Friday, June 01, 2007

'Coney Island is Going Away'


We came across an interesting blog entry about Coney Island on a blog called A Child of Atom. We like it because it gets at the "people's playground" flavor that Coney Island has that could be erased with enough of a luxe upscaling. This week's Observer has a piece that wonders if there's anything in Coney Island worth "saving," so to speak, other than the handful of landmarks such as the Cyclone, Wonder Wheel, Nathans and Parachute Jump that remain. (Interestingly, it contains a lot of remarks from Shoot the Freak founder Anthony Berlingieri who, clearly, has not been obligated to adhere to developer Joe Sitt's "Gag Rule" because he has very positive things to say about any redevelopment and of space for his business in one of the new buildings.)

We'd suggest that it isn't so much the possible bulldozing of the ragtag collection of arcades and vendors' spaces that is the issue as it is what will replace them. A redevelopment that is sensitive to Coney Island's history and that respects the multi-cultural place that it is and maintains the attraction it has for people of very different socio-economic backgrounds would be a good thing. One that bulldozes amusements and replaces them with boring, out-of-scale highrise condos and shopping center retailers would be a bad thing.

We digress, however. Our point was to relate some nice writing that captures a piece of the Coney spirit:
Coney Island is going away. It's a sad truth that New York City is being developed within an inch of its life. Everything from warehouses to piers are turning into condominiums and a lot of the flavor of the neighborhoods, and consequently the city, is being glazed over with that midwest sheen of homogenity. The latest victim is Coney Island, that low-rent bastion of carnival culture that was once called "Sodom by the Sea."...Out on the baordwalk is the usual mix of beach stores selling tee-shirts and sun lotion, bars and beach food vendors selling everything you can imagine fried, and/or stuck on a stick. But the real attraction is the people. Beach bums, loud Dominican mother's, women in bikini's dancing on stilts, drag queens, burlesque dancers, screaming kids, carny workers, sideshow freaks... everybody is welcome in Coney Island and no one feels out of place. It is one of the best places to people watch that I have ever seen.

But now it's over. This is the last year of Coney Island. The area has been purchased by a real estate developer. They promise that they aren't planning to put in shoebox condos.
So, the question is, will middle aged Dominican women we watched dancing on the boardwalk, the gentleman with the missing front teeth that sold us our onion rings at Astroland this weekend, the Puerto Rican guy running the shady card game on the Steeplechase Pier and the family from East New York playing the water balloon game all have a place in the New Coney Island? There's more to it, and it's worth clicking over to read the entire item.



Blogger Cully said...

Thank you for the link. Memorial day was my first trip to Coney Island and it makes me all the sicker to know what's happening. I didn't even know I'd miss it, but I will.

1:03 AM  

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