What Are They Gonna Do with Coney Island? You Oughta Know.
To all those questions, we answer, They oughta know.
First - we spent 8 decades on those salty sands. We suffered floods in the basement of the home we lived in, each time heavy winded hurricanes pumped their wrath, with tides that swept across our man-made island, that was later cemented together as a peninsula.
Coney really lost its “island-hood” when the City and State ‘peninsulated’ us in early 1930’s. Until then, land-fill, Sheepshead Bay prolongated into and coupled with Gravesend Bay. That served the pair from Gravesend, later McDonald, Avenue to Emmons Avenue.
New York State built our Belt Parkway in early 1930’s over that land fill. Sheepshead had its Bay. McDonald Avenue (alias Gravesend Avenue) and Shell Road, then merged as another coupling road into the Coney Island we know today. And Ocean Parkway became a beautiful road into both seaside resorts - Brighton Beach to the east and Coney Island to the west. Sheepshead Bay beyond, past Corbin Place.
With the 1929 Great (awful) Depression, the tides of misfortune swept across the once sunny shores. Brighton Beach emerged from the depressing years with finer tides.
The tides of escape swept new migrants across the sandy Brighton shores harboring in some of Brighton’s older, shore-fronting apartment houses, just as many upgrading Brighton folks were fleeing the too-frequent flooding; the heavy tides fed by hurricanes named Bonnie and Donna.
Those younger Brighton families found refuge in new Long Island developments, or out to the Jersey shore.
Then, as the Board of Ed was at the brink of closing one of Brighton’s Public Schools, the tides and their airlines brought younger and older families looking for a new harbor - new Odessa homes or havens near the water’s edge – the environment that severities forced them to flee. No more KGB no more torture.
Word spread – more Soviets migrated. More units were needed. More skilled laborers aided industries nearby. Schools remained open. Deteriorating housing was refurbished. Many restored emptied stores were in demand. But just across Ocean Parkway, economies reversed.
On the Coney Island side of Ocean Parkway, several blocks of deteriorated houses, were being razed in early 1963, ’64. After a political battle, Fred Trump, long-time developer sliced into that great urban renewal.
Amalgamated Housing Corporation had been designated to take hold of that urban renewal. Their plans to build a giant Warbasse Housing development were challenged by long time housing constructor, Fred Trump.
Helped by the political aid of aptly named Brooklyn Borough President John Cashmore, and abetted by famed lawyer politico Abe Lindenbaum, a political lawyer with connection to the NYC Board of Estimate, plus the City Planning Commission, they split it giving Trump the ocean fronting half of their condos – and Warbasse got the monoxidious side, to inhale the Belt Parkway on their terraces.
Even the shopping areas, bordering Neptune Avenue were split, not 50/50 but Warbasse got about 20 percent, Trump Corporation squeezed out 80 percent.
But hey, Lou Powsner, you’re telling a whole other story. What about Coney Island?
Right now, nobody knows yet. We do not know one of the 50 members of our Coney Community Board who is on the Mayor’s advisory committee, other than our Community Board service manager.
With more than 80 years background in and out of Coney Island, we have never gotten to meet with their Mayoral appointed committee, after incessant requests to the Board, by phone, by mail and to their chair designee. One time, after repeated requests, we were called in to speak to a committee of just one Manhattanite.
Maybe we could tell them the need to bring vital jobs into a built-in community, piled into 20 story buildings. Or we could tell them of our waterways, where Steeplechase Pier employed a daily scheduled ferry to the Battery, NYC port and its available Hudson River Ferry Terminal.
We could tell them when multi-billionaires kept their miracle yachts like the Corsair on the Bay, just inside Sea Gate.
After a terrible blaze, that billionaire’s boat house dismantled. His Corsair fled, but their bridge was saved, and for a few years up till world War II, their Gravesend Bay Pier was used for a daily sail on their Miramar Boat, ferrying riders directly to and from Battery Park in Manhattan. It’s diner-on-the pier served the Sea Gate community as well, daily and those living in the Northwest Sea Gate Gardens community.
We also remind these mayoral authorized planners that there is another Coney attribute beside its vast labor market and its crying to be developed waterfront.
We must re-note that Coney had two different trolley lines in its day.
The Railroad Avenue Trolley was called the Norton’s Point. It ran from up at the Stillwell Avenue terminal to an outpost across from Sea Gate at West 37th street.
The line was vital then, but since replaced by a Mermaid Avenue Bus.
However, one old trolley route could very interestingly be restored: a Surf Avenue trolley line could run in the center of Surf Avenue up to west 36th street as it once did.
It would very aptly serve the many living in western Coney Island near the Boardwalk and Surf Avenue – and in this new age – it could be promoted to attract joy riders to the novelties of yesteryear, when even Judy Garland sang the joys of “trolleyhood.”
Get stared Mayor Bloomberg, action not just promises Michael and try a roof over the Keyspan stadium. At least bring us a football team. It is a shame to be a mayor who has not one NYC football team, while pinning medals on heroes who play in Jersey, pretending its NYC.