Coney Island: Financial Revival and its Neglected Citizens
Coney Island: Financial Revival and its Neglected Citizens
Coney Island already had its place in our own history and schema - Coney Island: Financial Revival and its Neglected Citizens introduction. Its long history of being the home of the best-loved mechanical rides and hotdogs stands cannot be easily be put out of every American’s consciousness.
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However, amidst the glory and game that Coney Island achieved during the past decades, it appears that it was struck by numerous radical changes. Because of the very high historical label that it carries, competing investors who wanted to take hold of its land properties consistently heckled it. In the process of constant geographical and infrastructural changes, cultural and demographical changes were also inevitably done. Hence, Coney Island as a social community is a very dynamic one—constant influx of people and culture made its crop of people varied and always in constant state of change.
This paper will cover how these changes, declines and revivals affected the consciousness of the citizens of Coney Island and why its local people are still in the mire of unemployment and high crime rate.
The Coney Island as a community and the private corporations
One of the biggest factors that affect the face of the Coney Island community is the influx of different of private corporations and investors. The construction of different infrastructures and commercial establishments brought in many infrastructural changes which of course has considerable impact on the lifestyle of the people in the city.
For instance, the Thor Equities, a real estate development company, purchased a big chunk of Coney Island’s real estate (The New York, November 2006). This in turn lead to the construction of many rides and infrastructures, some of which are the hotels, displacing in the process the famous The Wonder Wheel (a ferris wheel) and Cyclone (a roller coaster). The original stand of Nathan’s Famous, a popular hotdog stand since the early 90’s, was also dislodged in place of the said hotel.
These kinds of developmental projects that were spearheaded by private companies are, by default, geared towards profit. Hence, the displacements of the said historic landmarks are ‘investments’, not for the benefit of the citizens in the direct sense but for the investors’ side. Going further, these developmental projects are not developmental, in the sense that they are not for the citizen’s sake.
Of course, we will need to qualify this point. The investments in these developmental projects bring in taxes and revenues that will practically help the government and the city’s citizens. The taxes will translate into other projects that will be spearheaded by the government and will be geared towards the benefit of Coney Island’s own citizens. Other than this, tourism, which is the primary source of income of the city, is a big factor that is capitalized by the investors. Tourism, of course, will not only benefit the large companies but also the small business enterprises, like fast food chains, pension houses and other local industries. Hence, the influx of tourists in the area would be directly beneficial to the local government in the financial sense.
Coney Island as a repository of tourist ‘identity’
As said earlier, what makes Coney Island a financially stable neighborhood is its history and reputation as a place of ‘fun’, which is relatively well-established. However, in an environment where people are coming and going, the formation of a tight community will be quite a challenge.
Tourists of Coney Island often stay in transient (at least a day, maximum of 1 month) and socialization among the tourists and the local people is frequently short-lived. It then appears that the place is a place in constant replenishment of people. In fact, according to Michael Immerso, Coney Island has long been a place where people in transient basis:
The Gut was Coney’s Island’s Tenderloin, a degraded area bordered by Ocean Parkway and the elevated railway that linked West Brighton and Brighton Beach…The Gut housed a transient population of stable hands and grooms from the racetracks, German and ‘Hebrew’ shopkeeper’s laundrywomen, waiters and boarders…(Immerso 48)
The common identity that its people have is therefore, most likely a tourist identity.
Being a repository of tourist identity means being a place where people are always changing, and in the process, the citizen’s are placed a social vacuum, with minimal intimate connection with each other.
Hence, a ‘tourist spot’ community is a very difficult context to create an intimate connections. This will be touched and elaborated earlier.
More profit-oriented than citizen-oriented
In the most obvious terms, it will appear the Coney Island is more of commercial area rather than a residential area. In fact, only a few residential areas in Coney Island like Sea Gate and Breezy Point Cooperative are fenced and privately owned by the citizens (coneyinfo.com). Most of the people reside in government-owned medium rise buildings (MRB) which rise for about 18 to 24 stories.
These MRBs are projects of the government for public housing, and as usual the citizens in these kinds of communities are cramped. The gang wars and lootings that occasionally happen in the areas are often blamed to the young people in these areas (Solomon 75). There are also many vacant and abandoned buildings in the outskirts of the area that are neglected by the government. However, there have been some attempts lately to utilize these areas for commercial use.
One thing is implied here. ‘Developments’ done by the private companies and investors, even by the local government, are often concentrated in the Coney Island Park area, the place where many historic amusement rides and booths are. This will tell us how the whole, in itself, is selling itself for public consumption and business. Because Coney Island is about ‘amusement parks and fun’, the residents are neglected and relegated into inferior priority by the government. Take for instance this excerpt from a news article about the recent developments and rehabilitation of Coney Island:
Once dubbed the People’s Playground, the peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean drew working-class Americans for more than a century with its tacky splendor and low-cost fun.
But in recent decades, while visitors crowded the boardwalk, scarfing down fast food and letting out screams on thrill rides, life for many of Coney Island’s 65,000 residents had become a drug-fueled hell amid a double-digit unemployment rate, crumbling housing and a skyrocketing crime rate.
Seth W. Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corp. that spearheaded the Coney Island project, said he expects this summer’s activities to reverse “years of decline and disinvestment.” (Dobnik Feb 2010)
However, it is apparent that the president of EDC missed the point, as the equated the financial status of the neighborhood to its status as a community. Rehabilitating the amusement areas and adding more rides will not directly benefit the neighborhood’s citizens and lessen the crime-rate.
Hence, because of the profit-oriented nature of Coney Island, it would really be hard to create a tight residential community unless they are given direct attention by the local government.
Coney Island as a neighborhood is dwindling terms of employment and has a very high crime rate. This can be attributed to a lack of attention to the development of the citizen themselves. Therefore, the well-being of the citizens must also be given attention by the government. The proliferation and investing of many private companies into the area must be regulated by the government. Social services must also be given consideration before the financial gains that can be created, as the physical setting of an area is also a big factor in molding the consciousness of a community’s citizens, such as Coney Island’s.
__________.“1.5 Billion Development Plan For Coney Island.” The New York Sun November 13, 2006. Print.
__________.”Thor closes on deal to sell 6 Coney Island acres to City” Real Estate Weekly 23 December 2009. 13 May 2010 <http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Thor closes on deal to sell 6 Coney Island acres to City.-a0215719984>.
Dobnik, Verena. “NYC mayor: Coney Island ‘is coming back, big time'” Associated Press News 16 February 2010. 13 May 2010 <http://www.thefreelibrary.com/NYC mayor: Coney Island ‘is coming back, big time’-a01612141658>.
Gugler, Josef. The Urban Transformation of the Developing World. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.
Immerso, Michael. Coney Island: the people’s playground. USA: Rutgers University Press, 2002. Print. ISBN 0-8135-3138-1.
Professor Solomon. Coney Island. USA: Top Hat Press, 1991. Print. ISBN 0-912509-08-2
Stein, Harvey. Coney Island. USA: W. W. Norton & Company,1998. Print. ISBN 10-978-0393317879.