Archive for the tag 'tourism'

Source: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, there are a lot of talk about how to help Sheepshead Bay bounce back economically. A key question to most is how to make the area more appealing to visitors; a getaway for city-dwellers, and an off-the-beaten-path destination for out of towners.

One of the more promising initiatives is the Capstone project we told you about a few weeks ago, which is working on a plan to strengthen our commercial corridors and bring tourists to the area. At a workshop earlier this month, attendees were told that no idea was too big, too outlandish to be considered, and that they should run wild with their dreams.

Well, one resident just wrote in to Sheepshead Bites with his own big idea: bring Citi Bike to Southern Brooklyn’s waterfront communities. The reader, Gary, writes:

Dear Ned,
As a new transplant to Sheepshead Bay (I lived in the neighborhood 20 years ago but that’s another story) I am thinking it would be super cool if the neighborhood had Citi-bikes.

There’s probably no other neighborhood better suited for the program –so much to see and, yet we are just far enough from Brighton and Coney Island and Kings Highway and Midwood to make it a pain to walk; but on a bike – a piece of cake. Get a Nathan’s hot dog, check out Plumb beach, get a guitar pick at Norm’s, see a Cyclones game – all under 10 minutes.

I wrote to Citi-bikes and quickly got a response (below) . I’ll follow their initial advice but figured maybe ‘Sheepshead Bites’ can publicize the idea.
Citi-Bikes – not just for hipster neighborhoods.

Thanks in advance, Gary.


Dear Gary,
Thank you for contacting NYC Bike Share, operator of Citi Bike.

Please be advised, NYC Department of Transportation and local community boards play a major role in deciding where bike share stations will be located. Any suggestions you have concerning Citi Bike’s station locations should be submitted to NYC DOT via the community outreach and siting form, which you can find on the DOT website. Or, you may call 311 with your comments.
In time we look forward to expanding bike share to neighborhoods across New York City.

KeAndrea R
Customer Service Representative
NYC Bicycle Share, LLC

What do you think? Should Citi Bike become a cornerstone of a plan to turbocharge business and tourism in the area?

Update: Reader Lenny M. pipes in to remind me that he called for an Emmons Avenue bike lane back in 2011, arguing in part that it would help fuel commerce in the area.

Source: intweetion via

After Superstorm Sandy devastated Coney Island, the  effort to rebuild the beachfront and the boardwalk has led to a slew of businesses planting their flag on the cleaned up shoreline. The New York Daily News is reporting on the increased corporate presence on Coney Island that is hoping to transform the area into an economic goldmine.

Previously, we reported on the arrival of Applebee’s to Coney Island and the boast from CEO Zane Tankel:

“Imagine sitting above the excitement of Surf Avenue, watching the comings and goings on the infamous Coney Island Boardwalk while dining on Applebee’s signature favorites,” Tankel said in a release.

Outside of Applebee’s, which is about as hip as a root canal, other establishments like candy chain “It’Sugar,” which sells a $40 five-pound gummy bear, are popping up as well. If you buy the five-pound gummy bear, I’d watch out for bees. Not the gummy kind.

In 2014, the Johnny Rockets diner chain will be moving to Coney along with a Red Mango frozen yogurt shop. The Brooklyn Nets have also opened their own athletic sports store featuring $85 bikinis brandishing the new basketball team’s logo on the tops and bottoms. Next to the Nets shop, the Bridgehampton-based Wampum skate shop will be selling fashionable clothing and expensive skate boards for more than $200.

Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project, proclaimed that Coney Island has become the hot new real estate location in the city.

“Speculation has returned to Coney Island. It is the Gold Rush mentality,” Denson told the Daily News.

As for fears that the new corporate footprint will drive out the proud mom-and-pop stores still dotting the boardwalk, local business owners seemed not to worry.

 “It’s Coney Island. As long as it’s sunny, everyone is making money,” said Peter Agrapides Jr., whose popular Williams Candy Shoppe is known for scrumptious, guilty pleasures like the candy-covered marshmallows in its window.

“There is plenty of money for everybody,” Agrapides added. “You just have to know what you are doing.”

Only time will tell if the effort to increase the profitability and tourist friendliness of Coney Island will be sustainable but with the beach and boardwalk looking immaculate these days, it’s hard to bet against it.



The effort to turn Jamaica Bay into an action-packed tourist destination has ramped up in recent months as the spring and summer season kicked off. The New York Daily News reports new details on a host of new activities and concessions the Parks Department has in the works, as well as tempered warnings from environmentalists hoping that the fragile ecosystem of the Bay isn’t disturbed by increased human involvement.

Previously, we reported on plans by the Parks Department to bring trendy food trucks and bike rentals to the area in an effort to draw more tourists. Some of the food trucks expected to be set up in Riis Park include Rickshaw Dumpling, Eddie’s Pizza Truck and Pura Vida. As for covering bike rentals, the city has tapped California-based Wheel Fun Rentals to not only rent out bicycles, but a whole assortment of carts, paddle boards, canoes and pedal cars. Wheel Fun Rentals started operations on Memorial Day weekend.

