At Saturday’s rally, party and “last call” at Ruby’s, Coney Island historian Charles Denson gave a powerfully moving tribute to Ruby Jacobs, the bar’s founder, who grew up in Coney Island and operated businesses here for 70 years. Denson, who is also a Coney Island native, spoke up for the real Coney and the Boardwalk’s threatened Mom & Pops.
“These are family businesses. These are businesses that are Coney Island. This is Coney Island. It’s not some plastic amusement park. And it’s not some generic, gentrified restaurant. This is the real Coney Island,” said Denson to cheers from the crowd.
Denson thanked Ruby’s daughters Cindy Jacobs-Allman and Melody Sarrel for “keeping the business open in their father’s memory, as a destination and an important part of Coney Island.” He also thanked Paul Georgoulakos and his family, who have operated Gregory & Paul’s, now called Paul’s Daughter, for more than 40 years. The two businesses are among the nine Boardwalk Mom and Pops told to vacate the premises of the City-owned buildings, which some have occupied for decades. After the City bought the property from Thor Equities, the City’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) leased the property to Zamperla/CAI, operators of the new Luna Park.
In the video, Denson recalls that when he was writing Coney Island: Lost and Found, Ruby had just died and people came to pay their respects to the Coney Island native whose generosity to friends, neighbors and strangers was legendary.
“This business and the other businesses have survived when Coney Island was shrinking and when Coney Island went through hard times,” said Denson, who grew up here in the 1950s and 60s. “They stayed here and operated these businesses without subsidies like the subsidies Zamperla is getting. Mom and Pop businesses are being forced out of Coney Island now.”
Ruby Jacobs’ daughter Cindy Jacobs-Allman spoke for the family while her sister Melody stood by her side, too choked up to say a word. “It’s more than a restaurant, it’s a member of your family and it has been for a long, long time,” said Jacobs-Allman. “It is part of the Coney Island landscape. We belong here. Memories are made here. This is what Coney Island is all about. This is what America is all about it. We want to stay here and continue to be a part of Coney Island. We don’t want to go, we want to stay here. Our heart and soul are here, We’ve been here our whole lives.”
Jacobs-Allman thanked the crowd, which numbered in the hundreds, for their support and reminisced about her father, who died in 2000. “He would be proud and honored that you all came today and that hopefully he made a little difference in everyone’s life. When people used to come and ask him what is the best item on the menu, he used to take people out to the boardwalk rail and say look at that tapestry of humanity. It’s the people that make Coney island and he called his Coney the elixir of life. And I hope in some way we’ve given back to the community and we’ve done my father proud by keeping this restaurant going as long as we have.”
Finally, Jacobs-Allman asked for continued support to renew Ruby’s lease. “The fight is not over yet. Please, in the next few weeks please make as much noise. We need a ground swelling of support and love and friendship from everyone. Thank you! Thank you! Let’s keep it going.”
You can sign the online petition to renew Ruby’s lease here.
Many thanks to photographer Ethan Kavet for making these vids and sharing them on the web.
Related posts on ATZ…
November 6, 2010: Party, Rally, Pay Your Respects to Coney Island Boardwalk 9
November 3, 2010: Friends of Ruby’s Bar Launch Petition, Plan Nov 6 Rally
January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010