Coney Island archive photos: 1986 and 1999
Photos from two trips to a faded Brookyln seaside town, New York, USA
(Photos 1986/1999, article August 2010, ©urban75)
I've posted some of these photos before, but they were all low-res versions, so here they all are in a bigger, beefier and brighter size!
I first visited Coney Island in the Autumn of 1986 (that's "Fall" to you Americans).
At the time, I was a struggling musician on the dole in England so had to save up every penny for months on end and sell off a load of records to pay for the trip.
I took the cheapest possible flight over on the thoroughly miserable El Al airline who seemed to take a special delight in giving me an extra thorough and very personal search.
At one point they made me prove I was a drummer by inviting me to knock out a paradiddle or two in their security suite (being a keen tubthumper, I had a pair of sticks in my bag).
Suitably impressed with my drumming skills, the authorities finally let me through security and I was free to spend two weeks exploring the madness that was Soho, New York in the 80s - and get to check out Coney Island, a place I'd been intrigued by for years.
On the subway to Coney Island. New York was a terrifying - but compellingly exciting - place in the 1980s, and I was really nervous about my trip out of town.
Informed by the likes of The Ramones, Lou Reed and Bruce Springsteen, I expected Coney Island to be a dangerous den on eniquity, swarming with switchblade touting gangs, extortion-extracting hoods, Puerto Rican drug runners and crack-addled muggers running wild.
Within a few minutes, I relaxed as I reached another conclusion. It was just like Barry Island!
Here's a view of the deserted funfair with the iconic Wonder Wheel Thrills neon sign, behind the 'Spook A Rama' sign.
That's me in front of the closed stores, sporting my best Ramones-meets-Echo and the Bunnymen look. Moderately successfully too, if I may make so bold.
My lovely ex-girlfriend Sue poses in front of some curious creatures. They almost have the same outfits on!
Jazz's amusement arcade, Coney Island, with a seriously battered old school limo parked in front.
The boardwalk at night.
Deno's Snack bar, opened by Deno Vourderis in 1970. He went on to buy the Wonder Wheel. Deno played quite a big part in the life of Coney Island - his story is documented here.
Opened in 1970, Gregory & Paul's offers traditional classic Coney fare in the shape of clams, dogs, burgers and corn. The stand still features signage painted by local legend George Wallace, profiled here in Gowanus Lounge.
Like any faded amusement park whose glory days are long past, Coney Island had a melancholy air about it.
In late Autumn, the shops are all shut up - perhaps never to reopen - while the rusting metal tower of a long-abandoned fun fair ride catches the last of the day's light.
Sunset on the Boardwalk, autumn 2000.
Coney Island Thunderbolt
Torn down on November 17, 2000, the 1926 Thunderbolt ride featured in the Woody Allen film 'Annie Hall' and was a wooden-tracked coaster with a steel structure.
The ride closed in 1983 and is seen here not long before its demise.
Incredibly, there used to be a house under the Thunderbolt roller coaster.
The Kensington Hotel was built in 1895 - way before the Thunderbolt ride was created - and the developers just built the ride over the house!
The house was occupied by the coaster's owner, Fred Moran and a friend, Mae Timpano, right up to 1988. The property was sold to developer Horace Bullard and as forgotten-ny records, a caretaker occupied the house until almost the day of demolition!
Parachute Jump, Coney Island
Based on a military design for training soldiers, the 250 foot Parachute Jump used to feature 12 two-seater chutes which dangled from the metal construction at the top.
The ride continued to operate until 1968 and has since been declared a city landmark twice!
The tower was built for the 1939-40 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, moving to Coney Island after the Fair closed.
Gregory and Paul's in 1999.
Still going strong is the Astroland Cyclone rollercoaster.
Originally installed in 1927 by Harry C Baker to a design by Vernan Keenan and costing $100,000, the ride has 3,000 feet of track with thrillseekers reaching speeds of about 60 miles per hour.
The ride has three, 3-car trains, each seating 24 people, which climb as the 85 feet peak of the ride as part of the 1 minute and 50 second ride.
Thirteen years on from my first visit, and the Wonder Wheel sign looks in better condition than last time!
Coney Island beach view at sunset.
Subway trains having a hug!
Waiting for our train back into manhattan from Stillwell Avenue (also known as Coney Island Terminal).
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