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:
And here’s the same golf course a few weeks ago:
Half of Coney is already boarded up. Across the street from what used to be a go-cart racetrack:
Since one fence picture begets another, here’s what’s left of the track itself:
Even the Aquarium’s mural has been rendered soulless. Here’s April 2006:
and May 2007: (At least Brighton Beach seems thus far unaffected.)
One bright spot among the devastation – Deno’s Wonder Wheel gets a new paint job:
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’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…