Crack Open a Textbook: 14 Things You Never Knew About Coney Island

Everybody knows Coney Island. 

Whether it's The Warriors from the days of old, or the mysterious HQ for Christian Slater in Mr. Robot, generations old and new are quite familiar with Coney Island at least on the surface-level name recognition basis. 

Every New Yorker has been there, and has strong feelings about it, too. Some hate it, but most of us love it.

But Coney Island is massively significant historically speaking, not only just to New York City or even the whole United States, but to the entire world.

Oh, you didn't know that? Shocking. 

Here’s 14 other things you may never have realized about Coney Island.

1. It actually was an island




The island became connected to the mainland because a landfill site.

2. It was named after rabbits


Tons of bunnies used to live on the island. “Coney” was a common nickname for “rabbit” back in the day. 

As with many things in New York, we have the Dutch to thank for this name, as they called it Conyne Eylandt.

3. It was a destination resort

Before the Brooklyn Bridge, before the subway, getting to Coney Island was a journey and a half. 

You think an hour on the subway is bad? P-shaw!

4. It’s not one amusement park-- it’s three


When Coney Island was built, it consisted of three major amusement parks: Dreamland, Steeplechase Park, and Luna Park. That’s less noticeable today, but distinctions still remain.

5. Hot dogs were made popular there


Hot dogs were around other places, like the Polo Grounds, but it took a guy named Nathan Handwerker to shape them into how we experience them today. 

He was the first to master the art of the hot dog cart, and his brand of the eponymous snack became what Americans generally identified as the hot dog.

The original restaurant that he established can still be found on Coney Island. What, you’ve never heard of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs?

6. It’s the center of the sideshow universe


To this day, magicians, vaudevillians, jugglers, carnival barkers, buskers and performers of all shapes, skills, and sizes consider Coney Island either their home base, or a venue at which they must appear regularly to remain relevant.


7. It’s been the biggest attraction in America

Between the late 1800’s and World War II, Coney Island attracted several million visitors a year. It’s said that 20 million people visited it in the year 1909.

Compare that with the 5 million that showed up for the first year of Disneyland in 1955.


8. It inspired Walt Disney’s world takeover


Because Coney Island was drawing so many people so regularly, it inspired Walt Disney to build his own theme park incorporating his characters. As we all know, this worked out very well.


Disney’s place as a leading world wide conglomerate is unquestioned, but it would be nowhere without Coney Island to spark that flame.

9. It’s long been a political football


Coney Island has been at the center of more political debates, threats to destroy it, restore it, or renovate it more than just about any other New York Landmark. 

Need some examples? Coming up…

10. Daddy Trump tried to demolish it

Fred Trump, Dad of The Donald, once declared Amusement Parks “dead” and tried to have it demolished so he could build… wait for it… luxury condos! Sound familiar?

But New York City resisted Trump’s efforts to re-zone the area for anything but amusements, and he gave up the fight for it in the 70s.

11. Rudy Giuliani destroyed the thunderbolt on the sneak


In the 90s businessman Horace Bullard had been planning to restore the old Thunderbolt coaster, when it was suddenly demolished early one morning on the order of Rudy Giuliani.

Why did Rudy do that? Glad you asked…

12. Rudy altered Coney Island for the Mets?


Giuliani swore to New Yorkers that he wasn’t planning to put a parking lot where the Thunderbolt was, but that’s just what he did. The lot was for the new ballpark built for the Mets’ farm team, the Cyclones, who play there to this day.

It’s long been a rumor that Rudy did so as per a request from the Mets, which is why this writer nearly choked to death when Rudy was shown prominently in Derek Jeter’s Yankee sendoff commercial.

13. It’s prominently featured in many famous movies


Including a movie named after it, you can find Coney Island in a ton of films, including Romeo is Bleeding, Cloverfield, Paper Moon, The Love Bug, the Taking of Pelham 123, and, of course, The Warriors


There’s LOTS more…

14. It’s in a lot of songs, too