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Coney Island Elegy

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The bald and rotund hamburger guy welcomed generations of boardwalk strollers to Astroland, itself in danger of extinction.

Coney Island as we know it is clearly on the way out, as real estate interests given the green light by the Bloomberg administration prepare to turn the place into the slick, faceless, could-be-anywhere sort of resort that you might find in Florida, or in Dubai. Meanwhile, the hardscrabble collection of carnies, antediluvian rides, and non-franchise fried foods that had been a magnet for 100 years has been shown the door. The latest of several blows to what we loved about the long, semi-detached island has recently been chronicled in Eater. Coney Island will no longer be allowed to look like itself.

So, as an elegy to a half-forgotten land — more a frame of mind than a land — here are some photos that I shot in 2003, mainly focusing on the charming sorts of hand-lettered food signs never to be seen again, as the franchise restaurants and $15 cocktail places flood in. Note how perfectly these signs define the shoreside cuisine — never will clams be as important to Coney Island as they once were, nor Italian-American specialties, many invented in Brooklyn. And no more ears of corn rolling endlessly on their little metal treadmills.

FOOD ART ON THE ASTROLAND BOARDWALK CONCESSION

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A corner view: Note the offer of Kebabs and Beef Patties, two treats — one Middle Eastern, the other Jamaican — that had worked their way into the Coney culinary canon.

The mate of the rotund bald man, conspicuously wearing a Sabrett apron, and a Brooklyn Beer emblem.

Next: More miscellaneous gustatory signage …

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OTHER CONEY ISLAND DINING ESTABLISHMENTS AND SIGNAGE

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