In which I support malls

Coney Island's been in the news lately–lots of scuttlebutt about a big real estate developer buying up the little shacks and stands along the main amusement stretch, with the intention of razing them and putting up a mall (and, apparently, a water park, beach be damned).

I have no special affinity for big real estate developers, and I think it's impossible to like a company that names itself Thor, but at the same time I don't feel too bad for the people running Yet Another Gyro stand who would be forced out by the new development. I can't imagine that an entire mall wouldn't lead to more jobs in the neighborhood than food stands, and moreover it might provide something that Coney Island has lacked since its inception–a year-long economic life.

Keyspan park is lovely, and the home games for the season sell out on opening day. But it was built as a hasty compromise between the Guiliani administration and the Mets to ensure that Guiliani could get what he really wanted: a minor league stadium for the Yankees in Staten Island. The stadium sits unused all but 30 or 40 days each summer, and the people who come out for games have no incentive to come back once the season ends.

The throngs of tourists that make driving down Surf Ave. unbearable from Memorial Day to Labor Day (or is the other way around?) are a nuisance for those who have to pass through the neighborhood on a daily basis, but there's nothing more depressing than Coney Island in the winter. Fans of desolation should check out some of the neighborhood scenes in Requiem for a Dream. Whatever life a mall would provide in the neighborhood during the winter months would be a huge boon, both economic and social.

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