The cruelest month:Â Coney Island starts up for summer despite the death of Astroland, the prime kiddie amusement park.
“The thing is, we ain’t closed,” said Jimmy Carchiolo, an old salt with a pigskin voice who has run a dart game behind the Wonder Wheel for 43 years.
“Astroland went under, but everybody figures it’s the same. Astroland’s three acres. People don’t know how Coney Island works.”
Ever since the first carousel was installed on Surf Avenue in 1876, Coney Island has been a jumble of competing institutions, an amusement park cooperative of sorts. Today, there is the Cyclone, Nathan’s, the Wonder Wheel, KeySpan Park (where the Brooklyn Cyclones play), the New York Aquarium, the Coney Island Circus Sideshow and the Coney Island Museum.
The separate parts exist together, squabbling and sharing like a family, and giving off a tribal fractured energy, a mirror of New York’s.
“People think amusement parks are Disney World, where you pay one price and enter at the gate,” said Aaron Beebe, the director of the museum. “But Coney Island isn’t like that. It isn’t homogenized. It has lots of moving parts.”Â …
“It always feels like New York is on the edge of losing its soul,” he said, “and Coney Island represents that. Coney dying — it’s kind of like a stand-in for everything else.”