Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Coney Island Winter

Site of famous coaster up for sale

Print Email
(Getty Images)

Gone are the days when Woody Allen’s young Alvy Singer would wake up from the rumblings of Coney Island’s Thunderbolt. The 3-acre site that once housed the famous coaster is now up for sale for the second time in two years, owner Horace Bullard told the Wall Street Journal. Coney Island lost the Thunderbolt in 2000, when it was torn down.

Coney Island and the Jews have a long history together. “Nathan’s Famous” hot dog founder, Polish-Jewish immigrant Nathan Handwerker, set up his first shop on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues, practically introducing the European sausage to New York society. The strip’s growing industry attracted rising Jewish entertainers such as Harry Houdini and the Marx brothers, and even Irving Berlin worked there as a singing waiter.

Jews also frequented Coney Island as guests and audience members, clamoring in the bath houses and dominating the busy handball courts. Famous Jewish criminal Abe Reles was kept under constant guard by six policemen at the Half Moon Hotel in the early 1940s.

The area has made a dent on Jewish literary and film culture: The All-of-a-Kind Family book series paints a picture of life on the shore in the summers, people looking for a brief respite from hot city life. Joseph Heller (Now and Then, 1998), Neil Simon (Brighton Beach Memoirs, 1983) and Isaac Bashevis Singer (Enemies: A Love Story, 1972) all grew up in or visited the local neighborhoods, and detail what the everyday looked like by the amusement park’s shows and the consequent social milieus. Recent Oscar-nominee Darren Aronofsky shows the area’s more sordid side in his Requiem for a Dream (2001).

Which brings us to the present: In 2009, Jewish mayor Bloomberg and his administration rezoned the 19-block Coney Island strip and bought seven more acres with the goal of developing more hotels, amusement parks, and housing units. We’ll see what cultural gems this Jewish-Coney Island history chapter produces.

Former Coney Island Roller Coaster Is For Sale [WSJ]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.


To me, Coney Island was an extension of Brighton Beach. My aunt lived on 13th street in BB for more than 35 years and there wasn’t one summer, until I reached the age of 20, that I didn’t spend time walking the boards from Brighton to the Half Moon, Webbers or to the parachute drop. My mother once got stuck on the parachute drop and remained up there for almost 3 hours. When I got older and married, a group of us, at least 4 couples, would have dinner at Lundy’s in Sheepshead Bay and then finish up on the ferris wheel in Coney Island. I’m 82 now, living on the west coast of Florida and how I wish I could do those days again…

Stu Kaplan says:

he article is about the Thunderbolt but the picture is of the Cyclone, perhaps the more popular of the roller coasters.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Coney Island Winter

Site of famous coaster up for sale

More on Tablet:

The Kindergarten Teacher Who Won Cannes

By Vladislav Davidzon — Hungarian actor Géza Röhrig stars in Auschwitz drama Son of Saul