InstaBlog: Coney Island Avenue

Author's note: Warning—this is a blog-style post based on a social media post. Beware typos and poorly elucidated thoughts. For more polish, perhaps try an article!

Coney Island Avenue is one of the major north-south streets of Brooklyn, and looking at a map, you would expect it to be a bustling hub of urbanism, like nearby Flatbush or Nostrand Aves. But while it is busy in parts, and is certainly a vital part of the neighborhoods it runs through, it could also use a lot of love.

Physically, it’s clear from the moment you turn onto the street that it is a car-first thoroughfare. The road is wide, and cars drive fast. Sidewalks may look wide in photographs, but in person, they feel tiny compared to the massive-seeming roadway. A large number of businesses along the route are auto focused, from repair shops to gas stations. Such low rise structures surrounded by pavement deeply hurt the walking environment. Don't make a mistake, the street is relatively dense, and often has retail—although with a relatively high vacancy rate. Things improve as you travel south, but not by much.

It would only take small changes to transform the avenue into a walkable street, one which truly serves the communities it runs through. Lane diets, bike paths, curb extensions, and more trees would all help tremendously, as would encouraging new construction which complete the street wall. Small changes could make this important street a place, one where people want to be.

In contrast, culturally, the street is intensely urban, and a joy to walk down. At first, it felt to me like any other part of Brooklyn, until all of the sudden, I realized I was the only woman on the street not wearing a hijab: I had wandered into a healthy and active Afghan & Pakistani community. A few more blocks south, I realized in turn I was the only woman not wearing a long, wool skirt: I was entering the Jewish community of Midwood. Unfounded speculation about why it's always women who get the worst restrictions in different cultures aside, it was a wonderful mix—part of the joy of a diverse, cosmopolitan city.

Coney Island Avenue is important to all these communities, and deserves to be a better place for all of them.

Based on an Instagram post.
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