The new Steeplechase

Coney Island is not actually an island, but a small peninsula that hangs from the southernmost edge of Brooklyn. It is accessible by car and by subway. The neighborhood includes high-rise apartments, two-family and single-family houses and some retail businesses along Surf Avenue, Mermaid and Neptune Avenues: and the centrally located amusement area.

It is all new, the rides, the signage, the smiles

Cozy ride in the new Steeplechase

Since the early 1800s, Coney Island, “playground of the world,” has played many roles in the lives and imagination of New Yorkers and the world. From its beginnings as a quiet seaside town, Coney Island went on to boom years in the 1880s, as entrepreneurs rushed to stake their claims and make their fortunes.    In 1929 with the Great Depression, Coney Island transformed.

The area became a “Nickel Empire” of cheap amusements; a nickel paid the fare on the new subway line, and visitors were greeted by the original Nathan’s, famous home of the five-cent hot dog. The amusement parks struggled to stay afloat and Coney Island began to experience hard economic times. The historic amusement area spans from West 8th to West 24th Street, and from Surf Avenue to the Atlantic Ocean. This area contains a three-mile beachfront boardwalk.

The Wonder Wheel is old, it has a long history. When I played there in the 50’s, it was my favorite ride. It doesn’t only go around, the cars slide to the end and swing way out, to and fro, with nothing beneath you. Thrilling.

Today, Coney Island is in the midst of a revival, spurred by public, private and community initiatives.  In addition to amusement parks, rides and concessions, there is the New York Aquarium, KeySpan Park-home of the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team-and Asser Levy Park and Amphitheater.

Home of the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team. That structure in the back of the stadium is the famous Coney Island Parachute Jump. This is my 14×17 watercolor of the park.

With the creation of the Coney Island Development Corporation, the area is poised for further positive change, in which the Parachute Pavilion Design Competition, will play a vital part.

Sadly, Storm Sandy ripped the Island apart. It will have to be restored once again.

Have you been to Coney Island? Have any of you been there in the 50’s or 60’s? Have you indulged in Nathan’s famous hotdogs and curly fries. Ummm. Tell me your story.



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