Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Rape of Coney

As we heard yesterday, 9 of the 11 businesses on the Coney Island boardwalk have been given the boot. As Tricia at Amusing the Zillion put it, "It’s like a mass wake on the Coney Island Boardwalk at the moment. The funeral will be this weekend… It’s goodbye Ruby’s, Cha Cha’s, Paul’s Daughter, Grill House, Gyro Corner, Shoot the Freak, Beer Island, Pio Pio Riko and Coney Island Souvenir Shop."

What's to come? Upscale restaurants and middle-brow chains, the Xeroxed world we're all subjected to, inured to, numbed to--and powerless to stop. Between Thor's demolitions and Zamperla's evictions, Coney Island is going to look like a massive car-wreck victim after multiple plastic surgeries. We won't recognize her.

Here's some of what you won't see next season:





Said Ruby's co-owner to the Daily News: "It's really saying, 'To hell with Coney Island the way it is and the way it was. We want to create a brand new, clean Coney Island for upscale people only.'"







News sources say the future of the boardwalk likely includes Brooklyn Brewery*, Shake Shack, and Atomic Wings. What might that look like? Well, it's going to look just like everywhere else:



*Correction: News sources admit mistake--Brooklyn Brewery will not be going to Coney, they ask you please not to boycott them.

Oh yeah, and the lovely wooden boardwalk itself? It'll be made of faux-wood concrete.

40 comments:

City Of Strangers said...

there hasn't been much left of Coney for awhile but I find it amazing that the mayor, the developers, anybody, would want to wipe out what's left. A definite lack of imagination. A collapse of imagination.

T.

Tricia said...

Alas, multiple plastic surgeries is a scary and appropriate analogy. The buildings will stay and get a redo for the new restaurants & bars. Out with the old, in with the new...

btw the word verification I have to type in to post this comment was "conierob"---is the eerie or what?

Will said...

It may have been a shadow of its former early 20th century glory, but it still had a lot of SOUL- something that Thor seems very determined to wipe away.

ShatteredMonocle said...

What the fuck with Zamperla? I thought they were leasing Astro Land from the city. How exactly were they endowed with the authority to evict?

This is probably the most disgusting thing I've ever seen on this blog.

Bowery Boogie said...

shoot the freak was one of the most loved attractions on the boardwalk. it will definitely be missed.

maybe mcnally will open something here, too...

Shannon said...

Good post.

Please reconsider your use of the word "rape" in the title. Real estate development can be tragic, but it is not rape. Thanks, a long time reader.

Wadjet Eye said...

I admit that I generally read your blog entries and think "Meh, it's just progress." But this. THIS. This is sad. What genius decided that Coney Island should be upscale and trendy? It was pure and raw and anyone could be a part of it. You could walk down the boardwalk and feel like you were walking back in time. Shakeshake? Atomic wings? A sports bar? I feel ill.

Wilfrid said...

Yeah, big Shoot the Freak fan here too. I think Ruby's days were numbered anyway for a variety of reasons, but this massacre is very sad.

alone in the dark said...

and here is where i give up on NYC forever. goodbye, city i once loved. you are gone. to the yunnies and the fatcats who stole her--fuck you.

just disgusting.

esquared said...

coney island is one of the few places (are there any others left?) that i go to escape the shake shack et. als. -- the mall that nyc has become. and now it will be one. what's the point of going to coney island then if it'd be just like any other place where one can get a shake shack burger, etc.?

this 'new' coney island would be just like what happened to the meat packing district. people that will be going there would think that the fashionistas and the riches were always there, and that there was no coney island before then.

well, it is somewhat humbling, and a consolation, that at least i got to see and experience this coney island.

(my captcha verification for this is "dermazoo", which is somewhat fitting since these developers are trying to 'rehydrate' coney island to make it look younger for the affluent)

Jeremiah Moss said...

Shannon, thank you for your comment and, believe me, i considered the word choice very carefully, understanding it might be triggering. i decided to go with it because what's happening to Coney fits the dictionary's 4th definition of the word rape:

"an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: the rape of the countryside."

Bowery Boy said...

