May 24, 2011
A Coney Island of the Heart
I grew up not far from Coney Island and carry wonderful memories of times at the amusement parks, riding on the Wonder Wheel––but never in the swinging cages, much too scary!––where from on high you could get a view over the borough of Brooklyn, as you could on the now closed Parachute Jump, an exciting ride up to the top, where there would be a ..bump!.. and the parachute would open as you slowly came back to earth. After years of decline, Coney is coming back with bright new amusement parks, a baseball stadium and lots to eat.
But it's the old rides, the Wonder Wheel and The Cyclone, which along with the Parachute Jump are on the Register of Historic Places, which make my heart go thump when I look at them. It took a lot of courage for a child to ride on the Cyclone with its dramatic swoops and turns, but oh how exciting it was! I hadn't been in Coney Island in years, but last weekend there was a morning of bright sun, a welcome respite from days of rain, so I went for a walk on the broad boardwalk and enjoyed memories, and meandering through the happy varied crowds.
The colors of amusement parks are so extravagant: no subtlety, no holding back, full of flights of fancy.
But Coney Island is also a beautiful wide sand beach, used by thousands of city residents. At this time of year, before the lifeguards are on duty, the beach is a place to walk, or to contemplate from the benches at the edge of the boardwalk.
The wacky imagination of the amusements seems to have drifted over onto the beach, with a fake palm tree gracing the Brooklyn beach. I can see no reason for it to be there but sheer fun.
Steeplechase Park.––how I loved it!: the steeplechase horse ride along with all the others––was built by George Tilyou , Coney Islander born and bred. The summer at Coney Island was indeed, for many, the World.