New York’s Staten Island Ferry carries a whopping 75,000 people each day. This includes thousands of tourists looking to snap obligatory photos of the Statue of Liberty, much to the grumbly dismay of seasoned commuters. As the Statue of Liberty reopens for the first time since Hurricane Sandy today, it will likely offer commuters some welcomed respite from the droves of snap-happy tourists. Of course, those looking to skip crowds at Ellis Island can always get a great view of the statue (for free!) on the ferry. But be warned, this is what the daily commuters really think:
When the first structures were being built in Coney Island in the 1840s, the surrounding community was in uproar. Residents wanted to preserve the land’s natural beauty. In the early 1900s, the City of New York endeavored to condemn all buildings south of Surf Avenue and the amusement community of Coney Island opposed the city. Amusements on the beach were demolished under the direction of urban planner Robert Moses in the ’40s and ’50s. He cleared the land for the New York Aquarium, Abe Stark Ice Skating Rink and low-income housing. Once Moses was through with his Coney Island renovations, only a few areas remained protected for amusement use only and that small designation was a response to public complaints.
Fred Trump attempted to build luxury apartments on the beach in 1964. He spent a decade in court fighting for a rezoning to no avail. By the 1970s, few visitors traveled to Coney Island and the city attempted to bring popularity back to the area with gambling casinos, taking note from Atlantic City. Gambling remained illegal in Coney Island, however, and vacant lots dominated areas that would have been lined with slot machines and card tables.
Under Giuliani’s reign, the sporting complex called Sportsplex was erected. Because the Thunderbolt roller-coaster stood in the line of view from the stadium, Giuliani had it demolished one early morning. Bloomberg took interest in developing Coney Island, but when the Coney Island bid for the 2012 Olympics was lost, the plans for revitalization went to the Coney Island Development Corporation. A company called Thor Equities began buying up property in Coney Island and while evicting businesses along the boardwalk, they released a plan to build a luxury resort as well as a new amusement park. The city approved a plan to construct 4,500 new unites on the beach in 2009. Part of what makes Coney Island what it is is that the community has long-offered low-income housing, but only 900 of these new units are categorized as being “affordable.”
Ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, Coney Island’s future once again seemed to be in the fickle hands of fate. Coney Island was hit harder by the storm than many other areas of New York City. Salvaging what was left of the historic boardwalk and amusement area seemed nearly impossible in the wake of the treacherous storm.
“Our park is devastated,” Deno Vouderis, a member of the family that owns the Deno’s Wonderwheel Amusement Park, told NPR’s Zoe Chace shortly after the hurricane hit. The motors in his haunted house were dead. Everything she saw during her tour of his property seemed flattened. But when she made the trek out to Coney Island again for the opening day of the Wonderwheel Amusement Park, she saw something she hadn’t expected to see again, particularly not so soon after the storm: functioning rides, doors open for business and rides welcoming the public.
In a follow-up report on the destination, Chace worked to discover what revived Coney Island so quickly. Deno’s Wonderwheel Amusement Park didn’t have the kind of insurance that other structures throughout New York that quickly recovered and rebuilt did. While FEMA and other aid groups were doing their best to assist residents whose homes had been destroyed, Coney Island business owners followed an informal but traditional route and sourced the funds they needed to rebuild from family members, friends, patrons and other members of the community. The Vouderis family did this, as well. They also put a hefty amount of rebuilding charges on their credit card.
“We have here something that shows the resilience of New York,” New York Senator Chuck Schumer said on the Coney Island 2013 Opening Day. His mantra of the day, as reported by Chace, was, “Keep going and reopen.”
I went to Coney Island twice in January. I dressed in my snow gear and walked along the boardwalk and the beach. Most things were still closed; even the waves seemed eerily silent then. I went back again a couple weeks ago to an entirely different scene. People were lined up at Nathan’s and weaving in and out of the businesses that were open. Although much of the boardwalk was still closed that afternoon, oxygenated blood was clearly pulsing through the community. But the future of Coney Island, keeping with tradition, still seems vague. An Applebee’s is opening in June not far from the beach. A chain candy store will soon be doing business near the adored Williams Candy shop. Coney Island has admirably handled the blows from the hurricane, but how the small businesses there will weather the storm of corporate expansion remains to be seen.
