Thursday, September 30, 2010

Coney Burnout

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.

Shore Hotel
Henderson's Dance Hall
In the Popper
The Destruction of Coney


3FingersBrown said...

It pains me to say it but this lifelong NYer gave up caring about the fate of this city years ago. Having ones heart broken over and over doesn't make for a happy life and I'd rather stick my head in the sand at this point than get myself all depressed about another landmark ground to dust. Let them repave the city and turn it into a megamall for richfolks. Hopefully soon enough I'll be able to move away from here and not look back.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

You're right, Jeremiah. I've avoided CI because I love it and don't want to see it dead. Now I see that, in doing so, I have allowed it to die. Thank you, Tricia, for not giving up.

Tricia said...

Wow, thanks for the major shout out, Jeremiah--I'm honored! But I feel sad that you're suffering Coney burnout. We all have a point after which we can't take any more. Sometimes I also feel what's the use, I've blogged about this over and over again, and think of stopping. But I do know that taken together, everyone's efforts (all of the rallies, advocacy, blogging etc) have helped avert something much worse. If there hadn't been strong opposition to Thor's original plans, the City would never had bought the land from Sitt to build an amusement park - the new Luna Park. Unlike Joe Sitt, the Mayor and City officials do care how they will be judged by history. And I'm sure that some of the events that would have passed unnoticed if we didn't blog about them will end up in the history books.

Since I grew up in the carnival business "on the road" and work in Coney Island, I have a deep attachment to both the amusement business and Coney. That's probably why I'm accustomed to change and incapable of staying away. Coney will survive, but it will be a different Coney Island than the one we know and love.

To VNY readers, I would say: please come out next season if you can manage it and voice your opinion. Let the City know what you like and don't like about the "new" Coney Island! It will be in transition for the next 10 years!

Ken Mac said...

you sound weary. Reminds me of Brooks at Lost City before he stopped blogging. Hang tough, we need you.
It's getting to be like Russell Crowe in Gladiator: "What is Rome? Rome is a dream."

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks Ken. it's tough when The Stupids are winning. but i'm not going anywhere just yet.

and Coney in the fall is desolate and lovely. might be time for a trip.

Streets of Stamford said...

I'm reading The Power Broker right now, and you probably feel like all the people who opposed Moses felt -- well, except that he would use his influence and dirty tricks to ruin their lives. It's admirable for the proverbial little guy or gal to stand up to a juggernaut like Sitt-head, so I applaud Tricia, Dick Zuniga and all the other Coney fanatics who love CI too much to let it be steamrolled. Unfortunately, money still talks in this world. It makes me sad that a place that was a refuge from the mass-marketed, Middle American bullshit that passes for "culture" these days will more than likely become, as Jeremiah says, "pile of strip-mall junk, a meaningless and hollow shell."

As a side note, I will admit that I never went to CI when it was legitimately dangerous (I was also a kid then). But that doesn't make it any less shitty that a place that was rebuilt with the sweat, blood and tears of snake charmers, midway barkers and burlesque dancers will now become a parody of itself.

At this point, it would seem that our only option would be to wait until next summer and then WALK RIGHT ON BY any Sitt-owned or -operated buildings and spend our money at the establishments that made Coney a destination again: Shoot the Freak, Sideshow by the Seashore, and, of course, Nathan's! (Forgive me if I got some of those names wrong.)

Marty Wombacher said...

"spend our money at the establishments that made Coney a destination again: Shoot the Freak, Sideshow by the Seashore, and, of course, Nathan's!"

And of course Ruby's bar on the boardwalk.

Anonymous said...

Coney Island is a shithole and it has been for decades. Why are you crying? Because the current shithole will be replaced by a newer shithole? At least the new shithole will be clean and fresh like a new ass ready to be fucked. Which it surely will be by the time the next douching is ready. Stop whining. Grow up.

Tricia said...

Actually some of the businesses & rides remain open weekends, weather permitting, through Halloween. Ruby's and Cha Cha's rock with live music. Luna Park is extending their season with a haunted nights event and Coney Island USA will have its annual Creepshow at the Freakshow from mid Oct through Halloween.

And there's an AKA-sponsored kite flying festival this weekend! It should be a great photo op

Anonymous said...

"We have an architectural taste which is about as near the vanishing point as it is possible to achieve."


lestrum said...

I lived down the street for 15 years my mom for almst 45 now. Where was the writer and the likes when it ws rapidly declining?Now you are concerned?

dcr said...

So much of Coney is gone...let's not give up. Thank you Jeremiah for fighting the good-fight!

Anonymous said...

Looks like Ruby's will somehow be open on New Year's Day for the Polar Bear swim, with a massive rally planned. Show up! Fight the power.