The Best (?) and Worst Of Times At Coney Island

by BILLY GRAY · February 16, 2010

Mayor Bloomberg is expected to announce plans for 23 new rides at Coney Island just hours after a man was shot and killed in the Brooklyn neighborhood. The city paid $95.6 million for 6.9 acres of land in Coney's gone-to-seed amusement park area in November of 2009. The new rides include roller coasters, go-carts and a human slingshot. Zamperla, the Italian company that is the largest manufacturer of amusement rides in the world, is expected to run the park as it aims for a revival. Eventually, the city hopes for a 12.5-acre theme park area in the midst of a planned 27-acre "entertainment district" comprising restaurants (what, Nathan's isn't good enough?), movie theaters, and 5,000 new residential units.

Preservationists and nostalgists are weary of changes to one of the most refreshingly ungentrified corners of the city. Coney Island's famed sideshow seems to often play second fiddle to the freaks gathered in and around the park. Examples of the local color include the annual Mermaid Parade, the Shoot the Freak arcade game (where players aim a paint gun at a roving human target) and an inexplicable preponderance of live snakes slithering along the boardwalk.

But with the old Astroland park pretty much abandoned after its rides were hauled away following its final summer last year and the neighborhood's general neglect leading to crime like last night's murder of Adam James, even the diehards most sentimental about Coney's present day derelict state can only be optimistic that the city's plans work in the district's favor.

(Main Photo Courtesy Of C.B.'s Flickr)