Coney Island

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Behind the Scenes, Coney Island, Features

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

Coney Island, Events

Photo by Jim McDonnell

Keeping with more than 60 years of tradition, the Coney Island Amusement Park will open for the season next month on Palm Sunday. To kicks things off on April 14, historian Charles Denson will lead a tour of the Riegelmann Boardwalk, which was designated a scenic landmark last year. The opening day celebration continues the following weekend with an Immigrant Heritage Tour of Coney Island, with stops at Nathan’s Famous, founded by Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, purchased by Greek immigrant Denos D. Vouderis as a wedding ring for his wife.

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Coney Island, History

“Elephant Bazar Coney Island,” NYPL Wallach Division Picture Collection via NYPL Digital Collections

When Coney Island burst on the scene in the 1880s as “the People’s Playground,” becoming the last word in bawdy beachfront pleasure, every attraction was larger than life. But no attraction was as large as the “Elephantine Colossus,” a 12-story, 31-room, elephant-shaped hotel, stationed at Surf Avenue and West 12th Street. The elephant was a tin-clad wooden structure rising 150 feet high, and it was unlike any other elephant in the world: The animal’s forelegs featured a tobacco shop, its left lung was home to a museum, and visitors to the “cheek room” could look out of the elephant eyes to the ocean beyond.

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Coney Island, Staten Island, Transportation

Via NYC Ferry

The city will launch two new ferry routes by 2021, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday during his State of the City address. Staten Island and Coney Island will be added to the NYC Ferry system, providing a much faster commute to Manhattan for outer-borough New Yorkers. “It shouldn’t be this hard to get around in the greatest city in the world,” de Blasio said. “And so we’re giving people more and better options.” With the addition of the Staten Island route, all five boroughs will be a part of the NYC Ferry system by next year.

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affordable housing, Coney Island, housing lotteries

surf vets plaza, 3003 West 21st Street, Coney Island

Rendering via Concern for Independent Living

An affordable housing lottery launched on Wednesday at a mixed-use development located in Coney Island one block from both the beach and the recently-landmarked Riegelmann Boardwalk. The nine-story development at 3003 West 21st Street, dubbed Surf Vets Place, offers residents a 24-hour attended lobby, sun terrace, a fitness center, computer lounge, and party rooms. Qualifying New Yorkers earning 50 and 60 percent of the area median income can apply for the apartments, ranging from a $759/month one bedroom to a $1,289/month three-bedroom.

Find out if you qualify

Coney Island, holidays

Mermaid Avenue, Coney Island holiday lights

Photo courtesy of the Alliance for Coney Island

For the first time in more than 20 years, Coney Island’s Mermaid Avenue, its main retail corridor, will light up for the holidays. Alexandra Silversmith, the Alliance for Coney Island‘s executive director, told us that the snowflake-themed display “invites shoppers to visit Mermaid Avenue and support our local merchants while simultaneously welcoming residents home.”

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Coney Island, New Developments, Rentals

Developer John Catsimatidis hopes the Ocean Dreams project will eventually include three more towers, which require city approval. Rendering by Pace/Hill West Architects

Last spring, 6sqft revealed new renderings of grocery store king (Red Apple, Gristede’s) John Catsimatidis’ 425-unit Coney Island rental project at 3514 Surf Avenue known as Ocean Dreams. According to The Real Deal, Catsimatidis’ Red Apple Group secured a construction loan for $130 million from Bank of America for the project back in June. Now, the New York Times has reported that the pair of 21-story luxury apartment towers overlooking the Atlantic on the island’s western end has topped out and is scheduled to open next summer.

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Coney Island, History, Transportation

Boynton’s Bicycle Railroad, via Wiki Commons

As Labor Day draws near and New Yorkers run to squeeze a few more beach days into the end of the summer, packed trains and ferries carry crowds to the city’s sandy shores. But, beachgoers of yore weren’t simply piling onto the Q train to get out to Coney Island. They reached the southern tip of Brooklyn via a much more zany (or visionary?) mode of conveyance: Boynton’s Bicycle Railroad. In the summer of 1890, Boynton’s Bicycle, so named because it featured two rails, one beneath the train and one above it, shuttled passengers between Gravesend and Coney Island via an abandoned section of the Sea Beach and Brighton Railroad.

The Story Rolls on This Way

Coney Island, Hotels, New Developments

Image: Luca Vanzella via Flickr
On the heels of news that Coney Island will be getting its first new hotel in 50 years, plans have surfaced for a 150,000-square-foot expansion of Luna Park that will bring new rides, food and arcade games. The faded but beloved seaside icon has been in the news recently for a renewed pace of development that many see as new promise for the area. A log flume ride, zip lines and a ropes course are coming to the block between Surf Avenue and the boardwalk and between West 15th and West 16th streets, with food, arcade games and seating planned for two more streets nearby. And according to NY1, developer PYE Properties has proposed a boutique hotel in the historic Shore Theater, a 1920s landmark that has fallen into disrepair and has been vacant since 1978, attracting the homeless and graffiti but little attention.

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Coney Island, Events

Photo via Flickr/cc

Sure, there are plenty of rooftops to get your drink on this summer, but here’s a chance to do it with fireworks and fish. As part of the inaugural season of their new Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit, Coney Island’s New York Aquarium is hosting late-night Friday and Saturday night rooftop parties during August and Labor Day weekend. The aquarium usually closes at 7pm, but for Summer Nights they’ll welcome guests until 10pm with cocktails and a fireworks display on the roof of their new building, as well as extended access to the nine new spaces, including a 40-foot-long immersive coral reef tunnel, a rare look into the underwater “Grand Canyon,” and a real hull from a local shipwreck.

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