I'm not a shoot-the-freak fan, and frankly, the beach at Coney hasn't been all that nice in decades. But, Coney is a place where young, struggling couples can take their kids and have a great time on their over-committed budgets. The City must save some place for the young & poor with kids in tow. Gussing up everything will just price the common folk out of a vacation. We need "cheap eats" and other cheap thrills at Coney. It's Festivus for the rest of us!

Anonymous said...

This is probably just the horrible beginning. Watch them decide to start charging people to use the beach, like they do in Asbury Park.

Rsl said...

1) coney island: its interesting that he "downscale" looks better than the "upscale"! the word has been overused. what they mean by "upscale" is the dull middle class. the word "luxury" has been overused as well. coney island will be for college kids or tourists. whose going to pay a taxie or take a train for another mall? seems NYC is a tourist trap. 2) burger change: elevated burger, or is it evolution burger? is another ugly corporate face. again for me its like lower middle class. i see a downscaling of america & new york..... thats another post

hunter said...

i think refurbishing coney island was the answer, not tearing it down.

Shannon said...

Jeremiah, thank you for your considerate response. It's your (great) blog and I respect your right to say what you want on it.

However, because of the use of the word "rape" I chose not to share this post with my friends through facebook, and I would have liked to.

The 4th definition of the word "rape" is generally not the one that comes to mind when most people hear the word, in my opinion. I Coney Island defenders should be proyus and angry, but also the sort of folks who refuse to trivialize sexual violence by equating rape with nonviolent real eatate development.

Please accept my apologies for the derail. I'll let the issue rest now.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Shannon, i appreciate your response, and respectfully understand this word can trigger strong emotions. that's part of why i chose it--not for its sexual meaning, but for its violent meaning. desecration, violation...these would work, too, but they don't quite get at the real physical and emotional violence that is behind what's happening to Coney Island.

violence comes in many forms. economic violence is one of them. it is an attack of the powerful against the powerless. environmentalists often talk of "the rape of the Earth." that's the meaning i am using here and i don't equate it with sexual forms of rape.

anyway, i just wanted to explain that i did not choose the word thoughtlessly or without considering its many dimensions. and thanks again for engaging in the discussion.

Bowery Boogie said...

oh, and you can bet that the new establishments that move in will try to recreate the very Coney they destroyed.

Elaine said...

Terrible. Just terrible. And I thought the Home Depot on 23rd Street was bad. :-/

Goggla said...

Ruby's and Shoot-the-Freak defined Coney for me. Where else on Earth can you find places like that? And, I agree with Esquared - what's the point of going out there for Shake Shack, et al? Why would tourists take a long subway ride when all that stuff already surrounds their hotel in the city? I also agree with Bowery Boy - Coney was the place to go for an inexpensive 'vacation' or reachable day out at the beach. Sad.

I'm tempted to visit Ruby's this weekend, but frankly, I want to remember Coney as it was when it was alive, not this way, with one foot in the grave.

BaHa said...

Jere, as someone who was "violently seized and abused," (that is, raped at gunpoint) I've got to go with Shannon on this one.

KathyG said...

You can bet that the new joints on the boardwalk will not allow you to wander in with sandy feet and a wet swimsuit. They used to let me leave my purse or backback behind the bar at Ruby's and I never worried about it. So many good times and great stories, and an unparalleled view of the best parade of humanity ever. Shame on Bloomberg.

Marty Wombacher said...

The blog Grub Street just renamed it "Phony Island." Perfect.

Erin said...

The president of Zamperla is Valerio Ferrari and his number is (973) 331-1623.

Claribel said...

Your 8/26/07 link to the Joe Sitt profile on Inc.com is a real eye-opener, just like the Andres Duany new Urbanist interview which was on your Bergen Bobos post. Both are entrepreneurs influencing the makeup of our cities who claim to know what the communities want. The irony is that they appear to have stopped listening to the communities because it’s either not good for business or stalls development. On Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, Sitt states “he's had a lot of influence in my life. He was altruistic and socially conscious about his business and making the world a better place, and I've tried very hard to keep that ethos.” Both Walton and Sitt perhaps started out with the right intentions, but consider the Frankensteins they’ve created.

