Archive for the tag 'dennis vourderis'


The rocket returns! Last night, the rocket was trucked into Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. (Photo by Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project)

For the first time in five years, the most prominent symbol of Coney Island’s Astroland – the amusement park’s iconic rocket ship – has returned to the People’s Playground for display.

The Coney Island History Project announced this morning that the Astroland Rocket Ship was trucked back into the amusement district overnight after the group assumed control of the relic several days ago.

The rocket is the only surviving space “simulators” that once proliferated in Coney Island between the early 20th Century and the space age, the Coney Island History Project said. The organization won their bid to repurpose the “Star Flyer” – as it was originally known – as the centerpiece of a new exhibit about Coney Island’s space obsession throughout history.

The Star Flyer debuted in 1962 as a three-minute, 26-seat ride that rocked and shook thrill-seekers as they watched films of rocket rides. It was taken offline years later, and was later placed on the roof of boardwalk restaurant Gregory and Paul’s where, along with the Cyclone, Parachute Jump and Wonder Wheel, it became a staple of the playground’s skyline.


(Photo by Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project)

“Outer space simulators have played a prominent role in Coney’s amusement history,” said Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project and author of Coney Island: Lost and Found. “It began when Thompson and Dundy brought ‘A Trip to the Moon’ to Steeplechase Park in 1902 and culminated in 1962, at the height of the space race, with Astroland’s Moon Rocket. The ride provided visitors with an exciting taste of intergalactic travel. The Astroland Rocket has now returned to a place of honor beside the landmark Wonder Wheel, where it will be restored as an exhibit showcasing Coney Island’s fascination with space travel.”

When Astroland closed in 2008 to make way for Luna Park, Carol and Jerry Albert, the former park’s owners, donated the rocket to the city with the promise of making the centerpiece of the new amusement district.

The city put out a request for proposals to reactivate the icon, and the History Project answered and won the bid. The rocket will be in the group’s exhibit center in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, and the cost of its move was covered by Carol Albert.

Wonder Wheel owners Steve and Dennis Vourderis plan to make it the centerpiece of their park’s annual celebration on August 9, and they’ll also oversee its restoration after it was seriously damaged during Superstorm Sandy. The rocket has spent most of the past five years in storage.


(Photo by Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project)

Sea Serpent Coaster (Source: edenpictures via flickr)

Sea Serpent Coaster (Source: edenpictures via flickr)

A 5-year-old boy and his 7-year-old sister were hurt riding the kiddie Sea Serpent Roller Coaster in Coney Island last night. The New York Daily News is reporting that while the sister’s injuries were minor, her brother’s leg was badly injured.

The accident occurred at 7 p.m. at Deno’s Wonderwheel and Amusement Park (Bowery Street and West 12th Street) in full sight of the children’s horrified mother. According to the park’s vice president, Dennis Vourderis, the boy wanted to hop off the ride before it finished. Apparently, the boy leaped out of his seat and got his leg stuck between the car and the track.

“He climbed out of the car at the top of the hill and fell in between the cars,” Vourderis told the Daily News.

The Daily News described the serious and scary scene:

“He was on the inside of the tracks. He had cuts all over and he wasn’t moving,” said witness LeRoy Mace, 40, of Brooklyn. “I don’t think he was conscious. He was on the tracks for at least 20 minutes before they pulled him off.”

At first sight, witnesses feared the boy would lose his leg. But Vourderis said the injury looked worse than it turned out.

“Preliminary reports are (he suffered) a large cut to his left leg and he began receiving treatment immediately from staff on premises while medical attention was summoned,” Vourderis said.

It was unclear how the boy’s sister hurt herself on the ride but she also suffered a leg injury, the extent of which is not yet known but is believed to be minor. The brother was treated for multiple injuries at Bellevue Hospital while the sister was treated at Lutheran Medical Center.

Vourderis defended the safety of the ride, blaming the situation on the boy’s height.

“A young rider on the Serpent coaster who met the height requirement unfortunately crawled under the lap retaining bar tonight, and jumped off the ride before it had stopped,” Vourderis told the Daily News. “The ride is an inspected, approved ride and there has never been an incident before in its 15-year history here at Coney.”

