Skip to main content

Imagine Coney? Here are three ideas: amusement museum; eating contest Hall of Fame; and street hoops haven

Inspired by the Imagine Coney initiative launched by the Municipal Art Society and the Center for an Urban Future's new Coney Island Visions report, in which many suggested drawing on Coney's roots, I offer three suggestions, one of them not my own.

A Museum of Amusement History

Credit former Brooklyn Borough Historian John Manbeck, who made this prescient suggestion in the 6/10/02 issue (PDF) of the Brooklyn Paper, in a column headlined "Coney Island Comeback?"

Manbeck wrote:
My suggestion? Use some of the promises and profits to help us remember what Coney Island really meant. Coney Island always rebuilt itself. Now build a Coney Island historic museum, a Museum of Amusement History — like William Mangels wanted back in the 1950s.

Build re-creations of Coney Island rides as Rockefeller did in Williamsburg, Va. The Trumps have roots in Coney Island.

Re-construct the old Elephant Hotel. Buy ancient merry-go-rounds and rides like the Virginia Reel. Recruit Dick Zigun to open a bigger sideshow. Re-stage Fire and Flames. Sell John Dorman’s freshmade candy. Create a miniature village of Old Coney Island. Tie in with the current attractions.

A Home and Hall of Fame for Eating Contests

Coney Island was always a place of extremes, but now movies and virtual reality (which, btw, some of have suggested has a place in the new Coney) take people farther from the amusement parks of yesteryear.

But people still go to extremes, and one of the most popular annual events in Coney is the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest (right).

Why not have a Hall of Fame that encompasses all eating contests, with photos, memorabilia, and crucial information? Why not have a restaurant that offers that time-old gastronomic wager, a free meal, if someone can eat an extreme amount?

Just like the current Coney Island Sideshow, the hot dog contest is both campy and serious--after all, you can't fake eating that much.

Coincidentally enough, contest co-impresario George Shea, a p.r. maven who founded the International Federation of Competitive Eating, also reps the Municipal Art Society. Watch his "sermon." Or this one, which has him declaring that competitive eating "is the battleground on which God and Lucifer wage war for men's souls." He's a 21st century carny par excellence.

A Haven for Street Hoops

Coney Island, notably the projects near the island's western end, has a rich basketball tradition, including New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury, his cousin, Sebastian Telfair, now of the Portland Trail Blazers, and
high school star Lance Stephenson, currently the nation's second-ranked shooting guard and star of the web series Born Ready, which just happens to feature the Coney Island skyline.

Nearby Lincoln High School is a perennial powerhouse. Marbury and some of his high school cohorts appeared in Darcy Frey's book The Last Shot, and Spike Lee picked up a similar story in his film He Got Game.

In the summer, among the most famous places for street basketball in New York are Rucker Park in Harlem, the West Fourth Street courts in Greenwich Village (aka "The Cage"), and the "Garden" at Surf Avenue and 26th Street in Coney Island.

"The Cage," more than the other two, is a tourist attraction, given its more central location and proximity to public transit. Why not establish a set of quality outdoor courts near the amusement area and subway station, and treat Coney Island hoops--and street basketball in general--as a regional resource? (Hmm--and what if the arena planned for the Atlantic Yards site ends up in Coney, the site once promoted by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz?)

Maybe Marbury, who's in 2004 announced plans to fund a rec center in Coney Island, would help. He's already launched a low-priced, populist line of basketball shoes: Starbury. And does have some time on his hands.


  1. These are great ideas! Norman Oder for Borough President!!!

  2. I'm definitely not a candidate.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…