Friday, February 29, 2008

Who Needs Sundance?

Submissions are now being accepted for the 8th annual Coney Island Film Festival, which will be held in September. The regular deadline is April 25th, though there is also a 'late deadline' (June 25th), as well as an 'extended late deadline' (July 3rd). Entry forms can be submitted electronically, or via old fashioned paper

Last years festival winners included 'Two Tickets to Paradise (a unique twist on the road trip/buddy movie), and the documentary, "Blood, Boobs, and Beast".

- post by Ben Nadler

Thursday, February 28, 2008

City To Finally Repair (Small Section of) Boardwalk

Image courtesy of jesskeylon (

The NY Post has reported that the city has decided to finally replace the collapsing Coney Island boardwalk, starting with the stretch from West 12th to West 15th streets. Considering the boardwalk's state of disrepair, and the numerous resulting accidents, this is good news, even with the cautious start of three blocks.

Instead of replacing the boards with more Amazon hardwood boards, the city has decided to use synthetic imitation wood boards. This fits in with Bloomberg's pledge to reduce the city's use of tropical hardwoods.

Back in December, several activist groups organized a Polar Bear style swim to protest the use of rainforest woods on the boardwalk. It's unclear what impact the activists actions had on the city's decision.


- post by Ben Nadler

Panel Discussion on Coney's Future

As part of their 'New York Neighborhoods/Development and Preservation' program series, the Museum of New York will be hosting a panel discussion on the future of Coney Island in March. The slated speakers are Lynn Kelly of the Coney Island Development Corporation, Brad Lander of the Pratt Center for Community Development, David Gratt of Coney Island USA, Chuck Reichenthal of Community Board 13, and City Councilman Domenic Recchia.

Considering that roster of panel members, this could very well devolve from staid museum panel discussion to knock down brawl. Reserve your seat now!

New York Neighborhoods/Development and Preservation: The Future of Coney Island
Wednesday, March 19th
6:30 pm
The Museum of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan

- post by Ben Nadler

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Coney Island: Model of the Year

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle recently ran an article entitled 'As Coney Faces Change, Arts Venues Rush To Exhibit Photos of Amusement Area.' The article's titular point is well taken. As anyone who reads Kinetic Carnival knows, everyone from the Brooklyn Museum to the New Yorker has recently devoted space to Coney photography. YouTube is filled with short films seeking to 'document what might be the last season for Coney Island,' B-list TV stars are exhibiting their pictures of Coney Island, and numerous galleries and websites have been hosting Coney Island photo collections.

It's easy to see the rush of flashbulbs as a mere trend, spurred by people looking to capture the easy poetry of a decayed dreamland before redevelopment begins. Still, it's great to see Coney Island getting so much attention from photographers. After all, Coney Island is truly beautiful, and worth photographing. Though it is currently particularly trendy, photographing Coney Island is not a new thing; as the Brooklyn Museum's exhibit attests to, it's been going on for over a hundred years.

- post by Ben Nadler

2008 Coney Island USA Calendar of Events

The initial calendar for the upcoming 2008 season has been posted to the Coney Island USA website. The current calendar is described as 'a very rough draft,' and will be updated as more events are books. As it stands now, though, the calender already includes enough Sideshow and Burlesque performances to satisfy any Coney aficionado.
- post by Ben Nadler

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Coney Events: Doo Wop Legend To Grace Coney

Doo Wop singer Kenny Vance - who is known as a former member of Jay and the American, as well as the leader of The Planotones - will be gracing Coney Island with a 'Night of Dining, Dancing and Doo Wop' this Friday.

According to
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the event is a celebration of Vance's 50th anniversary of beginning to make Doo Wop music, after seeing the legendary Alan Freed's rock 'n' roll show at the Brooklyn Paramount.

In addition to his other musical accomplishments, Kenny deserves to be hailed as a Coney Island hero for his role as music supervisor for the film, The Warriors.

A Night of Dining, Dancing and Doo Wop
Friday, Feb. 29

10:30 p.m.
Gargiulo's Restaurant
2911 W. 15th St.

- post by Ben Nadler

Coney Island, 1978

Some great footage of Coney amusements from 1978 has been posted on YouTube by user 'Coney70s'. People often share footage from Coney's early twentieth century heyday, and footage from contemporary Coney. Footage from this interstitial era is much rarer.