People looking to rent kayaks will be able to do so this weekend at Riis Landing, but this perk already has some environmentalists worried that tourists might upset the delicate ecosystem of the Bay.

“Are they going to educate people who take kayaks out?” Don Riepe of the American Littoral Society’s Northeast Chapter told the Daily News. “Some of the islands are off-limits for the nesting season. There are some issues.”

While Riepe is excited that more people will be drawn to the Bay, he expressed a desire to have more park rangers surveying tourist activities so that the wildlife and fauna of the Bay doesn’t fall into danger from inexperienced visitors.

Sheena Walnetta, the marketing director for Wheel Fun Rentals promised that all renters will have to follow the rules.

“All of our rentals come with strict instructions and training. People will have to comply with all rules and regulations,” Walnetta said.

Thank goodness tourists and city residents never break any rules.

Nathan’s Famous Is Still Closed, Source: j. reed via wikimedia commons

Six months following Superstorm Sandy, businesses across Sheepshead Bay and Coney Island are still shuttered and the New York Times is reporting that local business owners are growing anxious over what effect the closures will have on the local economy as summer nears.

The Times report pointed to the large number of businesses still closed on tourist-friendly Emmons Avenue.

“Mambo Sushi, gone! Tzar, gone! Fusion, gone!” said Theresa Scavo, the district manager of Community Board 15, as she reeled off the names of destroyed restaurants on a single block of Emmons Avenue, where only a Greek restaurant, Yiasou, managed to reopen.

A block farther along the bay, a few restaurants and cafes where water reached the ceilings were also shuttered. In total, 14 businesses on Emmons Avenue are still closed, Ms. Scavo said, with a dozen more closed elsewhere in the neighborhood. With warm weather approaching, there is concern that tourists will not flock to the bay as they usually do.

“Everybody suffers, because if people are not coming to eat at your restaurant, they won’t shop at my clothing store,” Ms. Scavo said.

(It’s worth noting that the block of Emmons Avenue where they say only one restaurant, Yiasou, is open, there are actually three open restaurants – Yiasou, Baku Palace and Randazzo’s Clam Bar.)

The problems on Emmons Avenue also extend to Coney Island where, among other places, Nathan’s Famous and the New York Aquarium still remain closed.

Along a six-block stretch of Mermaid Avenue, a commercial street in Coney Island that caters to much of the year-round poor and working-class population, many stores are still locked — among them, a Chase bank, a McDonald’s, a bagel store, a Chinese restaurant, a check-cashing place and a Mexican deli. Edward Cosmé, head of the avenue’s trade association, said his 13-year-old beauty parlor, Hair For U, is open only because he spent $40,000 of his own money to replace hair dryers and salon chairs destroyed in the storm, and he received a $25,000 loan at 1 percent interest and $10,000 in cash from the city’s Department of Small Business Services. But the number of customers is down by more than a third, he said, because some residents displaced by the storm have not returned.

Business owners blamed the continued closures on failing to receive timely government assistance that would have made up for money not covered by flood insurance companies. To date, the city has doled out 45 loans to Sheepshead Bay businesses totaling $1 million with 13 grants amounting to $45,000. In Coney Island, 19 loans have been approved totaling $420,700 with eight grants valued at $40,000. According to a NYC Department of Small Business Services rep who spoke to Sheepshead Bites, this represents an 88 to 90 percent approval rate.

Still, the complexity of government forms have tripped up business owners from getting desperately needed assistance from other sources, like the U.S. Small Business Administration, as we’ve previously reported. (UPDATED: See below)

Jim Tampakis, a man who runs a Red Hook-based ship boiler and pump repair shop gave up on trying to seek federal help entirely.

“I became discouraged,” Tampakis told the Times. “There was a feeling that businesses were getting the runaround.”

The problem facing business owners like Tampakis has led Councilman Domenic Recchia, who is currently running for Congress, to urge the city to ease the process.

“It’s imperative that more businesses have access to this type of funding so that they can get back on their feet,” Recchia told the Times.

Whether or not the businesses that are still closed can clear the bureaucratic red-tape and conquer their financial difficulties before the busy summer season starts remains to be seen.

UPDATE (May 2, 2012 at 11:00 a.m.): A previous version of this article noted in the segment providing the loan totals that business owners have had trouble with paperwork for these loans. An SBS representative called us this morning to note that the link we directed viewers to regarded the U.S. Small Business Administration loan rates, which, at the time, was below 30 percent. The SBS rep said the numbers in this article, which are for SBS, actually reflected a much higher approval rate than SBA, at a rate of 88 to 90 percent. We regret any confusion caused by the link, and have separated it out from the paragraph and tweaked the language to more accurately portray the situation.

Photo Courtesy Of Jeremy Drakeford

Officials from the Parks Department and the National Parks Service are collaborating on plans to bring food concession stands, and bike and kayak rentals to Jamaica Bay, according to a report by the New York Daily News.

