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Redeveloping the iconic Coney Island

Posted by: Helen Walters on June 25, 2007

I love Coney Island. I can’t help it. I love the fact that it’s knackered and beat up and full of really rubbish games/rides (although I’m too chicken ever to go on the Cyclone again) and I always come home covered in a thin layer of grease and sugar from all the crap food I’ve eaten. I also love the fact that despite the fact I couldn’t go there this weekend (for the legenday Mermaid Day Parade), when I bumped into a friend of mine later in the evening, he was dressed as Tigger. Quite unapologetically. Check out this Flickr album for more pix of the weird and wonderful.

A few years ago, Creative Time curated a public art initiative to bring high profile designers to the area, revamping and updating some of the truly gorgeous ads and designs of the locale. The irony of bringing in the trendies to create designs that had originally been created by hand, by necessity, was not lost to all, and the venture was welcomed and slammed in about equal measure. That's what seems to be happening now, with the proposals to revamp the entire neighborhood from Joe Sitt and Thor Equities. This year will be the last of the Astroland Amusement Park, whose owner sold out to Sitt for $30 million at the end of last year. And much of the controversy is over proposed residential development in the heart of the amusement district -- lots of people are all sorts of worried that Coney's going to lose its soul to the developers. But while some Coney diehards resist any type of development with all their might, I can't help but think that the area could use some help. Faded grandeur is all well and good, but it doesn't pay the bills. When I was out there one evening about a month ago, the already sparse crowds rapidly dwindled and those that had kept their storefronts open then closed them disconsolately. Whenever I've visited in winter time, the place is a wasteland. I love it like that, but it can't be easy to live and work out there. Now the challenge for the developers is to keep the soul of Coney alive; to keep the small businesses in operation and avoid destroying its essence and heart with too saccharine a clean-up while bringing a much-needed cash injection to the area. If the urban planners and authorities are smart, everyone could be a winner.

Reader Comments

Loretta Donovan

June 26, 2007 1:49 PM

I grew up in the perimeter of Coney Island and went to school at Our Lady of Solace. It was an amazing place, with Jewish Bakeries, the Italian cheese shop that became Pollyo, a library in a Victorian frame building, and the boardwalk and rides. The Brooklyn Day parade marched down Ocean Parkway towards the shore and Steeplechase was free that day to the Scouts who marched. It was never sane or truly safe, but Coney Island was real in every way.

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