It’s history: Coney’s oldest remaining building to be demolished

It’s history: Coney’s oldest remaining building to be demolished
Photo by Steve Solomonson

It’s out with the old, in with the boom!

Coney Island’s oldest remaining building will be demolished, according to a local historian and city records.

The Department of Buildings in January approved a demolition application for the more than 130-year-old Grashorn Building on Surf Avenue between Jones Walk and W. 12th Street, news of which local historian Charlie Denson, the executive director of the Coney Island History Project, revealed on March 4.

Entrepreneur Henry Grashorn first erected the three-story building in the late 1880s, opening a hardware store on the ground floor where amusement-park operators purchased tools to make repairs on their nearby rides, according to Denson, who said Grashorn operated the top two floors as a hotel.

In 1971, amusement operator Wally Roberts purchased the property, refashioning the ground floor into an arcade, and using the top two floors as an apartment and a workshop, Denson said.

But the building has been vacant for more than a decade, according to the historian, who said it has remained empty since developer Joe Sitt, the founder of real-estate firm Thor Equities, purchased it for $1.4 million in 2005.

Sitt owned the most property in the neighborhood until he sold a large portfolio of his Coney Island holdings to the city’s Economic Development Corporation for $95.6 million in 2009, when the Council passed the neighborhood’s sweeping rezoning, according to a Real Deal report.

Last fall, Sitt attempted to shed even more of his local land when he put 21 of his remaining area properties — which allegedly occupy nearly twelve football fields’ worth of space — up for sale, the Real Deal reported at the time.

A rep for beleaguered local demolition company Breeze National — which the New York Daily News in 2013 reported had a deadly safety record, and for years was run by an alleged mobster — filed the application to demolish Grashorn Building, records show.

Reps from Thor Equities did not immediately respond to inquiries about when demolition would begin, what the firm plans to do with the site after the building is razed, whether it plans to knock down anymore of its properties in the area, or why bigwigs chose Breeze National to do the demolition work.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.