Coney Island marks New Year’s Eve, Brooklyn style
Borough President’s Brain Child Creates Family-Friendly Alternative to Times Square
“We schlepped all the way from the Upper East Side on the D train,” writer Shira Dicker explained, while she, along with her husband Ari Goldman, a professor at Columbia University, waited in line for a turn on Coney Island’s venerable B & B Carousell. “Coney Island, Nathan’s and a ride on the carousel — what a quintessentially New York way to welcome the New Year!” Dicker said as the line moved quickly around.
The rides were brief and entrance was free, as workers kept the crowd moving at a rapid clip. After riding the ornately painted horses, New Year’s Eve celebrants might purchase “2017” lighted eyeglass frames or pastel-colored glow sticks from one of several vendors. Those who hadn’t filled up on Nathan’s found sustenance at the White Castle Express.
Whether or not eschewing the million-plus mob 14 miles away that fills Times Square is “quintessentially New York” or not, Borough President Eric Adams boasts it as cool in much the same way Brooklyn has come to view itself as Manhattan’s finally-out-of-the-shadows hip sibling.
It doesn’t hurt either that Brooklyn’s own virtual ball drop from the landmark Parachute Jump, accompanied by fireworks over the Atlantic, gives people a reason to come to Coney Island during a time when it’s typically dormant, awaiting the spring like some thick-furred animal hibernating deep in its den.
“I did the ball drop in Times Square as a cop,” Adams told The New York Times in 2015. “And I recall scratching my head and saying, ‘Why would anyone want to be packed around like cattle and stand around for several hours?’ There has to be a better way to bring in the New Year.”
By nine o’clock, Priceless & the Priceless Band had taken to the stage, playing contemporary music in a variety of genres. The audience still numbered in the hundreds, rather than the thousands.
In spite of the limited availability of rides, the mood was good overall. People didn’t erupt into cheers whenever a still cam or video pointed their way as they do in Times Square, but they smiled and waved happily enough with some encouragement.
Exhibitions of sword swallowing by Coney Island regular Adam “Real Man” Rinn and fire dancing interspersed the Priceless Band’s sets. A little boy, momentarily separated from his family, was presented on stage by NYPD Community Affairs Bureau personnel before being quickly reunited with a harried-looking father.
As midnight drew close, Adams, City Councilmembers Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch and state Sen. Diane Savino took the stage to formally welcome 2017.
By the time the electronic ball descended the Parachute Jump and fireworks erupted over the Atlantic, the cheering crowd numbered at about 3,000, far short of the numbers Times Square commands, and a bit shy of the previous year’s estimate of 5,000 celebrants. Part of the reason might be that while similar temperatures were forecast for the last day of December 2015, this year the National Weather Service issued warnings of wind gusts in excess of 40 miles per hour, making the beach a less than ideal place to spend the night.
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