Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather, there was a massive turnout for today's annual New Year's Day Coney Island Polar Bear Club swim. With temperatures in the lower fifties, there was nothing holding back the masses from stripping down to their trunks and bikinis and BP bio-hazard suits and running into the Atlantic Ocean—which wasn't exactly bathwater, but compared to the frigid weather and blizzard conditions we've recently experienced, today's temps made for a nearly perfect day at the beach. As such, the bragging rights that came with this year's swim aren't very exclusive, but the atmosphere was jubilant, and a lot of money was raised for Camp Sunshine.
Over at Ruby's Bar and Grill, which may have opened for the last time today depending on what the courts decide, the mood was more somber. A spread of snacks and leftover Christmas cookies cluttered the bar, which wasn't serving any booze because (we're told) the person who had the special permit hadn't shown up yet. Fans of the quintessential boardwalk dive milled around and chatted soberly about the latest outrage foisted on the Coney Island amusement district. "It's a damn shame," said Anthony Natale, a winner of the coveted Best King Neptune costume contest at the Mermaid Parade. "The heart of Coney Island is being torn out so that Sodexo—a French food service company that our new governor took to court for racist employment policies and ripping off New York students—can come in and operate a sports bar."
"Where is the Mayor? Where is Marty Markowitz?" asked Thomas Couteau, an angry Coney Island local who took to the beach with a sign condemning amusement giant Zamperla for evicting Ruby's and eight other businesses with just two weeks' notice. "The city used our tax money to buy this land back from Joe "Shit," and now they're just going to turn into a boring strip mall you could find in Ohio. If I wanted that, I'd move to Ohio."