On June 26, 1927 the Coney Island Cyclone opened in Brooklyn. The iconic wooden coaster, located on the corner of Surf Avenue and West 10th Street, is one of the oldest functional amusement rides in the United States. While it only cost $.25 to ride when it first opened, today it costs about $10. Found at Luna Park, the coaster takes you over 2,640 feet of track at 60 miles per hour, with 12 drops (the highest an 85-foot, 60-degree plunge) and 27 elevation changes in roughly two minutes.
On this day in 1884, the country’s first roller coaster opened at Coney Island, sparking Americans’ obsession with amusement rides. Invented by LaMarcus Thompson, the ride, called the Switchback Railway, spanned 600 feet and traveled just six miles per hour. Unlike today’s coasters, the Switchback did not make a round trip loop, and passengers exited at the end of the track. The one-minute long ride cost only five cents.
Born and raised in Coney Island, there was never a photographer better primed to capture the neighborhood’s vibrancy than Harold Feinstein. “I like to think I fell out of the womb on to the fun park’s giant Parachute Jump while eating a Nathan’s hot dog,” he told The Guardian in 2014, just before his passing in 2015. Indeed, Feinstein would take his first photo (using a Rolleiflex borrowed from a neighbor) at age 15 in 1946, beginning what would become an unwavering love affair with documenting the whizz, whirl and insatiable life that permeated his beachside locale. Although Feinstein would eventually move on to other subjects in various parts of New York City and the globe, over his nearly 70-year career he would always return to Coney Island for inspiration. “Coney Island was my Treasure Island,” he said.
Feinstein’s Coney Island photos cover more than five decades, but ultimately his 1940s and 1950s snapshots–those taken when he was just a teenager–would cement his status as one of the most important photographers recording life in post-war America. Ahead, the Harold Feinstein Photography Trust shares highlights from this collection.
It’s been more than 60 years since Childs Restaurant left its historic home on the Coney Island boardwalk, but on Sunday the landmarked building will reopen as a massive new food and beverage concept called Kitchen 21 (h/t Eater). The formerly vacant and deteriorating space was redeveloped through a $60 million joint investment among the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Legends Hospitality (who run the dining programs at One World Trade Center and Yankee Stadium), and Cravable Hospitality Group (of David Burke Kitchen). It will hold five separate restaurants, all peddling “summer-friendly fare”: casual take-out spot Coney Island Café; beer and seafood spot Community Clam Bar; gastropub Parachute Bar; rooftop wine bar Boardwalk & Vine; and a more formal restaurant called Test Kitchen.
Cycling culture in New York City has been a growing trend for over 20 years. However, its popularity and the bike lanes of modern day New York have yet to reach the impressive status of Coney Island’s 1920s bicycle racing Velodrome. The Velodrome was a wooden racetrack that seated approximately 10,000 people, each of whom came to cheer or jeer the area’s best cyclists.
Hold onto your hats, friends, because Coney Island is getting another 150,000 square feet of fun and amusement. On Monday, The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation put out a request for proposals (RFP) for new rides, games and other attractions to be located on five vacant, city-owned parcels bound by Surf Avenue and the Coney Island Boardwalk. The sites are highly covetable and sit in the midst existing offers like Luna Park and, of course, the iconic Wonder Wheel.
Developer John Catsimatidis’ Red Apple Group has filed plans for a 21-story tower on a Surf Avenue parcel that he purchased last summer according to Brooklyn Daily; the tower is part of a three-building Coney Island project that will likely include 415 apartments and retail. In the billionaire grocery mogul’s typically patient fashion, he has slowly been acquiring the Boardwalk-adjacent lots between West 35th and West 37th streets for the project, called Ocean Dreams, since 2005.
Image via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park
Since it opened on the Coney Island boardwalk in 1920, the landmarked Wonder Wheel has given more than 35 million rides. If you want to add to this number, a press release from Deno’s Wonder Wheel tells us that it will offer free rides from 6 to 10pm on New Year’s Eve. They’ll also charge only $5 from 11am to 2pm on New Year’s Day to coincide with the annual Polar Bear Plunge (50 percent of January 1st’s profits will go to the Plunge’s charity Camp Sunshine).
Renderings revealed for 40-story Coney Island tower, the tallest residential building in South Brooklyn, Fri, November 18, 2016
Robert S. Trump (Donald’s much lesser known younger brother) sold Coney Island‘s Trump Village Shopping Center in the early 2000s to developer Rubin Schron of Cammeby’s International Group, who, in 2014, publicized plans to replace the center with a 40-story mixed-use tower. Despite opposition from the community, the project is moving ahead, as Yimby has revealed renderings from S9 Architecture of the 430-foot-tall building at 532 Neptune Avenue that’s been dubbed Neptune/Sixth. When complete, it will be the tallest residential tower in South Brooklyn, offering 544 apartments, a retail and community facility base, and a public courtyard.
