Preservationists scramble for Feltman remnants • Brooklyn Paper

Preservationists scramble for Feltman remnants

The demolition of this building, believed to be the last remaining part of Charles Feltman's Coney Island empire, drew Coney Island preservationists this week hoping to recovers a few scraps of history.

The struggle to save Coney Island’s storied past while paving the way for its glorious future has come down to brick and tile.

It’s all members of the Coney Island History Project were expecting to extract from the demolished Feltman’s Building this week.

“It’s really a shame,” said Charles Denson, executive director of the Coney Island History Project. “I think it could have been repurposed. It’s a solid building, but it just doesn’t fit into their plans.”

The city is busily clearing the former site of the Astroland Amusement Park at 1000 Surf Avenue in advance of the new “Luna Park” amusement park set to debut on Memorial Day.

The Feltman building, located on same site, is thought to be the only tangible remnant of Charles Feltman’s vast Coney Island empire of restaurants, thrill rides, and attractions.

Feltman, who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1856, is credited with inventing the hot dog. Many believe that Nathan Handwerker, founder of Nathan’s Famous, once worked inside the same Feltman building tagged for demolition.

The city began asbestos abatement on the old Feltman’s Building, distinct for its protruding brick chimneys, last month.

Two other small buildings on the site with strong ties to Coney Island’s past were previously demolished.

“The city was approached by the Coney Island History project with a request to retrieve souvenirs from the Feltman’s Building for its collection,” a spokesperson for the New York City Economic Development Corporation said. “We are happy that we were able to make it happen.”

It wasn’t easy, however.

“They made us jump through hoops,” Denson said.

The city has devoted $6.5 million in capital funding preparing the former Astroland site for transformation.

Denson says that items retrieved from the Feltman’s demolition will be on display at the Coney Island History Project, located beneath the landmark Cyclone roller-coaster on the corner of Surf Avenue and West 10th Street.

The Coney Island History Project’s collection of fascinating artifacts already includes an assortment of Feltman relics – among them a chair from the old Feltman beer garden.

The slate won’t be entirely wiped clean, however. The nearby Astro Tower is just too big to move and will instead be incorporated into the new “Luna Park.”

Plans to affix new signage to the 272-foot tall, non-operational gyro-tower are still in the conceptual phase, but park operators hope to have the revamped Astro Tower ready for opening day.

Public hearings slated for March 23 at the Landmarks Preservation Commission will help determine if landmark status will be extended to two other historic sites in Coney Island – the Shore Theater located at Stillwell and Surf avenues, and the Coney Island USA building located at 1208 Surf Avenue.

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