The original Native American inhabitants of the region, the Lenape, called this area Narrioch. This name has been attributed the meaning of “land without shadows” or “always in light” describing how its south facing beaches always remained in sunlight. A second meaning attributed to Narrioch is “point” or “corner of land”.
The first documented European name for the island is the Dutch name Conyne Eylandt or Conynge Eylandt. This would roughly be equivalent to Konijn Eiland using modern Dutch spelling, meaning Rabbit Island. The name was anglicized to Coney Island after the English took over the colony in 1664, coney being the corresponding English word.
There are several alternative theories for the origin of the name. One posits that it was named after a Native American tribe, the Konoh, who supposedly once inhabited it. Another surmises that Conyn was the surname of a family of Dutch settlers who lived there. Yet a third interpretation claims that “Conyne” was a distortion of the name of Henry Hudson’s second mate on the Halve Maen, John Colman, who was slain by natives on the 1609 expedition and buried at a place they named Colman’s Point, possibly coinciding with Coney Island.
Coney Island is a peninsular residential neighborhood, beach, and leisure/entertainment destination of Long Island on the Coney Island Channel, which is part of the Lower Bay in the southwestern part of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. Coney Island was formerly the westernmost of the Outer Barrier islands on Long Island’s southern shore, but in the early 20th century it became connected to the rest of Long Island by land fill. The residential portion of the peninsula is a community of 60,000 people in its western part, with Sea Gate to its west, Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach to its east, the Lower Bay to the south, and Gravesend to the north.
Coney Island was originally part of the colonial town of Gravesend. By the mid-19th century, it became a seaside resort, and by the late 19th century, amusement parks were also built at the location. The attractions reached a historical peak during the first half of the 20th century, declining in popularity after World War II and following years of neglect.
The area was revitalized with the opening of the MCU Park in 2001 and several amusement rides in the 2010s.
Currently (9/20/2018), Coney Island has two amusement parks — Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park — as well as several rides that are not incorporated into either theme park. Coney Island also has several other visitor attractions and hosts renowned events as well. Coney Island’s amusement area is one of a few in the United States that is not mostly owned by any one entity.
The current amusement park contains various rides, games such as skeeball and ball tossing, and a sideshow, including games of shooting, throwing, and tossing skills. The rides and other amusements at Coney Island are owned and managed by several different companies and operate independently of each other. It is not possible to purchase season tickets to the attractions in the area.
Three rides at Coney Island are protected as designated New York City landmarks and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
These three rides are:
Wonder Wheel – built in 1918 and opened in 1920, this steel Ferris wheel has both stationary cars and rocking cars that slide along a track. It holds 144 riders, stands 150 ft (46 m) tall, and weighs over 200 tons. At night, the Wonder Wheel’s steel frame is outlined and illuminated by neon tubes. It is located at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park.
The Cyclone roller coaster – built in 1927, it is one of the United States’s oldest wooden coasters still in operation. Popular with roller coaster aficionados, the Cyclone includes an 85 ft (26 m), 60-degree drop. It is owned by the City of New York, and was operated by Astroland, under a franchise agreement. It is now located in and operated by Luna Park.
Parachute Jump – originally built as the Life Savers Parachute Jump at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, this was the first ride of its kind. Patrons were hoisted 262 ft (80 m) in the air before being allowed to drop using guy-wired parachutes. Although the ride has been closed since 1964, it remains a Coney Island landmark and is sometimes referred to as Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower. Between 2002 and 2004, it was completely dismantled, cleaned, painted, and restored, but remains inactive. After an official lighting ceremony in July 2006, the Parachute Jump was slated to be lit year-round using different color motifs to represent the seasons. However, this idea was scrapped when New York City started conserving electricity in the summer months, and it has not been lit regularly since.
Other notable, currently operating attractions include:
Thunderbolt – In March 2014, construction started on the new Thunderbolt coaster at Coney Island. The Thunderbolt was manufactured by Zamperla at a cost of US $10 million. The ride features 2,000 feet (610 m) of track, a height of 125 feet (38 m), and a top speed of 65 miles per hour (105 km/h). Thunderbolt features three inversions including a vertical loop, corkscrew, and an Immelmann loop. The Thunderbolt is located near Surf Avenue and West 15th Street in Coney Island will be constructed with 2,233 feet of track that will stretch to a height of 115 feet and was built next to the B&B Carousell, Coney Island’s last remaining historic carousel. The opening of the Thunderbolt occurred on June 14, 2014.
