Archive for the tag 'coney island boardwalk'

Atlas on NY1

Atlas on NY1

At this point, just about every resident of Southern Brooklyn’s boardwalk communities knows Gary Atlas – if not by name, then by sight.

He’s the guy you see out there every morning, regardless of the weather, running shirtless and in thin shorts before taking a plunge in the ocean.

He’s done this every day for 2,369 consecutive days – or six years and counting.

NY1 caught up with him earlier this month, spotlighting his continuous effort to hit 4,000 consecutive runs even throughout this particularly nasty winter.

As workers with the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation spreaded salt on the latest dusting of snow Monday, Gary Atlas emerged from his building shirtless and ready to run. About his only acknowledgment of the cold was the socks that he wears on his hands.

“The fingers tend to freeze up, so socks work better than gloves,” he said. “Gloves, after a while, my fingers will get cold. Socks has a mitten effect. The hands stay warmer.”

The cold itself hasn’t been bothering Atlas, it’s the snow, which makes the six-mile treck a particularly difficult slog. But he handled the worst of the days by detouring to the streets and running in the plow’s wake – the second time in seven years he’s had to leave the boardwalk.

Atlas began the routine in 2007 to clear his mind while his mother struggled with health issues. He continues to do it to honor his mother.

“While I’m running, it keeps the memory of my mother alive,” he says. “She was here when I started, and she’s still with me on every run.”

Check out the full profile here.

And, of course, we’ve had our own little Atlas sighting on Sheepshead Bites. On the morning of October 29, 2012, as Superstorm Sandy lapped at our coastline, a reader snapped this shot of him emerging from the rough waters:

Earlier this month we published an article on the feral cat situation in Coney Island, especially around the boardwalk. Josie Marrero, a local who founded a cat rescue program called Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella, spends much of her time taking care of the cats in the area. But as winter sets in and Sandy- and development-related construction in the area continues, her job has gone from maintaining a population to saving them. We previously wrote:

But now, they face an additional problem. Several abandoned Coney Island parking lots – a favored home of many feral felines – are in the process of being bulldozed, and with the winter chill in full-swing, many of the stray cats that have made these lots their sanctuary will again have to relocate. Already, the bulldozing has started at Surf Avenue and West 33rd Street.

All of which, Marrero explains in the video above, has turned the area into a “killing field” for the hundreds of cats. We put together the video above to chronicle Marrero’s efforts.

Source: Stephen Salmieri

Source: Stephen Salmieri

I’m convinced that everything great that ever happened in the universe happened somewhere in Coney Island. The proof is in the seemingly never ending supply of incredible photographs and movies taken at Coney Island over the decades that come across our desks.

The latest amazing photo collection comes courtesy of photographer Stephen Salmieri and his portfolio capturing the joyful, life affirming and bizarre in a series of remarkably beautiful shots. The photographs were taken between the years of 1965 to 1970. While we’ve presented a few of his photographs here, be sure to click on the link above and peruse the dozens of incredible images he captured through his gorgeous black and white photography.

Thanks to Stephen Salmieri for his wonderful work.

Source: Stephen Salmieri

Source: Stephen Salmieri

Source: Stephen Salmieri

Source: Stephen Salmieri

Soruce: Claudio Forquina

Soruce: Claudio Forquina

Every New Year’s Day, dozens of bold (crazy) people flock to the shore to join members of the Coney Polar Bear swim club and plunge into the frigid ocean, all for a chance to feel what it is like to have ice cold water lap against their private parts. What a lot of people don’t know is that the New Year’s Day swim, which anyone can participate in, is only one in a series of otherwise exclusive icy swim outings undertaken by the Polar Bears all winter. Amusing the Zillion is reporting that the Polar Bear’s are accepting new members and are employing a lottery system to divvy out the open spots.

While the media makes it seem that the Polar Bears are out only on January 1, the club has an active schedule all winter. Every Sunday at 1 p.m., from November 3 until April, enthused Coney Polar Bear members gather to brave the frosty waters of the Atlantic, refusing to deny themselves ocean splendor until the hot summer months.

If this sounds like your idea of a great time, you can join them by registering for a lottery that will select 10 lucky people. Amusing the Zillion broke down what is expected of selected new members:

To register for the lottery, you must sign up here and will be notified of the results by November 9th. Selected applicants are required to pay a $25 application fee (non-refundable), participate in 12 swims within a single season between November and April and be voted in by a majority of the membership. The club has approximately 150 full-time members with about 100 coming out for weekly swims…

You can also join the Coney Polar Bear Club for one guest swim. Just show up at the Bears “Clubhouse” at the Aquarium’s Education Hall on the Coney Island Boardwalk at West 8th Street by 12:30 pm with your bathing suit, a towel, surf boots or an extra pair of sneakers, and some warm clothing.

