas could produce. Let alone with the right balance of present and old Coney.
Thor has only developed malls and mix use space like Beach Place in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Ideas that marvel the public are the creation of highly talented experts from every aspect of the amusement industry as well as Hollywood. Like imagineers and story tellers supported by technical experts and special effects wizards, not concocted solely by business developers. Perhaps in the day of Tilyou, Thompson, Dundy, or Reyolds - but not today. At this point Thor has only utilized artists to create renderings with rampant ideas thrown into the mix at a conference room.

Through all the fantasy play, many Coney locals and enthusiasts still worry that Thor’s real attraction will be the residential components where the less-important aspects are the amusements themselves. Thos has commented in their releases that amusements do not generate much revenue and are too seasonal. If that is the case then it's highly unfortunate that the amusement part of New Coney’s main event will just be the sideshow...with a sideshow.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sitt And Company Kicks Off The Blitz!

Thor Equities to kick off a vigorous ad campaign to sway the public's opinion to their cause for realizing their vision of the New Coney Island with a massive mailing, newspapper ads, a web site, and five promotional newsletters.

The New York Post reported today.
Spokesman Lee Silberstein said the developer also planned to launch a Web site and to advertise in newspapers.
"Coney Island has a glorious past but fell onto hard times," the mailer reads. "It's our goal to bring it back."

The move seems to expand on the same direction taken by the Ratner group when selling their idea to the public with the Atlantic Yards project.

Thor wants to erect a hotel, stores, housing, new rides, an indoor water park, a multilevel carousel, and a 4,000-foot-long roller coaster that would weave around the 10 acres of boardwalk property that the developer purchased between West 12th and West 15th streets.
The project would require various city zoning changes and would have to pass public review.

It will be interesting to see how much of the amusement vision will be presented in contrast with pushing their need for the residential aspects of the project.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Coney's Year-Round Destination

Who says Coney isn't a year-round destination? At least one can still get a bit of that Coney magic at the Coney Island Museum which is open throughout the year. CIUSA website: Climbing the staircase to the second floor of our historic building at 1208 Surf Avenue (near West 12th Street) brings you to a small but fascinating museum of Coney Island memorabilia. The view from the windows overlooks landmark rides like the Cyclone Rollercoaster, the Wonder Wheel and the Parachute Jump. The museum itself is full of antiques and fun relics of old rides. A visit is certainly worth the modest admission price of 99 cents.
The museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays, year round, from noon to 5pm. Visiting hours may be expanded during the summer season.
The Coney Island Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to interpreting and preserving the history of Coney Island. Our collection is continually growing and a walk around the gallery will give you a sense of the importance of this place to the nation and the world.

The Coney Island Museum
Open Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year

Zigun And His Freaks Take On Miami Ink

Our own Dick Zigun and the cast of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow will be featured guest stars on TLC's Miami Ink as Ami tattoos the famous Coney Island Wonder Wheel on Insectavora, the fire-breather. Yoji gives 'Roc-Roc It' a rubber chicken tattoo to remember his beloved prop. Check it out on the Learning Channel.

The Learning Channel
Miami Ink
"History of the Circus Sideshow"
(Cablevision channel 28)
November 28 @10:00PM

Monday, November 13, 2006

New Release Of A Thor Sitt Dream

Once again, it seems that Thor Equities is going with the flow and cautiously releasing yet another glimpse into their proposed redevelopment. Since retracting the drawings from the Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn (EE&K) Architects website this summer this has been the third time they give us a release of cluttered renderings. (Aside from the un-detailed high-rise blue-colored hotel drawings that were also retracted this summer.)

Perhaps Thor is paying attention to all the comments and rantings on bulletin boards and blogs in retort to their drawings because with each announcement they come closer to reflect what people are hoping for - which could be a positive sign. Since the last release, Coney locals and buffs have been shouting for more amusements. And just last week the CIUSA bulletin board comments were declaring a more desperate need for a big rollercoaster – one that could be incorporated into the design of whatever is built at the coasters base. So, now Thor throws in a generic roller coaster and promises the traditional Coney aesthetics combined with a modern take. Yet, the drawings still seem to be rehashing the same futuristic glam-rock glitzy vision.

And like it or not they are underlining the need for the residential structures and the high-rise hotels by stating that; including them are the only ways to assure revenues for the project because amusements do not generate enough money and are too seasonal. Though this is true, what most people want to see is a bit of that old traditional Conyesque architecture finally thrown into the mix. And also a bit more concrete clarity in the next designs. These renderings are too busy and in fact have an over-the-top Vegas feel or a Salvador Dali hangover- as if they are meant to confuse and stall for answers.

