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.
Take a day trip to the ’80s
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.
Read more about the development plans
When you think of Coney Island, cutting edge technology probably doesn’t come to mind. But more than 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.
FInd out more here
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.
Read the interview here
, Mon, September 28, 2015
Image © Daniel Fleming
Eminent domain, defined as “the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use,” is typically enacted to build projects such as bridges, highways, or schools. But the De Blasio administration plans to use it to erect an amusement park. According to the Post, the city is “frustrated by stubborn Coney Island landowners” and “plans to seize property under the city’s rarely used power of eminent domain in order to spur long-stalled economic development in the People’s Playground.” The land in question is three vacant beachfront sites and two smaller adjacent sites on West 12th and West 23rd Streets that total 75,000 square feet, largely comprised of the 60,000-square-foot site where the original Thunderbolt once stood (immortalized in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall”). Under the plan, the Parks Department will oversee new amusements and amenities, details of which haven’t been shared.
, Tue, September 15, 2015
In 1906, architect Samuel Friede announced his plans to build the Coney Island Globe Tower, a 700-foot-tall, 11-story structure that would have contained the Brooklyn neighborhood’s attractions in one giant globe in the air. A New York Tribune cover revealing the project said investors were being offered “a ground floor chance to share profits in the largest steel structure ever erected…the greatest amusement enterprise in the whole world…the best real estate venture.”
Had the $1,500,000 plan gone through, the whimsical structure (part Unisphere, part Eiffel Tower) would have contained restaurants (one of which would rotate), an observatory, the United States Weather Observation Bureau and Wireless Telegraph Station, a vaudeville theater, the world’s largest ballroom, bowling alley, roller skating rink, casinos, 50,000-room hotel, 5,000-seat hippodrome, and a four large circus rings.
Read the rest of the history
“Coney Island, the world’s greatest fun frolic, with its beach miles long, all peppered with people. The place where merriment is king.” That’s the opening line in this fun video that offers a tour of 1940s Coney Island during its heyday as the go-to summer destination.
The narrator describes the millions of people on the boardwalk and beach, and while this might seem like an exaggeration at first, the footage clearly shows hordes of revelers sunbathing, swimming, lining up for the freakshow, and enjoying the rides (many of which probably wouldn’t be deemed safe today). There’s also great scenes of the Miss Coney Island contest (a swimsuit beauty pageant where the judge takes out the tape measurer for the contestants’ waists), the famous Cyclone, and Luna Park lit up at night.
Watch the nostalgic video here
Baseball season is back in full swing, and though much of the sports chatter has been about the Mets’ strong start and A-Rod’s return after a season-long suspension, we have our attention focused on the city’s two minor league teams–the Mets- affiliated Brooklyn Cyclones and the Yankees-affiliated Staten Island Yankees. Come June 19th, these two teams will be starting their seasons with a game against each other. With the big game under two months away, Guy Zoda is getting ready to reprise his role in community outreach and promotions for the Brooklyn Cyclones, or, more specifically, as fan favorite King Henry.
As an entertainer and performer, Guy came up with the character King Henry years ago. He produced and starred in a community access show called “The King Henry Show,” which aired in 30 cities from New York to Hawaii and won a home video award in 2008. On a whim in the early 2000s, he donned his King Henry costume and made his royal presence known at a Cyclones game. What started out as fun for fans later turned into professional entertaining at home games and a community position with the team.
We recently spoke with Guy about Brooklyn, his love for entertaining, and what makes minor league baseball special.
See what King Henry has to say
, Thu, September 25, 2014
Image © Javier Ignacio Acuña Ditzel
Coney Island is an entertainment destination in New York, with its beach and amusement park rides, but it is also a city center for weirdo culture and kitsch. The neighborhood’s aesthetic has developed into something like an early 20th century carnival surrounded by ’60s and ’70s storefronts which may or may not be conscious of their dated designs. So the question is, how do you design a new building in a neighborhood which is so identified with an attractively shabby, authentically dated look? Buildings like the Coney Island Museum face that difficulty with each passing year.
See the retro Americana design of Coney Island here
When Coney Island was torn up in 2010 to make way for the glitzy new Luna Park, a part of its history was ripped out: the weathered, decades-old planks of the beach’s iconic boardwalk. Luckily, two Red Hook-based designers — Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf of Uhuru Design — took in the landfill-destined wood and used them to build functional pieces for the home.
Check out more of the cool pieces