Regularly, our friend Tricia Vita over at the Coney Island blog Amusing the Zillion will send me a link about something terrible that's happening out there. Either the Henderson Building is being prepped for demolition, or the Faber's Fascination sign is being destroyed, or the Surf Hotel is being ground into dust.
And every time Tricia sends me these emails, I write back something like, "Oh, God, I can't look," or "It's unbearable," or "This is too much." All of which, I realize, is a form of denial.
Professional caregivers often talk about "empathy burnout," or just plain burnout. When you are someone who cares and you burn out, basically, you reach a point of "emotional exhaustion and reduced sense of personal accomplishment." You feel like everything you do is futile in the face of an unalterable horror--like death or serious illness--so you stop feeling. Powerless to change anything, you disengage.
This is how I feel towards Coney Island. When I think of the apocalypse that is going on there right now, I disengage. I turn away. I don't want to write about it, either. Truth is, right now I never want to visit Coney Island again. I don't want to witness the grisly remains of its rape, murder, and dismemberment.
And isn't that what the city's urban planners and the private developers have been hoping for, even orchestrating? That those of us who care about Coney--who take action either in writing or staging demonstrations or lobbying the city--will just give up?
Thankfully, some people haven't given up.
Shore Hotel, 1936. Today: Being demolished by Thor.
Let's take a moment to appreciate what Tricia is doing--facing down the daily despair to keep reporting on what is happening to Coney Island right now. She has not turned away, though it's painful to look. And let's also applaud the ongoing efforts of Save Coney Island--tonight, they're hosting a panel discussion on What's Next for Coney.
Attend the discussion if you are brave enough to face reality--by next summer, Coney Island as we know and love it will be gone forever. In its place, you will find a pile of strip-mall junk, a meaningless and hollow shell stuffed with empty calories, empty memory, empty life. It will be a corpse dressed up to look like something alive. We will not be fooled.
Thor's "soulless vision" for Coney Island
Two quotes come to mind from the destruction of Penn Station:
"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters." --Jackie Onassis
"Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves... And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed." --NY Times
Henderson Building in 1924. Today: Being demolished by Thor.
Henderson's Dance Hall
In the Popper
The Destruction of Coney