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The next 750 words are an experiment. But in order for it to work, you need to pay attention (cue ethereal footage of outer space). There was a time when New York City’s Coney Island was one of the most famous beaches in the United States. Packed with as many as 25 hand-carved wooden carousels, countless gimmicks and a full menu of roller coasters, it was an ideal getaway for New Yorkers looking for an “out-of-Manhattan” experience.
Following the Great Depression, however, the area saw a period of decline and decay that was, at the time, irreversible. The race riots of the 1960’s brought crowd-diminishing violence to the peninsula, curtailing and nearly dooming the popularity of Coney Island. When the 1980’s drifted in on the empty waves of Coney Island beach, there was little left of the parks that had once made New York so happy (wait, don’t run away! It gets better).
Through it all, one determined carousel managed to stand the test of time. In fact, it was not until 2005 that the fate of the B&B Carousell, Coney Island’s last traditional hand-carved carousel, was brought into question. Its long-time operator had just been ferried across the river Styx by Cheron (we assume he paid his way with a single ride adult carnival ticket) and into the afterlife. For the first time in over 85 years, nobody knew what to do with it. During an auction that had New Yorkers on the edge of their seats over the carousel’s future, the city of New York came and saved the day, purchasing B&B and promising to restore its legendary brilliance.
Then, in an apparent declaration of war on the citizens of New York, the city sent the carousel to Ohio. Now don’t worry, it didn’t move there to retire modestly and slowly waste away (like many New Yorkers). The city of Marion just happened to house the shop of one of the last experts in the meticulous art of carousel restoration. The B&B Carousell would be put on the proverbial operating table aside 50 of its closest hand-carved animal friends, and be given new life. That was over four years ago. Now, the only evidence that remains of B&B in New York is an old wall mural featuring the carousel below a thematically similar think piece on the Great Barrier Reef.
So, what took the place of the carousel in its absence? Remember, this is post 1920’s Coney Island. One of the answers to that question, unfortunately, is above you. Oh yes, the area surrounding the former B&B Carousell is now a furniture store… a whole strip mall full of them, actually (the exact spot hosts a children’s event and party space). Where once children soared around and around with smiles so big they could be seen from Queens, there are now $1,500 living room sets and wild-eyed salesmen in baggy suits. Not to worry, though. In a renewed attempt to bring Coney Island back to life, a huge area near the boardwalk was cleared to set the stage for the carousel’s return.
Though the area is far from being complete, it’s a baseball field-sized sign that Coney Island is not past hope. So, where do you come in? Well, the carousel is slated to make its triumphant return to Coney Island next year, but it could sure use some extra cash to ensure it comes back as beautiful as it ever was, perhaps even more so, and that it’s returned and rebuilt safely. Coney 2012 is not just the title of a photo essay trying to convince you to vote to save a historical landmark. It’s a movement that will make a near-ancient carousel and the park it’ll call home famous across the world once again. So, cast your vote and use all of those futuristic social media buttons below to spread Coney 2012 across the internet. Countless generations of young New Yorkers to come will be eternally grateful.
Click here to vote for the B&B Carousell. View a brief time lapse video of its restoration and learn more about the carousel on Facebook. Follow Untapped Cities on Twitter and Facebook. Finally, get in touch with the author @LukeKingma.
The original B&B Carousell (from the NYCEDC’s website)
Still haven’t voted for the B&B Carousell? That’s okay. You must have forgotten. Here’s another chance.