In spite of the ups and downs of history, New York preserves, as a relic located south of Brooklyn, a surviving Coney Island that has fought hard to keep its valuable essence and undeniable uniqueness.
This peninsula, whose original name in Dutch was Conyne Eylandt or Konijin Eiland (King Island or Isle Royale), is considered an icon. With a colourful history, once the fashionable seaside resort for the upper class of the state during the Civil War -with over 40 million visitors a year-, it was transformed, over time and with the booming of gambling business, into a notorious area. Finally, with the advent of the Great Depression, it became a neighbourhood of limited resources, doomed to oblivion. The film industry took advantage of this abandonment, using it as the setting for several movies, with their huge wooden sculptures and rusty iron as a backdrop, also used in the past as a guinea pig for Thomas Edison’s inventions.
This place, seven kilometers long and 800 meters wide, is about 14 miles from the Big Apple. With a nice retro beach, its the perfect scenario for New York neighbours of moderate economy to escape a few days from the routine.
Getting there is easy and affordable for any pocket, thanks to the train that connects the peninsula with the city, just one hour away. Coney Island is mainly famous because of its amusement parks, those that brought fame to the place two centuries ago and remain, today, as an essential part of its identity. On one hand, Luna Park, which reopened its doors in 2010 and pays tribute to the legendary park closed in 1944. On the other, Deno’s Wonder Wheel, founded in 1920.
Attractions like the Wonder Wheel, declared a site of national interest, along with Cyclone, a roller coaster that maintains the same rickety wood look with which opened in 1927, also keeping the original cars, delights visitors that come massively to this unchanging place. Walking Stillwell Avenue from the station or crossing Surf Avenue to finish in Nathan’s Famous, tasting one of its genuine Hot Dogs -the oldest in history-, are some of the activities that are worth performed during the visit.
But, undoubtedly, the best experience –relaxing and interesting at the same time- can be enjoyed in its Board Walk, built in wood, where countless people stroll and dance at different rates, depending on the culture, creating an environment worth of observation. Also renowned is the annual parade of sirens and neptunes, marching every year to mark the beginning of the summer season and during which, every July 4, for 97 years, the legendary hot dog contest is held and won by the person that is capable of eating the highest number of Hot Dogs during a limited timeframe (with the consequent merit of not dying in the attempt).
It is also mentionable that, due to its rehabilitation, the area hosts the headquarters of Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team, a new aquarium -with more than 350 marine species- and trendy restaurants and shops that return to Coney Island the prestige lost by the devastating pass of the Second World War.
Text © Alicia Jiménez
Photos © Nano Calvo
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