The footage- which features the Jumbo Jet, the Cortina Bob, the Bumber Car ride and, above all, the Go-Kart ride- was shot using a silent home movie camera. There is something rather striking and bittersweet about watching such boisterous fun take place without any sound at all (even the hundred year old Edison Studios films tend to be overdubbed with jubilant music).

1978 Coney Island: Kaufman's Steeplechase Park

Using a silent home movie camera in 1978 I filmed scenes around Norman Kaufman's Steeplechase Park in Coney Island. I had worked on the Go-Kart ride (which is why that ride is shown more often than others.) You will see the Jumbo Jet, the Cortina Bob, the Bumber Car ride, and A LOT OF FACES. Contact me if you want to talk about these times and images. ** CISO **
posted on YouTube by

- post by Ben Nadler

Coney Gazebo Still Down

Last week Captain Nemo of the Coney Island USA bulletin board reported that one of the pavilion gazebos on the boardwalk near the old Thunderbolt site was broken and had collapsed to the grown. As of yesterday afternoon the gazebo is still down. Seen here by a couple of photos sent to Kinetic Carnival by photographer Deborah Matlack. No word yet from any sources as to how the structure has been flattened or even if will be rebuilt or fixed by season opening.

You can view more wonderful Coney Island photos at
Deborah Matlack's website.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Strictly For the Birds

The Parachute Jump is no longer a functional ride, and many (including Brooklyn borough president) don't think it shines brightly enough to fulfill its role as landmark. The local falcons, though, seem to have no complaints.

The New York bird watching blog, City Birder, reports the presence of peregrine falcons on the Parachute Jump:

The unused steel tower is a favorite perch for the local peregrines. I usually go to about 8 [cyclone] games a year […] and it was during my first or second game that I discovered the raptor's choice perch. Our seats were along the first base line, in line with the tower. I noticed one, then two, then several feathers fluttering passed. The source was from the top of the tower. A Peregrine Falcon had just caught a pigeon and was plucking it from its perch on the parachute ride. It was a nice diversion during a slow inning.

In addition to the falcons and the obvious smattering of pigeons, sparrows, and various gulls, the City Birder also reports the sighting of several other bird species- such as Great Blue Herons- in the Coney Island area. South Brooklyn & Gravesend Bay [The City Birder]South Brooklyn & Gravesend Bay [The City Birder]

South Brooklyn & Gravesend Bay [The City Birder]
- post by Ben Nadler

Snack Break

It's been a long time since one had to actually venture down to Surf Avenue to get a Nathan's hot dog. Nathan's franchises can be found everywhere from shopping malls to highway rest stops. Now, according to Fox News, getting a Nathan's hot dog will be as easy as popping some quarters in a vending machine and waiting 34 seconds for the bun and hot dog to be warmed.

The primary goal of this new joint venture with Kosher Vending Industries LLC is apparently not to increase the accessibility of Nathan's hot dogs, but to increase the popularity of Nathan's with customers who keep kosher.

Nathan's Hot Dogs Coming to a Vending Machine Near You [Fox News]

- post by Ben Nadler

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Coney on The Mic

Brooklyn is the home for cultural awareness
So in all fairness, you can never compare this
Some good, some bad. little hope for
the weak Dangerous streets and Coney Island Beach

- Gangstarr, 'The Place W here We Dwell'

As Brooklyn neighborhoods go, Coney Island does not have the biggest rap reputation. Bed Stuy gets mentioned on tracks a lot more than Coney Island, and the Marcy Houses get mentioned a lot more than Carey Gardens. Musically, Coney Island is often more associated with rockers like Lou Reed ("I'm a Coney Island baby, now"), or crooners like Neil Diamond.

Nonetheless, Coney Island does have a few MCs. One of these, who has been steadily making a name for himself and for Coney Island Hip Hop, is Torae Da Young Vet.

