Expedition to Coney Island — January 29, 2014

We had dealt with some bureaucratic crap and stupid bureaucrats on the morning of January 29, 2014, and we had trudged through the streets with some discomfort. The official temperature was 16° F. when we left the manse. Pickles of the North and I were looking to get the odor of all that out of our systems and have some fun. So we went to Coney Island, just as the Arctic cold front was hitting the city.

So after the morning's adventures with bureaucrats and their places of business we came home and dressed a bit more warmly and then went out again, the temperature had risen to 18° F. by then. Yeah, Coney Island as a mid-Winter destination, it wasn't our first time.


Nathan's 'Patio' in the snow.
The Scene at Nathan's “Patio”

This was to be our first visit to Coney Island for 2014. Of course we'd been there in cold weather before, hell, we'd been there in snow storms in the past. So we were not daunted by the cold, especially after dressing even more warmly.

We got down to Coney Island just after half past one o'clock that afternoon. I had not eaten yet that day. So we went to Nathan's. First we checked out the concrete and stone picnic tables that they have in Nathan's “patio.” Yeah, Nathan's calls that space which is right across Schweikert's Walk from the store their patio.

As can be seen from the photograph the ground was pretty much covered in snow from a recent storm. The snow and ice had mostly melted from the tables and seats. Still, there were some icicles to be seen falling off some of them.

Pickles of the North said that she didn't really want to sit on a cold, stone seat that afternoon. So we took our chances inside.


Nathan's receipt for hot dogs, fries and sodas.
Our Receipt for the Chow at Nathan's

Yeah, hot dogs and a diet soda for breakfast, that's what I needed. I did take all of my pills for diabetes and hypertension, along with a bunch of vitamin pills before and during this meal. The fries were Pickles', although I did snag a couple of those.

I had a coupon for a serious discount on the hot dogs, so at least it didn't cost me too much money to eat stuff I probably shouldn't have been eating.


Pickles of the North at Nathan's January 29, 2014
Pickles of the North at Nathan's

So we got inside and stood in line. Yes, there can be lines at Nathan's in the middle of Winter. But we noted that all of the tables were taken. Not so good. We wondered if we were going to end up having to eat outside after all. But just as we got our order one table opened up in the northwest corner of Nathan's. Yay! We did not have to go knocking icicles off stone and concrete tables and seats before we could eat. And eating outside in weather like that cools down the hot dogs quite rapidly, I am not a fan of cold hot dogs.

To the left is a photograph of a contented, and warm enough to open her coat, Pickles of the North, enjoying her fries and diet soda. It must be remembered that where she grew up this is Spring weather!

And shortly after we sat down most of the people at the other tables left. That's the way it is at Nathan's, you frequently have people showing up, and then leaving, in waves.

Stillwell Avenue

Gulls on a vacant lot covered in snow.
Gulls Catching Some Rays on a Snow Covered Lot at Coney Island

This photograph was actually taken from the intersection of Bowery and Schweikert's Walk. This vacant lot, which fronts on Stillwell Ave., is one of the “improvements” brought to Coney Island by real estate speculator Joe Sitt and his Thor Equities company. The land has been vacant for years. They did try to run a parking lot out of it one season, we're not sure that the parking lot operation was being run on an entirely legal basis.

Well, at least the gulls are making use of it as a place to sun themselves.

In the right center background are the parts of the “Boardwalk Flight” ride that swings people who are strapped onto a frame out over the Boardwalk.


Go cart track in the snow.
The Go Cart Track, and Some Pussycat Tracks

Hard to the south of the disused lot is the latest incarnation of go carts at Coney Island. Of course they only operate during “The Season” so they're on hiatus in mid-Winter.

The go carts aren't there, but the track still is. You can see the telltale paw prints of a pussycat that's been walking across the unused track.

In the background we have a side view of the “Boardwalk Flight” and the Parachute Jump, which we're glad is still there and which we're glad no one was stupid enough to turn into a ride again, as former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz had proposed.

The Boardwalk

Coney Island Boardwalk covered in snow, looking east from Stillwell Ave.
The Boardwalk, Looking East

When we got to the Boardwalk this was our view to the east. As I've noted before, the Coney Island Boardwalk is not that crowded in the middle of Winter.

On the left you can see Tom's Coney Island restaurant, the entrance to the Zamperla “Scream Zone,” and just a quadrant of Deno's Wonder Wheel.

In the spirit of the great Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen we bravely struck out to the west on the, mostly, snow covered Boardwalk.

The Beach

Partially snow covered beach at coney Island.
The Beach at Coney Island

Here we have a photograph of the beach that day.

The red flag means no swimming in that area because there is no life guard on duty. The life guards have been off duty for about four months now. The Polar Bear Club and the ICE Breakers Club still take their dips in Lower New York Bay in the Winter season, but anyone just deciding to go swimming for a lark on this day could have seriously risked getting killed.

