Cold, shuttered, closed Coney Island
Ever since I moved to New York, folks have insisted I visit the beach town funhouse that is Coney Island. Granted they probably didn’t mean in February, when all the rides and most of the shops are closed. It’s gloomy and empty here now, with only the occasional visitor slipping into Famous Nathan’s to settle for a hot dog and cheese fries, then bundle up and grumble along down an apocalyptic-looking Surf Avenue.
A sign hanging on the padlocked gates of the park’s main entrance announces that it will come back to life on April 1st. I guess that’s when Coney Island has decided that winter is over. Or at least that is when the cold, steel shutters of every storefront will be replaced by the warmth of fluorescent lights, hot plates encrusted with bubbling hot dogs, and the sucrose-sweet steam of cotton candy production.
For now, droning street lamps cast somber shadows across the empty boulevards—their wide lanes longing for the crowds to return. One can almost see the silvery ghosts of visitors from summers past milling along the rows and rows of shops, but no one shouts that you could win a stuffed animal for hooking that hoop on that bottle and no one offers you New York’s best-tasting funnel cake. Only discarded paper wrappers and garbage dare to dance down these streets now—that and a couple characters in hoods and leather jackets looking for cheer in the one open bar.
The roller coasters are silent and still, their outlandish, giant size an eerie reminder of all that is missing: the delighted shrieks and smiles of summer.
It may be a gray scene now, but I’m happy to have visited before the crowds come back. This is Coney Island exposed without everything the people bring to it in New York’s warmer months. Maybe I’ll greet you in June, Coney, like an old friend that’s been with you through tough times.