In a recent interview with, Torae displays nothing but love for Coney Island:

Coney Island has always kind of been off on its own, kind of excluded from the rest of the borough. It's a nice little vibe out here, man. It's about a 25- 30 block radius, everybody knows each other, there's only 3 avenues, so, about 25 blocks everybody pretty much knows each other, knows what's going on. For the most part, it's a nice close knit community; of course it's like any other hood. We got our crimes and little problems amongst each other. But for the most part Coney Island it's all love out here. […]

Coney is more famous for the ball playing than the emceeing, but there are a few dudes that are out to change that…

Torae Da Young Veteran: Following The Calling []

- post by Ben Nadler

Coney Island - Defending Democracy

Brooklyn Historian John Manbeck recently devoted his 'Historically Speaking' column in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle to Brooklyn's role in World War II. Every neighborhood did its part. Bay Ridge was already home to Fort Hamilton, the Flatlands provided Floyd Bennett Field as a Naval Air Station, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard held… the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Coney Island, for its part, gave the Half Moon Hotel, for use as the Sea Gate Naval Hospital.

Historically Speaking: Brooklyn at War, 1945 — Part 1 [Brooklyn Daily Eagle]

- post by Ben Nadler

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thor Watch

A recent Brooklyn Daily Eagle article- which was posted on the Coney Island USA message board, before it was available on the Eagle's website- includes two unsettling quotes relating to the redevelopment of Coney Island.

The first quote comes from an anonymous Coney Island Development Corporation member, who expressed concern that Thor Equities has retained the infamous real estate lawyer, Jesse Maysr. The CIDC member said that Maysr, who spoke for Thor at last week's public scoping meeting, "is known as the No. 1 obstacle to these types of things."

The second quote, from City Councilman, Kruger sidekick, and higher office hopeful Domenic Recchia, is "The land swap is dead. It's never going to happen." Recchia refused to further explain the statement, saying that, "he didn't want to negotiate in the press."

The upshot of all of this seems to be that Thor has not abandoned their plans for a condo filled Coney Island, and is going to do everything in their power to fight the city's plans.

Coney Land Swap 'Is Dead,' But Just In Case, Thor Hires Top Attorney [Brooklyn Daily Eagle (via CIUSA message board)]

- post by Ben Nadler

Ferry Plan Gets A Boost

City Council President Christine Quinn's recent call for mass transit ferry service has received an endorsement from The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. Considering that the MWA is broad umbrella organization made up of 323 civic organizations, this is a pretty important endorsement.

As The Brooklyn Daily Eagle explains, Coney Island could be one of the first neighborhoods to benefit from such a plan: "Development plans for Coney Island, as up-in-the-air as they may be, have also given rise to calls for resumption of ferries from Manhattan, which last ran in the early 1950s."

In their statement, the MWA also made several recommendations on how the ferry service should operate. The recommendations centered around three main issues, namely that the ferries be run in a way which minimizes environmental impact, that the ferries be economically competitive with other forms of mass transportation, and the ferries be integrated with land based public transportation.

In their statement, the MWA also made several recommendations on how the ferry service should operate. The recommendations centered around three main issues, namely that the ferries be run in a way which minimizes environmental impact, that the ferries be economically competitive with other forms of mass transportation, and the ferries be integrated with land based public transportation.

- post by Ben Nadler

Proposed Shark Exhibit Could Kill Aquarium's Flashy Makeover

Here's and interesting story by Sarah Ryley of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. With permission, It is posted here in its entirety.

Proposed Shark Exhibit CouldKill Aquarium’s Flashy Makeover
Succession Movement Spurred By Funding Fight, Says Pols

By Sarah Ryley of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Marty Markowitz’s surprise push to separate the New York Aquarium from the Wildlife Conservation Society was just the tip of the iceberg, said several sources.

For years, Brooklyn politicians have accused the Society of treating the aquarium “like a stepchild,” and the battle has intensified recently as two expensive projects to vamp up the lackluster attraction: a shark exhibit and an exterior makeover, compete for funding, said City Councilman Domenic Recchia, chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee.

According to Recchia, the succession movement is anything but dead. “If I was going to run for borough president, this was going to be one of my big issues,” said Recchia, who is also considering a run for Congress. “I’m glad the borough president brought this up, we’ve been screaming about it for a while.”

Disguised as low-lying brick boxes, the aquarium is arguably Coney Island’s least noticeable attraction, yet is supposed to become the amusement district’s eastern anchor under the city’s flashy redevelopment plan. Two summers ago, the city Economic Development Corporation and the Wildlife Conservation Society launched a competition to refashion the aquarium’s exterior into something exciting that would attract passersby, not hide from them. A winner would be announced by the end of 2006, they said.

