Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow on Coney Island

IMG_2972 (Large)
First Snow. December 26, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Great shot by local resident Bruce Handy.  Thanks Bruce!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Coney Island's Henderson Theater

A very nice video by Charlie Denson showing more of the vanishing history of our hometown.
Thanks Charlie.

Coney Island Polar Bears Snow Swim Dec. 26, 2010

No.  Freaking.  Way.  I'd rather be here in AZ.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Looks Like Musical Talent Is Genetic

Check out Bat's son on iTunes.  Taking after his old man although Andy didn't rap too much.

Click here: ---> Andy's son J-Frost on iTunes

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It’ll Always Be The Big Park To Us

It amazes me what information pops up about Coney Island.  Did you know that our beloved Big Park had an official name when it opened?  Read on...

Nautilus Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Nautilus Playground

Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” In the case of parks, a name often reflects the history of the place, and the spirit of the time when the park was named. Many small parks were named after local men who served and died in World Wars I and II, recalling acts of courage in troubled times. Others are named after prominent local figures, allowing the deceased to remain an important part of the community. Some derive their name from a previous owner of the property, others from local streets. Nautilus Park, which borders Riegelmann Boardwalk between West 29th and West 32nd Streets, follows the maritime naming tradition of the Coney Island area. The playground’s name comes from the nautilus, a marine coiled-shell mollusk, belonging to the only surviving genus of the nautiloids, which were the largest predators of the seas during the Ordovician period 450 million years ago. The nautilus is a member of the carnivorous mollusk family Nautilidae, common in the Pacific Ocean, and part of the Cephalopoda class of highly mobile mollusks that possess large eyes, tentacles, and powerful beak-like mouths. The shell of the nautilus is divided into 36 chambers, with the animal residing in the last and largest chamber. The chambers are filled with gas and liquid, which the animal controls in order to affect its buoyancy. The nautilus rests on the ocean floor during the day, and at night, swims about by forcing water through a primitive funnel. Using its adhesive tentacles, the nautilus feeds on shrimp and algae. Species related to the nautilus include shell-less mollusks such as the octopus and squid.
The word nautilus is a popular choice for ocean-related nomenclature, particularly when attempting to convey strength. Nautilus Playground shares its name with the ship-hunting submarine in Jules Verne’s 1870 novel Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. It is also the name of the first nuclear submarine, U.S.S. Nautilus, launched in 1955. The U.S.S. Nautilus was the first vessel ever to use atomic power for propulsion. Appropriately for this playground, Nautilus is also a famous line of fitness machines.
The City of New York acquired this land by condemnation in 1945, and the Board of Estimate assigned it to Parks on May 14, 1953. It opened to the public on June 13, 1957, as the recreational area for the Coney Island Houses. Its original name was Coney Island Houses Playground.
A severe housing shortage after World War II caused the clearing of more than 50 acres of Coney Island residences to make way for new housing. Coney Island’s existing homes and bungalows could not sustain year-round living, therefore new housing, mostly large apartment buildings, was constructed around Surf, Neptune, and Mermaid Avenues. The last blocks of 30th and 31st Streets were cleared for the Coney Island Houses project- city-aided housing, constructed by the New York City Housing Authority.
The playground’s name was changed to Nautilus Playground in July 1997 by Commissioner Stern. Today, the park features slides, swings, basketball courts, gaming tables, shuffleboard courts, a sandbox pit, and a comfort station. The basketball courts were renovated and used as a set in Spike Lee’s 1998 movieHe Got Game. The playground also features London planetrees (Platanus acerifolia). The London planetree takes its name from London, England, where it flourished despite the city’s once coal-polluted air.
1.38 acres

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ash Wednesday Storm or Great Atlantic Storm of 1962 March 6-8 1962

Peter Singer posted some pictures on Facebook and he kindly allowed me to post them here.  I remember this storm very well although I always thought it was from the remnants of Hurricane Donna.  Here is some fascinating information about the storm and the pictures follow.  Thanks Peter!

The following information is from World Lingo
The Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 occurred on March 6-81962 along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. In an area accustomed to a hurricane season from late August to early November each year, and the periodic major winter storms known as "Nor'easters", the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 was unlike anything anyone living could recall.
It was considered by the U.S. Geological Survey to be one of the most destructive storms ever to affect the mid-Atlantic states. One of the ten worst storms in the United States in the 20th century, it lingered through five high tides over a three day period, killing 40 people, injuring over 1,000 and causing hundreds of millions in property damage in six states.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Ocean Parkway’s Last 19th Century Mile Marker

Ephemeral New York

Great little story from our friends at Ephemeral New York. Read it here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

By Popular Demand.... Brooklyn Memories

Many of us receive this link from time to time.  Cheryl Nessel suggested a permanent spot on the blog.  Thanks for the suggestion Cheryl!

