Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Changing Face of Coney Island

Coney Island has undergone many changes over the years.  Time spent with locals affords me many stories of what the area what like in the 1960's, '70's, '80's through to today.

In just the few short months that I've been here, two significant changes have occurred, leaving me worried for the future of this area that I've come to love.  

The first change was brought on by Hurricane Sandy, flooding not only the businesses on the boardwalk and the boardwalk itself, but homes and businesses beyond Surf Avenue, on Mermaid Avenue, just a block off the beach.  Homes and lives are forever altered...

The second is evidenced in the photos below.  The first photo is iconic of Coney Island and was taken on October 28, 2012.  When I visited Coney Island on January 22nd, this colorful painting still proudly adorned the wooden wall.  The second photo, taken in the exact same spot as the first, was taken three days ago.  Instead of the colorful wall, there's now all-glass front windows - cold, sterile, completely antithetical to its historical surroundings, and, for sale.

Locals tell me that the billionaire who owns much of this land is hoping to build condos here, to attract more tourists.  Hearing this leaves me feeling both angry and sad, as we face the same dilemma in my small tourist town of Homer, Alaska.  There must be a way to balance "progress" with maintaining areas of historical significance.  Can't we revitalize an area without destroying its character?  

With so many businesses and families still struggling to get back on their feet after the hurricane, this blatant, in-your-face "progress" by one individual and his company seem like a slap in the face to all of them, in my opinion.

I admit that I'm a sucker for tradition, and after spending the weekend on Coney Island, hearing story after story after story of people's memories of time spent on Coney Island and what that time meant to them as children, as adults and to their children, I can't help but want to chain myself to the front of this ugly, glass, metal, modern building and cry with every breath in my Coney Island-loving body, "HELL NO!!!"

When I look at these two images, I notice things I hadn't noticed in all the times I walked by this building.  First, the bright wall is paint on top of wood and the glass front, cold, sterile building has been there the entire time, just hidden from my view.  So smitten was I by such a happy, welcoming face that I failed to see the structure tucked behind it, like a tumor waiting to spread.

This has been my rant... 

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