Here's something to warm you in the dead of winter: a video (QuickTime, 9.9 MB) I shot Saturday, June 24, 1995, of a turn on my favorite Ferris wheel anywhere, Coney Island's Wonder Wheel. It was a rainy day and before I took the reviewing stand to serve as Mermaid Parade M.C. (my sixth year on the job), my friend Gina Bellando and I took a ride in a swinging car (in addition to the customary stationary cars, the Wonder Wheel has swinging cars which move along a track as the wheel rotates).
Coney Island, as you may have heard, is on the verge of a drastic makeover. A developer - Joe Sitt of Thor Equities - snatched up property on either side of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park (including Astroland Park, which will close after Summer 2007) and has plans for a $1.5 billion "entertainment and amusement district". Luxury seaside condos and a hotel will also rise where many of the structures seen in my video now stand. Some argue these changes are long coming, that Coney is a decaying, unfulfilled promise. Others feel the uniqueness of the place - it's the only truly urban amusement park I know of - will be forever lost. And you? Are the coming inevitable changes good for Coney Island? Or will you never again step foot in that "Playground by the Ocean"?