On a normal Saturday when the temperature is 80 degrees and sunny in NYC, you can expect Coney Island to be bustling, with the boardwalk packed, the Wonder Wheel rolling, and swimmers squeezing shoulder to shoulder along the shoreline.
It goes without saying these are not normal times. With the city gripped by demonstrations against police brutality, and the beaches closed to swimming in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, Coney Island was a shadow of its usual summertime self on Saturday. Luna Park, the Wonder Wheel, and the Cyclone are all closed, and there was plenty of room to spread out along the beach.
Photographer Gretchen Robinette went out to Coney Island on Saturday to document the scene, or lack thereof. She reports that the people who did visit Coney Island on Saturday "did a pretty decent job at distancing for the most part. The pier was pretty packed though! Park workers were stationed at the pier entrance with a counter for each person coming or leaving the pier, but a large section of it had people just crammed all in and partying. Some restaurants were busy, like Nathans." Beloved boardwalk dive bar Ruby's was also open for takeout business.
NYC is expected to begin the first phase of reopening on June 8th, but the amusement district rides will not be part of the first phase, which applies to construction, manufacturing, wholesale business and curbside retail. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the city is training lifeguards for a possible lifting of swimming restrictions at local beaches later in the summer, but no decision has been made on if that will actually happen. Until then, the closest beaches for permitted swimming are Sandy Hook in New Jersey or Long Island's Jones Beach state park, which has cut parking lot capacity to half.
It's anyone's guess if and when the Coney Island rides will be back this summer. In the meantime, if staring at a screen in an attempt to replicate a real-life experience that is currently impossible due to a catastrophic pandemic doesn't depress you too much, please enjoy this "virtual" ride on the Cyclone!