Coney island, the very name conjures up wild roller coaster rides, the boardwalk, freak shows, hot dogs and the beach. The history of this small peninsula has gone up and down as much as Coney Island’s roller coaster and given the changes climate change can bring, it will keep undoubtedly changing.
In 1840 it was somewhere wealthy New Yorkers summered during the sweltering heat and then, once the railroad made it easily accessible, it became an amusement park with millions of New Yorkers enthusiastically riding the rides, enjoying the sideshows and the beach.
There have been epic fights in the past between developers, politicans and residents during which Coney Island came perilously close to vanishing beneath plans to concrete over all of it’s natural beauty. But inevitably economic realities have guided it’s course. While millions visited it prospered as a series of amusement parks but after 1940 it declined rapidly in popularity as New Yorkers could choose between many more froms of entertainment than previously.
But as you can see from the first video, shot in the 1960′s, which is normally seen as a time when it was in decline, it was still popular and families made the trip out to enjoy its simple pleasures, like eating fairy floss. Thank you Don Brunjes for posting such a delightful slice of New York family life at that time.
The second video which covers the 1970′s, shows that Coney Island was still very popular, full to the brim with rides and sideshows and really ike a giant fair ground. And people obviously loved the beaches because there are thousands of people on them enjoying a rare treat at a time when other NYC beaches were not as hospitable. Those fisherman look like permanent fixtures too.
The final video brings us into the present. Much of what has always been there through the 60′s and 70′s is still there, but it is tidied up, slicker and much less down at heel and merchandized to within an inch of it’s life. As you can see the beaches aren’t so crowded and at least part of that would be the development of so many other NYC beaches. And the beach gym equipment is a nice addition. If we could see the tracks and train that brings people to Coney Island today we could bet on it not being smothered in the type of graffiti and rubbish that adorned the train in the 1970′s.
And so Coney Island has survived with it’s character surprizingly intact and just spruced up a bit to cater to New Yorkers current addictions to food and the extraordinary.