The snow fences are not there to deal with the snow, they're there to mitigate the Winter storms' displacement of the sand. The beach at Coney Island is artificial. The beach that had lined the southern shore of Coney Island back when Henry Hudson had arrived, when Coney Island was actually an island, got built over in the 19th Century. The sand south of the Boardwalk is periodically dredged from the harbor and distributed on the beach that was established early in the 20th Century.

The water we see in the photograph is the water of New York Harbor, technically Lower New York Bay. On the left side you can just see a container ship that's beyond the Rockaway Peninsula and therefore still in the Atlantic Ocean.


Gulls sunning themselves on the snowy beach.
Gulls on the Beach at Coney Island

This photograph of the beach was taken from W. 15 St., just off the Boardwalk. You can tell the location by the paving stones that extend from the Boardwalk end of W. 15 St. to a little ways onto the beach itself.

The structure in this photograph is the Stillwell Ave. lavatories. They're sometimes closed in the off season. At the end of our adventures at Coney Island on this day I was able to go to the men's room there, Pickles found that the women's room was locked in the middle of the afternoon. They sometimes close quite early during the season, too.

The gulls are hunkering down on the sand and snow to get warmed up by some sunlight from the low, Winter Sun. The gull flying through the top of this photograph is probably looking for a good spot to land and absorb some rays too.


More snowy beach and snow fencing.
The Effect of the Snow fencing

This photograph shows the effect of the snow fencing on the beach sand, and in the background is the Steeplechase Pier that was rebuilt after Superstorm Sandy tore the old one apart.

You can see that the snow fencing tends to pile sand up on the leeward side. This happen because the fencing interrupts the flow of the wind and causes turbulence, the turbulence results in an effective slowing down of the wind and the slower wind can no longer hold as much sand so some sand drops down. This particular pile of sand if mixed with ice. The Sun has melted some snow and that seeped into the sand, the ice refroze when the temperatures got lower and so we have an interesting mix of ice and sand here. Yes, I stomped on some of these to make sure that they were what I thought they were.

You can see that vehicles have been driving around the fencing and the pile of icy sand. I suspect that the Parks Dept. workers, who are usually the ones driving cars, trucks and ATVs around on the beach, learned the hard way that what looks like a pile of sand in the lee of a snow fence can be something you do not want to drive into.

When Pickles and I walked around on the beach a little bit later on we walked over some of this sand/ice mixture. The beach was covered with it. I said that this was sort of like walking around on the surface of Mars, near one of the polar caps where there is water ice. It was interesting crunching over that surface.


Person walking on the beach.
A Pedestrian Skirting the Edge of a Beach Crater

Here we see a brave soul, or foolhardy pedestrian, walking around the edge of the sane crater that always forms in back of the Coney Island Lifeguard Station. The crater has become a permanent feature of the beach.

It's usually a good idea not to rely too much on the solidity of the snow and sand and ice/sand mixture to keep you from falling into the crater. The person in the photograph was lucky.

Snowy Footprints

Snowy footprints on the Boardwalk
Snowy Footprints on the Boardwalk

On some parts of the Boardwalk we found snowy footprints on relatively snow free boards. This is the opposite of what we see on some other parts of the Boardwalk where footprints are clear of snow while the part of the Boardwalk around them is full of the white stuff.

What happens here is that when people step on the snow, when there's a thick enough coating of it on the Boardwalk, they compress it. This compressed snow resists the wind better than the looser snow around it, and it takes a bit more heat to melt the compressed snow. The result is that the undisturbed snow gets blown away or melted and the compressed snow, which naturally has the shape of the shoe that compressed it, if left for a while longer. I suppose that heavier people compress the snow more and that their snowy footprints last longer.

Steeplechase Pier

The Steeplechase Pier covered in snow and sand.
Traipsing About on the Pier Was Not an Inviting Prospect

Here's a shot of the Steeplechase Pier, yeah I know it's named after some “community activist” down there, but I remember it always as the Steeplechase Pier.

The pier is not exactly untrodden in this cold weather, but Pickles of the North and I were not going to tread on it. The wind was really blowing and we knew, from experience, that out on the pier, with nothing around to block it, the wind usually got a lot stronger. The wind that accompanied this arctic chill was making it a difficult excursion. The wind chill was not pleasant to be out in for any length of time.

Out past the end of the pier you can see the nearly straight line of the cloud bank to the south. You can see this cloud bank in some of the other photographs as well. I think this marks the weather front of the arctic cold snap that we were in for the entire day. I think that everything north of that line of clouds was in the freezing grip of the Arctic front. And we were north of it. This was not an an entirely pleasant excursion.

Although the footprints show that people has been on the Steeplechase Pier after the snow had fallen, there was absolutely no one out on it while we were there, and that includes the nearly fanatical fishermen who usually haunt the end of the pier flipping fish hooks around and eager to eat whatever poisonous, mutated creatures they pull out of the Lower New York Bay.

