Under the boardwalk, out of the sun
Under the boardwalk, we’ll be having some fun…
Sorry kids, fun’s over. When the Drifters first sang this Coney Island anthem, who could have imagined that the Coney boardwalk might be replaced with a concrete slab?
But that proposal is just one of a number of steps recently taken that will forever destroy the essence and unique character of Coney Island.
Ironically, Under the Boardwalk was released in 1964, when Coney’s Steeplechase Park, perhaps the most innovative amusement park in U.S. history, shut down permanently.
For the uninitiated, Steeplechase included The Parachute Jump (its remaining structure declared a landmark in 1977) and the Steeplechase Horses, which took riders on a thrilling ride outside the park and over the boardwalk on speeding mechanical steeds.
When Steeplechase closed there was talk about designating its Pavilion of Fun as an historic landmark. But after the site was acquired by real estate developer Fred Trump (yes, “The Donald’s” father) he decided to destroy it before it could be granted landmark status, throwing a “demolition party” where invited guests hurled bricks through the Park’s facade.
Cut to 2010, when another developer is poised to deliver the final death blow to what has historically made Coney the special, one-of-a-kind destination that made it famous.
Zamperia Amusements International has given eight longtime Coney attractions, including the iconic Ruby’s Bar & Grill and only-in-Brooklyn “Shoot the Freak”, two weeks to shut their doors. The only stores allowed to remain (for the present) will be Nathans and two souvenir shops.
“The business is 76 years old and has been in my family for decades,” Michael Sarrel, co-owner of Ruby’s, told the New York Daily News. “When Ruby’s and the rest of us are gone and people come to Coney Island, it will be a generic amusement park, no longer something special or historic.”
John (Cha-Cha) Ciarcia, owner of the eponymous Cha-Cha’s and Beer Island, both also given the boot by the developer, agrees. “They conned us,” Ciarcia told GrubStreet. “They told us they were going to give us three year contracts, made us submit bids, then seek out money for new design work, and it was all a bunch of baloney.”
Yeah I know–nothing stays the same, and those who expect it to are kidding themselves. But those who espouse the eternal wisdom of the free market system (time to rename it the stacked deck system?) and how it ultimately reflects the will of the people are also kidding themselves.
If they don’t understand this, perhaps they can take their kids to Coney in five years or so, let them walk the concrete planks and explain to them what a boardwalk used to be, and how TGIF Fridays is just as “Coney” as Ruby’s and Cha-Cha’s.
The way things are going, they may as well take their kids to DisneyWorld, because Coney will be just as sterile. Or condemned to do their penance at the soulless South Street Seaport.
Under the concrete slab, we’ll be having some fun.
Come on everybody, sing along. Hey, don’t be a spoilsport!
(check out the latest Arts Page update re: Interview with John Patrick Shanley)