Spinning old Brooklyn tales for Coney Island History Project

Amazing how life comes full circle.

From ages 12 to roughly 30, I lived in Coney Island, a neighborhood that was a far cry its heyday preserved in black-and-white photos and newsreels. I lived in the projects, surrounded by empty, junk-filled lots, rabid dogs, and the shadows of a once-cherished seaside destination. I left after establishing a career as a writer, but returned to it in verbal form courtesy of the Coney Island History Project.

The non-profit organization approached me to participate in its oral history series after reading my Coney Island memories in an esports article. I was interviewed on July 10, 2017. The interview posted relatively recently. I’d be very happy if you’d take 22 minutes to listen to it.

I’ve been interviewed many times over the years, but this is the one that meant the most to me. It isn’t very often that someone wants to tell your origin story, a process that truly makes you appreciate the journey from the past to the present.

Image courtesy of Coney Island History Project

I rode to Coney Island inside a 70-year-old subway train

The New York Transit Museum is one of my favorite summertime destinations.

Seriously. I love learning about the intersection of culture and infrastructure in regards to New York City’s physical and lifestyle expansion. If you’ve never made the journey to the corner of Boerum Pl. and Schermerhorn St., please do so.

The New York Transit Museum offers many interesting events throughout the year, but few are as cool as the Nostalgia Ride. Held a handful of times throughout the year, the Nostalgia Ride lets ticket-holders board vintage trains headed to distant locations within city limits. I had the great fortune to participate in the Coney Island Nostalgia Ride on 7/12/2014. Here are some details courtesy of the New York Transit Museum:

Join us on the ever popular, boardwalk-bound Coney Island Nostalgia Train! Ride the 1930s R1/9 cars of the Independent Subway System above and below ground for a two-hour jaunt. Then visit Coney Island’s beach-side amusement park, take a dip in the ocean, or stay on the train for additional rides.

The well-kept cars were equipped with ceiling fans that kept passengers cool, retro advertisements straight out of the ’40s, and large windows that let natural light pour inside when we exited tunnels and surfaced. The train truly felt like a machine from another era. Others felt that, too. As the five R1/9 cars expressed through Brooklyn—and those suckers moved FAST!—commuters waiting for the regular rides marveled at the functional relics.

Once the train reached Coney Island, we were given several options: stay on board and ride the N and D train routes, take a small tour, parts ways permanently, or enjoy the beach/amusement park for a few hours until the train returned to pick you up. In addition, the friendly staff gave us small history lessons on the subway, passed around old school tokens, and took us on a tour when we reached our seaside destination. It was a leisurely, serene experience.

The younger passengers fiddled with their phones and tablet—much to their parents’ chagrin—but those of us over 30 snapped photos, filmed video, and exchanged subway stories. Perhaps appreciation of the past is something that comes in time as we make that not-so-slow march toward oblivion, but New Yorkers with even the slightest love for the subway system should give the Nostalgia Ride a go.