Monday, August 29, 2011

Glimpse the Future Coney

Assuming Hurricane Irene didn't suck Zamperla out to sea, there's not much time left to say goodbye to Coney Island as we've long known it.

We all know the devastation that is coming after this summer. The company that Bloomberg has handed this city treasure over to has a vision to make the place "refined, cleaner...with sit-down restaurants and sports bars." And so everything on the boardwalk, except Nathan's and Lola Star, will be bulldozed. They want to turn it into a place where you can "sit in nice comfortable chairs and have a nice cappuccino or ice coffee."

Sitting down is key. So is niceness. "Nice" is an epidemic that's killing the city. What will "nice" look like at Coney? It's already arrived.



We've got a good idea of what's to come thanks to the new Luna Park's Cyclone Cafe. It looks like it was born from a plastics extruder, a cookie-cutter design with none of the joyful messiness of Coney's traditional snack bars with their hand-written signs and paintings of food--vivid corn dogs, clams, and funnel cakes.

What do they serve at the Cyclone Cafe? Salads. Farmer's Market salads. Who goes to Coney Island for a salad? I don't go out there for "healthy dining." I go free of such burdens. I go for fried and salty evils. For glorious amusement-park junk. And certainly not for an "Over the Top Salad Experience."



And guess what else you can get at the Cyclone Cafe. Starbucks coffee. That's right--the Cyclone Cafe "proudly" brews it, just for you. Isn't that nice?



The same people have also brought Coney's Cones to the boardwalk. As you can see, this means more salads, along with panini and gourmet coffee. "Gourmet"? Don't they know the new code word for nice is "artisanal"?



To make room for the Cyclone Cafe, that paragon of lifelessness, we lost two treasures--Gregory & Paul's snack bar and the Bonanza Shooting Gallery.


2008, silversalty's flickr

The Gregory & Paul's was sold and its contents auctioned off in 2009. It was a delightful cacophony of hand-painted signs and artifacts from its over 40 years in business.

Still remaining on the boardwalk, but not for long, is Paul's Daughter, formerly the other Gregory & Paul's. Zamperla is giving them the boot, too. They've been there since 1962. Said Paul's daughter to Amusing the Zillion, "I wanted so much to be a part of the New Coney Island but they didn’t even offer me a tiny little spot on the Boardwalk." Instead, the spot is going to a multinational corporation.


2006, ConeyHOP's flickr

I don't know how long the Bonanza Shooting Gallery was here, but I'd guess since the 1960s. I absolutely loved it. It was typically my first destination when arriving at Coney Island.

What happened to all the great stuff they had in the shooting gallery? The saloon piano player who tickled the ivories when you shot him the ass, the bear that stood up and roared, the chickens that clucked in their cage? We can hope it was recycled, sold off to another amusement park, and that someone, somewhere is still enjoying it--now that we can't anymore.

But, hey, at least we've got some nice salads.

18 comments:

lauran said...

whats up w/this salad stuff? its disgusting to eat raw vegetables that everyones touched. this is anywhere. go figure. & whats up w/this starbucks stuff? SO, everything's the same now. since industry has been brought to the 3rd world, new york now has "tourism" as its main business. no more manufacturing, no more fish market. no more nothing. salads & coffee. there will be tour busses taking tourists there. new york is like one big flyover place.

Little Earthquake said...

New Yorkers are actually some of the nicest people in the country. Nicer than in Wisconsin for sure (I've lived in both places).

The "nice" you're referring to is a bought and sold marketing plan. It's not a Midwestern export, it's a contrived substitute for living-room comfort that some jackass executives dreamed up. I take personal umbrage whenever anyone equates it with an actual culture, be it Midwest, New York, or other.

lauran said...

i want to add to my comment re: coney island. i have no problem w/"cleaner" but i fail to see "refined"(??) what is refined about some ugly plastic strip mall w/some lower end chain resturant menu? i see this ugly crap all over mexico/central america in "developing" countries. so insulting to a place which has kept its rich culture, longer than most places in the usa & the north america. i would have kept the franks knishes etc. maybe built some cafes kept the wooden board walk etc. but then again im not a globalist. as for tourists, it will be the same idiots who you see in times square. as i said welcome to "fly over"

Melanie said...

Great coverage as usual Jeremiah. I remember Cony Island back in the day when I drove there in a Packard convertible with my best friend Susan and her Mom Edna and we went to Nathan's for a great hot dog and those big cut fries. Yes, it was edgy back then and gritty and wonderful.

Marty Wombacher said...

