Coney Island's future uncertain, but no one likes current situation

Posted | Contributed by bobthecoasterguy

Once, Coney Island was an immense, chaotic, overpowering extravaganza of rides, shooting galleries, hot-dog stands, a six-story hotel shaped like an elephant, and three amusement parks that became the stuff of myth: Luna, Steeplechase, Dreamland. By 1966, all of them had vanished, victims of fire, the wrecker’s ball and a long-term decline in the fortunes of Coney Island. Gone, also, were the fun-seeking hordes who had devoured them, driven out by decades of decay that culminated in a bloody riot in 1968. The amusement area, which once sprawled from West 37th Street all the way to what is now the New York Aquarium, shrank to its present size, from Surf Avenue to the beach, between West 10th and 16th Streets. Huge tracts even of that stretch are vacant now, a landscape of weeds, fractured concrete and plywood fencing.

Read more from The New York Times.

I was up there a few weeks ago and it's sort of like being on the set of BLADE RUNNER. It looks already post-apocalyptic with Nathan's hot dog wrappers blowing across the sand, people walking forlornly in circles and the guys at the Cyclone trying to shepherd people into the "cage."

Given the fact that Cyclone is, hands down, the worst wooden coaster I have ever been on, I, frankly, don't care if they blow it up and send it out to sea. . .it's operating under virtually no OSHA guidelines at all and, if you are unfortunate enough to choose to ride in the last seat of the car, you will find yourself in a virtually life-theatening situation. Save your $6 and go to an afternoon movie instead. Your back, liver, kidneys, and heart will thank you.

Send CYCLONE into the history books. The entire ride, and everything connected to it, is now PARK JUNK. Nothing more than a big old tourist trap screaming "Get their money. Get their money."

Coney Island is one of my favorite amusement areas in the country. And on any given weekend, you will find the area packed with locals enjoying both the beach and the rides.

Barry, did you try the Breakdance or the Top Spin? The Top Spin is often run in manual operation, and the ops are nothing short of sadistic (That's good). The Breakdance is the most stomach churning and vicious of it's type I've ever experienced (also good). As for the Cyclone, it's true that the back seat hasn't held up well. But as a life long New Yorker, I wouldn't trade starting my Spring with a front seat ride on the Cyclone for anything. Despite it's roughness, it remains my favorite beach coaster (Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk a close second).

What's happening to Coney has already happened at Miracle Strip and other parks that find themselves sitting on beach front property - the real estate is more worthwhile for condos. And I find it a shame.

But what's going to (what I expect to) happen to Coney Island by 5 years from now, I consider tragic.

Are we talking about the same Cyclone here?

I thought it was a great coaster for something that's 80 years old. It is a perfect example of how little roller coaster technology has developed in the scheme of things and I found it quite amazing to be experiencing a ride that's seen so many generations and has such a vibrant history. There is nothing wrong with it that isn't very easily fixed.

I concur about the rest of Coney Island, especially the astute observation of the Nathan's wrappers blowing around an otherwise deserted area. Meanwhile the beach was packed, but I suspect that's to do with that horrendous week of heat New York got in August while I was there.

First of all, I know from wooden coasters (as they are fond of saying in New York!!). . .particularly old ones. I spent 12 hours on BLUE STREAK a couple of summers ago at Conneaut Lake doing their annual fund-raiser. I've been on over 250 wooden coasters around the country and I wouldn't make such a statement lightly. Some of my top favorite classic woddies include, but are not limited to: THE BEAST at Kings Island, the PHOENIX at Knoebel's, SCREAMIN' EAGLE at SFSL, AMERICAN EAGLE at SFGA, and the SKYLINER at Lakemont Park.

Whatever CYCLONE may have been, based on that ONE RIDE, it's day has come and gone. However nostalgic and all touchy-feely it makes you for a nostalgic walk down Memory Lane, NO ONE should ever have to experience what we went through on that ride. Period. Now, maybe other seats on the coaster offer a somewhat different, disjointed experience, but I refuse to believe that the one seat (the back seat) can be that markedly different from what is going on with the rest of the coaster. (And, yes, there can certainly be a wide range of rides, in terms of quality, experienced on a given wooden coaster).

It was insanely awful. I didn't care if it was sitting on beachfront property or atop the Himalayas, it will be shut down as someone is going to be hospitalized before long. When even the seasoned ride ops give you a snarky comment to your response, you know it's in trouble. They have this con game set up of standing there and saying, "Hey, for $4.00 only, you can stay on and ride again." (This is after paying the initial $6.00 and being put through a steel cage to even get into or on the ride).

So, when we came back in and I was sending thumbs down to one of my riding partners to switch from back to second-from-back, one of the ride ops said, "You not like???"

As I painfully extracted myself from the back seat, I said, "Dude, I can't believe you haven't been shut down--that's the worst back seat of a coaster I've ever been on," He replied, "Yeah. Nobody ever does it twice." Heh-Heh-Heh.

Listen, nobody is a bigger fan of wooden coasters than I am, and the rougher the better, but when it obviously can't even track properly and the car spends most of its time grinding, crashing and hurtling its occupants in much the same way it's like to be in an impact automobile accident, we've moved on from one thing and are now very much talking about another.

As for Coney Island's plight, they are sucking the very last dollars that it can out of its constituents and while I hate to see it give way to modern day beachfront condos as well as the next person, maybe a re-location of the Cyclone will actually put it into the hands of someone who cares about it and baby it and coddle it and give it the love it deserves. The current crime gang that operate Coney could care less.

For a terrific MAJOR feature article on Coney Island's past, present and future, check this site out at the National Trust and look for the article (just published) entitled "New York's Famous." It is not the entire article that I got in my mailbox in the printed version, but it is a very good sampling and also has a considered and thoughtful rendering of Coney's current situation and what is coming in the very near future.

BTW, the dark rides were INCREDIBLE.


Web site:

Show the people in the back seat. . .wonder how they're looking. . .

Cyclone is certainly *MUCH* better than it's Georgia counterpart IMO. No comparison. I rode the original Cyclone front and back, and I had a BLAST on it.

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