While walking back to our car, a man beckoned my husband and me over toward him from behind his carnival game’s counter. The game seemed simple, though I knew the odds were against us. If my husband could just pay the couple bucks it took to play the game and then make every shot into the makeshift hoop, he could choose any prize he wanted, most of which were stuffed animals that looked like they’d been there for a while, and even get his money back. The catch? For every shot he missed, he had to lay down as much money as he’d already invested in the game. He made almost all of his shots, but the stakes began to raise and before we knew it, we were out of cash.
“Got money in your bank? There’s an ATM right there,” the man said, pointing to the conveniently placed ATM. My husband could have continued playing and won back all of the cash he’d spent, but we left the $10 with the man working the game. The owner of that stand, like the owners of all other businesses that have reopened in Coney Island, only has his gate drawn up today because he knows the rules of the game: keep investing even when the odds seem against you and hope the cash doesn’t run out.
Seven months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged New York City-area beaches, construction will begin on replacement pavilions for those that were destroyed in the storm. Here’s a peek at what destinations like Rockaway Beach and Coney Island will look like, courtesy of Garrison Architects, the firm that was asked to create these modular pavilions.
Structures include bathrooms for the public, stands for lifeguards and offices for beach staff, all of which sit on concrete stilts in order to meet standards put in place by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). According to architecture blog Architizer, the materials used to produce the pavilions, like galvanized steel frames, will ensure the structures resist severe weather in the future. The pavilions also have double-ventilated roofs with solar panels on top to save on energy consumption.
According to the architects, the pavilions will be built in Pennsylvania and then transferred via flatbed trucks to New York, where cranes will set them on pile foundations. Ramps and stairs will connect the structures to each other and provide access to the beaches and boardwalks. The new facilities should be put in place just in time for summer.
Last year’s Superstorm Sandy devastated much of the East Coast, especially around the mid-Atlantic coastline. New York and New Jersey beaches were hit hard, with scores of houses and even towns wiped out. Many places are rebounding, such as Coney Island, which opened officially for the season in April. Today’s Photo of the Day was taken this weekend in New Jersey by Flickr user David Elwood, who also took a shot of Coney Island’s Cyclone that we featured last summer. The roller coaster remains are a sad reminder that not everything is back to normal six months later. Many other beach towns have rebuilt and will be open for business this summer, so don’t count New Jersey out of your travel plans, they need visitors now more than ever.
UPDATE: Several commenters have noted that the roller coaster was removed this week as part of the ongoing clean-up of the Jersey shore. A photograph captures a moment in time, and while this scene may not exist anymore, it’s still a powerful document of history.
Memorial Day weekend begins Friday, May 24, and marks the start of the summer travel season. One of the most popular times of the year to travel, finding a destination that fulfills our three-day weekend dreams can take some work. Considering a visit to the Upper East Coast? Maybe not such a good idea to visit beaches ravaged by last October’s hurricane. Or is it?
If you are looking for a quiet break from your normal routine, avoid busy places like big cities, theme parks and major tourist attractions. Reverse that decision if daily life rides a cubicle and getting lost in a crowd is required. We could do a lot of research, compile lists of possible destinations and make up budgets to get the plans – or we could cheat.
Earlier this month, Kayak released the results of 100 million monthly searches made so far this year. These are numbers that represent places Kayak users are actually thinking about going as opposed to destinations promoted by airlines, hotels, tour operators or cruise lines.In the results, Kayak saw searches cut in half for Atlantic City, New Jersey, a top Memorial Day destination last year. That makes sense: thank you hurricane Sandy. Digging a bit deeper though we find a different scene.
“Despite the vast destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy, all of our State parks and beaches on Long Island are expected to be open for New Yorkers and visitors by Memorial Day weekend,” assured Governor Andrew Cuomo in a LongIslandPress article.
Your mother was right, cheating is wrong.
Instead, consider a variety of sources and read between the lines. Look down deep inside and ask, “Where do I really want to go?” The answer might take you no further than your own back yard.