As far as getting the Times Square tourists, I don't think it'll happen. Why would they take a long trip to Coney Island to get the same crap that is now on every corner of New York. They're going to lose the people that enjoy it the way it is and no one will replace them.

BaHa said...

My childhood memories are filled with days at Coney. What kind of memories is this generic mall-by-the-sea going to provide?

Streets of Stamford said...

This is a goddamn disgrace. It's just like what you've been railing against in Manhattan: more sterilized, generic bullshit for the masses. Doesn't Bloomie get it?? Coney Island wasn't for the masses! It was for the devoted beachgoers, the long-time Brooklynites, the sideshow, the Mermaid Parade, the intrepid explorers who didn't mind hauling to the far reaches of Kings County. The best analogy I can think of is Machu Picchu: it's just inconvenient enough to deter the masses, so you have to be dedicated to get there. That's how I feel (felt?) about Coney Island. Even tourists had to be willing to devote at least half a day to a visit; it's not easy to get to like Times Square.

Anyway, I know I'm rambling, but Coney Island is about to lose its heart and soul, and after this summer, I'm not going back. Watch - next year's Mermaid Parade will be sponsored by Toyota or Pepsi.

I do have one tiny piece of good news, however: you'll still be able get a little bit of the old Coney Island feel in New York, but you'll have to travel for it. Rye Playland (while it lasts) is from the same era and style of Coney Island. It's not as iconic, but it's still a fun, slightly cheesy, nostalgic romp. Also, Lake George is very touristy, but it's still got a decent kitsch factor. They've got a House of Horrors!

a small town girl in the capital city said...

I just watched the documentary "Last Summer at Coney Island" and was wondering what's happened since. I just don't understand how when you have a place with so much unique history, you wouldn't incorporate any of that history in its redevelopment; in the architecture, attractions or apparently even the food. It's just a shame and a wasted opportunity.

Anonymous said...

So just WTF is pissing you people off? Change is New York's middle name. If there is a way to make a buck off it do so, just quit whining about it.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Last time I was there, a couple of weeks back, my husband realized he'd been coming to swim & drink beer at the boardwalk businesses for forty years. How to feel old & mourn summer's passing.

Anonymous said...

All this nostalgia crap is just that. Coney Island was a dump: dirty, dangerous, unwelcoming. I've lived in Brooklyn for 40 years and raised two kids there. In all that time, I would never take the kids to Coney Island. Dorney Park, Sesame Place, Six Flags, Jersey Shore, all the time. Coney Island, never. And that's the shame - we live 10 minutes from Coney Island and never felt we could go. If my kids were still young, now I could see taking them there. I'm sure there are plenty of families who feel that way.

Anonymous said...

small town girl: look up penn station demolition. plus ca change.

Anonymous said...

This whole "refined" Coney Island is just stupid. No one goes to Coney Island for salads & starbucks. This corporate crap will attract the same sort of khaki-wearing, smiling idiots that have taken over the East Village. Blech. Sure, change is good but homogenization really isn't. Actually, I think that the "new" Coney will fail...I don't think Coney residents will patronize it and there are only so many tourists. You try telling the guy who works a crummy job to barely make rent for a falling-down, roach-infested, flooding rat-trap on West 16th & Mermaid to go buy an $8.00 salad. He will tell you to go f___ yourself.

randall said...

puke!

glamma said...

support the old coney one last time at the coney island film festival in september. there will be many files on this topic. last year it was cathartic, even with my heart in my throat. be brave. go. you won't regret it. it is insipring.

http://www.coneyislandfilmfestival.com/

BaHa said...

@Anon 12:19. Ninth generation Brooklyn here. (Forty years? Newcomer, babe.)Coney was a delight and a joy. Too bad that you raised your kids to love generic crap.

lauran said...

1) marty: you will get times square tourists, its called TOUR BUSSES!!! read my other comment its the first one. these busses also go all the way out to woodbury for those discount malls. i heard theres mostly asians on those shopping tours. people come from all the world to see the sites. malls are one of them. anyway the ride thru brooklyn would be part of the thrill. 2)streets of stamford: the comparison to machu pichu is wrong. if you dont get there by 5am then theres hordes of people they throw garbage all over etc. thats over too. i predict malls condos etc. &what they did to mecca......? dont get me started....#3) anon 12:19 am: i agree w/you 1/2 way. i grew up in brooklyn & we went there for the fireworks when i was a child. that was a famous tradition. but never the beach. that was dirty lower class sleezy. so are those other places you mentioned. BUT they could keep the boardwalk, the flavor of the place. & there are families who do love it the way it is.

Anonymous said...

There's enough greasy stuff around there for me

I don't need salads , I would rather eat fried food and gain weight