That date has come and gone, and although by all accounts the Wallace Robert & Todd (WRT) design was chosen, nothing has been announced. According to two Coney Island Development Corporation board members, the Society, which is based in the Bronx and also oversees the city’s four zoos, doesn’t want to pay for it anymore.

“The Bronx said no way,” said Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal. Another board member, on the condition of anonymity, said, “The Zoological Society will not put up the other half, so that’s most likely why, out of frustration, Marty called for breaking [the aquarium] away and forming a separate organization with its own board of directors.

“I applaud Marty Markowitz for exposing their lack ofcommitment to Brooklyn,” said the source.

Not everybody agrees that funding an exterior overhaul is the best way for the Society to prove its affection. The winning design covers the entire aquarium in a sloping blanket of high-tech lights, vertical gardens and a “breathing” mesh. Though it hasn’t been priced out, and the architects are working on integrating the shark exhibit and interior renovations into the design, according to a source close to the project just the exterior could cost up to $125 million.

“We have to get rid of the perimeter. We could use that money, it could be better spent in other ways,”said Recchia. “I want to build my shark tank. The shark tank is my No. 1 priority.” He said the tank, which would have ocean views, would cost $65 million.

Economic Development Corporation (EDC) spokeswoman Janel Patterson said the city has committed $69 million to the aquarium over the next two years, including necessary infrastructure work. "The Society has funded almost all of the shark tank design todate. EDC and [the Department of Cultural Affairs] are working with sister City agencies to move the project forward, but we also must take the time necessary to be sure it compliments the Coney Island redevelopment plan,” she said in an email.

According to a high-level source, Coney Island Development Corporation board members are even at odds with the heads of its parent agency, the EDC.“High-level officials at the EDC are asking, is that money better spent on building great exhibits or is it better spent building that enclosure?” The source said the Society considers the exhibit a more important priority. If anything, the exterior makeover would be pared down to something more affordable.

Recchia wouldn’t say where Markowitz stands on the issue, and the borough president didn’t return requests for comment, but he said they both agree that breaking away from the Society would make the aquariuma better institution. “First the yelling has to start,” he said, adding that the succession movement is just heating up.

Jon Dohlin, incoming director of the New York Aquarium, said in a statement, “I know that we here at [Wildlife Conservation Society] are enthusiastic about the great changes underway at the Aquarium. We are excited about working with our partners at [Departmentof Cultural Affairs], EDC and community leaders in Coney Island, as we continue to make the aquarium an outstanding attraction for all New Yorkers.”

A high-level official said of Dohlin, “Poor guy, he’s only been there for a month. Give the guy a break,” adding that Markowitz’s suggestion, first brought up last week at the State of the Borough address, “came out of left field.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Who's Who of Coney Island Freaks

It can be difficult for the uninitiated to keep track of all the various sideshow performers which have graced Coney Island. Luckily, the blog Mental Floss has compiled a fairly thorough history which gives descriptions and biological information on many of these performers, as well as general information of the history of Coney Island freak shows.

The comprehensive list includes both legendary old school freaks such as Zip, The Ziphead and The Four Legged Woman, and contemporary sideshow performers such as Serpentina and Scott Baker, the Twisted Shockmeister.

Coney Island Freaks of Yesterday and Today [Mental Floss]

- post by Ben Nadler

A Little Taste of Coney, Up In Connecticut

The character of Coney Island exists not just in Coney Island itself, but also in small pockets outside of the physical boundaries of Coney Island. One such pocket is Wild Bill's Nostalgia Center in Middletown, CT.

Wild Bill- the grandson of a Barnum & Bailey clown- sells items such as bobble-heads, rare records and postcards. Central to his store's display is a life-size, electronic clown from 1920s Coney Island.

Wild Bill now has a funhouse and hot dog stand in the works as well. There's no substitute for Coney, of course, but if you happen to be stranded in Connecticut (god forbid), it's nice to know that you can still enjoy some of the amenities of Coney.

