Photo Essay – The Ghosts of Coney Island

by Leighkaren Labay

I was wondering if I would have any trouble finding a parking spot due to all the snow, but the minute I turned onto Ocean Avenue, I saw it would be easy. The street showed no signs of life. I pulled my car up in front of Nathan’s and went in. I needed a hot dog for sustenance. Even though the streets were empty and covered in snow, I was happy to be at Coney Island. This was the place my family had been going to as a summer hotspot for three generations. It was a part of my heritage. And it was totally deserted on this cold, winter’s day.

To me, one of the saddest things is an amusement park in the winter time. There is a particular brand of melancholy that I associate with it. It’s like ghosts are all around, the gloomy ghosts left behind when summer went away and all the people went home. Lonely, but sadly beautiful.

The pictures that this essay accompanies were taken on one of the coldest days of last winter. There were, surprisingly, many more people walking on the boardwalk and on the beach than I thought. Leave it to New York: people in the most unlikely of places at the most unlikely of times. No surprise there.

I walked on the deserted boardwalk; past the tattoo parlors, the Nathan’s, Astroland, and the Wonder Wheel. Walking on the beach was lovely, and I sat on the deserted benches and watched the cold Atlantic wax and wane. I thought about the brave swimmers of the Polar Bear Club. This was their kind of day.

The sun was beginning to go down, and the shadows on the fairway were lengthening. I don’t think I would want to be here in full darkness. Those ghosts that I felt barely touching me earlier would be out in full force soon enough, sadly waiting in their melancholy way for the fun to begin again, and for the people to come back.

Now go see: Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008 at the Brooklyn Museum thru March 13, 2016.  “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008 is the first major exhibition to explore the kaleidoscopic visual record they created, documenting the historic destination’s beginnings as a watering hole for the wealthy, its transformation into a popular beach resort and amusement mecca, its decades of urban decline culminating in the closing of Astroland, and its recent revival as a vibrant and growing community.”

ghost of coney island

coney island empty street

HM_coney island astroland

HM_Coney Island EmptyRides

HM_Coney Island ShoottheFreak

HM_Coney Island nathans

HM_Coney Island WonderWheelEntrance

HM_Coney Island WonderWheelEntrance

HM_Coney Island Wonder Wheel

HM_coney island Cyclone

Coney Island Art Walls Moves In

It’s a mini version of Wynwood Walls sitting out in Coney Island amidst the backdrop of amusement rides. MOCA Los Angeles director, Jeffrey Dietch’s art project “Coney Art Walls” has brought some additional color to a neighborhood already known for its flair. It’s finally open to the public now, this myriad of 30+ gated (yup, you read that. Some people just can’t behave) popular & cult fav artists murals.  Some celebrate Coney Culture, while others are indicative of the artists’ style. We love that the Bowery is now home to more than just Nathan’s (yes, I know technically Nathan’s is on Surf Ave, but the walls sit right behind it, so I’m using the reference anyway).

I love a good Nathan’s hotdog during my summer Coney stroll, but I fear I’m going to have to leave it behind in favor of the popular Williamsburg hipster food market Smorgasburg, a version of which is encased in the maze of walls – now I can knock back a beer and some grub while surrounded by visual candy.

Whether you want to call it street art or an open air contemporary art stroll, it’s great to see New York graffiti legends like Futura and Lady Pink sharing the same space as the activist art of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh or the flashy lettering from London artist, Ben Eine. There’s just so much going on, one can’t claim to be bored.

We visited Coney Art Walls last week, so enjoy some of our pictures until you can get out there and see it for yourself. We’ll spare you the pictures we took of our fried anchovies from our favorite Smorgasburg regular Bon Chovie … they are a work of art in themselves.

Lady Aiko pays tribute to the Coney Island Mermaids_HAHAMAG

Lady Aiko pays tribute to the Coney Island Mermaids

Lady Aiko Detail_HAHAMAG

Photo Jun 19, 4 50 23 PM

 

How & Nosm for Coney Art Walls

How & Nosm for Coney Art Walls

How & Nosm_HAHAMAG_Photo Jun 19, 4 48 39 PM

Ben Eine's RIOT

Ben Eine‘s RIOT

Miss Van_HAHAMAG

“Gypsy with Stallions” by Miss Van

 

Miss Van_Photo Jun 19, 4 57 44 PM

Miss Van_Photo Jun 19, 4 59 04 PM

Buff Monster with a View

Buff Monster with a View

Ben_HAHAMAG_Photo Jun 19, 5 01 48 PM

We think Ben Eine has been here!

ROA _HAHAMAG_Photo Jun 19, 5 00 27 PM

Amazing piece by ROA

Photo Jun 19, 5 01 03 PM

Space Candy & The Yok_HAHAMAG_ Jun 19, 5 06 43 PM

Space Candy & The Yok Collaboration

Photo Jun 19, 5 06 46 PM

Photo Jun 19, 5 03 35 PM

Tatyana_HAHAMAG_Photo Jun 19, 5 23 58 PM

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh makes an appearance at Coney Art Walls

Maya_Hayuk_HAHAMAG_Photo Jun 19, 5 07 53 PM

Brooklyn Based Artist Maya Hayuk