On the registration page, I found the last perk to be the most interesting one promised to members:

The privileges of membership:

  • Participation in our weekly swims and other Club activities
  • Use of our changing facilities
  • Full voting rights
  • The right to own and wear the official Club patch
  • Bragging rights to your wimp friends

Yes, your wimp friends will have no choice but to bow down to your official Polar Bear club patch all while you brag about the time you flung yourself into 12 degree water last February.

Anyway, their swims on New Year’s Eve, which are open to all, are done to raise money for Camp Sunshine and other charities for children with life threatening diseases. According to Amusing the Zillion, the Polar Bears pull down $20,000 annually for their causes, which is amazing and should be applauded.

Anyway, the Polar Bears are announcing their new members on Saturday, November 9, so if you want a shot to join them, you best register quickly. Good luck!

Photo by Bruce Brodinsky

Photo by Bruce Brodinsky

Steeplechase Pier, located off the boardwalk at Coney Island, reopened this week, nearly a year after sustaining significant damage following Superstorm Sandy. Amusing the Zillion reported earlier this week that repairs on the pier were almost completed and will open sometime this month.

Now, reader Bruce Brodinsky has tipped us off that the pier is fully open, with shiny new benches, railings, lighting and more. It looks great!

As we reported on Sheepshead Bites, the 1,000-foot-pier was originally set to open in July, but continuing construction delayed the reopening. The construction, which has cost an estimated $19.4 million, had suffered setbacks when a barge and crane used in the repairs sank in April.

The new pier is also set to offer an interesting new see-through observation deck which will allow pedestrians to stare down at the water under their feet.

Source: NYC Preservation Commission

Source: NYC Preservation Commission

A blow came to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz as Community Board 13 voted against the plan to convert the historic Childs Restaurant at West 21st Street into an amphitheater. The New York Daily News is reporting that board members voted against the project after fielding complaints from residents that the new facility would invite increased traffic and noise to the area.

As we’ve previously reported, the $53 million amphitheater is the pet project of the departing borough president. The new facility, which is set to transform the historic Childs Restaurant into a 5,000-seat concert hall that will host musical acts, restaurants and other concessions, is expected to be completed in 2015.

The Board held a meeting and voted 14-to-7 against the plan, stunning Markowitz and other developers who were moving full steam ahead with the project:

The surprising denial came after the board’as own Zoning and Land Use Committee overwhelmingly voted 10-1 to approve the plan earlier this month.

“It’s hard to understand what happened,” admitted Community Board 13 district manager Chuck Reichenthal, referring to the Monday night vote.

Markowitz said he was “disappointed” by the vote.
“This project… will generate jobs, economic development and joy for Coney Island and all of Brooklyn for generations to come.”…

Howard Weiss, the lawyer for star Financial, defended the plan.

“Any concerns about noise and traffic have been fully addressed,” Weiss said Wednesday.

Weiss pointed out that a special tent covering the concert area would help reduce the noise of the summertime shows.

Besides noise and traffic, local community members also expressed frustration that the fast pace of construction might endanger the community garden, as some proposals call for the garden to be paved over to provide for more parking. Local resident Carol DeMartino told News 12 that before construction proceeds, community members should have the opportunity to be more involved in the process.

“I’m hoping that all the people that show up will at least put a halt on it until the whole community is given the information, can process it. Stop rushing it, the whole thing is rushed,” DeMartino said.

While the Board’s vote comes as a blow to the development of the project, it does not represent a death knell as it is merely an advisory ruling. The Daily News reported that the City Planning Commission will likely give a further go-ahead next month before sending the project to the City Council for the final say. Still, the rejection by the Board tampers the enthusiasm of the project, long trumpeted by Markowitz, and sets the stage for more confrontation between developers and local residents.

Beyonce On the Cyclone (Source: Coney Island Facebook page)

Beyonce On the Cyclone (Source: Coney Island Facebook page)

Superstar singer Beyonce made waves in Coney Island yesterday, riding the Cyclone roller coaster as part of a new music video. While Beyonce’s presence caused joy for most fans in the area, one woman was left in tears, according to a report by the Daily Mail.

Beyonce’s new music video was directed by famed ‘creepy’ fashion photographer Terry Richardson, a controversial artist known for creating unsettling over-sexualized situations during his shoots. This portion of Beyonce’s newest video was a much more wholesome affair, featuring the singer happily riding the Cyclone with other thrilled extras and also hopping on the iconic Wonder Wheel for a spin. In pictures published by the Daily News, Beyonce was all smiles, soaking in the attention of her fans and seeming to genuinely enjoy the fun of the attractions.

