One With the Freaks
July 13, 2008 - Every year, it seems, another chunk of old Coney Island is sold off, boarded up, demolished or just plain left to rot, and the pace of it all is quickening. This spring, the city announced a new plan that would cut the proposed area for amusements from fifteen acres to nine, thereby freeing up room for the Vegas-style hotel development conceived by developer Joe Sitt. There will, someday soon, be a spiffed-up, brand-new Coney Island, not unlike the not-so-new-anymore Times Square. But there are certain remnants of the old carny town that find a way to survive year to year, and most important among them is Coney Island's Sideshows by the Seashore. It represents a bit of bona fide Americana that doesn’t really exist anywhere else. The Astroland amusements have long been superseded by rides at even the most dog-and-pony theme parks, but if you hanker to see a man with a ’nad the size of a crash helmet, or a woman with an unfortunate birth defect eating crushed lightbulbs, there’s only one place left to go.