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Coney Island Information
By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 2, 2003, 14:43

Coney Island is a community of about 60,000 people on the Atlantic shore of Brooklyn, New York.

Geologically, it the westernmost of the barrier islands of Long Island. It is now connected to the main part of Brooklyn, but was formerly an actual island, separated from the main part of Brooklyn by Coney Island Creek, part of which was little better than tidal flats. There were plans into the 20th century to dredge and straighten the creek as a ship canal, but these plans were abandoned when the center portion of the creek was filled in for construction of the Belt Parkway before World War II. The western and eastern ends are now peninsulas, with a neighborhood called Sea Gate at the western end and Oriental Beach and Manhattan Beach at the eastern.

Sea Gate is one of only two neighborhoods in New York City where the streets are owned by the residents and not the city. (Breezy Point, at the southern tip of the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, is the other); it is cordoned off by a fence and gate houses.

Coney Island is about 2 miles long, but less than 1000 feet wide in most places. Its subway station is called Stillwell Avenue and can be reached by the D, F, and Q train lines of the New York City subway system. Its three main avenues, running east to west are: Neptune Ave., Mermaid Ave. and Seagate Ave. The cross streets are called "Beach 1st Street, Beach 2nd Street, Beach 3rd Street and so on up until Beach 28th Street at the western end.
"Coney" is an obsolete English word for "rabbit." It has been called Coney Island since the 1640s, appearing on early maps of Nieuw Amsterdam as such. The Native American inhabitants of the area called the island Narrioch, "land without shadows", because, in common with other south shore Long Island beaches, its compass orientation keeps the beach area in sunlight all day.

Beginning with the period after the Civil War, Coney Island became a resort, as trolley lines began to reach the area in the 1870s. With the trolleys and access to the beach came amusement parks and public beaches. Some argue that the world's longest boardwalk runs along the beach.

The famous song "Under the Boardwalk", first popularized in 1964, is about Coney Island.

Nathan's Famous' first Hotdog Stand is located on Coney Island. Their celebrated annual hot dog eating contest has been held at there since 1916.
Linguistically Coney Island is still an island: one is said to be "on" the island, not "in" Coney Island.

The Polar Bear Club, whose members like to swim in the winter, first met at Coney Island.

Between about 1880 and World War II, Coney Island was the largest amusement park in the United States, attracting several million visitors per year. It was finally eclipsed by Disneyland in California. While most of the amusement parks have long since closed down, several remain for New Yorkers who come to visit the boardwalk, swim and sunbathe on the Coney Island beach.

The amusement area contains various rides, games such as skeeball, and a sideshow, games of shooting and throwing and tossing skills. In its heyday record setting Coney Island rides (as the first of their kind or largest) were:

  • Wonder Wheel, a huge ferris wheel,
  • The Cyclone roller coaster, which some claim is still the world's largest wooden roller coaster.
  • Parachute Jump, which was the first ride of its kind. Patrons were hoisted some 190 feet in the air before being allowed to drop using guy-wired parachutes.
  • Bumper cars, which are small vehicles with rubber bumpers all the way around, which ride on a flat metal surface, and are powered by electricity conducted by a pole standing upright from the back of the car and touching an electrified ceiling. The object is to bump other cars. The idea for demolition derbies is said to have originated from bumper cars.
It is also the location of the New York Aquarium since June 6th, 1957, on the former site of the Dreamland amusement park. In 2001, Keyspan Park opened on the former site of Steeplechase Park to host the Brooklyn Cyclones minor-league baseball team.

Since the early 80's Coney Island has been the home of Coney Island, USA - a not for profit arts organization "dedicated to preserving the dignity of American Popular Culture." Coney Island, USA produces the last 10-in-1 Sideshow in America at their theater in Coney Island. The organization also produces the annual Mermaid Parade, the Coney Island Film Festival, and houses the Coney Island Museum. Thanks largely to the efforts of the group, Coney Island has seen a rebirth in the early 2000's, with many new New Yorkers rediscovering the joy of this beautiful waterfront treasure that's just a subway ride from Manhattan.

The majority of the population of Coney Island resides in approximately thirty 18 to 24 story towers, mostly comprised of various forms of public housing. In between the towers are many blocks that are filled with burned out and vacant buildings. Once home to many Jewish and Italian-American residents, most of those living in Coney Island today are African-American or Hispanic. In recent decades a large influx of Russian immigrants from the former Soviet Union, many of them Jewish, have also established a community on the island and neighboring Brighton Beach, with many shop signs now in both Russian and English, earning the nickname "Little Odessa".

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