The Wonder Wheel with no cars installed; photos © James and Karla Murray
Honoring a 60-year tradition of opening on Palm Sunday, Coney Island Amusement Park will be back in business this Sunday, April 14th. One of the many activities will be the annual blessing of the rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel. The 150-foot-tall, 100-year-old structure is one of the most iconic pieces remaining at Coney Island. But there’s a lot that goes into this seasonal opening than even the most well-versed New Yorker may not know. Each winter, the 200-ton ride is repainted, and all of its 24 cars are removed. But come spring, second-generation co-owner Steve Vourderis goes through the process of precisely reinstalling and aligning the cars. We were lucky enough to visit Steve and his brother Dennis on a recent frigid Sunday to watch the magic happen.
Go behind-the-scenes at the Wonder Wheel
Ask a group of New Yorkers where to find the best cannolis or cheesecake, and without a doubt, you’ll hear Veniero Pasticceria and Caffé. An East Village institution, Veniero’s is a family-owned and operated Italian pastry shop that was established by Italian immigrant Antonio Veniero in 1894. Veniero, who lived with his family next door, started the business as a candy shop. He then started serving Italian espresso and biscotti and by the 1920s, he had brought in master bakers from Sicily to run the kitchen.
A century later, Veniero’s is still family-owned and is celebrating is 125th anniversary next year. We had the chance to tour the caffé and bakery with Robert Zerilli, the fourth-generation current owner and great-nephew of founder Antonio Veniero. Today, Veniero’s serves more than 150 desserts, from traditional Italian butter cookies and cannolis to some more modern offerings such as red velvet cake and oreo cheesecake. Ahead, go behind the scenes to see how all these tasty treats are made, tour the historic interiors, and learn all about Veniero’s history from Robert.
Hear Robert tell Veniero’s story
Earlier this year, 6sqft got an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour at the majestic Loew’s Jersey City Theatre, as well as the United Palace Theatre in Washington Heights. In 2016, we joined Untapped Cities and NYCEDC on a tour of Brooklyn Kings Theatre, and just last month, as part of Untapped Cities Insider’s Tours, we were lucky enough to tour and photograph the former Loew’s Valencia Theatre on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, which is now home to the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People church.
The majestic Loew’s Valencia Theatre opened on Saturday, January 12, 1929, as the first, largest, and most famous of the five flagship Loew’s “Wonder” Theatres established in the New York City area from 1929-30. All of the grand movie palaces were built by Marcus Loew of the Loew’s Theatres chain to establish the firm as a leader in film exhibition and to simultaneously serve as a fantastical yet affordable escape for people of all classes from the tedium and anxieties of their daily lives. The Valencia most definitely did not shy away from this fantastical approach, with its Spanish/Mexican Baroque architecture, gilded ornamentation, rich jewel-tone colors, and elaborate carvings.
Take the grand tour
6sqft’s series “Where I Work” takes us into the studios, offices, and businesses of New Yorkers across the city. In this installment, we’re going inside Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop in Greenpoint. Want to see your business featured here? Get in touch!
Long-time pizza enthusiast Paulie Giannone opened his first wood-fired pizza restaurant, Paulie Gee’s, in 2010 on Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn. Since then, he’s opened locations in Miami, Columbus, Ohio, Chicago, and Baltimore. Most recently, though, he came back to his roots with Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop, just a few blocks away from his original spot in Greenpoint. While Paulie’s restaurants center around gourmet pizzas, including many vegan options, the Slice Shop specializes in classic New York City-style and Sicilian slices. In keeping with this classic pizza joint feel, the Slice Shop’s retro décor is inspired by the pizzerias Paulie Gee frequented while growing up in Kensington, Brooklyn.
We had a chance to speak with Paulie at the newly opened Slice Shop and sample some of the delicious pizzas, including his classic cheese slice and his sauceless Mootz. He filled us in on how he got his start in the pizza business, where he found the ’60s and ’70s decor, and his reaction to the long lines New Yorkers are waiting on to get a slice of Paulie Gee’s.
Get a slice of Paulie Gee’s!
6sqft’s series “Where I Work” takes us into the studios, offices, and businesses of New Yorkers across the city. In this installment, we’re going inside 130-year-old Lower East Side shop Mendel Goldberg Fabrics. Want to see your business featured here? Get in touch!
Mendel Goldberg Fabrics, a fourth-generation family-owned textile boutique, has been in business since 1890 and is located on a quiet side street on the Lower East Side. People who walk down Hester Street often take the time to notice the exquisite designer imported fabrics that hang in the window display as well as the huge range of brocades, silk, gabardine, lace, wool, novelty fabrics and boucle´ in a wide variety of colors and textures, which line the shops walls from floor to ceiling. Despite a devastating fire in the building in 2012 that destroyed the entire basement fabric stock and required substantial rebuilding, the business is thriving. On a recent visit to the fabric store, we had a chance to speak with Alice Goldberg, the great-granddaughter of Mendel Goldberg, about how the business went from a pushcart to a unique destination, the joys of running one of the oldest surviving shops in the neighborhood, and the secrets of some of their most high-end fabrics.
