The Coney Island of Tomorrow

Cleaning the beach (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY)
Cleaning the beach (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) Click to enlarge. Copyright 2007 Chris Combs.
 

I don’t live in New York. Like half of my generation, I’d love to. An interim solution for me has been to visit New York a lot. (Having a $35 travel expense hasn’t hurt.)

American tourists are lambasted for seeking constancy; sitting in the McDonald’s in Paris, or wandering in the Hotel Zone in Cancún, rather than spelunking the Catacombs or finding some fresh ruin to disrupt. I have to admit that I’ve sought consistency while traveling to New York – at Coney Island. Coney seemed an anachronism, a hearkening back to simpler and woolier times, Diane Arbus’s 1960s captivatingly androgynous, looming freakshow. It was potent stuff to a wide-eyed Southern-by-comparison boy, and it drew me back most visits, moth to SHOOT THE FREAK neon flame.

Arbus’s Coney is dying. A developer bought much of it, and is steadily destroying it. Astroland, mini-golf, hot dog vendors, it’s all to become condos and glossy cineplexes.

The ending has already begun. Here’s the mini-golf course in 2005, with a few die-hard players defying a summer squall:

Diehards (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) - 2005-07
Diehards (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) – 2005-07 Click to enlarge. Copyright 2007 Chris Combs.
 

And here’s the same golf course a few weeks ago:

The waterfall (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY)
The waterfall (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) Click to enlarge. Copyright 2007 Chris Combs.
 

Half of Coney is already boarded up. Across the street from what used to be a go-cart racetrack:

Grandpa’s Bus Line (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) Click to enlarge. Copyright 2007 Chris Combs.
 

Since one fence picture begets another, here’s what’s left of the track itself:

Go-cart tracks in ugly light (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY)
Go-cart tracks in ugly light (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) Click to enlarge. Copyright 2007 Chris Combs.
 

Even the Aquarium’s mural has been rendered soulless. Here’s April 2006:

Rasta Poseidon (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) - 2006-04
Rasta Poseidon (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) – 2006-04 Click to enlarge. Copyright 2007 Chris Combs.
 

and May 2007: (At least Brighton Beach seems thus far unaffected.)

At least it has sharks (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) - 2007-05
At least it has sharks (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) – 2007-05 Click to enlarge. Copyright 2007 Chris Combs.
 

One bright spot among the devastation – Deno’s Wonder Wheel gets a new paint job:

Man, that’s bright (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) – 2007-05 Click to enlarge. Copyright 2007 Chris Combs.
 

Needless to say, the new face of Coney is not universally loved; it’s being greeted with outrage and pointless snippiness. Neither reaction is likely to stop developers.

The Cyclone (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY)
The Cyclone (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) Click to enlarge. Copyright 2007 Chris Combs.
 

The Cyclone’s supposed to live another day. Yet it’s a wooden rollercoaster, for cryin’ out loud; its days, too, are numbered, except perhaps as an oddity. (But being oddities didn’t help many of the other rides and theme parks.)

And so Coney Island, self-same for half a century, fades into yesteryear. I guess I’ll look for my consistency in Penn Station. (Ah, crap!) Toodles, Coney; see you around…

Boardwalk (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) - 2006-04
Boardwalk (Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY) – 2006-04 Click to enlarge. Copyright 2007 Chris Combs.
 
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7 responses to “The Coney Island of Tomorrow

  1. As The Man says: “Put it back. Put it all back!”

    That boardwalk shot is unearthly bee-yoo-ti-ful.

  2. At least I saw it before it became terminal. Or, maybe everything is terminal.

  3. I believe you are incorrect in a few of your statements..Dino’s wonder wheel is not part of astroland and has not been bought. it is staying in coney island where it is according to its owner. Nathans has not been sold and is not moving. and the cyclone is a national landmark. ITs wood but for the moment we still have trees to make more and it can always be restored. Coney is in bad shape now as the pictures indicate but it will rise again

  4. Beautiful photos.

    I regret never seeing Coney Island in its glory. Jones Beach may face a different kind of terribleness, as Donald Trump plops his bajillion dollar catering hall- tax free -right on the boardwalk, where regular people prefer to spend their time. Beaches should not be exclusive for millionaires.

  5. I’d just like to tell you that my firm did that Aquarium mural, probono, for the nonprofit that runs the Aquarium in 1996, with volunteers coming out each day in the heat to paint it. In 2006, the Aquarium asked us again to revise it since it was destroyed, and again, volunteers and artists donated their time to it. How dare you presume to critisize real NY people who care about the community enough to do this!

  6. Dude , you don’t know what you’re talking about. Coney Island has been riddled by crime for the longest time. I have been going there since early 90’s and it has never been in better condition.

    If they didn’t clean up and renovate it would have disappeared completely in due course.

    You do some great research though, the mural you say that is entrenched as a Coney Island staple was less than 10 years old when it needed to be redone. Note: Salt water erodes surfaces.

    Did it occur to you that a new mural would increase foot traffic for the aquarium that needs patronage badlyto stay open?

    Get your facts straight before you rant about things you know nothing about southern boy!

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