September 26, 2011

My Trips to Coney Island and The High Line

Filed under: Site Essay,Site Observations — samueljenk @ 2:10 am  Tagged

There are two New York City landmarks that stand out as creations of their time and neighborhood.  As a class assignment, we were asked to visit these two sites, Coney Island and the New York City Highline.  Both provide recreation different ways.  The High Line started as an abandoned railroad track and was repurposed as an escape for New Yorkers. Coney Island, as long as its been built, has been a collection of attractions for families living throughout Brooklyn.

When the residents of the Chelsea neighborhood heard they were going to tear down the abandoned railroad tracks that ran above the west side of the city, they organized protests.  They thought it would be better for the neighborhood if the tracks were repurposed as a park.  This illustrates the growing desire within the Chelsea community, and New York City as a whole, to revitalize the urban landscape.  To New Yorkers it has “always been a dream to find an open space – especially when you live in a studio apartment”  (Goldberger 4). Often referred to as the “Miracle Above Manhattan”, the High Line was created to fill the need for a quiet escape from the pollution and city noise.

In the early 20th century, Coney Island was designed to be affordable and wholesome family entertainment.  In the center of a predominantly immigrant community, it provided recreation for people of any age, class or background.  After  Coney Island was created it was said “if Paris is France, Coney Island, between June and September is the world” (Koolhaas 38). After surviving an attempt to turn it into expensive beachside condos, supporters of Coney Island decided to rebuild the parks. In my opinion, Coney Island now is a modern amusement park that is still trying to recapture the authenticity of the early 20th century. It has attempted to do this by placing modern attractions around the around older rides and stands. What caught my eye most was in the place of the old Steeplechase, stands a new, modern roller coaster.

Even though I enjoyed my visit to Coney Island, I left with a bad taste in my mouth.  I found myself longing for the seedy, dangerous Coney Island I remembered.  Coney Island, in my opinion, has turned into an area used for commercial gain . Everything in the new and improved Coney Island was too shiny, too safe and too commercial.  In trying to create a modern interpretation of itself, it lost its old world charm.  Instead of old and vaguely unsafe rides, Coney Island now boasts roller coasters you would find in in Six Flags.  To me this modern Coney Island feels too sterile and unfriendly.

After visiting the High Line I left with the opposite feeling.  The High Line, to me, is a more pure creation Though I know that the High Line provided some commercial benefit to New York City and its surrounding neighborhoods, it is far less apparent.   It was created so that New Yorkers have an escape above all the commotion.  Unlike Coney Island there is no charge to enjoy the High Line.  Obviously missing from the High Line are business and advertisements.  One is just surrounded by trees, wildlife, and beautiful waterfalls.  It truly feels that while visiting the High Line, you escape to your own paradise.

Coney Island and the High Line offer different forms of recreation.  Coney Island provides the community a park filled with activity, rides, and noise, while the attraction of the High Line is the absence of all entertainment It’s a place that is meant for relaxation and escape.  Both places are reflections of the neighborhood they were built in, and in my opinion will continue to be landmarks for years to come.

Works Cited

Koolhaas, Rem. Delirious New York. New York: Monacelli Press, 1994. Print.

Goldberger, Paul. “Miracle Above Manhattan.” National Geographic April 2011: 122-137. Print.

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