Minding Coney Island

February 5, 2009 at 10:41 pm 1 comment

Lawrence Ferlinghetti once wrote that Coney Island is “where I first fell in love with unreality.” Today, a desolate reality has taken hold at the legendary amusement park. As rides close, bulldozers uproot land that once held delightfully sinister sideshows. The few rides left barely lure neighborhood children and nostalgic tourists.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he wants to revive Coney Island, or as Robert Lieber, a deputy mayor, puts it, “We’re trying to bling it up.” The city development team has come up with elaborate plans to turn the Brooklyn park into the “destination for tourists” that it once was, and New York’s Municipal Art Society has its own proposal.

The surprise here is that the two plans are not drastically far apart. As New Yorkers approve new zoning for Coney Island, they should use the best of each proposal.

The city’s version displays Mayor Bloomberg’s commendable effort to keep Coney Island from being overwhelmed by oceanfront condominiums. On the 60-acre spread proposed by the city, there are thousands of possible housing units, but most are at a distance from the entertainment areas.

The hotels are a different story. This zoning proposal would allow a row of four hotels between the Stillwell Avenue subway stop and the outdoor entertainment area. The hotels could too easily become a wall, blocking public access to the sideshows and the rides, the boardwalk and the ocean. The hotels also squeeze the outdoor rides into a narrow strip of about 12 acres — an area that is simply too small to attract enough rides and attractions to bring back the big crowds.

The art society has argued that one iconic ride, something on the order of the London Eye would be another way to lure visitors from around the world. Obviously, a big new ride would take up more outdoor space as well. Because this project could take a decade to build, any rezoning now must encourage development without destroying the dreams of a modernized Coney Island.

The new Coney Island should not be a theme park. No Six Flags or Disney World. It should be an alluring adaptation of Dreamland and Luna Park and the other exotic places that always made Coney Island splendidly odd, a New Yorker’s kind of unreality.
New York Times Editorial

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Entry filed under: Brooklyn, Dive In, Go Coastal, Public Waterfront.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Scott  |  February 6, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Yes, keep the wonderful quirkiness that makes Coney Island unique!

    Reply

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