Proposed site of pedestrian plaza (Source: Google Maps)

Ste of pedestrian plaza before installation (Source: Google Maps)

After months of haggling and bargaining, the new Coney Island pedestrian plaza was unveiled on Monday. NY1 is reporting that the space containing the plaza has been transformed from a dead-end street filled with garbage into a comfortable place where people can relax with their families.

The effort to bring a pedestrian plaza to Coney Island has dragged on since late last March. Originally, the Department of Transportation (DOT) wanted to place the plaza on the southern end of Stillwell Avenue. Residents and members of Community Board 13 were up in arms when told that the proposed plaza space would take up 15 metered parking spaces, potentially increasing traffic woes that already beleaguer local residents. As a result, the original plan was dead on arrival.

Proponents of the plaza plan wouldn’t give up so easily and instead found a new space at the southern end of West 12th Street. The space, which made up a dead-end street that people used to illegally dump garbage, has now been transformed into a family-friendly spot with tables and chairs that can seat 40 people.

Dennis Vourderis of Deno’s Wonder Wheel described the condition of the block prior to the installation of the plaza.

“It was dumped on by illegal dumping. It was just a horrible area, it was ugly, it looked like it didn’t belong. It looked like it didn’t belong in an amusement area,” Vourderis told NY 1.

The idea of the new landscaped place is to bring comfort and relaxation to people ambling along the boardwalk as well as provide additional seating for the always crowded Nathan’s.

The Alliance for Coney Island, which will maintain the plaza, is holding a vote to name the new space. To lend your voice, you can visit their Facebook page by clicking here.

Activists were displeased when the Parks Department decided to replace the wooden boardwalk on Coney Island with a cement and plastic one. Now, six months after Superstorm Sandy battered our shores, the New York Post is reporting that residents and business owners are complaining that sand is accumulating on the new boardwalk.

The barrage of sand upon the historic promenade has been so terrible that the city has been forced to assign extra workers to keep shoveling it back on to the beach. Boardwalk preservationists are blaming the new cement base for all the extra sand.

“With cement, there’s nowhere for the sand to fall through. There’s no doubt the new surfaces are causing the sand to pile up like never before…This is what you get when the city decides to make changes without doing a proper environmental review,” Todd Dobrin, president of the Friends of the Boardwalk and a candidate for City Councilman Domenic Recchia’s seat in the 47th District, told the Post.

Residents, including Maureen Masterson, 32, were also angry. While trying to maneuver her two-year-old daughter’s stroller through obstructive piles of sand, the Bensonhurst mother expressed negativity over the situation.

“This is horrible. It’s like Sandy never left,” Masterson told the Post.

The encroaching sand isn’t just bad for people trying to walk on the boardwalk. As sand accumulates, it starts blowing in people’s faces, which the city has been vigorously trying to prevent by wetting the sand down.

Local business owner Dennis Vourderis, co-owner of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, told the Post that the sand has never been worse. It is “even piling up in the amusement district — which still maintains a wooden boardwalk,” he said, blaming the extra sand on Sandy “pushing it closer to the boardwalk and making it ‘finer’ so it blows more freely.”

“This is the worst we’ve seen it,” said Vourderis, who recently put up netting outside Deno’s to block sand from damaging his rides’ motor systems. “We have to shovel all week just to be ready for the weekend.”

For its part, the Parks Department is blaming Mother Nature and isn’t accepting the idea that the new boardwalk has anything to do with all the extra sand.

“Sand will accumulate on a boardwalk without regard to the decking or the foundation,” the Post reported Parks Department spokeswoman Meghan Lalor as saying.

Source: intweetion via

The city is giving a break to the operators of Luna Park on Coney Island by extending their lease an additional seven years, according to a report by the New York Post.

Zamperla USA, an Italian-based company, will be granted a seven year extension by the City Council. Councilman Domenic Recchia explained the situation to the Post:

“[Zamperla USA] invested a lot of money after suffering damages from Sandy, so it’s fair to give them more time to recoup their money considering they hired so many people from the neighborhood.”

The original lease, given in 2010, was set for 10 years, but now Zamperla USA will be staying put until the far off futuristic year of 2027; a time when flying roller-coasters will be the norm.

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, run by the Vourderis family, is also getting a seven year extension.

The council is expected to officially ratify the extensions at a later date.