Superstorm Sandy Relief Tile Mural

Superstorm Sandy relief tile mural.
The Superstorm Sandy Relief Tile Mural

We were surprised to find this, the Superstorm Sandy Relief Tile Mural on our walk down the Boardwalk. The last time we'd been down on the Boardwalk we'd seen some guys in a pickup truck pulling up to the disused fountain right by the old Child's Restaurant building, and they had all sorts of boards and things and it had looked like they'd started nailing a box around the fountain. It was late then, and it had gotten dark, and we'd left without finding out just what they were doing.

It turns out that they had been nailing this mural together. I suppose that it was they who also put that fanciful fish finial on top of the fountain, where a lighting fixture was originally installed long ago.


The tile which explains the tiles.
This Tile Explains the Whole Thing

This tile, one of the ones on the top row, pretty much explains what we see here. This project got young kids and old folks together to learn how to make ceramic tiles as part of the area's recovery from the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy. And together they've made some pretty fanciful ones.

This installation was put up one year after the storm had hit.


Some of the tiles on the west side of the installation.
A close-up of Some of the Tiles

Here are some of the tiles on the west side of the installation. At the time we were down at Coney Island taking these photographs the other side was in shadows.

Some of these tiles are not at all flat. Here we have some three dimensional flowers, a butterfly and a bird sticking out into the world.


Some of the more delivate tiles have been broken.
One of the More Delicate Tiles Which Has Been Broken

Some of the tiles have parts that stick out. Those delicate parts that stick out from the rest of the tile are vulnerable. The flat tiles, and the flat parts of the 3-D tiles, appear to be intact. But some of the delicate parts that stick out have been damaged.

Pickles of the North thinks that the fierce Winter weather we've been having lately has damaged the more delicate tiles. I noted that the damaged ones are the ones on the front of the mural. The delicate tiles on the sides appear to be intact. I suspect that the damage was not caused by the recent Winter storms but by vandals.

Here a well dressed ceramic mermaid has had an arm broken off.

The Sad End of the Community Garden

The Community Garden is gone.
The Boardwalk Community Garden is Gone

We were saddened to see that the community garden which had flourished next to the Boardwalk for a number of years had been bulldozed out of existence.

The garden had been badly damaged when it was submerged under sand and salt water when Superstorm Sandy had struck Coney Island. Pickles wondered if the food which the people running the garden were growing was safe for them to eat after they'd tried to get the garden going again after the storm. A lot of the garden has been buried in sand and the salt and whatever else had been in the water during the flood had settled in there after the flood waters had receded.

Recently the City of New York announced that the Child's Restaurant building, which is the formal name of the large building one wall of which can be seen on the right side of the photograph, was going to be renovated and feature an outdoor amphitheater. The New York City Council approved this gift of the New York City Parks Department land to the developer.

The developer's plan is to break out the wall of the building and use the land to make a continuous seating arrangement for up to 5,000 concert attendees.

The amphitheater plan had apparently been something that now former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz had been pushing.

Those who bulldozed the garden also put up a mesh screen on the inside of the chain link fence. I have to wonder if this screen was put up to thwart people trying to photograph what had been done to the garden. It certainly made problems for me getting a clear shot of the formerly public land.

UPDATE: We are now seeing reports that the gardeners are going to sue the city of this demolition of their garden and the gifting of land to the private developer. We wish them luck.

The Aftermath

The cold and the brutal wind chill were ever present factors during this entire outing. My second hot dog in Nathan's was cold because Nathan's was pretty cold. When we left Nathan's to get the photograph of the gulls on the snow in the empty lot I took my gloves off in order to work the camera and use a small shield to keep the Sun from glaring into the lens. Oh, that did not work out well. My hands were very cold in nothing flat. I took my gloves off again to get the shot of the snow covered go cart track. My hands then told me that this was not something I should do again.

I was dressed against the cold, but my face was hanging out there and the wind kept trying to get some cold air down past my scarf. And I'm certain that Coney Island was colder than the official New York City temperature as measured in Central Park, in the midst of the heat island known as Manhattan. There was a significant wind chill going on for our entire time out there as well.

As was noted above, I was able to go to the men's room after we were done walking around. It was an interesting event for me. I found that my fingers wouldn't work. They were frozen. And of course I was trying to fumble through a lot of clothing to, um, get at things. My right hand was worse than my left hand. My right pinky was sticking out from the hand at an odd angle, and I couldn't get it to go back with the other fingers. My right hand had very poor motor control, and I couldn't coordinate both of my hands. My right hand was the one I'd been using on the camera all day, and it had been out of the gloves more than the left hand. All in all, this was not a pleasant surprise.

After we got home I had a hot chocolate, and some time after that my hands returned to normal. Yeah, this trip to Coney Island wasn't 100% pleasurable, but in the end I'm glad we did it.

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