Again - as of yet it looks like Thor and company still do not have a concrete vision and merely improvising and presenting to us a muddled and vague colored sketching of a Sitt dream as he rolls out of bed before grabbing his coffee and heading to Thor headquarters.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Travel Time: Freedomland 1963

"Freedomland U.S.A. (usually just called Freedomland) was a short-lived, themed amusement park in the Baychester area in the northeastern part of the Borough of The Bronx, New York City. Its slogan was "The World's Largest Entertainment Center"

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Conversations... with Dick Zigun

J. Dee Hill, a journalist and author of Freaks & Fire: The Underground Reinvention of Circus recently spoke with CIUSA's Dick Zigun as part of the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA).
Zigun, who is a 1985 NYFA Artists’ Fellowship winner in the category of Playwriting/Screenwriting, talks about his involvement with the sideshows and briefly mentions the current issues around Coney's changes.

Zigun: "Real estate in Coney Island has taken off over the last few years, tripled in price. Half the property has changed hands. And I’ve got a big smile on my face because the New York City leadership has put money in the city budget for us to buy real estate so we can go from being renters to being owners. We’re deliberately expanding our board, expanding our staff. We’re doubling the size of our budget. There is a plan to institutionalize the programs, so that the things I and other people have set in motion will outlive us. It’s satisfying to know that despite the neighborhood changes and the demographic changes we will really create something here to perpetuate certain art forms. New York is the cultural capital of the world, and if you are going to seriously make a national statement about American popular culture, Coney Island oddly enough turned out to be a smart place to base it. It works here, it belongs here, the history is here."

Totonno’s Claims Original "Brooklyn Style Pizza" Title

According to owner Louise Ciminieri of Totonno’s Pizza in Coney Island, thier pizza is what's reffered to as 'Brooklyn Style'. "We're the first ones", she says, when being compared to a new 'Brooklyn-style' pizza from Domino's. Domino's has launched a new marketing ad campaign along with a couple of contests and a website depicting stero-typical Brooklyn characters.
The New York Times reports: "As part of the marketing of that culture, Domino’s has started a couple of contests. One is a drawing for a vintage New York taxi, even though everyone knows it’s almost impossible to hail a cab in Brooklyn. The rest of the marketing blitz rests on television ads and on a Web site,, which features characters purchased at the Brooklyn Stereotype Store"........"Domino’s uses its standard sauce and a blend of mozzarella and provolone on the Brooklyn Style Pizza. At most slice stores in Brooklyn, you won’t find cornmeal on the crust, and the cheese is usually a blend of shredded part skim and whole milk mozzarella. The typical sauce is usually not as sweet as Domino’s, but it doesn’t compare with Totonno’s.
Totonno’s uses unadulterated tomato sauce and thin slices of fresh mozzarella hand-pulled with just a little salt in it, and a dusting of pecorino-Romano cheese."......"
Mr. Markowitz has yet to taste the Domino’s pizza. But that didn’t stop him from offering an opinion: “To our sophisticated palates, Domino’s is about as Brooklyn as Sara Lee Cheesecake is Junior’s.”

‘Brooklyn Style Pizza’ Meets the Real Deal [NYTimes]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Saturday, November 04, 2006

21-Story Glass Tower To Rise Across the Aquarium

It sure looks like development in the south end of Brooklyn is beginning to catch up with its north-end counterpart. Since the residential Oceana condominiums on Brighton Beach and all the other condos that have sprung up on Emmons Avenue, there hasn't been much activity besides a lot of mystery and vague promises along the amusement area which just now seems to be starting to simmer. Yet nothing at the height of this 21-story glass tower at 271 Sea Breeze Avenue.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (found via WiredNewYork & CIUSA board) reported a few days ago that the Bobker Group along with several partners, plans to construct this 85-unit condominium tower on a vacant lot adjacent to Asser Levy / SeaSide park which sits across the street from the New York Aquarium. (The partners include: The Bobker Group’s partners include Perry M. Finkelman, CEO of American Development Group; and Mark Engel, CEO of Langsam Property Services Corp) Architect Michael Even of EM Design Group, based in Manhattan, is designing the project.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports:
with its location in the predominantly-Russian area of Brooklyn, the development will be called The Sochi after the famous Russian resort city on the Black Sea, known as “the summer capital of Russia.” Brighton’s Sochi will offer unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean. That is because the New York Aquarium is across the street between the high-rise site and the beach.The units will range from one-bedroom to three-bedrooms plus there will be several duplex penthouses. Amenities will include high-end imported finishes, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, secured parking, and a lifestyle-enhancing health club to include tennis courts, an indoor swimming pool and a fitness center.The Bobker Group is currently developing over 500,000 square feet of residential condominium projects in the city, including the Morgan Lofts, an $80 million project at 36th and 5th in Manhattan; 127 Twin Tower condominiums in White Plains; and a 42- unit development in Gravesend, Brooklyn, adjacent to the prominent Syrian Jewish community, in conjunction with well-known Russian general contractor Joe Klaynberg from Wonderworks.This new site is a large through-lot (to Brighton Avenue) that is 21,720 square feet and measures approximately 150 feet by 145 feet. It is zoned for residential use.The June sale was reported at $13.8 million by