Get a fabric lesson from Alice
Dead Horse Bay is a small body of water in Brooklyn that got its name from the horse rendering plants that were on the former Barren Island in Jamaica Bay near the shoreline of Flatlands. In the late 1850s, Barren Island was the site of the largest dump in New York City, fed by barges carrying garbage and animal remains. Factories on the island used the carcasses of horses, which were put in large vats and boiled until the fat could be removed, for use in fertilizer, glue, and oils. The bones of the horses were then chopped up and dumped into the water. Starting in 1930, the island also became the site of the first municipal airport (Floyd Bennett) after the city filled in marshland to connect it to the mainland.
The last horse rendering factory on the island closed in 1935 and in 1936, the island’s final 400 residents were evicted to make way for the creation of the Belt Parkway. The City continued using the area as a garbage dump until 1953 when the landfill was capped. Since 1972, the area surrounding Dead Horse Bay has been part of the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area. We joined Robin Nagle, NYC Department of Sanitation’s Anthropologist-in-Residence for an exclusive exploration of Dead Horse Bay earlier this year with the City Reliquary Museum and had a chance to speak with her about this mysterious area, which is strewn with glass bottles, fragments of centuries-old horse bones, and mounds of trash.
Have a look around
6sqft’s series “Where I Work” takes us into the studios, offices, and off-beat workspaces of New Yorkers across the city. In this installment, we’re touring the oldest pharmacy in the United States, C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries in Greenwich Village, and talking with owner Ian Ginsberg. Want to see your business featured here? Get in touch!
C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries was established in 1838. It is the oldest apothecary in America. It was originally called the Village Apothecary Shop and was opened by the Vermont physician, Galen Hunter. It was renamed C.O. Bigelow Apothecary when it was purchased by an employee, Clarence Otis Bigelow in 1880. The apothecary is in fact so old that it once sold leeches and opium as remedies. According to legend, the chemists at Bigelow even created a salve for Thomas Edison to treat his burned fingers when he was first developing the light bulb.
In 1922, the apothecary was sold to the pharmacist, Mr. Bluestone, employed by Bigelow, thereby continuing the unique legacy of passing ownership from employer to employee. Bluestone sold the pharmacy to yet another pharmacist employee, William B. Ginsberg in 1939. And since 1939, three generations of Ginsberg’s have owned and operated the shop, passing down from father to son to most recently grandson, Ian Ginsberg, who 6sqft spoke with at this historic pharmacy in Greenwich Village at 414 Sixth Avenue.
6sqft’s series “Where I Work” takes us into the studios, offices, and off-beat workspaces of New Yorkers across the city. In this installment, we’re touring artist Stephen Powers’ Boerum Hill studio and sign shop. Want to see your business featured here? Get in touch!
Walking along Fourth Avenue in Boerum Hill, the storefronts all look pretty similar–pizza shops, laundromats, cute cafes–until you come to the corner of Bergen Street and see the large, colorful collage of signs gracing the side of the little brick building. This is ESPO’s Art World, artist Stephen Powers’ sign shop. But as you can imagine, this space is much more than that. Powers, who painted graffiti under the name ESPO for much of the ’80s and ’90s in NYC and Philadelphia, also uses his shop as a retail store and informal gallery where passersby can walk in and peruse his graphic, pop-art-esque, text-heavy work. Stephen recently gave 6sqft a guided tour of his shop and chatted with us about his transition from graffiti to studio art, why he dislikes the term “street art,” his love for Brooklyn, and where he sees the art scene heading.
Get a look around and hear from Stephen
Photos © James and Karla Murray
The new exhibition at the Brooklyn Historical Society, “The Business of Brooklyn,” celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and tells the fascinating story of the borough’s 100 years of business, detailing its industrial past, large companies, as well as its preponderance of mom-and-pop shops. It also showcases many objects and artifacts, which have their origins in Brooklyn, demonstrating the significant “role that Brooklyn has played in American consumer culture.” The exhibition is on view at the Brooklyn Historical Society’s landmark building in Brooklyn Heights located at 128 Pierrepont Street until Winter 2019. From those iconic yellow pencils to Brillo pads to Cracker Jack, you may be surprised to see what has been made in Brooklyn.
The history of 10 famous products made in Brooklyn
In 1883, one of NYC’s first skyscrapers opened at the corner of Nassau and Beekman Streets. Known as Temple Court, the nine-story red brick and terra cotta structure was designed in the Queen Anne style by architect James M. Farnworth to attract accountants and lawyers who needed to be close to the city’s courthouses. Its most impressive feature was its central atrium that rises the full height and is topped by a large pyramid-shaped skylight and two rooftop turrets.
In the 1940s, this romantic atrium was walled in from top to bottom, and by 2001, the last commercial tenant moved out, ultimately sending the building into disrepair, a crumbling shell open to the elements. Plans to restore Temple Court into The Beekman hotel and add an adjacent 51-story condominium tower first surfaced in 2008, but before work got underway in 2012, we were granted the rare opportunity to explore the architectural gem in its eerily beautiful derelict state. And now that guests are filling up the 287 hotel rooms, the main floor is buzzing with restaurants from restaurateurs Tom Colicchio and Keith McNally, and the atrium’s skylight and Victorian cast iron railings and ornamentation have been restored, we went back in to document how this one-of-a-kind landmark has been restored.
See the before-and-after photos and learn about our experience