Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Council announced plans this week for the revitalization and redevelopment of Coney Island. The rejuvenation would include a new amusement park, luxury hotels, restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters and a new roller coaster. And so continues the homogenization of New York, and the eradication of that which made it unique.
Coney Island should be left alone.
I am not one for nostalgia. People tend to romanticize the past, just as they romanticize country life, their youth, family relationships, and Christmas. The nostalgic images we conjure of the past are often what we wish something had been. There is little today that reflects Coney Island’s heyday. In fact, Coney Island makes people uncomfortable, it is one of the United States’ last authentic freak shows. It is its wonderful freakishness that makes it attractive to those who don’t mind being uncomfortable and who don't mind seeing a part of our culture as it really is.
Although Mayor Bloomberg states that the plan will restore Coney Island to its grander days, he is indeed creating a simulacrum: a prepackaged, sterile and codified reproduction of something that never existed in the first place. What will be missing from Coney Island are the derelicts, carnies, and thousands of average families who, via subway, haul their beach chairs and sunscreen there each summer weekend. I find it difficult to imagine the Mermaid Parade, the hot dog eating contest, and the headless woman on view in a glass enclosed entertainment environment. Coney Island may be seedy, but its sleaze is out in the open for everyone to see and recognize. I will miss it.