Brighton Beach to Get Modern High-Rise [WiredNewYork]

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Aquarium Model & More Renderings Presented

Design proposals for the New York Aquarium at Coney Island - Master Plan by Enric Ruiz Geli that were submitted to the Wildlife Conservation Society for consideration has now created a physical model. (pictured above) The model and new renderings, posted on Curbed, seems like a not-so-distant cousin from the dreamlike extravagant conceptions proposed by Thor for the property they own in Coney's amusement area. (If you notice what holds up this array of mesh in the Aquarium model are other mini-parachute-jumpesque pillars. You need to see the web site and view the moving pan of the model to see them)

Somehow, the Aquarium can be spared for an extreme makeover because the renderings for it have been received positively. The opposite of how people are feeling for the Thor plans. Perhaps that's because the Aquarium really isn't part of Coney's long history.

In addition to the clip panning the model you can see the clip from Coney Island at night in 1905 by Edwin S. Porterfor Edison Manufacturing Company Co.

Aquarium Design Proposal []
More Coney Island Aquarium Redo Renderings [Curbed]
The Country’s Oldest Aquarium To Get a 21st Century Whale of a Makeover [Kinetic Carnival]

The Washing Away of Coney

"A new computer model using data collected from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Hurricane Center reveals a substantial rise in sea levels during the next century caused by global warming, combined with a hurricane, combined with a hurricane, and New Yorkers could kiss Coney Island goodbye."

This according to a Chinese news agency called Xinhua ( The article was found on a blog called Weather News via Gowanus Lounge who posted it Wednesday. Xinchua adds, "Sea level around the city could climb 15 to 19 inches by 2050 and by more than three feet by 2080, according to the model."

In her blog Weather News, Elaine Meinel Supkis writes: "Weather News states, "I lived in Coney Island many years ago. I went to the beach every day, especially in winter. Went through hurricanes and blizzards. And I watched the beaches rapidly disappear. It was plainly obvious that something big was happening to the earth."

Riding the HOOPLA!

Photo by rsguskind -

Coney gets Goofy with act [Daily News]
VEGAS STEPS RIGHT UP City is a lot like old Coney Island, archivist finds [Review Journal]
Japanese Champ Eats 97 Burgers in 8 Min. [NY News Day]

outside coney island [photobotic]
entering coney island [Waguyver]

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Thor Dishes Out A Rehash!

These new served up renderings by Thor Equities seems like some lesser quality rejects which were not part of the small collection that was displayed this summer. And now, simply rehashed in light of the negative press.

Or perhaps a limited job of redesigning with not much to offer. With one of the cluttered drawings released in time for our Halloween spirits, a pumpkin on a witchy mermaid’s bum towers over those miniature parachute jumps that seem to be the recurring theme, here. With the other rendering a giant whale hologram seems to be a throwback to what we saw a few weeks ago in one of the Aquarium competing drawings.

The New York Post which obtained the drawings from Thor Equities writes: "Stillwell Avenue becomes a fantasy-filled boulevard marked by larger-than-life street furniture, such as a mermaid swimming in a martini glass and a gigantic tattooed elephant."

And Gowanus Lounge, which always has an interesting angle on things, explains: "We're not sure what that tall glass looking thing is, although the elephant (shades of an earlier era and Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ) is a nice touch. (It's small, but do you notice the Halloween touch on the mermaid's rear end in the top rendering?) The description of Bowery Street as "a permanent festival and sideshow area" is encouraging. The five-year construction timeframe is sobering, to say the least. Interesting that they surface now after some of the bad press Thor got last week for the
early evictions of current tenants."

With the hopes of building a $1.5 billion year-round entertainment destination, Thor Equities has purchased 10 acres of boardwalk land. However, the project is still awaiting city approval, but the company hopes to begin construction in about 18 months and have it completed in about five years.

NEW-WAVE CONEY Beach Bum to Surf City [NYPost]
Coney Island Death Watch Halloween Edition: New Renderings [Gowanus Lounge]
The Coney Island Vision We Couldn't Make Up [Curbed]