Coney Island Notebook


 

Today's Coney Island

A Report by Museum Founder and Director Steven Lasky
on the event of his visit there on 4 June 2013

It was on a beautiful day of about seventy-five degrees that I made my first visit to Coney Island in almost three years. CI (Coney Island) is now more vibrant than it was during my previous visit. Even though CI suffered from the harmful effects of Hurricane Sandy, it nevertheless seems pristine to me and was well worth a visit. Three years ago there was no Luna Park (not the Luna Park of decades ago, but nevertheless one filled with many rides that will be of interest to children and other young people. There are also a number of new enterprises there, including a Mexican restaurant (the PTB Mexican Grill) and a nearby carousel. Nathan's now has two locations where one can indulge in its historically famous hot dogs and French fries and more (Nathan's has been in CI since 1916!). One Nathan's is open on the boardwalk itself; the other is located on nearby Surf Avenue.

Note that Coney Island itself is located on Surf Avenue, a block from the beach. One can search for parking in the area on the side streets (if you dare), but it is my preference to simply pay the ten dollar full-day parking fee in the MCU Parking Lot on 19th and Surf Avenue (fifteen dollars on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays). The lot is adjacent to the baseball stadium where the minor-league team, the Brooklyn Cyclones, begin to play games again this summer -- so the ballpark is right next to ballpark, which is quite a location. Parking here (if you possess a Cyclones ticket is only five dollars during the day of the game). It would be a day well-spent to take an early walk along the Boardwalk, stop off at Nathan's or another eating establishment for lunch, and attend a baseball game, all in the same general area. You might even like to spend an hour or two laying out on the beach!

Lest I forget, permit me now to give you directions to CI, its amusement parks and the parking lot (directions according to the Cyclones website):

By car: From East: Take the Belt Parkway to Cropsey Avenue Exit (6S). At light, make right onto Cropsey Avenue, and proceed approximately 1 mile, as Cropsey turns into W17th Street. The ballpark (and parking lot) is directly ahead.

From West: Take Belt Parkway to Cropsey Avenue Exit (6). At Light make right onto Cropsey Avenue, and proceed approximately 1 mile, as Cropsey turns into W17th Street. The ballpark is directly ahead.

By subway: Take the D train, F train, N train, or Q train to the Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue. At the corner of Stillwell and Surf Avenues (where Nathanís is located), turn right. Walk two blocks west along Surf Avenue to the ballpark.

 By bus: Take the B36, B68, B74 or B 82 bus to Stillwell Avenue and Surf Avenue. Then, walk two blocks west along Surf Avenue to the ballpark.
 

Returning to the report of my CI trip, its famed amusement park (a much smaller version of its former self, but still impressive), its boardwalk (2.5 miles each way) and its beach:

Especially on a beautiful day like today, walking a complete loop on the wide boardwalk of 5 miles is a pleasure. From the parking lot, one may ascend to the boardwalk and choose to stroll either eastward or to the west (to the west, from W19th St. to the end at W37th Street, one can walk for approximately a mile until the end. In this direction, one will enjoy a nice tranquil walk, surrounded by beach and ocean to the left, apartments/condos/co-ops/open areas to the right. This is the shorter part of the Boardwalk which takes you through the Sea Gate section of Coney Island.

If you head to the east from the lot, i.e. from the area corresponding to W19th St., you will be able to walk approximately 1 1/2 miles to the boardwalk's easternmost point, passing through the Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach parts of CI. In this direction you will pass all the eating establishments, all of the amusement rides and the entrance to the Coney Island Aquarium. Along the way -- and especially in Brighton Beach -- you will be treated to hearing the Russian language being spoken quite often. There is a great Russian presence in this area of Coney Island.

Of course, as you head eastward from the parking lot, you will pass many eating establishments (see the photos on the following page) very near to the start of your eastward walk. To your left, you will first see the very old Parachute Jump. Though it is no longer used for its original function, they are repainting the entire structure to make it look its best. This ride was originally built for the 1939 New York World's Fair and was the first of its kind.

In Luna Park are many kiddie rides, and a bit more to the east stands the formidable wooden roller-coaster, the Cyclone, which I remember riding on during my last visit, when I bought a series of tickets to ride it multiple times -- first in the middle car, then in the rear car (more "lift" when descending!), and lastly in the front car (no one in front of me. Yikes!!). It was a thrill, but during today's visit, I only took photos of it....

Ah, Steeplechase Park at CI -- I remember many decades ago walking through the "mouth" of the "smiling face" entrance into the park, trying to walk through a rotating cement "barrel" from entrance to exit (while the "barrel" rotated in a circular fashion. Then there were the bumper cars, the "horse" races, etc., etc.).

So, memories are made of these times of our youth, aren't they? I recommend that you visit CI when you can (maybe bring the kids or grandkids), take a stroll along the boardwalk, listen for the sounds, smell the smells and imagine how it was many decades ago when our parents or grandparents (or us) visited there. In the days when there was no air-conditioning, when folks sat outside their tenement till late at night to keep cool, when it wasn't so easy to leave the City for another state or country (though many did go upstate to Catskill resorts and bungalows), CI was the place to be, to escape the summer heat with one's friends and families.....

If you have any stories of your experiences at CI and would like to share them with others, please send them to steve@museumoffamilyhistory.com for possible posting.

Have a great Spring and Summer!!!  next, the photo page.... next ►►
 

Regards,

Dr. Steve Lasky

Founder and Director
Museum of Family History

 

 

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