Click here--> Brooklyn Memories

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The End of Faber's Fascination at Coney Island

Charlie sent me this video he shot on September 9, 2010. Beautifully done.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ask Mr. Coney Island: Pizza on the Boardwalk

Charlie Denson told me about an Ask Mr. Coney Island story about Larry and Vinny on the Coney Island History Project website.  There are some great pictures, including one of Bat.  Thanks Charlie!

See the story and pictures at the Coney Island History Project ---> HERE

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New York Street Games

Check out the website where you can purchase the video.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Coney Island By Jerry Della Femina

Long Island has some of the finest beaches in the world.

What can compare for beauty with Main Beach in East Hampton? Malibu? Cannes? Miami? Those beaches are all thin, puny strips of sand. Incredibly overrated. They could all fit on any Long Island beach at the same time and there would be plenty of shoreline to spare.

I never get tired of looking at our beautiful beach in East Hampton. And when I stare and look at it long enough, I always think back to what used to be. When you grew up in, as they say, "limited circumstances," a trip to the beach was the best celebration of the line "The best things in life are free."

I grew up on West 7th Street in Brooklyn, one subway stop (five minutes) from Coney Island. The Sea Beach train (now called the N) ran behind our tiny house when I was a kid. Every time the train rolled into the station my entire house would shake. At night I would lie in my bed and listen to the train come in. It was a friendly, familiar sound to a little kid: It meant people were coming home.

In the summer my Mom would take me and my little brother to Coney Island just about every day. For me, it was like traveling to Oz.

When you walked off the subway, some incredible smells fought with each other to get into your nose. The first was the smell of raw clams being squirted with lemon. And then there was the smell of ice-cold beer foaming up and out of the glass in the clam bar that was in the promenade of the subway terminal.

As you walked across the street, you smelled the sweetness of cotton candy and two seconds later you smelled the garlic and spices of those sizzling Nathan's hot dogs that made your mouth water. By the time you got to the boardwalk, you were starving and reaching in your bag of homemade sandwiches to sneak a bite.

You could get to the beach by walking onto the boardwalk or under it. (A few years later the Drifters would tell the world about the wonders that could be found "Under the Boardwalk.") Walking under was the faster way to get onto the beach and that's the way you always went. You braved the cold clammy sand that hadn't felt the sunlight in years. You gingerly stepped over (while still managing to sneak a peek at) the teenage couples who were passionately "making out" on the blankets in the dim semi-privacy that could only be found under the boardwalk. They pretended they were invisible. I was very young but I knew enough to go along with the pretense.

The walk on the beach was a joke. There seemed to be millions of people on the beach; consequently, there was no beach. We stepped on one beach blanket after another. Finally, my mom staked out a claim and we parked our blanket, touching four other blankets, and rushed to the water.

To be honest, the water in Coney Island was just slightly cleaner than the Ganges in India. The recent BP oil spill disaster triggered a sense memory that I hadn't thought about in so many years. For years after World War II, the water in Coney Island was filled with oil chunks that blackened our feet. I remember my father telling me that it probably came from one of the ships that had been blown up nearby during the war. I remember wondering if it was one of ours or one of theirs.

But now the smell in the air was suntan oil, and as a kid I remember staying in the water for hours to fight the waves. Invariably, my mother would call me in because "your lips are turning blue." She never came into the water. She just joined all the other mothers who were standing on the shore on "blue lip patrol." When the time came to go home, I always begged for another half-hour. They always gave it to me.

On the one-stop ride home, I would rush to the front of the first car and stand on my toes at the open window. The cool air hitting my sunburned face would feel wonderful.

My favorite line in any movie is from Atlantic City. A very old Burt Lancaster is trying to impress a very young Susan Sarandon. They're looking at the Atlantic Ocean. She says, "It's very beautiful." He says, "Yes." Then he looks at her and says, "But this is nothing. You should have seen it in the old days."

My children have the same ocean I had in the old days. But they don't have the noise of subway trains every night. They've never been to Coney Island. The beach they walk on in East Hampton is spotlessly clean and well maintained. There's always plenty of room. Thanks to the diligence of the village fathers, they will never smell food on the way to Main Beach.

My children seem to have everything, but in some ways I feel sorry for them. With all they have, they will never have the richness of these memories.

If you wish to comment on "Jerry's Ink" please send your message to jerry@dfjp.com or visit indyeastend.com and scroll to the bottom of the column.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

It Wasn't Always Idyllic

The recent email I sent about the murder in our old neighborhood really resonated with a lot of people who shared some of their experiences that showed we were still a rough inner-city neighborhood.  Here are a couple that come to mind for me.

Remember how we were always invaded from the surrounding neighborhoods during Halloween?  I went trick or treating with my sister Toni and she was a little ahead of me in the staircase.  When I got to where she was, a kid from outside the projects was trying to steal her candy.  I pushed him down the stairs and he went down to the next landing.  It's amazing how adrenalin just kicks in because I was just protecting my sister and this kid was at least my age or maybe older and he was a "tough side-street' kid.  This was probably a common occurrence.

