Once a hotspot of summer freedom, today Coney Island serves as a harsh reminder of how easily remnants of a idealized Americana can fade.
And while off-seasons are typically rough for many summer locales, Coney Island may have seen its last golden summer. As of January 2011, many well-known businesses closed their doors, restaurants served their last drinks and faced eviction while demolition crews waited eagerly on the horizon.
As photographer Nathan Kensinger brilliant captures in his series on the forgotten beach town, perhaps Coney’s best remaining symbol of its colorful past is the Playland Arcade.
“Built in 1935, it evolved from a Silver’s Penny Arcade and remained open year-round until 1981. The arcade once faced the legendary Thunderbolt roller coaster, which was famed for the 1895 hotel located beneath its tracks. The Thunderbolt and the Kensington Hotel were torn down in November 2000, during another off season “surprise attack,” demolished by the city to make way for “waterfront development plans for a new, more profitable Coney Island.”
“Today, the Playland Arcade faces a broad empty field and has been abandoned for many years. Inside the arcade, an army of raccoons and cats has taken over. If not for the freezing winter weather, the stench of their urine would be overwhelming. Hundreds of empty cat food containers litter the floor. Large sections of ceiling have come down, allowing rain and snow to rot the interior. Collapsing walls are propped up by police barricades. Trees grow in the squalor.”