When We Saved Coney Island

coney3_editThe last time we went to Coney Island was almost the last. The following article was published in the summer of 2008 when plans were afoot to dismantle the beloved New York City institution in favor of gentrification.

I was there with my family, by chance, headed to the airport to pick up a friend. Don’t ask me how we detoured into Brooklyn, but we had a little time to kill and stomachs to fill.

My daughter was fascinated by corn dogs, but had never actually tasted one.  So how could we pass up an opportunity to taste the quintessential corn dog – at Coney Island?

coney4_editOf course, we had to sample corn dogs from a couple of vendors.

Who had the best corn dogs?  Fugetaboutit, it was no contest.

My husband preferred Nathan’s corn dogs, but the rest of us thought that the no-name brand corn dogs at the corner stand were tastier.

And how do you follow the corn dogs?  Italian ices in a colorful assortment of delicious flavors – almond, spumoni, cotton candy, and so many more.

We loved the food, and the rides – an old-fashioned water flume and the historic Cyclone wooden roller-coaster – but it’s the incredible mix of people that make Coney Island a unique experience.

Where else can you hear a young Puerto Rican carny hurl insults at a “shoot the freak” paint ball exhibit?

I found this a curious choice.  Freaks, by definition, are persons who appear unusual.

That might include everyone at Coney Island.  It is such a fascinating mix of people from every corner of the world, and from every possible socioeconomic background. (Even mermaids on parade!)

It would be such a waste to lose the historically diverse flavor of this New York Institution; and yet, there are  plans to tear down Coney Island to build yet another generic condo mall.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Starbucks.  I just would hate to lose the unique flavor of Coney Island for another gentrified shopping zone. I can find venti lattes anywhere, but there is only one place to get authentic Coney Island corn dogs.


To learn more about Coney Island, and what you can do to save it, visit the following sites:

Coney Island History – The Coney Island History Project collects oral history interviews and preserves the legendary and colorful past of this vibrant neighborhood.

Save Coney Island – Grass roots campaign.

If you’re a NYC resident, contact your NYC government representative.  If not, consider contacting the mayor by e-mail or send a postcard to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, City Hall, New York, NY 10007.

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