Monday, August 27, 2007

A Visit to Coney Island

This weekend, Stephanie and I joined a handful of my school friends for a trip to Coney Island. This is the last summer that large portions of the historic area will be open — developers plan on razing large sections of it to make way for commercial development.

Coney Island has been a resort since the Civil War. Horse racing, amusement parks, and less reputable entertainments such as gambling and prostitution flourished. When the steam railroads were electrified and connected to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge at the beginning of the 20th century, Coney Island turned more rapidly from a resort to an accessible location for day-trippers seeking to escape the summer heat in New York City's tenements.

Between about 1880 and World War II, Coney Island was the largest amusement area in the United States, attracting several million visitors per year. It was not eclipsed until the 50s with the birth of Disneyland. After World War II, Coney Island began a steep decline. Air conditioning in movie theaters and then in homes, along with the advent of automobile access to less crowded state parks, lessened the attractions of Coney's beaches. Fires and gang problems exacerbated problems. All of the amusement parks closed. While things stabilized over the past couple decades and several, smaller amusement parks returned, things have never been the same.

Despite its decline, Coney Island is still a New York City must-do. There were several rides we had to experience:

Built in 1920, The Wonder Wheel has only stopped once, on July 13, 1977 during the Great NYC Blackout - when the entire northeast lost electrical power. The wheel stands 150 feet high, has a diameter of 140 feet and holds 144 people at once. Half of the cars are stationary and the other half are on tracks which allow them to slide back and forth as the wheel turns! Each year, the entire 400,000 lb. ride is overhauled and painted to protect it from the elements of weather, wear and tear. It was made a city landmark in 1989.

The 80-year-old Cyclone has consistently ranked at or near the top of every roller coaster top ten list published, often proclaimed the world’s greatest. It has the distinction of being the most copied roller coaster ever built with seven “clones” currently operating throughout the United States, Europe and Japan. Time Magazine quoted Charles Lindbergh as saying that a ride on the Cyclone was more thrilling than his historic first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Emilio Franco, a mute since birth, regained his voice on the Cyclone, uttering his first words ever: “I feel sick!” It is 85 feet high and 500 feet long with 2,640 feet of track. The length of the first of 12 drops is 85 feet at a 60 degree angle, with a maximum speed of 60 mph. The Cyclone has been made an official city, state and national landmark.

In addition to the rides, we strolled along the two-and-a-half mile boardwalk, the subject of the famous song "Under the Boardwalk", before dipping our feet in the cool Atlantic Ocean.

Lunch at Nathan’s was a foregone conclusion. Nathan's Famous' original hot dog stand opened on Coney Island in 1916 and quickly became a landmark. An annual hot dog eating contest has been held there on July 4th since its opening, but has only attracted broad attention and international television coverage during the last decade.

Not a half bad way to bid the summer goodbye before getting ready for the start of a new school semester next week, if I do say so myself!


Anonymous robyn said...

yeah, I feel like a schlemeel for not showing up but with a belly full of fried food and beer from the night before I: a) forgot to set my alarm b) couldn't of dragged my butt out of bed even if I had gotten up early. Next time a cool trip is planned, I'll remember moderation for the night before!

12:31 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

You are dead to me.

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am surprised you didn't step on a used syringe when you dipped your feet into the Atlantic...

3:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're an idiot. (in response to the comment above this one)

10:11 AM  
Anonymous POD said...

Actually, I am an idiot - but only to a degree - the syringes were not found on Coney island's beach but in fact were recently found in NYC's Jones Beach.

But my original comment was in jest - c'mon man, "I keed, I keed",0,4764706.story

Syringes found on Jones Beach; checks to continue Friday

5:47 AM EDT, August 17, 2007

WANTAGH, N.Y. (AP) _ Workers were scouring Jones Beach after about a dozen needles and other pieces of apparent medical waste washed up in the popular summer haven, a state parks official said.

About 12 to 15 syringes, vials and pinprick devices for drawing blood were found Thursday, said George Gorman, director of operations for Long Island's state parks. The items were removed immediately, and there was no need to close the beach, he said.

"It's not a lot of debris. It's no more than a brown lunch bag full," he said.

Still, workers were to check the beach Friday for any signs of more debris, he said. The items found Thursday were to be handed over to the Nassau County Health Department for investigation.

Similar finds caused serious scares in the area in the 1980s. Some 25 miles of beaches on Long Island's south shore, including Jones Beach, were closed for as long as three days in July 1988 after dozens of syringes, several blood vials and plastic tubing washed ashore. Authorities initially thought the items appeared to be hospital waste, but later said some of the debris looked like household and boating garbage.

Jones Beach State Park boasts more than six miles of ocean beach, a boardwalk, a bay beach and other attractions 33 miles from Manhattan.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Sadaf Trimarchi said...

Former Brooklyn-ite here, and just wanted to add some praise for the CI experience. Unfortunately, some of the park rides closed up this year. Such is the nature of development in the area.

Some of our family would disagree, but I happen to be in favor of the continuing evolution of coney island - from Keyspan park, to the development plans I keep reading about. I think its a great area, that is underutilized.

re: I guess I'm more a pizza person. Di Fara's isn't too far a drive and it was pretty darn good!

8:37 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

I can take or leave their dogs, but whoa, gotta love those fries!

8:41 PM  

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