Officials hope that an expansion of services in the region will go hand-in-hand with the restoration of the bay.

“We’re excited about the future plans for Jamaica Bay,” Dan Mundy Jr. of Jamaica Bay Eco-Watchers told the Daily News. “People will have greater access to the bay and we will also be able to keep up with restoration programs.”

Dan Hendrick, who is making a documentary called Jamaica Bay Lives, told the Daily News that increased tourism friendly activities around the bay will have a positive impact on the community that lives near the bay.

But Hendrick said many area residents have a “disconnect” with the bay because they consider it polluted. He hopes by opening it up to different kinds of recreation — such as camping in areas such as Floyd Bennett Field — they will develop a connection.

While its nice that the Parks Department and the National Parks Service want to create a more tourist friendly Jamaica Bay, there is also a mixed message being sent as the industrialization of Floyd Bennett Field continues with the development of the Jamaica Bay pipeline project.

Despite this, officials are excited about transforming Jamaica Bay into a hotter tourist destination, hoping that added amenities will spark a resurgence of interest.

Click to enlarge. Photo by Allan Rosen

THE COMMUTE: Most New Yorkers do not notice the sign in the station booths explaining the fare, except perhaps to check the price of a seven- or 30-day pass. However, to a tourist, it is essential that this sign be clear and self-explanatory. They were clear until the MTA discontinued MetroCards for a one-way subway trip and replaced them with “SingleRide Tickets,” available only at MetroCard vending machines, costing an additional 25 cents at the time of the last fare increase.

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Brighton Beach’s Bureau of Tourism* recently commissioned its award-winning marketing team to create a documentary on the wonders that are Brighton Beach.  Experience the beach, the sun, the ill fitting speedos, and the worldly shopping choices of “Little Russia by the Sea.”

Don’t take our word for it, here is what the video’s creator has to say:

This is the Brighton Beach neighborhood, one block from the beach, its not that beautiful, but its pretty beautiful, its not Manhattan, but 6 months out of the year, these people are leaving in a very nice little paradise.

That’s right, it sure ain’t Manhattan. Just watch out for the Mexican gangs.

* There is no such thing as the Brighton Beach Bureau of Tourism.

A rendering for “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!”

After we reported to you back in 2010 that the New York City Public Design Commission approved a new 57,000-square-foot structure at the New York Aquarium to house the “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” exhibit, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced during a press conference at the facility, Surf Avenue at West 8th Street last Thursday that the project is nearer to fruition.

Coney Island City Councilman Domenic Recchia joined Mayor Bloomberg and Wildlife Conservation Society President and CEO Cristián Samper to unveil the design for the exhibit, which will feature 115 species of marine animals including sharks, rays, sea turtles, thousands of schooling fish and more. The exhibit will hold more than 500,000 gallons of water, including 40 sharks.

According to the website,

“The Mayor and Wildlife Conservation Society also announced a major private gift of $7.5 million from Wildlife Conservation Society Trustee Barbara Hrbek Zucker and her husband, Don Zucker. The Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the New York Aquarium, is raising $34.4 million in private funds, of which $11 million has already been raised. The City has committed $93.1 million in public funds to the project, which will transform the exhibit space to feature more than 100 different species of marine animals – including sharks – and bolster Coney Island as a premier tourist destination.”

The plans for the aquarium’s makeover include a spiral ramp connecting the facility to the boardwalk, built with a 1,000 feet of tiny aluminum squares that reflect light and move with the wind. The ramp will then go from the interior of the structure and lead out to new gathering spaces along the boardwalk.

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City & State’s morning newsletter, First Read, carried this little nugget:

The Bloomberg administration has been on a record-breaking streak this past few weeks. Last week, the mayor proudly welcomed the city’s 50 millionth tourist. On Tuesday, he trumpeted the dramatic increase in life expectancy for city residents, higher than it’s ever been. Yesterday, he stood with NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to declare the third lowest number of homicides since record-keeping began 50 years ago. And today, Bloomberg is set to announce that traffic-related deaths are at an all-time low.

More tourists, longer lives, lower crime and less death… not a bad year for the City of New York.

Of course, there will be no shortage of naysayers out there who will say, “Yeah, but what about the economy?” Or maybe, “Herr Bloombucks is destroying this city by X-Y-Z.”

Perhaps. But the existence of bad news does not negate the good news. If 2011 is to end – and, of course, it will – better to fill its last few hours with some positive thoughts of the year past.

What are some other great accomplishments that have occurred in 2011?

Fortunately, the NY Aquarium will NOT have flying sharks. (Source:

A new housing complex is coming to Coney Island, with what will be the neighborhood’s most dangerous residents: sharks!

The NYC Public Design Commission approved a new structure at the New York Aquarium (Surf Avenue and West 8th Street). The 50,000-square-foot facility, called “Ocean Wonders: Shark,” will feature 115 species of marine animals, including 40 sharks.

Keep reading. Trust me, you’ll like this one.

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