May: Coney Island Blues

Most of last month for me was spent on one story, but oh, what a story. As I detailed at length in the April 11 Village Voice, most of Coney Island’s historical amusement district is at risk of being shut down and left vacant for years, as the result of a game of chicken between New York City and a developer who wants his land rezoned to allow condos on the boardwalk. Astroland is already slated to close after 45 years this fall, and if developer Joe Sitt goes through with his threats to wait for a friendlier mayoral administration, as I wrote, “Coney Island’s already diminished amusement district could spend years as a torn-up wasteland, leaving only the Cyclone, Dino’s Wonder Wheel Park, Sideshows by the Seashore, and Nathan’s standing amid a vast empty plain.”

In the weeks after my article ran (and a Save Coney Island protest that preceded it), Sitt began sounding conciliatory notes, allowing some store owners he had evicted to move back in – and, as I reported for the Voice’s Runnin’ Scared blog, even showing up at the reopening party of one of them and chowing down on sausages and beer. A local arcade owner, meanwhile, posted a mock tombstone presenting Sitt as a dictator signing the area’s “death warrant.” All of which can only be described as very Coney Island.

My one other piece of newsprint on the month was an op-ed in everybody’s favorite free paper (if you know what’s good for you), Metro New York, on some more appropriate ways of celebrating Jackie Robinson Day than having scores of players wear his uniform number. I’m sure Bud Selig has it taped to his computer monitor for future reference.

I have a bunch of other stuff in the works for coming weeks, including my debut as a judge for World Hunger Year’s Harry Chapin Media Awards (I think I’m allowed to reveal that, anyway). Watch this space for further developments, and see you next month at the free Television show in Central Park.

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