I am no longer associated with Coney Island USA. I left there some time ago. Coney Island USA is a great group. I value the fifteen years I was part of it and appreciate all the opportunities and experiences. And being a small part of the heritage of Coney Island means more than I can adequately express. It is a badge I wear with pride...but the time had come for me to leave.
The reasons for this are complex, but the main cause is this: what I love about Coney Island no longer exists, what is there is depressing and what will come is in the hands of people with sensibilities that don't match mine.
I truly feel that Coney Island is lost. So little of what made it great is left. And the future is not bright. I don't know what exactly it will look like in the years to come, but I do know that those calling the shots about what is to come don't care about Coney Island's past glory. Now, I am not asking for a recreation of what once was (though I would love to experience some of those historic rides and attractions.)
What is vital to the future of the place is to understand why what existed existed. What function and purpose did they serve. If this is studied, I know what will be discovered is that people haven't changed that much and what they needed then is what they need now. Discover those needs, work on filling those needs in our modern world and the spirit of Coney Island will live on.
This is asking a lot. As a friend of mine who is in the midst of all the Coney Island insanity has said, "This is hard. And the people running things in Coney Island don't do hard well." So what will come will come and someone will make money off of this and speeches will be made as it all opens and big crowds will be there and there will a lot of smiling powerful people that will congratulate each other on a job well done. And what had come before, what was so magical about Coney Island of the past, will be glossed over by those people filled with the arrogance of being here and now.
And for the preservationists...a challenge. When attempting to recreate, perserve or maintain a tradition of the past, be certain that what you produce is not just "good enough." It must be the best example of that tradition that has EVER been. If your efforts are to mean anything, they must result in something that is the quintessential example of that tradition. Chances are that the project you have undertaken will result in conjuring up something that will be the only thing like it our modern world. So make it the greatest version of that Coney Island tradition that has ever existed, whether it be a ride, attraction, museum, sideshow, parade, festival, restaurant or any other of the myriad of wonders that were once Coney Island.