Duany states “if you unfilter what people want--they don't want poor people, they don't want income diversity, and they don't want shops anywhere near them and they don't want rapid transit and they don't want streets that connect and they don't want anybody bicycling past their yards and they don't want density. So you can't just do unfiltered bottom-up planning. We need to educate.” Wow. Pretty obvious he’s talking to a select group of people. He also states “While democracy does most things well, I think we need to confront the fact that it does not make the best cities. And that the cities that were great were rather top-down. You know--Paris and Rome, the grid of Manhattan. What would those have been like if there hadn't been some top-down stuff? This idea that you have an individual right to do whatever you want with your land is very democratic, but the result is pretty questionable… Unfortunately, it's hard to have a debate in this country about certain things.”

I agree with the last statement and think we ought to open up the debate more. I bow down to good people like Tricia Vita and the Save Coney Island friends who’ve been getting the word out. I think developers are counting on those of us who care to be too consumed with getting through our everyday lives to make our voices heard and be a big enough number to influence the decision making. It’s depressing because how do you make a difference during these hard times and when making a difference feels so much like David vs. Goliath without the happy ending? But the good news is that the chain restaurants haven’t been built yet. It’s time to get involved, isn’t it? Is it really over? I guess I’m in denial. I signed the Save Coney Island petition and joined their mailing list. I know. Too little too late. Sorry for the long post, I'll shut up now.

laura said...

in the 50s & 60s: manhattan beach was for the middle/upper middle kids, brighton beach was for lower middle & middle kids, coney island was for the lower & poorer classes. (i went to manhattan& brighton). we did go to coney island on tuesdays nights to see the fire works in the summer time. also i think i went on 1 or 2 ferris wheel rides. it was great to go to all 3 places. will they still have the fireworks?

mingusal said...

Oh, we're going to be so sorry for what is being done there this week. Just like we are now about the demolition of Penn Station. Years from now there will be great hand-wringing about the pieces of the real, historic, organic Coney we could have saved, but didn't.

And once all the shiny newness has gotten just a little old and the place looks like a seaside version of those dreary chain-encrusted corridors that make up today's Penn Basement Station, people looking at the remnants of the Coney Island Boardwalk and the photos of what was once there will inevitably ask "what were they thinking?" And there will be no answer except that they thought they could make a few more quick bucks.

A mind-bogglingly monumental failure of imagination and vision. A stick poked right in the eye of our city's history.

A fond goodbye to the Playground of the People.

Marco said...

Was Disney consulted on this?

Begging Naked said...

Thank you for the blog you've created.

Made this video a while back for the Coney I know and love:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7j1Nq8ClhKQ

alone in the dark said...

good christ. it's his blog. if you don't like the word 'rape'--which is being used perfectly within context--then don't read.

fucking hell. it's a word. it has nothing to do with what was done to anyone. doesn't minimize it, doesn't glorify it, doesn't do anything TO YOU, the reader.

writers of blogs can use whatever language they see fit without getting someone else's express permission beforehand. god, shit like this makes me see red.

Jill said...

Goggla - tourists come to New York and eat at Olive Garden! Look at those Times Square crowds. Going to Coney Island and seeing their favorite mall stores is exactly what will get them there. They will feel safe and comfortable. Sad, but I think true.

Recently I went to Philly and met up with a cousin I only knew over the internet. I was excited that we would get an inside scoop on where to eat out with a local. What I got was a list of choices: California Kitchen, Ruby Tuesdays and some other shit, all chain restaurants, all disgusting. She was excited about going to dinner and enthusiastic about her choices. Since I don't know her I didn't want to mock her, it seemed rude. My teenage son noticed the printout of the email in the car on our way there, and without my saying a word, expressed sheer horror that we were eating in a shopping mall and tried to come up with ways to get out of it. We literally had dinner in Philly in a shopping mall. California Pizza Kitchen. And she had a coupon for it too.

It seems that outside NY, they have lost the concept of independent stores and restaurants that make fresh food one plate at a time, and don't even know that they are missing it.

Thinking about Coney Island makes my heart hurt.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i love "phony island." it's perfect for what this is becoming.

thinking about it makes my heart hurt, too. nothing is sacred to the rulers of this city. except money.