B&B Carousell [sic] (as spelled by the frame’s builder, William F. Mangels) – this is Coney Island’s last traditional carousel, near the old entrance to Luna Park. The carousel was built circa 1906–1909 with a traditional roll-operated fairground organ. When the long-term operator died unexpectedly, the carousel was put up for auction, with fears that it would leave Coney Island or be broken up for sale to collectors. However, the City of New York bought the B&B Carousell a few days before the auction; it was dismantled and rebuilt in Steeplechase Plaza, a 2.2-acre public plaza. It was relocated to Luna Park in 2013 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.
Bumper cars – there are three separate bumper car rides on Coney Island, located on 12th street, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, and Eldorado’s Arcade on Surf Avenue.
Haunted houses – two traditional dark ride haunted houses operate at Coney Island, Spook-a-Rama at Deno’s and Ghost Hole on West 12th Street.
The New York Aquarium, which opened in 1957 on the former site of the Dreamland amusement park, is another attraction on Coney Island.
In 2001, KeySpan Park opened on the former site of Steeplechase Park to host the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team.
In May 2015, Thor Equities unveiled Coney Art Walls, a public art wall project curated by former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jeffrey Deitch and Thor CEO Joseph Sitt. Located at 3050 Stillwell Avenue, the project featured more than 30 world renowned artists including legends such as Lady Pink, Crash, Daze, Futura and Kenny Scharf, as well as leading artists of the next generation including Shepard Fairey, Maya Hayuk and How & Nosm. Coney Art Walls returned in 2016 with 21 new murals, including several of the leading paintings and sculptors in New York, in addition to leading artists connected with street culture.
The Coney Island Mermaid Parade takes place on Surf Avenue and the boardwalk, and features floats and various acts. It has been produced annually by Coney Island USA, a non-profit arts organization established in 1979, dedicated to preserving the dignity of American popular culture.
Coney Island USA has also sponsored the Coney Island Film Festival every October since 2000, as well as Burlesque At The Beach, and Creepshow at the Freakshow (an interactive Halloween-themed event). It also houses the Coney Island Museum.
The annual Cosme 5K Charity Run/Walk, supported by the Coney Island Sports Foundation (CISF), takes place on the last Sunday of June on the Riegelmann Boardwalk.
The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter bathing club in the United States founded in 1903. People swim every Sunday November-April at 1 PM.
Coney Island is served by four New York City Subway stations. The Coney Island–Stillwell Avenue station, which is the terminal of the D, F, N, and Q trains, is one of the largest elevated rapid transit stations in the world, with eight tracks serving four platforms. The entire station, built in 1917–1920 as a replacement for the former surface-level Culver Depot, was rebuilt in 2001–2004. The other subway stations within Coney Island are West Eighth Street–New York Aquarium, which is served by the F and Q trains, and Ocean Parkway, which is served by the Q train.
A bus terminal beneath the Stillwell Avenue station serves the B68 to Prospect Park, the B74 to Sea Gate, the B64 to Bay Ridge, and the B82 to Starrett City. The B36 runs from Sea Gate toSheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. The X28 provides express bus service to Manhattan on weekdays.
The three main west-east arteries in the Coney Island community are, from north to south, Neptune Avenue, Mermaid Avenue, and Surf Avenue. Neptune Avenue crosses through Brighton Beach before becoming Emmons Avenue at Sheepshead Bay, while Surf Avenue becomes Ocean Parkway and then runs north toward Prospect Park. The cross streets in the Coney Island neighborhood proper are numbered with “West” prepended to their numbers, running from West 1st Street to West 37th Street at the border of Sea Gate (except for Cropsey Avenue, which becomes West 17th Street south of Neptune Avenue).
The Ocean Parkway bicycle path terminates in Coney Island. The Shore Parkway bikeway runs east along Jamaica Bay, and west and north along New York Harbor. Street bike lanes are marked in Neptune Avenue and other streets in Coney Island.
Tentative plans call for NYC Ferry service to stop at Coney Island, although this has not yet been confirmed.