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Everyone has seen a movie set in New York City, especially an old one from the days before Toronto caterers all had their own websites and an angry fellow named Adolf caused a major world war. Coney Island in popular culture was a fairy land amusement park where citizens of the already overcrowded City of New York could go to enjoy themselves. But what has become of it today? Should you include it on your NYC itinerary?
Popular culture has led most people to believe that Coney Island is an amusement park. However, Coney Island is actually a peninsula of land south of Brooklyn which has a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. This ocean frontage is what caused it to be a popular vacation destination in the first place, since New York City's own waterfront was so crowded with businesses and in need of waste water grit removal. Coney Island wasn't just beach, though. It was a neighborhood of its own. In fact, there are currently almost 60,000 people living there.
Amusement parks began to spring up in the late 1800s, after the arrival of streetcar lines from New York City. First came hotels, then casinos, steeplechases, bath houses, and finally the amusement rides. The first one was a carousel built by a Danish wood carver in 1876. The area into which they were all sandwiched became known as "the resort." The island's popularity as a vacation destination peaked in the early 1900s, when people were coming from all over to start your own business and get a piece of the tourist action. One of these businesses was the original Nathan's Famous hot dogs.
The amusements at Coney Island were never high class, even at the best of times, but when the end of World War II brought about the automobile era, easy access to nicer, quieter beaches in Long Island State Park was now possible and Coney Island began to decline. Where once it was home to thriving auto dealer supply shops and hotels, it gradually became a derelict presided over by gangs, and the resorts closed their doors. Astroland was the last to remain open, lasting until 2008.
Despite the revitalization efforts by New York mayors Rudi Guliani and Michael Bloomberg, it is this state you will find Coney Island in now. The beaches are still there, and there's a sports center, but the amusement parks are abandoned and become especially dangerous at night. Stay in the city and shop for contemporary bathroom vanities instead at night.