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posted on Nov 24th, 2007
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
When was PS 80 demolished? and what is on that site? What happened to the Carvel stand near Washington Baths? Is the Carolina Italian restaurant still in business? What happened to the Aaron Bring Chevrolet dealership on Neptune Ave.? Many of the small business shops on Mermaid Ave. have been demolished. What replaced these commercial entities?
- Dennis Sulam

Hello Dennis,

Both P.S. 80 buildings were demolished around 1980 and were replaced with two-story attached homes built by Astella Development of Mermaid Avenue.

Carvel operated first on Surf Avenue at West 21st Street through the 1960s, and then moved east to Stillwell Avenue and then to Surf Avenue in the Popper Building before closing several years ago.

Carolina was in business through the 1980s before being sold to a new owner who ran it into the ground. A chinese buffet now operates in the old building. The family that ran Carolina now operates the popular Fiorentino Restaurant on Avenue U at McDonald Avenue.

The Chevy dealership closed years ago. Their warehouse near Surf Avenue survived until the 1980s and then was demolished.

Most of the small businesses on Mermaid were replaced by Astella housing with retail on the ground floor. Only a few shops remain from the old days, the most famous is the butcher shop Major Meats at West 15th Street. Jimmy Prince has been at Major's since 1949 and has transformed the store's windows into a Coney Island exhibit.

posted on Nov 6th, 2007
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I grew up on 12th & Neptune and recall a barn or something similar near Coney Creek. I believe the Sanitation Department used it. Might you know of pictures, or any other proof? 
- AB Gold

Hello AB,

The barn was built in the late 1890s and served multiple purposes over the years: First as a Fire Department Pumping station and later a Sanitation Department salt storage facility. It was demolished about 30 years ago.

posted on Oct 31st, 2007
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
We were talking about all the old theaters, when we got into Coney Island the two names that popped up were The Shore and The Tilyou. Where were they?
- Coney Fan

Hello Coney Fan,

The Coney theaters were: The RKO Tilyou, operated by the Tilyou family of Steeplechase Park on Surf at West 17th (demolished 1973); The Loews theater on Surf at Stillwell (which is closed but still exists as the Shore Theater); The Surf Theater at Surf and West 32nd (closed in 1958); The Mermaid Theater at Mermaid Avenue and West 29th. (closed 1963); The Tuxedo Theater, Ocean Parkway at Brighton Beach Avenue (closed 1964). The Gate Theater, Surf at 25th Street (closed c. 1940s)

posted on Jun 29th, 2007
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I have seen many pictures of "baths" in and around the boardwalk. What exactly are they? What made them so popular?
- Coney Fan

Hello Coney Fan,

The bathhouses were where people rented lockers and changed from street clothes to swim suits. You could also rent swimsuits and beach chairs and umbrellas. Before the boardwalk was built the beach was private and the only way to get to the ocean was to pay admission at a bathhouse. Some of the bathhouses had recreational equipment, handball courts, restaurants, and huge salt water swimming pools. Everyone had a favorite.

They were very social places and generations of families and friends from the same neighborhoods patronized the same bathhouses for years until the last one (Brighton Beach Baths) was demolished in the early 1990s.

posted on May 5th, 2007
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
When did the Coney Island Parachute Jump last operate?
- Coney Fan

Hello Coney Fan,

The Parachute Jump never operated after the closure of Steeplechase Park on September 19, 1964. The information in the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation Report, claiming that the Jump operated until 1968, is inaccurate and is based on a newspaper article that the commission's researcher read about an accident at the site. The accident did not take place on the Parachute Jump. It occurred at a small go-kart track that circled the base of the abandoned Parachute Jump until 1971.

What's particularly amusing about the researcher's mistake is the media's embellishment of the years that the Parachute Jump supposedly operated after Steeplechase closed. Dramatic news stories have been spun about a declining Jump falling into disrepair, including detailed descriptions of the rickety ride finally being forced to close in 1968.

The commission's report also lists Norman Kaufman as the Parachute Jump's last operator. Kaufman, who operated an amusement fairground and parking lot on the Steeplechase site after the park was demolished, has always found this curious. "No, I never operated the Parachute," he said in 2003 when asked about the flawed report. "The historical consultant wrote that. She got it all wrong. The Garto brothers had a go-kart ride around the Parachute. I had nothing to do with that. I had nothing to do with the Boardwalk. The Garto brothers rented the base from Fred Trump and ran a go-kart ride."

Why is this information relevant? With restoration of the ride being proposed, it's important to get the facts straight. The Parachute Jump was an incredibly difficult ride to maintain and operate, and it had a perfect safety record. The commission's false image of the ride operating for several years with a ragtag crew implies that it could easily be restored and operated in its original form without much effort.

Although it's possible that the Parachute Jump could operate again, the ride's landmark designation would require it to be restored to its original form: a free fall with real chutes. The cost of restoration might prove to be prohibitively expensive, as the ride would require a highly trained and experienced crew to maintain it in the manner that the Tilyou family did until its closure in 1964. Besides the obvious insurance and liability concerns is another factor to consider: the Parachute Jump never made money for the Tilyous. Part of the reason can be traced to its location. Stiff ocean breezes kept it closed much of the time. Until these problems can be resolved, the landmarked Parachute Jump will continue in its role as a symbol of Coney Island survival and resurrection.