Expedition to Coney Island — October 5, 2012

Motivated by a sunny day in the midst of a lot of gloomy or rainy days, and with the weather forecast saying that the day would be unseasonably mild, Pickles of the North and I went to Coney Island on this fine day in early October. Well, I was also motivated by a good sale on Nathan's hot dogs.

Elevated train tracks from below
The Q Train Tracks From Below

For whatever reason I sometimes feel like taking a photograph of something just because of the look of it. That happened here when I looked up at the elevated tracks of the Q train that October afternoon.

Brooklyn used to have more elevated trains rattling overhead. Some of those lines have been torn down and replaced with bus service. We still have some left, however. In Manhattan they got rid of almost all of the “Els” long ago. The Third Ave. El was around when I was a small child and was shown in the movie The Killer That Stalked New York (1950). I've gone on about that movie before.

I remember that as a kid I sometimes rode the Myrtle Ave. El in Brooklyn, mostly with the extended family on Fathers' Days in the '50s, to go to the place where my grandfather's ashes were kept. The line was closed while I was away in 1969.

I don't know what it is, but I keep thinking there's some great photograph lurking up there amid the tracks and super structure waiting to be brought to the rest of the world.

Tom's Restaurant on the Boardwalk at Coney Island
Tom's is Finally Open

We walked along the Boardwalk and found that Tom's Coney Island has finally opened.

This is supposed to be a year round restaurant. It's in the space that used to be occupied by Nathan's on the Boardwalk. Nathan's has moved down the Boardwalk to take over larger space that used to be occupied by another business.

We've watched this restaurant being built over time and we were amazed that they didn't get it ready for the Summer 2012, season. I guess they just ran into construction problems.

When Pickles of the North and I go to Coney Island we usually just go to Nathan's at Surf Ave. & Stillwell Ave. Other than that Pickles will get an occasional ice cream from the soft ice cream vendors along Surf Ave.

I don't know if we'll ever try this place, but we will be noticing if it stays open during the entire “off season.” We not infrequently go to Coney Island when the crowds have left it all to the feral pussycats, the cold, inclement weather of the Winter months and the folks who can't escape the place.

Butterfly on a Sun flower
Monarch Butterfly on a Sun Flower

One of the things that the Parks Department did right some years ago when the south end of Stillwell Ave. was completely rebuilt was to install a “Butterfly Garden” there. And they've actually kept this little garden up.

This patch of green punctuated by variously colored flowers actually lives up to its name, attracting more than its share of the butterflies that would float around this area. Coney Island is not the best place for flying insects like butterflies owing to its dense gull population and the ease with which a tiny creature like a butterfly could be blown over the water by a breeze. Butterflies not being amphibious, the route south, which is where the Monarchs are headed, is a treacherous flight with no possibility of rest or replenishment for them until they get past the New Jersey shore.

So I took a bunch of photographs of the butterflies that were flitting around the Coney Island Butterfly Garden on this day in early October. Despite the difficulties of shooting almost into the Sun with my little point and shoot camera this was the best photograph of any lepidopterate I got that day.

The stripped down base of the Parachute Jump
The Base of the Parachute Jump

No, that's not a Martian war machine from War of the Worlds in the photograph to the right. That's what the base of the Coney Island Parachute Jump looked like on October 5, 2012.

Work is ongoing to install the old B&B Carousel in what had been a kids' soccer/baseball field right next to the Boardwalk and just south of the variously named minor league baseball stadium that fronts on Surf Ave.

Along with the construction of the carousel, which is scheduled to take a very long time to get done, the powers that be are also setting about refurbishing the sometimes neglected Parachute Jump.

The Parachute Jump is located in what these days is the parking lot of the minor league baseball stadium, hard to the west of the construction site of the relocated B&B Carousel.

We've had concerns for the decommissioned Parachute Jump before, especially when it had been disassembled and certain Brooklyn politicians were talking about reassembling it in order to make it into a functioning ride again. Yeah, that was nuts.

Luckily the iconic, landmarked open framework tower was reassembled nine years ago and the “improvements” consisted mostly of putting some LEDs on it that will light up in patterns after dark.

Unfortunately, after reassembly the only maintenance that the Parachute Jump appears to have gotten over the interceding nine years has been a single coat of paint. The panels that had served as the front door for the highly populated pigeon roost inside the base of the Parachute Jump were open for years, and pigeon poop can corrode even the strongest steels.

We've seen guys on cherry pickers doing various kinds of work on the base of the Parachute Jump for the past number of months when the area has been getting “developer” attention. It looks like now they have just stripped the base entirely. I suspect that the gray paint may be some sort of primer or rust resistant coating to protect the structure from further deterioration. The base of the tower sure looks odd without all of its panels, faded as they were. If you look closely you can still see a few pigeons roosted inside the structure even now.

The gray, curving concrete pathway in the foreground is part of the future exit for the B&B Carousel, which had been on Surf Ave. for decades, until the musical chairs land swap, sale/resale frenzy swept much of Coney Island's amusement area away.

Well, once again we're hoping that they don't wreck the Parachute Jump. We'll be watching.

