TR: A Walk To Coney Island - 5-1-04 (long)

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Sunday, May 2, 2004 6:27 PM
(or I can't feel the bottom of my feet). Three years ago I decided that I would make the attempt to walk to Coney Island from my house on the lower east side of Manhattan. Needless to say, there are many different routes to take and it's very easy to get lost (especially if you don't have a map). Since then I've made the walk about twice a summer, and you truely get to see parts of Brooklyn you'd never see unless you walk. If you're only interested in hearing about Coney itself scroll down to the bottom.

Started out of the house around 11:30 am on a beautiful, albiet humid, Saturday morning. Started by walking across the Williamsburg Bride which drops you off into the heavily Hasidic Jewish portion of Williamsburg - being that it was a beautiful day (but also the Sabbath) their were thousands of families in all of their finest outfits quietly out enjoying the day - it was really like walking through another world. after walking through that I reached the perimeter of the Brooklyn Navy yards. If you're not familiar with the Brooklyn Navy yards it was a primary loading/unloading/builiding area during WWI & II - it was pretty much deserted by the Navy in the 50's and 60's and now is a huge parcel of river-front land that, with the exception of the Red Hook water filtration plant and some of the buildings being used for industrial storage, is completely vacant. The amount of huge vacant buildings and land is somewhat eeire - Harvey Weinstein attempted a few years back to turn the yards into studios for Miramax/Disney, but that never happened. I would say that there is easily 50+ acres of land in Navy Yards mostly filled with unusued buildings and huge overgrown lawns. At the very Southern end of the yard is a series of 10 abandoned and decripit mansions - it's hard to see them with all of the overgrowth in summer, but they are truely beautiful buildings - I'm unclear of they were part of the Navy yards, but they are fenced in just the same.


After passing the Yards, I walked along the perimeter of Downtown Brooklyn up towards Prospect park. The area between Downtown Brooklyn and Prospect
park is definitely up and coming - this is where the new Nicks stadium is supposedly going to be located. I definitely noted a lot of new bars and
restaurants since my walk from last year. As I approached Prospect park a large entourage of Vespas (Italian scooters) drove by me - there were at least 100 of them, it was just one of those things you don't see every day. Prospect Park is one of my favorite parks in NYC. It was designed by Olmsted (who also designed Central Park), but it feels like more of a park for the city - I often find Central Park to be a little too crowded and touristy. It's really amazing that one second you're in a loud, crowded,
car infested city and the next minute you're surrounded by trees, quiet and nature. Once you're about a city block into the park, there is really no
sign of the city at all. I entered Prospect park and had intended to walk along the inside Southern perimeter of the park, but about half way through
I saw a sign pointing for the carousel, and I figured that I might as well check it out (as I had always meant to). Turns out Prospect Park's carousel
is a 1912 Charles Carmel design with full Wurlitzer band organ and beautifully maintained (although run very slowly). According to the signage the carousel was moved from Coney Island to Prospect park in the
early 50's - I'm not sure where it was located during it's life at Coney. Took a quick spin - I love the fact that the main ground level fixture is a huge bust of a topless woman. I realized that I was right next to the Prospect park zoo so...why not...honestly it's not much of a zoo, but I enjoyed their discovery trail which had a great turtle, walibi, and red panda exhibits. Also, watched the sea lions feeding time. By this time it was 2:30 and I knew that I had to be moving on.

I headed to the south-eastern tip of the park and had another drive by of the Vespa entourage. I worked my way over to Greenwood cemetary
(discovered a number of horse stables on the way too). I walked along the Northern perimeter of the cemetary along Fort Hamilton Parkway up to New
Utrecht Avenue which would be my primary road until I reached Stillwell Ave. A word to the wise (and from past experience) - if you ever attempt to walk
to Coney - DO NOT walk through the cemetary (which you can) as their is no exit at the back and if you take the southern end of the cemetary you're
adding close to a mile and a half to your journey. Once getting to New Utrecht I started out working my way south-west. Again, a lot of this area
is made up of Orthodox Jews but unlike Williamsburg, feels very desolate. I had planned on having lunch at Miller's diner, but had not intended on getting there so late (3:30) - Miller's diner was originally opened in the 1940's, but had a complete overhaul a few years ago to give it a real 50's diner feel - while it's lacks some of it's original charm - they make great burgers and a great Lime-Rickey. I wolfed down a salad with grilled chicken breast and hit the road again to my next stop - Brooklyn's only 7-11 (or at least the only one I know about). Having lived in NYC for 13 years now, a good Slurpee is greatly appreciated and definitely not available in Manhattan, and 7-11 did not dissapoint this day.