Wild Bill's Nostalgia Center [The Recorder]

- post by Ben Nadler

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Coney Island: Always In New York, Now In The New Yorker

The Coney Island photo portfolio which appeared in last week's New Yorker is now available online. The set is about what you would expect. The (frequently foggy) photos that make up 'Coney Island Days' are of obvious subjects (Nathan's, the Wonder Wheel, etc.), and the accompanying text is full of the typical pretentious New Yorker-isms, such as "outer-borough-ese" and "Coney's singular poem is the boardwalk, two and a half elegiac herringboned miles."

As unsurprising and condescending as it may be, though, the portfolio does offer some beautiful shots of everyone's favorite spots.

Coney Island Days [The New Yorker]

- post by Ben Nadler

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another Little Piece of Old Coney Slips Away

Pictures of the recently painted over B&B Carousel sign on Surf Avenue have been posted to the Coney Island USA message board by the keen eyed user Capt_Nemo.

It's impossible to preserve every little piece of old Coney, and inevitable that landlords and business owners will rehab their properties. Furthermore, the reconstructed B&B will be coming back within the next few years, bringing new signs with it.

All the same, it'd always sad to see these little bits of Coney history disappear.

- post by Ben Nadler

Preview of New Coney Documentary

It's becoming something of a trend these days to use Coney Island as the subject of photographs and films. Many of these works seem to focus on the aesthetic or symbolic aspects of Coney, rather than the actual political and economic issues the area is currently facing. "Coney," a forthcoming documentary brought to our attention via The Gowanus Lounge, is an exception to this.

On the film's website, "
Coney" is described as, "a feature length documentary film that examines the effects of gentrification on a New York neighborhood." The site goes on to describe Coney Island as "a community of working class people" specifically threatened by gentrification spearheaded by Thor Equities.

Judging from the four minute preview posted on
Vimeo, the documentary "Coney" is going to be particularly in depth and well done (if rather polemic) film.

- post by Ben Nadler

Friday, February 15, 2008

Light Designer Lashes Out at Marty's Desire For Bling

In his State of the Borough Address last week, Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz announced a proposed $1.5 million revamping of the Parachute Drop's lighting. This raised a few eyebrows, considering that the last such revamping was only two years ago.

The Gowanus Lounge pointed out Markowitz's fickle stance on the issue, using his own words:

Mr. Markowitz originally called the redone stucture "a beacon of light for this and future generations, harking and heralding Coney Island as a place where dreams come true." Last week, he said it needed "more bling."
Particularly displeased with the plan to revamp the lighting was Leni Schwendinger, who designed the current lights. Schwendinger responded to Markowitz's announcement with an editorial in Wednesday's Post:

The Coney Island Parachute Jump illumination is an internationally recognized symbol of Coney Island and Brooklyn - created in close collaboration with NYC's Economic Development Corporation, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Brooklyn Borough President's office and the espected engineering firm STV ("City To Do the Light Thing for Coney LandMark," Feb. 8).

For over two years, this design - depicting seasons, moods and the Coney-by-the-Sea carnival tradition - has appealed to audiences, young and old and from every walk of life.

It has been celebrated in publications worldwide, and it has received awards from professional engineering, construction, lighting and landmark associations.

When a politician flies in the face of all this goodwill to divisively demand more "bling" and less "art," New Yorkers should ask themselves: What's wrong with this picture?

Leni Schwendinger

Principal Light Projects LTD, Manhattan

Parachute Jump Lighting Designer Peeved at New Plan [Gowanus Lounge]

- post by Ben Nadler

Gristedes CEO Purchases 'Ocean Dreams' Site

Brownstoner reports that John Catsimatidis's Red Apple Group has purchased the land on which Brad Zackson and David Weisz had been planning to build their luxury condo complex, 'Ocean Dreams.'

According to
The Real Deal, Ocean Dreams was supposed to have begun construction last year, and would consist of three six-story glass buildings, complete with concierge, doorman service, and van service to the subway.

The last feature highlights why a development like Ocean Dream would devastating to the Coney Island community. Creating a situation in which wealthy residents commute directly to their luxury condos without ever setting foot in the neighborhood would create a complete polarization between the area's new high-income residents, and the area's existing low to middle income residents. A community with such deep divides is not really a community, in any meaningful sense of the word.

We'll have to wait and see if Castimatidis has simply taken control the problematic Ocean Dreams project, or if he has other plans for the property.