Coney Island community garden up against the Boardwalk
A Coney Island Community Garden

For a long time there was a vacant lot right next to the defunct Child's Restaurant, which later housed a carousel and other things. The building itself has been mostly empty for years. You could see a lean-to towards the back of the rubble blighted lot. Homeless folks would try to live there for as long as they could. We saw evidence of habitation back there even on brutally cold winter days. It can't have been a pleasant place to live.

And then a few years ago we noticed that some folks appeared to have cleared a small patch of ground of the rubble and tall weeds and they were growing something.

Little by little more and more of the lot was cleared of broken bricks, concrete, and general trash that had been dumped in the lot.

The cleared land was planted and people began growing crops, actual food, in this Brooklyn lot.

Over time the trash and illegally dumped construction debris was replaced by rows of plantings, vertical sticks to support plant growth and white strings to delineate just where specific kinds of crops have been planted. And for the past year or two the space has been just about completely turned in a sort of miniature farm, complete with composting structures and even an occasional chicken.

Pickles of the North and I have always hoped that the soil of this community garden was not polluted, especially since what's grown there is eaten by people. We're not sure about the soil quality though.

In the accompanying photograph you can see a woman out harvesting some sort of crop, and tasting a sample of it to make sure it's ready for consumption.

We're hoping that the greedy “developers” who've descended on Coney Island over the past decade or so won't just bulldoze this urban farm in order to build another so-called “luxury condo” on the site. Time will tell.

screws coming up through the boardwalk
Screw Heads Coming Up From Badly Maintained Boardwalk

The Boardwalk at Coney Island has been badly maintained for years now. The way the city has been trying to get around this abysmal maintenance habit is to replace the Boardwalk with concrete slabs. We've talked about the rapid deterioration of the concrete that they're trying to replace the Boardwalk with.

Here you can see one of the many problems encountered on the Boardwalk these days: the screws that should be holding the board to their underlying support structure are coming up and are themselves presenting a hazard to pedestrians.

Besides the already mentioned lack of proper maintenance a major reason why these screws are coming up is that so many vehicles are allowed to rush around on the Boardwalk, as if it were a freeway. Cop cars and vans, Parks Department trucks and ATVs, golf carts from the Fire Department, Police Department and Parks Department and even civilian vehicles ride around on a Boardwalk that was made for people to stroll around on and with no design for supporting anything heavier than a push chair.

Exposed screw heads and pedestrians.
Watch Where You Walk!

The screws are there to keep the boards of the Boardwalk attached to the support structure underneath. With the screws up like this the boards also stick up at the ends and flex even more when one of the heavy vehicles goes charging over them. Eventually the boards are allowed to flex so much that they break, and then they're left in a broken condition, which has resulted in injuries to people, some of whom have actually fallen through the weakened parts of the Boardwalk. We think that the resulting lawsuits must be costing the city even more than the simple maintenance of the Boardwalk would.

These screws can really trip you up. I've stumbled as they've clipped my shoe, and I've seen people fall down as a result of tripping over a screw. In addition, they can deliver quite a cut to your shoe, and on the Boardwalk you of course have people walking around in bare feet or wearing those flimsy flip-flops which afford no protection at all. An apt warning for pedestrians on the Boardwalk for the past number of years has been “Watch where you walk!”

people on jet skis playing chicken
Idiots on Jet Skis Cavorting

While we were there we saw people on jet skis playing chicken with the jetty and trying to run up onto the beach. No one was swimming or wading right here, but these people on the jet skis are all on the wrong side of the buoy that delineates where boat traffic, and that includes things like jet skis, stops and the swimming area of the waters right off the beach begin.

Two people in this photograph are just proceeding along seated on a single jet ski, the others, part of a group of six, are charging around making runs at the rock jetty and churning up the water right next to the beach. And I bet that if one of these guys crashes into the rock jetty and gets injured that he'll sue the city!

Some jet skiers do this at the height of the Summer swimming season, which makes me wonder if they've ever injured someone by hitting them.

Coney Island beach at sunset
Coney Island Imitating a Beach on Mars

The photograph on the left was taken just because the setting Sun was casting everything on the beach in a red-orange light. I got the idea that it looked a lot like some of the images of Mars that we've gotten from the latest Martian rover Curiosity.

Of course we're very unlikely to see footprints in the Martian sand. But those ripples look a lot like some that we've seen from the various Mars rovers' images.

Low Sun angle on the Boardwalk
Low Sun, Reflective Boards

The Sun was at a very low angle and the Boardwalk's wooden boards were particularly reflective just when I was taking this shot to the right. All sorts of people were on the Boardwalk this day, probably owing to it being warm and sunny after some days of cold, gloomy weather and overcast skies.

That's one of the Boardwalk's 55 gallon drums turned into trash cans lending some relief to the over exposure of the boards.

A woman in a motorized wheel chair is moving west on the Boardwalk, accompanied by a companion.

A kid's shoes
A Pair of Little Shoes All Alone

Pickles of the North and I were heading towards Stillwell Ave. for the subway ride home when we saw this sight illuminated by the setting Sun.

We figure that either some little person forgot to take his shoes with him when he left the beach, or else he got his shoes all full of sand, and maybe got them wet too, and mommy decided that the shoes were ruined and left them there. Or maybe they were left on the bench to dry out and were forgotten.

Either way some little kid lost his shoes at Coney Island that day. A sad sight in the waning sunlight of a warm day in October.


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