Not everyone was overjoyed by the singer’s presence, however. The Daily Mail found a woman in tears after being stuck on the Wonder Wheel for a half hour while ride operators suspended the contraption so Beyonce’s makeup could be touched up. Apparently, the operators assumed they had cleared out all other riders and  forgot that one couple was still suspended in a pod. When they realized that another couple had been hovering for a half hour, operators let them off, revealing that the woman had been visibly shaken and crying out of fear. Beyonce was reportedly unaware of the couple’s distress.

Of course, there are worse rides to be stuck on than the Wonder Wheel, especially considering that it was only for 30 minutes. Still, operators caught up in attending to the needs of a superstar need to do their jobs and realize that they can’t keep people trapped in the sky, but that goes without saying. It is also worth noting that the distressed woman hurried off the scene quickly, seeking no publicity or attention, that is, until the inevitable lawsuit comes out in a few weeks.

Source: Daniel P. Fleming via Flickr

Source: Daniel P. Fleming via Flickr

For better or worse, New York City is the land of constant renewal. Over the last century, newer and higher skyscrapers overshadowed older ones, poor and working class neighborhoods transformed into expensive and trendy hotspots and the luxurious beachfront resorts of Coney Island evolved into an amusement center and then a source of urban blight. The long and winding history of the development of Coney Island real estate and its future is tracked in a great primer  by Salon.

We have spilled a lot of digital ink on the history of Coney Island, starting with the competing resort days of Manhattan and Brighton Beach, the days when the area was the source of bizarre spectacles like the public electrocution of an elephant and the efforts of those who failed to transform the area into a glittering paradise after it fell into decay.

Salon’s article, though, tackles the onset of modernity, and the woes it caused at the People’s Playground:

This was once a singular place, an amusement park so grand and unusual that on an average weekend in its heyday, visitors mailed a quarter-million postcards to friends and relatives. Luna Park, the flagship attraction that burned down in 1916, drew nearly 100,000 attendees each day. By the time the subway reached Stillwell Avenue, in 1918, the area drew still more visitors. Weegee’s iconic 1940 image of Coney Island beachgoers jammed together like sardines today hangs in restaurants up and down the boardwalk, a memento of the glory days.

In the ensuing decades, population loss, television, cars and air conditioning undercut Coney Island’s appeal. New York’s urban planning czar, Robert Moses, hated its tawdry arcades and thrill rides. He transformed the eastern end of the amusement district into a home for the relocated New York Aquarium. The housing projects with which he rebuilt Coney Island became some of the city’s most depressed and dangerous.

Jumping from Coney Island’s decay, the report delves into those who changed Coney Island through land use and zoning battles, property squatting and tenant evictions; the horrendous city planning pains that birthed the new New Coney Island, for better or for worse:

As the city grew rapidly in the ’90s, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani set his sights on Coney Island. Like [Robert] Moses before him, he bulldozed a roller coaster to build a recreational facility, this time a minor league ballpark for the Brooklyn Cyclones. The Bloomberg administration eyed the island as a potential site for the 2012 Olympics, and in 2003, commissioned the Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) to examine the possibility of revising the restrictive C7 zoning that since 1961 had sheltered carnies and coasters (and a few vacant lots, as well) from market forces.

But a Brooklyn developer named Joe Sitt stole the limelight from CIDC, announcing a $2 billion plan in September 2005 that made the Las Vegas Strip look dull. Sitt had shrewdly purchased over a dozen acres of the old amusement park in anticipation of a rezoning gold rush, and hoped to bring in marquee clients like Dave and Buster’s, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and the Hard Rock Café.

It’s fair to say New Yorkers were horrified by Sitt’s plan — he responded by toning it down in later renditions — but what happened next was worse. Unable to build on his new land, Sitt chose instead to destroy it. Two years after his gaudy dreamchild was plastered on the cover of New York magazine, his development company, Thor Equities, began to evict tenants in what was both a premature move towards development and, many observers reckoned, an attempt to force the city’s hand. Coney Island grew barren. “They paved paradise to put up…. what exactly?” asked the Brooklyn Paper.

The present reality of Coney Island, influenced by Bloomberg’s efforts to redevelop and rezone seemingly the entire city, and the events of Superstorm Sandy, has attracted a corporate presence to the boardwalk, no matter how nauseating some might see it. Salon’s report touches on the fears some have of the quixotic spirit of the area being stamped out forever:

What’s in store for the amusement area? “We will never make Disney here,” CAI president Valero Ferrari told the New York Times, ”but it will be something more… refined, cleaner, a little more year-round, if that’s possible, with sit-down restaurants and sports bars.”

