Image via Flickr
The 37th annual Mermaid Parade kicks off in Coney Island this Saturday, signaling the official start of the summer season. Celebrated as the largest “art parade” in the country, the festive lineup features marching bands, drill teams, floats, antique cars and some 1,500 participants dressed in handmade costumes of mermaids, sea creatures, and mythical figures. This year, Coney Island natives Arlo Guthrie & Nora Guthrie—who both grew up on Mermaid Avenue—will lead the way as Queen Mermaid and King Neptune. Per tradition, they’ll be wheeled through in an antique wicker Boardwalk Rolling Chair dating back to 1923.
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
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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“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.
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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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.
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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.”
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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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
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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