Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Coney Island #3: Were Circus Fans Afraid of Coney?

Cole Bros Ticket Window

Last week, Kinetic Carnival noted that attendance at the Cole Bros. Circus in Coney Island was less than had been hoped for. This week, the Brooklyn View fills in more blanks with priceless detail. Like this gem from someone attending the circus:
“Everyone loves Coney Island but after dark it is a different story,” said Anthony Davidson, who sat in the third row with his three-year-old son. “It’s risky to even walk the streets sometimes. You hear gun shots and you’re always afraid to get mugged.”
Gunshots? "Always afraid" of getting mugged? On the boardwalk or Surf Avenue? We'll admit to jumping when a balloon in one of those water games pops, but that's about the entirety of the level of personal threat we've ever felt in the heart of the amusement area. Here's the text of the story, which is available only in a PDF:
Due to parking problems, congestion and the reputation of the neighborhood, the Cole Bros. Circus had lackluster attendance numbers during its nighttime performances in Coney Island, according to the circus. For the past several years, the circus set up its tent in Marine Park and filled the seats, but this summer, the circus struggled to fill seats. Not one event sold out in the six consecutive days of production.

Although the ringmaster told crowds the circus was excited to showcase their flying trapeze and Andrey, an acrobat, the company left Coney Island a bit disappointed. “With all the fun and excitement of elephants, lions, balloons and clowns, there was a sea of empty seats throughout several nights,” said Edna Williams, as she clapped for the performers. She sat in the front row during the last performance on August 5.

“This is Coney Island, home to the freaks and the melting pot of the world. We figured we’d fit right in,” said Frank, a circus employee.

Chuck Werner, Cole Bros. senior marketing director, said families did not attend at night because they feared bringing their children to an environment that, while booming during the day, is often crime-ridden at night. Drug dealings, prostitution and violence, while not as prevalent for the past two years, is still reported often to the 60th Precinct. However, due to efforts of the police, the area has become known for a large drop in crime. This has contributed to a spike in tourism and the newly proposed development of a rejuvenated amusement park and resort by the boardwalk.

“The area is improving, the community is starting to work hand in hand with the precinct and that helps us to do our jobs to catch the bad guys,” said Deputy Inspector Robert Johnson, Commander of the Precinct. “Everyone loves Coney Island but after dark it is a different story,” said Anthony Davidson, who sat in the third row with his three-year-old son. “It’s risky to even walk the streets sometimes. You hear gun shots and you’re always afraid to get mugged.”

Thor Equities, which has bought a large portion of the amusement area along the boardwalk, said that they were not surprised to see the multitude of empty seats during the performances. The company focused on just bringing the Circus into the area. The corporation plans to turn the area into a “resort paradise” which would include a retail and entertainment strip with an indoor water park and a 500-room, four-star hotel.

Another reason that contributed to the low attendance according to Cole Bros. senior marketing director Chuck Werner, was a major parking problem in Coney Island. There were thousands of people and very few parking spots. Parking lot owners also charged high prices. Many Circus visitors said that they were forced to park several blocks away...
People didn't go because of "a major parking problem" and "congestion" and a "crime-ridden" environment or had to park "several blocks away"? We're guessing circus fans didn't want to take the subway because they were afraid of being gunned down walking the block from the Stillwell Avenue Station to the circus tent?

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8 Comments:

Blogger Erica said...

OK, the person who said that quote is full of total bullsh!t -- I'm in Coney every week, usually until midnight...around the amusements, on the beach, in the street...I have not, ever, heard a single gunshot.

And if there is any chance of the quality of life being in any way compromised (aside from the errant rat you'll see scurry underneath Faber's Fascination or someone throwing their trash in the middle of Surf Avenue), cops from the six-oh do an awesome job of concealing it.

Anyway, it's just my opinion. It's definitely scuzzy, but it's not unsafe.

6:20 AM  
Anonymous MUSCLE13 said...

Good Lord Robert! Are you even from Brooklyn? Don't you realize why the Coney Island Development Corporation was formed?

It doesn't tell you something that Marine Park with its very limited parking can sell out the circus all the time and Coney (where the circus actually fits in) can't sell out? Wake up already!

Develop Coney BIG TIME! Hotels amusements, retail, restaurants. Everybody stop living in the past and get Coney into Brooklyn's future. Will Coney be the only neighborhood thats left behind in Brooklyn? It could be if you internet guys get your way.

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Jeanne said...

In the 10+ years I've been coming to Coney Island, I've never felt unsafe. Even walking from the amusement area over to Totonno's was fine. The scariest thing that's ever happened while I've been on the subway between CI and Manhattan was a little kid upchucking after too much sun and fun. I've lived in some transitional neighborhoods in my time and Coney is actually better than some of the places I've called home.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Preworn said...

LOL! I grew up their in the 1970s/1980s and people are exaggerating. It is TONS better there and there are cops on every corner.

I wonder if Thor encouraged the Cole Bros. into saying all of that to give fuel to Thor's desire to demolish all of Coney.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Many of my friends and relatives have been mugged in Coney Island, but not since the early 1980s. For those of us who grew up in Brooklyn in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Coney Island was pretty scuzzy and not that much fun.

I was teaching at Kingsborough Community College in 1978 or 1979 and got mugged in Coney Island (while walking with my step-great-grandmother yet!) and I avoided it for years afterwards (actually, I left NYC a few years later).

But I was there last weekend and it's a zillion percent improved over what it used to be.

Even in the worst of the 1970s, I never heard anyone talk about hearing gunshots regularly.

On the other hand, I can see why the circus did better in Marine Park. It's a more pleasant venue; as someone who lived nearby, I can attest that it's a neighborhood that has always been very congenial for clowns.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say Coney Island must go on with renovation for better future to become jewel of South Brooklyn. Build upscale entertainment center with exclusive live shows. Maybe build a few uniquely design five star hotels for visitors.

12:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say Coney Island must go on with renovation for better future to become jewel of South Brooklyn. Build upscale entertainment center with exclusive live shows. Maybe build a few uniquely design five star hotels for visitors.

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Chuck Werner said...

It is interesting to see all the "comments" I made which did not come from my mouth. Is someone advancing their own agenda? Of the thousands of Circus patrons, I heard one comment about parking (prices) from someone who did not know about the KeySpan parking lot. I heard absolutely no comments from patrons or staff about security concerns although we did arrange one security officer for overnight (as we always do at Marine, Forest, Van Cortlandt, Flushing Meadows and Midland Beach Parks. I think the person who saw the "sea of empty seats" may have been looking at the empty baseball stadium. My eyes and our attendance figures tell me Cole Bros. Circus enjoyed good business and a successful engagement and is anxious to return to Coney Island.

8:05 AM  

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