Big Coney Development Site Trades Hands [Brownstoner]
New Residential Developments [The Real Deal]
Ocean Dreams [Curbed]

- post by Ben Nadler

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Public Scoping Meeting Report

Yesterday evening's public scoping meeting at Lincoln High School was a fairly orderly and tame affair. This wasn't too surprising- considering that the meeting was devoted to specific responses to a specific document (the Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS)– but was still a departure from the emotion and boisterousness of other meetings that the Coney Island Development Corporation has held over the past several months.

Basically, the scoping meeting was a chance for the community to respond to the initial draft of the EIS, which has been available to the public for a month. The EIS is a detailed report on the full scope of the impact of the city's plan for Coney Island, in terms of factors such as general infrastructure (Police, Fire Department, sewers, etc.), impact to the natural environment, transportation, and things such as noise and shadows.

There were a wide variety of comments from the public on the EIS draft. A couple of prominent local businessmen expressed concern over how the new zoning would affect their specific properties, and a lawyer representing Thor Equities backhandedly opposed the whole plan. David Gratt and Dick Zigun of Coney Island USA both lauded the plan, but took exception to the lack of protections for historical sites, as well as to the fact that much of the retail area would not be zoned for entertainment retail (meaning stores would be ok, but things like theaters would not). One of the main concerns expressed by the many residents, activists, and experts who spoke was that the city had not properly taken into account the amount of parking and increased public transportation that would be necessary to accommodate the many visitors the revamped amusement area would draw. Other major concerns were that the city was not providing enough employment opportunities for the city's current residents, or enough adequate housing options to accommodate the area's low to middle income residents.

The dominant feeling of the crowd seemed to be summed up by Zigun, who said that the city's general plan was great, but that "the devil is in the details."

- post by Ben Nadler

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ferry Service To Coney Island?

Marty Markowitz is not the only one who unveiled some big plans in his annual address. In her recent State of The City address, City Council speaker Christine Quinn suggested that the new ferry service which will begin servicing the Rockaways this summer might be extended to serve all five boroughs.

"We'll unveil a detailed plan for developing what will be one of the most significant transit initiatives in recent New York history," the Columbia Journalist quotes Quinn as saying. "Imagine getting on a ferry in Hunt's Point for a day trip to Coney Island."

Considering that the city hopes to lure great numbers of tourists (and New Yorkers) to a redeveloped Coney amusement area, increasing the transportation options for getting down here to Coney isn't a bad idea.

State of the city: short on money, big on plans [Columbia Journalist]

- post by Ben Nadler

Coney Pops Up In Another Video Game

The fourth installment of the popular video game Grand Theft Auto- which is slated to be released in April, by Rockstar Games- features thinly veiled Coney Island images, such as a Cyclone clone called the 'Screamer.' A screen shot from the game featuring the 'Screamer' has been posted to the Coney Island USA message board by user 'keithnoir.' Apparently, the southern Brooklyn backgrounds stem from the fact that the game's plot centers around that popular stock character, a Russian gangster.

Coney Island has featured in many video games lately, such as 'The Warriors,' the Second Life 'I Am Legend' tie in, and the forthcoming Major League Eating game. In a way, Coney Island and video games are a natural match: it's only fitting that a place designed for the masses to escape from reality has found its way into the contemporary vehicle for such escapism.

- post by Ben Nadler

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Troubling History Lesson from Mr. Coney Island

It is easy for those of us who love Coney Island to fall into the trap of over idealizing Coney Island's heyday. In reality, there were many deeply problematic aspects involving the legendary amusement parks of Coney Island. The Coney Island History Project's 'Ask Mr. Coney Island' recently delved into one such episode, in response to a question from a UC San Diego PhD student studying indigenous Latin American communities:

The Bolivian Indian Village exhibit was located on Tilyou Walk at the Ocean, at what would now be West 16th Street. Indigenous natives were common attractions at Coney Island at the end of the nineteenth century, and the humane treatment of the odd visitors became a cause for reformers who monitored the shows for abuses. American Indians, Philippine tribesmen, and Eskimos were among those displayed in re-creations of their native habitats.

This zoo like treatment of indigenous peoples was of course all of a piece with Dreamland's Lilliputia (an artificially constructed community of little people), and the display of sideshow 'freaks,' such as conjoined twins, the obese, giants, tattooed ladies, and people with various abnormalities.

