If you walk up an down the Coney Island boardwalk during the spring and summer, chances are you’ll bump into one robot or another out for a stroll.
The man behind the mask is Peter Kokis, a former military pilot. He decided to bring the sci-fi characters to life after a joking around with an ex-girlfriend.
“I’m a responsible, professional guy,” he said. “I have a responsible, professional career. She said ‘you’re too stiff. You need to loosen up and do something weird.'”
Kokis decided she was right, so he marched in Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade dressed as a character he calls Squid Boy.
A few years later he dressed as the Transformer Bumblebee, and from there his love of creating the robots was born.
“I actually use my experience in aviation to build my robots,” he said. “So I make them redundant and I make them modular so I can upgrade them.”
He builds each one at his kitchen table using things you can find in any house that might otherwise end up in a junk drawer.
“That’s inside the toilet tank. That is a soup can strainer. Egg slicer. This is a toilet paper holder. That’s a kitchen sink drain,” he said as he pointed out the details of one of his creations.
Some of the costumes are made up of so many items that they weigh as much as he does. In all, he has created nine characters, each with its own personality.
“Actually my Brooklyn Terminator, everyone expects him to sound like Arnold, but no, he’s a Brooklyn wise guy, that’s his personality, so Joe Pesci from My Cousin Vinny, ‘hey, how you doin?'”
It’s a far cry from the conservative military man who started building all those years ago. Kokis tried to make Brooklyn RobotWorks his full-time business, but now has a normal job and just builds his robots on the side. He says because of his pursuit he encourages everyone to step outside their comfort zone.
“So many great interactions, experiences, met so many great people, had so many wonderful challenges and grown in so many other ways that never would have happen if I hadn’t started this,” he said.
You could say he’s a Transformer whether he’s wearing the costume or not.