From the archives of ’80s NYC nightlife videographer Nelson Sullivan comes this summertime classic video. Young Village Voice writer Michael Musto, artist Albert Crudo, and photographer Liz Lizard with her two kids in tow join Sullivan on the trip to Coney Island from Manhattan on a very different subway than we’re used to today (h/t acapuck via Reddit). Their destination, too, won’t look the least bit familiar to anyone who’s visited the aforementioned beach destination in recent years, though there are many among us who fondly remember the beautiful decay of the boardwalk environs and the thrill of its garish attractions in the pre-MCU, pre Keyspan days.
We never tire of checking out the graffiti-covered cars and fellow riders who probably only look more menacing. And at some moments if you don’t look too hard, everything appears pretty much the same: The noise, the heat, the underground grit–and the fact that when it comes to fashion, everything a few decades old looks cool and new again.
In 2009, former Mayor Bloomberg rezoned the Coney Island waterfront to accommodate new residential and commercial development. While the city has moved ahead to build more amusement park rides at this popular summer destination, there hasn’t been an explosion of new residential development since the rezoning.
But plans are moving ahead for a nine-story building designed to hold 135 affordable and supportive housing apartments right along the boardwalk. In April, developers Georgica Green Ventures and Concern for Independent Living filed plans for the new building at 2002 Surf Avenue, reports CityRealty.com. Called Surf Vets Plaza, the building will totally transform the corner of West 21st Street and Surf Avenue, which is now a 170,000-square-foot vacant lot.
When you think of Coney Island, cutting edge technology probably does not come to mind. But well over a century ago, this little enclave of amusement and thrills was where the world’s very first working escalator was installed.
In 1896, engineer Jesse W. Reno brought his patented “Endless Conveyor Elevator” (though he called it the “inclined elevator”) to the Old Iron Pier at Coney Island. Reno’s invention stretched a mere seven feet angled at 25-degrees, and instead of steps, the escalator used a conveyor-like belt fashioned with cast-iron cleats for traction. The Coney Island installation is said to have carried over 75,000 patrons over its two-week residency.
It’s not often that you’ll go to a New York restaurant and find “hot dog” on the menu. The meaty delight is typically reserved for baseball games (in the foot-long variety) and summertime jaunts on the boardwalk. And of course when we say boardwalk in NYC, we’re talking about Coney Island, widely believed to be the birthplace of the modern American frankfurter.
The name Nathan’s has become synonymous with Coney Island, whether it be for the annual hot dog-eating contest where Joey Chestnut reigns supreme or the childhood nostalgia of the boardwalk. It’s also become arguably the biggest name in the hot dog world in general. But, believe it or not, Nathan’s was not the first place to serve up franks in the seaside neighborhood. That distinction goes to Feltman’s, which was begun in 1867 as a pushcart by German immigrant Charles Feltman, considered the inventor of the hot dog on a bun.
Steeplechase Park circa 1930-45, via Digital Commonwealth
Steeplechase Park was the first of Coney Island‘s three original amusement parks (in addition to Luna Park and Dreamland) and its longest lasting, operating from 1897 to 1964. It had a Ferris Wheel modeled after that of Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition, a mechanical horse race course (from which the park got its name), scale models of world landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben, “Canals of Venice,” the largest ballroom in the state, and the famous Parachute Jump, among other rides and attractions.
After World War II, Coney Island’s popularity began to fade, especially when Robert Moses made it his personal mission to replace the resort area’s amusements with low-income, high-rise residential developments. But ultimately, it was Fred Trump, Donald’s father, who sealed Steeplechase’s fate, going so far as to throw a demolition party when he razed the site in 1966 before it could receive landmark status.
The city may be having an unseasonably warm December, but it’s fair to say most New Yorkers still find it a bit too chilly for the beach. Members of the famed Coney Island Polar Bear Club, on the other hand, relish the drop in temperature as they head out for an ocean swim.
The Polar Bear Club is a New York institution dating back to 1903. While the organization is renowned for its annual New Year’s Day swim where New Yorkers gather to welcome the year with a chilly dip, it’s far from the only time the club embraces the cold water. In fact, they meet 12 times throughout the winter months and draw a sizable membership that’s a mix of ages, backgrounds, and cultures from the metropolitan area and beyond.
At the club’s helm is president Dennis Thomas, who fell in love with Coney Island years ago and later discovered the serenity of swimming on brisk days. More than thirty years after he first became a member, Dennis spoke with 6sqft about the Polar Bear Club’s history, what a typical swim is like, and what happens when hundreds of New Yorkers turn out for a New Year’s Day swim that supports Camp Sunshine.