According to the Coney Island History Site, the mastermind behind both Lilliputia and the importation and display of many non-white/non-American people (from places such as the Philippines, Somalia, Burma, and Borneo) was one Samuel W. Gumpertz. Then there was the famous P.T. Barnum, who simply passed off a local black Brooklynite as the 'Wild Man of Borneo.'

Ask Mr. Coney Island: Indigenous Communities [Coney Island History Project]

- post by Ben Nadler

New Addition to The CIDC

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports that The Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) has hired Nicole Robinson-Etienne as their new outreach coordinator.

Considering that the CIDC is now embroiled in the process of selling the city on their plan for a redeveloped Coney Island, Robinson-Etienne has her work cut out for her

Business Talk: Coney Island Development Corp. Names Nicole Robinson-Etienne Outreach Coordinator [Brooklyn Daily Eagle]

- post by Ben Nadler

Monday, February 11, 2008

Coney Sand Castles at Uptown Gallery

At the end of this month, a retrospective of the work of photographer Stanley Greenberg will open at the Gitterman Gallery, on the Upper East Side. The show will include work from various projects which Greenberg - a Brooklyn native, and former city worker,whose photos appear in the Met, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Whitney- has produced over the past fifteen years. Among these projects his 2003-2004 series exploring the sandcastles of Coney Island and Brighton Beach. According to a write up on the French photography website ActuPhoto, "Some of these images look like archaeological sites where nature has come to reclaim the land, while others appear to be creations by alien civilizations. They are a reminder of the ephemeral nature of construction, large and small." This artistic statement is particularly relevant now, as Coney Island area prepares to engage in a new round of construction.

Stanley Greenberg
Show: Feb. 28th to May 10th
Gitterman Gallery
170 E. 75th St.

- post by Ben Nadler

Inside Playland

As The Gowanus Lounge so accurately puts it, "Of all the structures in Coney Island, one of the most interesting ones to many visitors is the ruined Playland arcade." Indeed, after a long shot down the deserted winter boardwalk, a shot of Playland's facade from across the litter strewn (one time) Thunderbolt lot is probably the most common picture taken by those who want to eloquently (and obviously) capture the current state of Coney. Now, however, Coney Island USA message board user POCI (who worked at Playland, in their student days), has posted some photographs of the inside of Playland. POCI comments, "No[t] exactly the way it was when I was making change for skeeball!"

- post by Ben Nadler

Friday, February 08, 2008

Borough Prez Talks Coney In State Of Borough Speech

Found on The Gowanus Lounge's Coney posts for today: 1, 2, and 3 - Borough President Marty Markowitz announces a few plans for Coney Island in his State of the Borough Speech.

One (GL writes):

Mr. Markowitz basically suggested the institution is getting a raw deal in terms of budget and attention from the Society.
He said he is working with the Mayor’s office to "consider the possibility of a Brooklyn-based board of directors to take control" of the New York Aquarium.Mr. Markowitz basically suggested the institution is getting a raw deal in terms of budget and attention from the Society. He said he is working with the Mayor’s office to "consider the possibility of a Brooklyn-based board of directors to take control" of the New York Aquarium.

Was it barely two years ago that the lighting scheme esigned by Leni Schwendinger was unveiled? Well, the very subtle lighting debuted to mixed reviews and apparently hasn't done the trick and, now, Borough President Marty Markowitz is pushing a $1.5 million project that would include another redo of the lighting for Brooklyn's Eiffel Tower.

Markowitz's who said the Grimshaw firm, which has dozens of high profile projects around the world in its portfolio and is doing the redesign of the historic Queens Museum building in Flushing Meadow Park as well as the (much diminished) design of the Fulton Transit Center in Manhattan, will design a new "Coney Island Center" that would become a stop on the summer outdoor concert circuit akin to Jones Beach. There has been community opposition to the noise such a facility would create, as it is surrounded by apartment buildings.

Coney Music 1: Beat Circus

The Boston band Beat Circus will be performing at the Knitting Factory this Saturday to promote their recently released CD, 'Dreamland.' Yes, the Dreamland in question is that Dreamland, the amusement park which graced Coney Island from 1904 until it's unfortunate demise be fire in 1911.

