The News from Coney Island

Much rending of hair and gnashing of teeth in today’s reporting that the Luna Park overseers are booting several concessionaires from the Coney Island boardwalk, including Ruby’s, Cha-Cha’s and Shoot the Freak. I for one, think this is a tremendous development, and a great step in the rehabilitation of Coney Island as a venue for New Yorkers and tourists alike. Shoot the Freak is, of course, beneath contempt. Anyone who thinks such an “attraction” needs to be “preserved”, should spend a few minutes there dodging rounds of live ammunition. As far as Ruby’s and Cha-Cha’s go: PLEASE. Some people are going to try and make this about class, and you know what? If you’re going to tell me that it’s a crime and a sin to deprive the poor of their DIVE BARS at what is supposedly a family destination, you’re really barking up the wrong tree here. “The poor need to drink their beer at the beach” is not an argument anyone needs to listen to. I spent my childhood nursing Shirley Temples in such joints while my alcoholic parents cavorted with their “friends”, just the sort of “lovable characters” certain partisans love to sentimentalize now. To me, any romanticizing about it is evidence of a light acquaintance with the subject: an annual dabbling by middle-class voyeurs after the Mermaid Parade. May Ruby’s and Cha-Cha’s always flourish, but let them do so over on Mermaid Avenue. Let Coney Island be a resort for all 8 million New Yorkers and their estimated 47 million annual tourists, and not just a fringe of elites who like to rubberneck at the seediness that has prevented investment in the area for a half century.  For more ranting along these lines, go here.

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