Monday, March 03, 2008

One last hurrah

Coney Island as we know it is sort of on the brink of death, but it's not quite there. In fact, Astroland and Deno's are both opening for the 2008 season on March 16. (BRRR). Who would have thunk it?

Astroland is the easternmost of the parks that make up Coney Island, and it includes the Cyclone. 2007 looked like it would be the last season for the park (though the Cyclone was not to be destroyed), but in October a deal was reached with Thor Equities (who bought the park in 2006) to keep it open in 2008. Deno's Wonder Wheel park (make sure you have the sound on when you check out their site!), the park just west of Astroland, is also still alive. The parks further west (between Deno's and Stillwell Ave) are but vacant lots now. Last week there was serious talk of bringing back the parachute jump, but don't hold your breath on that one.

Without getting too serious here with death metaphors, I do wonder if this slow, gradual death of Coney Island is really a dignified way for it to go. Is it not sort of just playing with our hearts at this point? Is this going to mess with our memories?

I don't know. But I want to at least consider the possibility of not looking at it as a death. Coney Island has changed a lot over the decades. To the people who saw it in the 1920's, what we've had there in recent decades would surely be a laughable embarrassment. So, maybe it already died. Or maybe it's going to be forever evolving. In 2009 there may not be too much of anything. It will be a low point for Coney Island, but this is a place that has recovered from some awfully terrible times before.

The vague plans for what they'll build a few years from now look awfully glitzy and look to be a break from any sense of Coney Island tradition. But should we have necessarily rooted for it to stay the same when this is a place with a history of change?

I can't see these new designs being good. But I won't rule out the possibility that 50 years from now I'll look back at it and think this was just one of Coney's many transformations. I don't think what we had in the last few years was something that needed to be changed, or fixed -- and certainly I'd be content if Coney hadn't changed since the 1920s at all. But it has. And the most recent incarnation of it, of the past few years, is hardly the holy grail. There's no specific reason that this is exactly what we need to hold on to.

I'm trying to keep an open mind.

Anyhow, on New Year's Eve, I went with Team Vassar to Coney Island, and I took some photos to capture the scene.


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