Coney Island Through the Decades

Since the mid-1800s, the public has associated Brooklyns Coney Island with its famous boardwalk and amusement parks. However, after World War II, the area began to decline as a truly popular attraction. The famous Luna Park closed in 1946, and Steeplechase Park, the last of the major parks, closed in 1964.

As Coney Island declined as a resort location, it was rezoned as a residential area, and many low-income housing projects were built, beginning in 1954. CHPC uncovered fascinating archival documents and maps that tell the story of housing development and neighborhood transformation in Coney Island in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

1953: Robert Moses Converts Coney Island to a Residential Area

On April 2, 1953, the New York Times reported that Parks Commissioner Robert Moses had put forward a proposal to the City Planning Commission to rezone Coney Island for residential use. Moses had both opposed the construction of new parks and demolished old ones to make way for the New York Aquarium and an ice skating rink. After the rezoning came into effect, Moses would go on to build a number of public housing projects, forever changing the character of Coney Island.

1963: CHPCs Site Review of West 33rd & Mermaid

In this memo, CHPC provides an overview of two proposals for the construction and rehabilitation of housing projects in Coney Island: one financed by the Federal government, the other by the city of New York. Attached to the memo is a map indicating the proposed development sites.

1974: CHPCs Coney Island Report

This document gives us a glimpse of the longer-term effects of the public housing developed in the 1960s and 1970s. CHPC published this report in response to a court order demanding the desegregation of Coney Islands Mark Twain Junior High School. CHPC supports the principle of desegregation but argues that implementing it will require a holistic approach. CHPC points out that creating mixed-income and middle-class housing would not be enough to desegregate the schools; rather, the neighborhood as a whole needed to be made more attractive in order to bring in residents who could choose to live elsewhere.