The company hired Miami Beach restaurateur Michele Merlo to re-envision the boardwalk, with plans that call for, among other things, a food court with international cuisine. “Maybe one day,” he said in an interview with New York 1, “you can come and read your book outside on this nice boardwalk, sit in nice comfortable chairs and have a nice cappuccino or ice coffee.”

The report is well worth soaking up and you can do so by clicking here.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The following is a press release issued last week by the offices of Senator Charles Schumer.

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand today announced over $1 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding for Superstorm Sandy-related repairs to street lighting along the Coney Island Boardwalk.

“Coney Island’s much-loved boardwalk was seriously damaged by Superstorm Sandy, including its lighting system,” said Schumer. “This federal funding will get the lights back on, just in time for summer, and make sure that New York City residents are not on the hook entirely for these expenses.”

“The iconic Coney Island boardwalk was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, with its street lighting completely destroyed,” Gillibrand said. “This necessary reimbursement is an important step as we continue to meet New York’s needs to recover and rebuild.”

FEMA will provide $1,220,599 in federal funding to the NYC Department of Transportation for the repairs of the street lighting system serving the Coney Island Boardwalk involving 122 ornamental light poles.

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz announced today that he will withdraw legislation he introduced in the Assembly earlier this month that would transfer oversight of a swath of sand at Brighton Beach and Coney Island from the state to New York City.

Cymbrowitz did not credit the decision to opposition from environmentalists who worried the Parks Department, less constrained by the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s more stringent oversight, would botch the job, as first reported on Sheepshead Bites. Instead, the Sheepshead Bay-Brighton Beach legislator said he did it because he himself had mounting concerns over Parks Department decision-making in light of the controversial new boardwalk comfort stations.

“I believe that giving the city any additional authority of the area near the boardwalk is a mistake. The state Department of Environmental Conservation should continue to have oversight and this legislation will not move forward this session,” Cymbrowitz said in a strongly worded letter to the mayor, according to a press release.

The bill, which can be read here, would have transferred oversight of 250 feet of sand immediately south of the 2.5-mile Riegelmann Boardwalk. It was sponsored in the Assembly by Cymbrowitz and co-sponsored by Alec Brook-Krasny. Diane Savino introduced it in the Senate.

When asked about the legislation earlier this week, Cymbrowitz told Sheepshead Bites that plans to create an already funded bicycle path adjacent to the boardwalk had been stalled for nearly eight years. Cymbrowitz said that the DEC had denied the Parks Department’s application, as well as other attempts to build community resources on the beach, and that he had hoped to free Parks from DEC’s yoke.

That upset activists who said that the DEC had more stringent standards for a reason: they serve as a watchdog over would-be projects that can contribute to beach erosion and other environmental risks.

The Parks Department told Sheepshead Bites that they did not request the bill, nor had any input into it.

Cymbrowitz has now changed his tune, saying that the plan is nixed because he has lost faith in the Parks Department’s ability to meet residents’ needs, citing the new boardwalk comfort stations as the turning point. Residents from the Oceana Condominium complex have protested the new bathrooms and comfort stations adjacent to their facility, claiming that they obstruct views and attract vagrants. Cymbrowitz sided with the residents, even sending a letter to the Parks Department.

His concerns have escalated alongside the mounting missteps of the comfort stations’ installations, according to his press release:

His appeal fell on deaf ears and, despite several well-publicized protests by Oceana residents, the original plan prevailed. During installation, the piles hit solid granite and seawater and the borings couldn’t go through, delaying the process. The Parks Department then devised an alternative construction plan that involved pouring concrete in the sand. Environmentalists and FEMA have already deemed this method unsafe, according to Assemblyman Cymbrowitz.

The legislation, however, was introduced on May 3 – at least a month or more after Cymbrowitz sent his critical letter to the Parks Department opposing the comfort stations.

Sheepshead Bites could not reach Cymbrowitz for comment on this article. We will update this post if we hear back from him.

UPDATE (4:28 p.m.): Brighton Beach resident Ida Sanoff, executive director of the Natural Resources Protective Association, which vocally opposed the legislation, is celebrating the withdrawal as a victory for the community.

“It just goes to show there’s no limit to what you can do when you shine a light on the darkness. And just the fact – politics is all about looking good – and just on the basis that this was being done so quietly raised a lot of red flags,” said Sanoff. “This would have had far reaching impacts on all the people who live and work along the shoreline. This would have put hundreds of thousands of people who would have been put at risk. This is a victory.”

She added: “Sometimes these things are resurrected in a slightly different form. I can assure you that we’re going to be very, very vigilant. We’ll keep a close eye on any piece of legislation that’s proposed that has anything to do with the shoreline … There are no secrets along the shore. If it doesn’t come out in the wash, it’ll come out in the rinse.”

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