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Coney Island History

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There is a lot of discussion and disagreement among historians as to the true origination of Coney Island's name. Officially, this island like other barrier islands along the coast, was once overrun with rabbits.


The word, Coney is an old English word for rabbit. It is also similar to the Dutch word for the island, Conyne Eylandt, which also means rabbit island. Long before the Dutch or the British settlers though, the Native American inhabitants called the island, Narrioch which translates to land without shadows, because the area stays drenched in sunlight all day long.


Geography of Coney Island

Coney Island is not truly an island any longer. It was once the western most end of the Long Island barrier islands. Tidal flats and a creek used to be all the separated the island from Brooklyn, but since the Belt Parkway was constructed, and the center of the creek filled in (though, originally it was going to be dredged and converted to a ship canal), Coney Island has officially been a peninsula.

It is considered the southern-most part of Brooklyn with a long and wide stretch of white sand beach lying directly on the Atlantic Ocean.


The Playground of the World

Coney Island, like other seaside locations during that late 1800's, was subject to a real estate boom as entrepreneurs sought what they thought was a great fortune to be had in resorts. The heyday didn't last long as the Great Depression loomed on the horizon. But instead of fading away into memory, Coney Island transformed itself several times over the course of many economic ups and downs.

In the beginning, Coney Island was known as an excursion destination or a resort for inhabitants of the local area to escape to when the heat of the summer made the city unbearable. Easy access to the beaches brought hotels, attractions like horse racing, gambling, a beautiful carousel, hot dog stands and other amusements.

This was the area's heyday as 3 of its most famous amusement parks opened during this time and competed for visitors. They are Luna Park, Dreamland and Steeplechase Park.

During the Depression Era, a nickel would buy you anything you could ask for. You could get a ride on the new subway, a hot dog at Nathan's Famous hot dog stand, and all kinds of cheap entertainment. Like most people and business during this time, Coney Island limped along and somehow managing to stay afloat, waiting for the next boom. This didn't come as many had hoped, after the ending of World War II.

With changes in technology, families now had the opportunity to buy automobiles of their own to travel to less crowed venues then what Coney Island had to offer. Indoor air conditioning makes indoor, local attractions more appealing.

Street Gangs in the 1950's began moving into the outlying areas and causing problems for visitors. Not to mention, the opening of Disneyland in California creating heavy competition for worn and tired looking attractions. As parks closed, they were replaced with housing projects.


Coney Island Today

You can still visit amusement parks on Coney Island and visit its wonderfully sunny beaches. Astroland, The New York Aquarium and KeySpan Park - hosting the Cyclones minor-league baseball team (built on the former site of Steeplechase Park) are all very popular attractions that have kept Coney Island alive as a destination.

You can ride the 80 year old Cyclone roller coaster, enjoy a hot dog a Nathan's Famous Hot dog stand, touch the sky at the top of the Wonder Wheel ferris wheel (built in 1920), jump from the top of the Life Saver's Parachute Jump (1939 World's Fair) or ride the original, beautiful B&B Carousel.  


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