'Dreamland' (the CD) is the first installment in composer Brian Carpenter's Weird American Gothic Trilogy.
Beat Circus's website describes the work as a "150-page score for 12 musicians and contains macabre narratives loosely based on historical figures from the surreal, turn-of-the-century Coney Island theme park of the same name."

Wikipedia entry for Dreamland (the amusement park) adds that the CD's liner notes include historical images of Dreamland, courtesy of Coney Island USA.

Tracks from this unique and captivating work can be heard on
Beat Circus's Myspace page

Saturday, Feb. 9th
8 pm

and special guest Sxip Shirey

74 Leonard Street, Manhattan
All ages / $10 advance / $12 door

- post by Ben Nadler

Coney Music 2: Baby Dee

Since Kinetic Carnival first reported on the release of 'Safe Inside The Day'- the new album from former Coney sideshow performer, tree surgeon, church organist, and Antony and the Jonhsons sidewoman, Baby Dee- a couple of weeks ago, the album has gone on to win rave reviews, both nationally and internationally. Suffice to say, all this praise is well deserved.

In a recent interview with the London based paper, The Daily Telegraph, Dee revisited her 'difficult summer as a carnival turn on Coney Island':

"They billed me as 'The Bilateral Hermaphrodite'," she remembers. "My job was to pick out the most threatening man in the whole place - the one who hated my guts the most - and say: 'You're not going to be able to see from way back there, sir.' The more they booed, the better the act was."

- post by Ben Nadler

Virtual Hot Dog Eating Contest

The National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and even the Professional Golfer's Association all have their own video games.

Now Major League Eating (MLE) will have one too.

Agence France-Presse reports that the video game company Mastiff is working with the MLE organization to release a competitive eating video game in time for this years July 4th hot dog eating contest at Nathan's

Player's avatars will devour as much as they can of twelve different varieties of food, while at the same time trying to keep from losing it all "in a vividly colorful reversal of fortune."

While the game's concept is indeed innovative, it's hard to imagine that the experience of playing it will rival the pleasures of actually eating a Nathan's hot dog.

Mastiff cooking up a video game for gluttons [AFP]

- post by Ben Nadler

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Museum Quality Coney Rides

Image 'Time to rain' courtesy of balitc 86

The Brooklyn Museum's website has been running a fantastic blog series as a tie in to the 'Goodbye Coney Island?' photo exhibit. The most recent installment focuses on images of classic Coney rides culled from the public 'Goobye Coney Island' Flickr group .

We have all seen plenty of photographs of Coney Island rides, but some of the pictures here really stand out. Particularly striking are Chutney Bannister's sparse depiction of the Cyclone in which the ride's armature meshes with the branches of trees, and Egulvision's photo of the 2000 destruction of the Thunderbolt.

Image 'f-coney island 17' courtes of penmadison

Classic Coney Rides [Brooklyn Museum]

- post by Ben Nadler

Andrew McCarthy's Coney Memory

Everyone has their own Coney Island Memories. Actor Andrew McCarthy- known for his roles in such Brat Pack flicks as St. Elmo's Fire and Pretty in Pink- shared his own with Slate:

One of the unique things about being an actor based in New York for so long is my relationship with the city: Certain locations are forever set in my mind as ouchstones. I can never walk past the boat pond in Central Park without thinking of the day when I pushed a young kid into the water for a scene during the shooting of Weekend at Bernie's, and it's impossible for me to go to Coney Island and not remember kissing Mary Stuart Masterson under the boardwalk in a scene from Heaven Help Us

Making Lipstick Jungle [Slate]

- post by Ben Nadler

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Will Community Gardens Be Victims of Development?

With the City's plan for a new Coney Island becoming more and more likely, people are becoming concerned with what specifically might be lost to the wrecking ball. Earlier this week it was Nathan's. Now, the city gardening blog Flatbush Gardener has raised the concern- shared by local community gardening activists- that three of Coney Island's community gardens lie on land slated to be redeveloped.

Apparently, these parks are particularly vulnerable to development because they are on Department of Housing (HPD) land, rather than protected Parks Department land or Public Trust land.

Endangered Coney Island Community Gardens [Flatbush Gardener]

Photo courtesy of

- post by Ben Nadler