Coney Island

See the Wonder Wheel and other Coney Island icons during a winter thaw

Eye on Real Estate: By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea

January 31, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. We're counting the days until Coney Island's Wonder Wheel reopens for the spring. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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Mark your calendars, Brooklynites.

The Wonder Wheel starts spinning again on March 25.

That’s when Palm Sunday falls this year — which, as tradition dictates, is the opening date for Coney Island’s amusement-park rides after they take a late-autumn and winter hiatus.

The iconic Ferris wheel’s fans can’t wait.

We saw several of them the other day on the boardwalk, snapping photos of the Wonder Wheel through a locked fence.  

We took some pictures, too, of course.

That day, Brooklyn was basking in the freakish warmth of a winter thaw. The temperature was 52 degrees. The sun was out.

What better place to be than the Riegelmann Boardwalk, where we could stare at the Wonder Wheel and daydream about the arrival of spring?

The 150-foot-tall Ferris wheel, which opened in 1920, is an individual city landmark.

The Instagram-worthy ride belongs to the Vourderis family, who meticulously repaired it after it was damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

Their website says that more than 40 million people have ridden on the Wonder Wheel.  

Have you been to Disney California Adventure Park or seen photos of it?

A ride there is called Mickey’s Fun Wheel. It’s 150 feet tall and is located by a boardwalk. Sound familiar? It should.   

It’s “one of only two ‘wonder wheel’ Ferris wheels still operating in the United States,” the Anaheim, California park’s website says. And its design inspiration was Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel, the website notes.

Like Brooklyn’s Wonder Wheel, the California version has eight stationary cars and 16 cars that swing.

There’s one big difference. Mickey Mouse’s smiling face adorns the center of Disney’s Ferris wheel. In the center of Coney Island’s iconic ride, the name “Wonder Wheel” appears in red letters.   


Who was Edward Riegelmann?

But more about Coney Island.

Its famous boardwalk is named after Edward Riegelmann. He was the Brooklyn Borough President when the 2.7-mile wood-plank walkway was constructed. It opened in 1923.

When we went strolling on it the other day, folks were out there soaking up the pale winter sunlight with their kids, or their dogs, or both.

Some people sat at picnic tables outside the Nathan’s hot-dog stand on the boardwalk.

The eatery was closed for the season. But the famous hot-dog seller’s nearby Surf Avenue location was open for business, so it was possible to have a seaside snack without bringing a bag lunch from home.   

Other people sunned themselves on benches outside New York Aquarium’s Education Hall. A mural by Brooklyn artist Danielle Mastrion — of a multi-colored fish and plastic debris that pollutes the world’s oceans — glowed in the afternoon light.  


The aquarium has a shimmer wall

Nearby, boardwalk visitors strolled past a construction fence surrounding a three-story, 57,000-square-foot New York Aquarium building.

It will serve as a new home for sharks — and rays, sea turtles and schools upon schools of fish.

Portions of the building that weren’t obscured by the fence were dazzlingly eye-catching. That’s because they’re covered by a wrap-around railing with rows of shiny metal tiles suspended from it. The tiles swayed in the breeze, which made them scintillate.

The wrap-around decoration is an art installation called a shimmer wall. It has more than 30,000 tiles on it, the aquarium’s website says.

A design team from the Wildlife Conservation Society, which is the aquarium’s operator, and environmental artist Ned Kahn came up with the idea for the shimmer wall, the website notes.

By the way, the name of the exhibit that will be housed there is Ocean Wonders: Sharks!

The exclamation point is part of its name and not a piece of punctuation we added to the previous sentence.

The exhibit is set to open this year.


Wooden roller coaster tracks and historic painted ponies

From another vantage point along the boardwalk, we saw the Cyclone, which sat silently because of its seasonal closure.

The famous roller coaster, whose tracks are made of wood, is a designated city landmark. It was built in 1927.

Further down the boardwalk, another individual city landmark, the Parachute Jump, caught our eye.

Outside the Parachute Jump’s neighbor on the boardwalk, the B&B Carousell, a group of people listened to a song about Puerto Rico on a portable sound system.

By the way, that’s not a typo. The “Carousell” in B&B Carousell really is spelled with two L’s.

People like us, who cherish old, beautiful things, smile whenever we walk past the merry-go-round.

It was rescued from destruction more than a decade ago.

According to a 2013 New York Times story, the merry-go-round’s owners decided to auction off its 50 wooden horses. Instead, the city Economic Development Corp. purchased the merry-go-round and had the painted ponies painstakingly refurbished.

Forty-nine of the horses were created in the 1920s by notable Coney Island merry-go-round maker Charles Carmel.

The 50th horse is considered extra-special. It was carved by an even more notable Coney Island merry-go-round maker, Marcus Charles Illions.

He crafted this fine steed in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth.


Sunshine on Steeplechase Pier

The day we took our boardwalk stroll, we detoured onto the beach.

From time to time, ocean breezes picked up dry sand and blew it around, like a mild sandstorm.

The afternoon sun cast a silvery path on the water.

Some kids took off their shoes and ran barefoot into the low waves for just a minute.

It wasn’t a Sunday, which is when the Coney Island Polar Bears take weekly winter swims. So we didn’t see anybody go all the way into the chilly ocean.

Over on Steeplechase Pier, numerous people were fishing or soaking up the sun.

The 1,000-foot pier, which is accessed from the boardwalk, was redesigned and repaired after suffering extensive damage during Superstorm Sandy.

The pier reopened in October 2013.

The landmarked Childs Restaurant building looks splendid at sunset

Back on the boardwalk, the pale stucco facade of Childs Restaurant was lit up by the setting sun.

It’s actually the former Childs Restaurant, as you probably know.

It’s now part of a concert venue called Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk.

The Childs Restaurant space is occupied by Kitchen 21, which is open in the winter.

Anyway. The former Childs Restaurant building is an individual city landmark.

Its architectural style is Spanish Colonial Revival.

The building is covered with fanciful terra-cotta ornamentation that’s nautically themed and includes the sea god Neptune and an array of seahorses, fish and seashells. There is a pergola on its roof.

The building was constructed by brothers Samuel and William Childs in 1923.

Ethan Allen Dennison and Frederic Charles Hirons, the architects who designed it, were educated at Paris’ Ecole des Beaux-Arts.


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