I'm not sure of all of the neighborhood's names I passed through, but the 7-11 is on the outskirts of Bay Ridge and then comes Bensonhurt. I am under
the impression that Bensonhurst was primarily Eastern European for a long time, but it seemed to be quite the mix of people walking around - Bensonhurst compared to all of the other neighborhoods I had been in as yet was quite bustling. By this time my legs were getting quite sore and I could feel the blisters forming on the bottom of my feet, but I kept going. Not a lot to see between Bensonhurst and Coney, but I was certainly happy to see the turnoff for Stillwell Ave when I reached it. I approached the
overpass of the BQE (I think) and crossed over Coney creek and was finally in Coney Island. It was interesting that the first block of Coney I walked
I could hear the echoes of all the music and amusement barkers echoing off buildings, but another block in, it was all quiet again. I finally made it
to Surf and Stillwell - the Ocean breeze had made the temperatures much cooler and I was somewhat regretting wearing shorts, c'est la vie. I walked along Stillwell by the carousel and over to the Cyclone.

The Cyclone was running great. I took advantage of the reride option and took 2 spins in 3-3 and one in 1-1. Mind you, as everyone points out, the lab bar is quite restrictive, but there were some great yanks in the back on hills 1, 2, 4, & 5 that are far more pronounced than I remember in years past. In the front, I can only imagine what it would be like with a less restrictive restraint - I love hearing the train fly up into the upstops and land - on several hills it did this twice. It's impossible to compare the Cyclone to any modern day ride, but that's what makes it classic.

I grabbed a quick dog and soda at Paul and Gregory's and walked around for a while. It was not an incredibly busy day, but there were definitely
enough people out - I finally got to see the new Zamperla tea cups that Astroland installed (I either didn't notice before or they weren't there). After reading a recent discussion about the Hell Hole ride, I felt the urge to ride the Ghost Hole (portable dark ride) that replaced it. I only rode the Hell Hole once, and it was definitely an experience I won't forget - it
was one of the most intense and painful rides I can remember. I just remember the gravitational forces pulling the skin of my back into the slits of the wooden paneling you stood against (I'm glad I rode it though). Ghost Hole is pretty lame as they go, but I've been on worse - most of the stunts seemed to be working, the string hanging from the ceiling was really nasty. I wandered around some more, and decided my feet couldn't take it any more, but I did manage to grab one quick ride on the B&B Carousel (which was great as always). I did also note that their is a new soul food stand on Stillwell by the freak show - I wasn't really hungry at the point but
their ribs smelled amazing and they had some great side dishes to choose from: Creole Corn on the Cob, Collared Greens, Black-eyed pea pie, etc - I'm
definitely going to have to hit that next time.

Anyways, jumped on the train and headed back to city for some rest and epson
salts.
Hope you enjoyed the read!

Jim 'jimvid' McDonnell *** Edited 5/2/2004 10:29:06 PM UTC by jimvid***

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Sunday, May 2, 2004 6:48 PM
You're a great storyteller Jim, almost felt like I was IN the city....well, at least I could smell Cyclone and those wonderful Coney dogs...Creole corn on the cob sounds yummy too...:)

Gotta wonder how long before the topless bust can remain that way, LOL...I can almost see the uproar when Ashcroft finds out...;)

Cyclone is SO much more than the coaster itself, which IMO still remains one of my greatest ever, it's a ride FULL of nostalgia..

Any news on the Parachute Drop?

Oh, and take care of your puppies...see ya sometime this summer, PPP at the latest...:)

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Tuesday, May 4, 2004 12:34 AM
Too cool Jim...I wanna walk with you some day! :)
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Tuesday, May 4, 2004 7:13 AM
Ditto!

Now THAT is a TR! The sights, the sounds, the ambience......awesome Jim!

-Tina

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Tuesday, May 4, 2004 3:19 PM
Having done about 3/4 of the walk with Jim a few years back I can attest that it's quite a treat. I'm glad he suggested it.
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Tuesday, May 4, 2004 3:31 PM
Wow, very interesting! I try to remember when writing TRs that most people are familiar with the park you're writing about - but not many may be familiar with the surrounding area. It's good to tell the full story.

Next time - walk to SFGAdv! ;)

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