The other incident occurred when I worked at the A&P.  I used to walk up 29th St and I was always accosted by some guys north of Mermaid Ave.  Got pushed and smacked around but it was more frustrating than being really scared.  I used to run non-stop both ways when going to and from work.  Once, when I had a little extra time, I walked up 28th St.  I should of been doing that all along or at least alternating with 30th St but in reality, it probably didn't matter.  Those were rough streets.  I was walking up 28th St and saw one of the guys who was always picking on me.  He acted like he didn't know who I was but I walked up to him and said something to the effect that he wasn't such a big man without his friends.  He just kept walking away.  I felt flush with being in control again.

Thereafter, I told my father that if he wanted me to work (a real big thing for him) he had to pick me up when I got off at 9PM.  That worked out well except for one time.  A little back story.... when I worked at the A&P there was a guy working there named Alonzo Brooks who was the toughest kid at Mark Twain.  Some of you who went there undoubtedly know who he was.  Now, Mark Twain was junior high but he looked like a man.  This was a serious person who I was deathly scared of.  As it would happen, he liked me.  I used to get his dry cleaning for him when he asked (like I would say no!).  This was 1967 and at a time of racial tension in the city and he used to tell me... "DePinto, when we  take over, I'll make sure nothing happens to you."  I found this both funny and comforting at the same time.

Anyway, I used to wait by the locked front door at 9PM until my father pulled up and then the night manager would unlock the door and let me out.  One night, he said that he was busy in the basement and he was just going to let me out then and I could just wait outside for my dad.  Shit! Of course, as soon I was standing outside for a few minutes, a couple of guys came up to me to rob me.  Alonzo came walking out the door and soon as the two guys saw him, they turned and ran.  Like I said, he was a serious individual.  My father pulled up and as I was getting in the car, I nodded at Alonzo and he nodded at me.  True story.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Coney Island Reunion Cruise - UPDATE

The date for a deposit to secure your spot has been extended to June 21, 2010.
See the previous post for more information.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Rite Of Passage…. McCabe’s

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline… it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.”   Frank Zappa

I thought it was appropriate to use a quote to start this post and Frank Zappa had a way of saying things that make sense to me.  I thought a lot about this post since with this blog and fast approaching 60 (ouch) I find myself reflecting on the many different  things I have done.  Now…. I’m not a big drinker.  A glass of wine in the evening for my heart and beers on occasion with the guys before an ASU game.  Sometimes a little Limoncello (which I make myself, thank you very much) after a good meal but that’s it.  I’m always the designated driver.  There is, however, the rite of passage of going to a bar for the first time.  Back in the 60s, if you recall, the legal drinking age was 18 although I think bars did not have to serve you unless you were 21.  I went to McCabe’s the first time when I was about 16.  I think I went with Randy Sobelman and I was both excited and very nervous.  Contrary to todays’ bars, McCabe’s was a bar where men drank.  I don’t ever recall seeing a woman there, let alone a teenage girl.  Anyway, Randy had been there before and he told me to act like I knew what I was doing.  He said to just put the money on the bar after I ordered and just leave it there.  We walked in and I’ll never forget the sights and smells.  A small jukebox, lot’s of cigarette smoke and the bar along the north wall.  The bartender’s name was Whitey and I remember word for word what transpired:

Whitey:  What’ll you have?
Me:  I’ll have a 77.
Whitey: (Sarcastically) You mean a 7 & 7?
Me: (With false bravado) That’s what I said.

Whitey smiled and turned to hopefully get my drink.  I didn’t even know what was in a 7 & 7.  I just knew it was something that I heard was a drink.  I was scared shitless.  I sat on an empty stool and there was some money and an empty glass on the bar.  I didn’t know what that meant but I soon did.  Before my drink came, I felt a hand on my neck and I was lifted off the stool and dropped to the ground.  The man never said a word to me after he sat down.  No one said anything.  I don’t even know if anyone was watching or laughing or whatever.  We moved further down the bar and Whitey brought us our drinks.  I don’t remember how much it cost but I do remember feeling like a grownup.  I went in many times after that and thought I was cool because we called it Whitey’s, not McCabe’s.  Maybe Whitey was the owner, I have no idea and I’m hoping that comments to this post will answer more questions about this neighborhood landmark.  That was the last time I ordered a mixed drink.  I always ordered Rheingold after that first time and it was served in what looked like little Welch’s Grape Jelly glasses and they cost 20 cents.  One time I was there with someone and Vernon Petty bet us that he could drink the glasses of beer faster than us.  He was older and of course, he drank his slower so we would get drunk.  He bought the beer so it wasn’t a total loss.  All in all, just another coming of age Coney Island kid experience.  Anyone else?  Please comment below.

Joey DePinto

Thanks to Charlie Denson for the great photo.