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Boardwalk under construction

Walking on Boardwalk Under Construction, November 29, 1922. Photo by E.E. Rutter via NYC Dept of Records, Municipal Archives

This Sunday, May 15, is the 93rd anniversary of the official opening of Coney Island’s Riegelmann Boardwalk. Last week, Coney poet Michael Schwartz crooned a few lines from “Under the Boardwalk” and recited poetry as part of his testimony before the City Council’s Land Use Committee. He was among about 15 people who took time out from their work day to speak at City Hall in favor of Councilman Mark Treyger’s resolution that the Landmarks Preservation Commission designate the Boardwalk a scenic landmark.

The LPC had previously said no, but is now said to be reconsidering. You may want to phone, email or write letters of encouragement to Meenakshi Srinivasan, Commissioner of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Contact information is here. Use the hashtag #LandmarkTheBoardwalk when you post on social media.

Schwartz’s eloquent testimony, printed in full below, begins with an excerpt of his poem, “The Under-Talker,” from a book-in-progress of poems, short stories and monologues set in Coney Island and called The Invisible Exhibitionist and other Attractions.

What will happen to us now that they took away under the boardwalk?
We won’t be falling in love
under the boardwalk…
boardwalk.
I heard that pushing the sand right up under the boards like that is what causes them to erode and crack.
I wish we could have our down by the sea on a blanket with my baby under the boardwalk back.
Did you hear that when they filled it in Homeless John the Under-Talker was buried alive?
Under the boardwalk.
Yesterday I tripped on a broken board and fell on my ear
and I swear while I was there
I could still hear him talk.
If you listen closely…
you can still hear him talk.

First they came for under the boardwalk… Then they came for the boardwalk. It started already. Part of the boardwalk’s already been paved over, even though that’s not what the people wanted. And in the middle of the night before it would have been landmarked, they bulldozed our beloved original Thunderbolt. And they came under darkness in the middle of the night and destroyed our beloved West 8th Street bridge to the boardwalk that protected us from traffic, because we didn’t have the power to protect it. If we don’t have the power to protect our world famous beloved boardwalk that connects neighborhoods, businesses, and people, one day we will wake up and it won’t be there, at least not as we know it. Where’s the boardwalk? Oh my God, it’s a sidewalk. Don’t we have enough sidewalks?

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk/No Concrete. Sign on Building Facing Boardwalk East of Ocean Parkway in Brighton Beach. Photo © Bruce Handy

The historic beloved boardwalk is one of the last walkways in our world that is an oasis from the concrete that hardens our souls and hammers our joints. Also, concrete will not absorb water or heat the way wood does. In this apocalyptic time of hurricanes and floods, the walkway by the water is wood for practical as well as aesthetic reasons. Coney Island is called the people’s park because it’s different than those other sanitized corporatized parks. When Coney becomes corporatized, such as when the Republican nominee’s father Fred destroyed Steeplechase, they demolish more than just the people’s parks, they break the people’s hearts.

We’ve seen too many New York treasures wiped out by corporate greed, little by little turning the greatest city in the world into just another impersonal unaffordable clone of Anymall, USA. We lost the original Penn Station, the 8th wonder of the world, because it wasn’t landmarked. We saved Grand Central Station because it was landmarked. If we don’t landmark the boardwalk, we’ll lose it. We’ll lose ourselves.

© Michael Schwartz

Truck on Coney Island Boardwalk

The City’s routine use of trucks and cars on the Boardwalk causes wear and tear on the boards. The Parks Dept has started to build a 10-foot wide concrete ‘carriage lane’ in Brighton Beach. Photo © Anonymouse

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Deno's Wonder Wheel

Go up it’s Great. Easter Sunday at the Wonder Wheel. April 5, 2015. Photo © Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

“Go up, it’s Great!” is the joyful slogan of the Wonder Wheel painted on its vintage ticket booths. On the evening of May 8th, you could say “Go up, it’s Poetry!” Deno’s Wonder Wheel will be open special hours – 7pm-10pm – for Poem-a-Rama, a special event featuring an array of poets reciting poetry to guests as they go up in the cars, plus readings on the ground and book-inspired music by Soozie Hwang & the Relastics.

The first-ever literary soiree in the landmark ride’s 95-year history is a benefit for Parachute Literary Arts’ poetry workshops and community poetry libraries in Coney Island. Advance tickets are $20 and include general admission to the event and a ride with a poet on the Wonder Wheel.

“Coney Island has been a source of inspiration for centuries for artists and poets including Whitman and E.E. Cummings and now contemporary poets,” says Parachute’s founder and artistic director Amanda Deutch. “At the same time I am interested in site specific work.” Past events produced by Parachute have featured poets reading in front of the New York Aquarium’s jellyfish tanks and over the mic at the Eldorado Bumper car ticketbooth on Surf Avenue.

Poets reading on the ground at Poem-a-Rama include Patricia Spears Jones, Lynn Melnick and teen poets from Parachute Literary Arts’ writing workshops. Poets with whom you can ride the Wheel are Parachute Festival alum Matthea Harvey and Edwin Torres, as well as Penny Arcade, Amber Atiya, Paul Blackburn, Kurt Boone, Michael Broder, Brenda Coultas, Ian Dreiblatt, Jen Fitzgerald, Tyehimba Jess, Brenda Iijima, Lucy Ives, Amy King, Wanda Phipps and “a wandering Walt Whitman.”

Deutch’s hope for Poem-a-Rama is for poets and passengers to enjoy a truly unique experience “because of all of it–the ride, the ocean breeze, the intimate nature of such a small reading– the poetry will sink in and reverberate for days to come.”

Advance tickets for Poem-a-Rama are available online for $20 via Parachute Literary Arts. Tickets will be $25 online on May 8th, the day of the event, and at the door. Entrance to the event will be at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park‘s West 12th Street gate at 3059 West 12th between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk.

Related posts on ATZ…

October 13, 2013: Photo of the Day: Swinging on the Wonder Wheel

September 29, 2011: Coney Island Poem from the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project

September 7, 2011: Photography: Floating Above the Coney Island Boardwalk

September 27, 2009: Coney Island 1969 by Edwin Torres: Fave Poem from Parachute Festival

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Eldorado Bumper Cars

Louis Beard, Ticketseller at Eldorado Bumper Cars, Surf Avenue, Coney Island. July 22, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Actually we can’t remember precisely what Louis was saying when we snapped this humorous photo, but the Eldorado Auto Skooters and most of Coney Island’s other rides are still open weekends through the end of October. This week marks the second anniversary of the death of Scotty Fitlin, the DJ extraordinaire of Surf Avenue’s legendary disco palace of bumper cars, which is now run by arcade operator Gordon Lee.

Eldorado

Eldorado Auto Skooters.September 3, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Saturday, in addition to selling tickets to the famed “Bump Your Ass Off” ride, Louis will be reading Coney Island poetry into the mic at 4pm. The site-specific poetry event is part of Parachute: The Coney Island Performance Festival happening this weekend in front of the jellyfish tank at the New York Aquarium and amid the amusement park artifacts at the Coney Island History Project. The Eldorado’s last rides of 2012 — and possibly forever, though we hope not!–will be on October 26 and 27.

Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade, 1216 Surf Avenue, Coney Island. Phone 718- 946-6642

Eldorado Last Ride 2012

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 20, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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