Coney Island on a Sunny February Afternoon

Time for the biannual Coney Island post!
I needn’t tell you that this speck of Brooklyn is one of my favorite spots once summer hits New York. I live right of the F train, which makes it really convenient for me to travel to the quirkiest beach found so far. It takes me a short 20 min ride when I care to go in the summer, and I usually always do, every other week or so. As mentioned in May and October, Coney Island is a beach at the southernmost point of Brooklyn and, aside from water that gets murky and unsafe always around the middle of June, it offers a fantastic array of spooky rides and the oldest wooden roller coaster in the American history. Yes, I’ve actually taken the dreaded Cyclone and I thought it was an awesome fun ride. Maybe not worth the 8 bucks they charged us for it, but hey, somehow they do want to get those renovation costs together, I assume. Still, I can highly recommend you taking this ride, even though it might creep you out when you hear the squeaks of the brakes and the squeals of the people going before you. It only lasts one and a half minutes, which is not really long. But those one and half minutes, they can blow you away.

On Sunday I was fortunate enough to have the great idea of actually using my time in a meaningful way, since it was the big three-day-weekend with President’s Day going on. A three-day weekend in the winter is usually an sign for most New Yorkers to simply pack their bags and hop on the next plane south. Especially during this time of year, as spring break is coming up. However, 2012 has still remained surprisingly mild, so I am not in the least disappointed that I have decided to stay true to the Big Apple all winter long. Which has also caused me to go back to what I do best: Sight-seeing and being a busy little tourist in the city of 8 million.
So on Sunday, to get back to the gist of my sentence, I spontaneously hopped on the orange line, which transported me back in time, to the feeling of summer, sun, and fun, in less than half an hour. I didn’t bring my bath towel, I wasn’t wearing my swim suit, but I carried my camera with me and was in a good mood to stroll the beach on a cool February day. As I came to find, I wasn’t the only one with this bright idea: A good amount of tourists, locals, and other folks were roaming the boardwalk and areas around the water. Well, why not, it was a gorgeous day and when the sun came out you almost forgot that summer is still a good three and a half months away…

Coney Island’s attractions were closed. I think they shut down one day after Halloween and open up in April again (their site says Easter, which is dependent upon year). The Luna Park has renovated and come up with an array of new rides, which were newly opened in May of 2010. Unfortunately, I have no idea what Coney Island was like before, as that was the first time I visited the Luna Park. I do know that they added even more rides for the smaller audience in 2011, so kids should be having a ton of fun with their little surf rides and water canoes now. Aside from the rides, what makes Coney Island colorful are all the little stands and food carts you find clustered around and close to the boardwalk.

On Sunday, however, everything was still brutally shut down. Back in October, at least the bars and food joints had been open. Now the only spot you could grab a bite of food from was Nathan’s (as extensively discussed in previous posts, this joint does not offer too much according to my taste – I don’t eat hot dogs!) and the fast food joints right next to the train station. I guess the restaurants were open as usual, but that is not why people come to Coney Island, to be honest. Aside from the missing culinary experience, everyone was quite happy. Some tourists even dipped their naked feet into the probably freezing cold Atlantic water, but I guess they don’t have an ocean where they come from.

Which is exactly why I love this spot: The salty sea breeze, the oceanic air, the mellow waves washing ashore – all beautifully illuminated by the sun high up in the sky. For this time of the year, it was quite blinding, and sunglasses were a must on that particular day. Some hardcore fishermen even had their fishing rods out. I am not sure if they caught anything. I would never want to eat anything coming from that place of the Ocean and I hope they don’t sell their fish it in Chinatown or Brighton Beach. I once witnessed a child catching a sea skate, which is pretty high on the list of being extinct. Just for fun, he caught it. Just for fun, he sliced the inside open. Just for fun, he threw him back into the water. Some people’s mentality towards animals just don’t make sense to me and are saddening me at times.

In the summer, Coney Island is home to many people, also homeless people and the socially disadvantaged. I believe the projects are not too far from there. So when you walk by a random group of guys in a torn undershirt who are loudly blasting their CD player on the pier or close to the water, you know what’s up. It’s funny to see the interaction between tourists, Russians, and other people when they encounter these random groups of men who have plenty of time to kill. It’s a mix between amusement and bewilderment. That is probably why Coney Island is regarded as ghetto by most New Yorkers after some point in the summer. My friend and I were always entertained by the random Salsa and Samba parties hosted by Puerto Rican crowds. A band would be playing and many grunge-looking people of middle age would start showing off their hot moves in front of the rest of the crowd. My friend, a German guy, would always be fascinated by the high amount of naked skin the 50-year-old women would show off, even though their body was lacking the prerequisite for bikini and mini skirt time. I, however, was fascinated and repulsed by how beaten down the men and women looked for their age. This was probably due to their hard-working life – or their extensive drug use.

Sunday was a great day at the beach. It wasn’t for swimming or tanning or dancing but simply for catching a nice fresh breeze of salty sea air and feeling rejuvenated after spending some time among so many peaceful people.

Oh, and the mystery to why this place contains the word “island”? Well, apparently it used to be disconnected to the mainland until they rejoined it by means of land fill. Dear Coney, you truly were an Island!

[For more pictures, go to A Picture Every Day: I). and II).]