Coney Island may have been battered by Superstorm Sandy last October, but local business operators are still hoping for a record summer, according to a report by Crain’s.

Optimism for a full rebound of America’s Playground comes in the form of all the money and hard work poured into Coney’s rebuilding following the superstorm’s impact. According to Wonder Wheel owner Dennis Vourderis, the dozens of attractions have been repainted and refurbished, giving the area a fresh new look.

“We’re gonna look as good as the first day we opened,” Vourderis told Crain’s. “Probably better.”

Other signs of encouragement stem from the record number of visitors Coney has drawn in recent years, as well as a desire by New Yorkers to make sure the local landmark remains bright and strong.

Since a contentious redevelopment in 2009, attendance at the amusement park has set new records each summer, peaking at more than 1 million visitors last year, a 50% increase over the 2011 season.

What’s more, this summer Coney Island will have something else going for it, a wave of public support.

“We’ve gotten so much support in the recovery, online, on the streets, in donations, and I just know that support is going to be down here when we’re open, to celebrate,” said Johanna Zaki, director of operations at the Alliance for Coney Island, a newly formed business group.

Despite the enthusiasm for a full Coney comeback, one famed event – the annual Mermaid Parade – might not make it this year:

The future of the famed Mermaid Parade is also in doubt, because its operator may not be able to afford the event. The parade has grown more popular in recent years, reaching more than half-a-million spectators last year, but so has the cost of hosting it.

Coney Island USA, which has a museum and performance space on Surf Avenue, sustained more than $400,000 in damage, said Dick Zigun, who runs the organization and parade and is often considered the “mayor” of Coney. Mr. Zigun is banking on a fundraiser at Webster Hall Sat., March 9, to see him through. “Without that money, we’re going to have to cut back somewhere,” he said. “As it is, unless we get a lot of walk-ups to the party, I’m not sure we’re gonna make it.”

Say it ain’t so! The Mermaid Parade is, by far, my favorite New York parade. I really hope someone figures out a way to finance the thing because without all those mermaids strutting their stuff down Surf Avenue, there is no Coney Island.

Photo by Erica Sherman

The Alliance for Coney Island is a new partnership between the city and the several well-known establishments in Coney Island’s business community. Today marks the official launch of their organization.

Originally, the organization was going to focus on tourism, marketing and other means of maintaining Coney Island’s popularity. Now, after Sandy, they’ve decided to switch gears and focus on recovery efforts in the badly damaged area.

The badly-damaged Shore Hotel sign. Photo by Erica Sherman. Click to enlarge

“Hurricane Sandy has left Coney Island looking like a Cyclone hit it – devastating its seaside amusement district, officials say, with tens of millions of dollars in damage alone,” wrote the New York Post.

“We have a lot of work on our hands,” said Dennis Vourderis, the Alliance chairman and owner of Deno’s Wonderwheel Park.

Formerly, the Coney Island Development Corporation was managing the area. Now, the Alliance will inherit $630,000, which was due to go to the CIDC in the next two years. Business owners in the area will also contribute money to help the organization grow.

A new website has been established for the Alliance at in order to help direct volunteers, collect donations and help the neighborhood in any other relief efforts.

While the business owners are busy helping others, they know that they will also have to contend with repairing their own damaged Coney Island locations.

According to the Post:

All of Coney Island’s seaside rides need to have their electrical and motor systems overhauled. Deno’s suffered roughly $3 million in damages, while Zamperla USA, which oversees Luna Park and the Scream Zone, faces about $8 million or so in repairs.

MCU Park – home of the Brooklyn Cyclones – was also badly damaged. Its field was covered in water during the storm, and the locker rooms and souvenir shop were badly damaged.

The New York Aquarium also suffered extensive damage. It is trying to partly reopen by Memorial Day.

Neighborhood staples like Nathan’s Famous and Gargiulo’s Restaurant were also among the area businesses hardest hit. Nino Russo, an Alliance board member and Gargiulo’s owner, said his business suffered more than $1 million damages and is “working hard to re-open” by Christmas.

It’s heartwarming to read about neighborhood institutions like the Aquarium and Gargiulo’s taking such care to help the local residents while they have their own repairs to deal with. This is community involvement at its best and we hope that business owners meet their goals of reopening soon and locals benefit from their efforts.