Our trips to Coney Island were completely fun and interesting! I remember when I was little, there was newspaper clipping and photo of my great-uncle Bubby sitting on the Cyclone and holding a beer on my grandparents fridge. The first time I went myself, I was six and my uncle took me to the famous Coney Island Sideshow. My mother never forgave him.
It’s hard to explain to someone who goes for their first time now, how different it was ten years ago, just as I’m sure it is impossible for my grandparents to convey the changes since they were little. Gone are the sleazy attractions and “Shoot the Freak” game on the boardwalk. The efforts to turn it into a family establishment are noticeable. Despite all the development in the heart of Luna Park and the boardwalk, however, a great deal of it remains very underdeveloped or rundown. It was almost eerie, walking into the residential areas of Coney Island on a beautiful Saturday and seeing only a few people on Surf Avenue. However, everyone we did talk to were extremely nice and willing to talk to us, especially because we were asking questions about their community, which they clearly cared very deeply about. Coney Island has such a rich history of change and ties to all areas of New York City and I’m extremely glad we chose this neighborhood as the subject for our project (plus, we got to sneak in a few games of skee ball)
The only contact I’d ever had with Coney Island before we embarked upon this quest to understand the area was through books, movies, and television. Jamie, Kaitlyn, and Jeremy can tell you how astonished I was that the boardwalk was actually real.
“It looks just like in that one movie… What was it? Um, no, a show? Was Coney Island ever in Buffy the Vampire Slayer?”
I’m sure my companions found it quite entertaining how amazed I was at this place. I examined the old signs and the new rides. My jaw dropped when I saw the ocean. I always knew that the city is on the water but, for some reason, I never associated beaches with New York City.
We went to see Coney Island twice, once to plan, the second time to talk to people. Although I missed out on part of the second day, Jamie and Kaitlyn did a great job gathering interviews. I came in time to talk to the owner of the Coney Island Museum, and to indulge in a lovely ride on the Wonder Wheel with Jamie. All the people looked so small from up there, and I began to imagine how great this must have felt in the late 1800s, when the buildings were smaller, and the attractions were fewer.
It was great learning about Coney Island, especially because it forced us to realize that people live there. Of course, not much of my info focused on only the neighborhood of Coney Island, but the fact that the data was so hard to find is information in itself. Hardly anyone thinks about the people that actually live near this amusement park and the beach. It’s all about commercialism and tourist attractions. Why look up facts about the population in those building projects if you can look at pictures of a ferris wheel?
Growing up a child in Brooklyn, Coney Island was a major destination for those steamy summer days when the backyard hose just wouldn’t cut it. I would beg my mom or my sisters to take me to the beach and they were happy to oblige. I loved going to the beach, digging in the sand and splashing in the waves (I still do), however my greatest desire was always to go on the rides and play games at the arcade.
I am echoing Kaitlyn by saying that the Coney Island of my childhood is different from the Coney Island I visited with my group. The rides and the Boardwalk have changed and will continue to be redesigned. The rides are sleeker, the Boardwalk slightly spruced up but there is one part of Coney Island that will never change, and that is the neighborhood next to the amusement park. The people who live in Coney Island all year round, go on with their day to day business and refuse to allow the park to encroach on their territory. Even when developers wanted to expand Coney Island and turn it into a typical beach front resort, the neighborhood rallied and fought. The neighborhood won and endures to this day.
Walking the Boardwalk, the look on everyone’s faces, whether they are visitors or in for the long haul, is a contented one. The atmosphere of Coney Island is indescribable. One must venture down there for themselves to absorb all of the smells, sights and thrills of the beach and amusement park. Hopefully, the glimpse of Coney Island we have given you will entice you to visit this enchanting place. If we have, then we have truly done justice to the majestic Coney Island.
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