Jeremiah Moss said...

one other thing--i just walked by the new coffee roaster place on St. Mark's and 2nd. a young woman saw it, clapped her hands, and said, "Oh yay, another fro-yo place!"

now, i enjoy frozen yogurt as much as the next person, honestly, but do i want MORE fro-yo places where there are already a million? no. but the people who love Olive Garden or Ruby Tuesday or whatever, they always say "YAY! ANOTHER _____!"

which i will never, ever understand.

ivanova said...

This news about Coney Island is incredibly depressing. Coney Island is an iconic landmark for the entire country. Why mess it up in this ill-considered way?

I thought Shannon's comment was polite, respectful, thoughtful, concise, and it made me think, everything I like in a comment on a blog post. It was constructive criticism. Baha's comment describing her (or his?) experience and reaction also seemed completely normal. Alone in the Dark's comment seemed cranky, strident, and rude. (And yes, I know cranky and strident are some of the great features of this blog.)

Dear Alone in the dark: if a person likes someone's blog and want to question a word, that is not good grounds for "don't read it." Giving your critical opinion is not saying you want to censor a blog. I think words are powerful and do mean something, and it seems unrealistic to expect that the word rape would not bring rape to mind. I would way rather see people being oversensitive about the issue of sexual assault than dismiss it out of hand with "Good christ, fucking hell, shit like this."

Anonymous said...

Back to the word issue - "rape" -- which may be best to leave in the "we agree to disagree" category...

But I can't help putting in two cents:

There are some words that, due to very specific uses, lose the ability to be used for their original, general purposes. It's even more of an issue for people who have a personal connection that makes certain words charged with unintended meaning, though humanism and empathy presumably should have a bearing on broader sensitivity. Think about "Holocaust." Of course, it's a general term that has original, general definitions and uses, but history has rendered its interpretation as narrower. Let's say someone is knocking down all buildings of a certain era or type -- I would not be likely to refer to that as a holocaust of buildings. If I lived through "the Holocaust" and/or had relatives who were killed, the emotional associations might overshadow everything else. But it's not just a subgroup being particularly sensitive. Even for those who don't have a personal connection to "the Holocaust," the word's use and applicability is now more limited -- not technically, but pragmatically.

So, fair enough that you, Jeremiah, as a journalist, used a term that was intentionally provocative, but practicality and sensitivity suggest more caution in the future. I admire that you had a reasoned and sensitive response when challenged, rather than getting defensive or inflammatory, as some bloggers have a tendency to do.

So, kudos on that, but count me as another voice discouraging the use of the word "rape." Attention-getting, yes. Necessary, no.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Anon, we definitely agree to disagree, though i don't entirely disagree on all your points. yes, words will trigger strong emotions due to their associations. some more than others. but i don't think words should be retired from their many multiple meanings. this gets into language policing territory, which is dangerous. as a writer, i don't want any word or its various definitions to be off limits.

i also appreciate that everyone here has been able to engage in this discussion in a way that isn't inflammatory--it could very easily go that way. although, with a few more comments on the topic, we might be getting perilously close to Godwin's Law:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

alone in the dark said...

'if a person likes someone's blog and want to question a word, that is not good grounds for "don't read it." Giving your critical opinion is not saying you want to censor a blog.'

how is suggesting that a word that you don't like be, in effect, redacted 'critical opinion'? it has zero to do with critical opinion and much to do with what you, the reader, think is acceptable language.

in a way, it's somewhat amusing. the notion of homogenizing language so that everyone in the world can feel perfectly comfy could be seen as an analogy for what's happening to the city of new york--it's being homogenized so that people from kansas feel safe and cheery. both things suck.

my personal feeling is that if someone doesn't like a blogger's/author's/whatever's choice of words, then they should get their information elsewhere. because what you would like to see is a form of censorship, make no mistake. you feel upset because someone isn't using language the way you want them to.

glamma said...

i feel physically ill reading this. the horror. the horror. the horror.

nychas said...

Bloomberg and his real estate cronies are ripping the heart out of Brooklyn. Marty is holding the bag for them.

Claribel said...

Please go to http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/766/327/062/ to sign the petition and forward to your friends! They're trying to get to 10,000 signatures and are only at 605 last time I checked. Thanks Jeremiah for the link! :)