Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Profile: The "Mayor of Coney Island"

Stan Fox is staring death in the face. He's standing in a cemetery of mannequin corpses, doll heads, and giant primary-colored dinosaurs that used to be part of a child's ride -- all the remnants of Astroland's Amusement Park.

I try not to make the obvious joke, but Fox grimaces. As always, he gets it.

"Who knows what will happen to all this stuff," he said. "Maybe it will just become extinct, huh?"

The unofficial "mayor" of Coney Island has dressed the part today. A Wonder Wheel pin attached to his Hawaiian shirt and a black Coney Island baseball cap shading his tanned face from late summer, he wanders through the park that once was, stopping to chat with game operators and concerned residents.

He tells me about a meeting that will take place on Monday night to determine the ultimate fate of Coney Island. It doesn't look good. Owner Carol Hill Albert has just over two weeks to negotiate with Thor Equities, which has other plans for the landmark site.

"The atmosphere has been doom and gloom," he said. "The operators are putting their lives on hold, not sure if they'll still be here next season."

Fox has lived in Coney Island for 44 years. He would like to see the area become a "world-class entertainment center." And he will attend every meeting until the city makes a final decision.

"If you travel anywhere in the world, people have heard of Coney Island. Unfortunately, the place they imagine may not be the same place in a few years. I'm sad to see that happen."

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