Coney Island is located in the southernmost portion of Brooklyn. The peninsula presents itself not only as the entertainment district thanks to popular funfair, but also the residential one that hosts a balanced and fascinating melting pot of ethnic groups which, together, form a community of more than thirty thousand people. Our itinerary also includes moving to less known neighborhoods such as Homecrest, Bensonhurst e Bay Ridge, for this, I recommend that you use all public transport that the city of New York offers.
- Do you want to get to know this area better? Read our guide to Coney Island.
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- Route map
- Nine and a half weeks and He got game
- The Wheel of Wonders, Two Weeks to Fall in Love and Brooklyn
- Films shot on the Riegelmann Boardwalk
- Little Odessa
- Bronx and The Godfather
- Saturday Night Fever, Twenty-fifth Hour and Little Men
Nine and a half weeks e He got game
Just out of the main (1) Coney Island Station of the DFNQ metro lines, you will come out on Surf Avenue, the artery that is teeming with shops and stalls of sweets, popcorn, ice cream, cotton candy and donuts as well as the many fast food and restaurants at good prices. There is an iconic scene in "Nine and a half weeks”(1986), in which the protagonist couple comes out running from the subway station to spend a few hours in the neighborhood between romantic walks, jokes and lots of fun.
Coney Island is a universe that lives its maximum splendor during the hot summer period when it is crowded with people who seek refuge in the light-heartedness of the fun rides in retro sauce or in the relaxation of the languid beach inebriated by the sea breeze of the ocean.
In 1998 Spike Lee, with the vibrant "He got game”, Set in Coney Island, with rare skill brings to light, through script and photography, both the attractions and the contradictions of this suburb. Unhappy protagonist Jake Shuttlesworth (Danzel Washington) finds himself paying dearly for the mistakes he made in a difficult, unfortunate and sad past by serving a prison sentence. The passion and attitude towards the game of basketball, also strongly transmitted to his son Jesus before disappearing for years, rushes to his rescue.
The governor, a fanatic basketball fan, offers Jake a sentence reduction as long as he can persuade the now mature American basketball promise, Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen), to join his team at Big State University. So Jake, escorted by two pre-trial detention officers, temporarily comes out of jail to join and convince his son who still lives and studies in Coney Island. On this week-long "vacation", Jake is placed in a small tavern inside a building frequented by prostitutes and disreputable individuals. The window of his apartment overlooks the first and original restaurant (2) Nathan’s Famous, at the corner of Surf Avenue and Stillwell Avenue. In the same venue, the two agents who follow and observe Jake's every move seem to appreciate the delicacies on sale during well-deserved lunch breaks.
Nathan's Famous it is undoubtedly the most famous fast food in the area; it is said that the first sandwich filled with Viennese sausage and topped with ketchup and mustard was invented here. In 1916, Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker started the business with a frugal stall where he prepared hot dogs with a secret spice mix invented by his wife. Nathan's Famous now boasts millions of fans, supplies in every supermarket in America and active restaurants around the world.
Going past the fast food restaurant, you will immediately see the most famous attractions of the amusement park. Rides, roller coasters, go-karts and bumper cars but, above all, the emblem of the amusement park: the (3) Wonder Wheel, the colorful Ferris wheel present since the beginning of the last century and on which you can choose to take a ride with both fixed and mobile cabins. Still in "He got game"(1998) we find Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen) with his girlfriend Lala (Rosario Dawson) appropriately choosing a fixed cabin, not only to focus on the panorama…
The Wheel of Wonders, Two Weeks to Fall in Love and Brooklyn
But the famous Ferris wheel is the background, together with the golden age of Coney Island in the XNUMXs, also to the events of the protagonists of the recent Woody Allen comedy "The wheel of wonders"(2017).
The coastline overlooking the Atlantic Ocean is about five kilometers long and includes, in addition to the famous (4) Coney Island Beach, also the beaches of Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach.
- To find out more, read our guide to New York beaches
Coney Island remains the favorite beach for New Yorkers to relax for a few hours in front of the ocean. The beach appears very clearly in the romantic comedy "Two weeks notice - Two weeks to fall in love”(2002) where Lucy Kelson (Sandra Bullock), a brilliant environmental lawyer, introduces herself to entrepreneur George Wade (Hugh Grant), intent on preventing the construction of the new condominiums of the Wade Corporation that would damage part of the beauty of the coast.
Also in the film "Brooklyn”(2015), the crowded Coney Island beach is revived when the shy Irish employee Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) takes a trip to the beach in the company of the Spanish plumber Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), with whom she falls in love.
The seafront that connects the neighboring beaches of Coney Island and Brighton Beach is named after Riegelmann Boardwalk, in honor of the former President of the Brooklyn district, Edward J. Riegelmann, who promoted and led its construction until the inauguration in 1923. Along the wooden walkway of about four kilometers, there are an infinite number of shops, cafes, fast food and tourist attractions ranging from New york aquarium until'MCU Park, stadium of the Brooklyn Cyclones, a team that plays in a minor series of baseball. Among the many restaurants present, (5) Ruby’s Bar & Grill is the place where, "The wheel of wonders”(2017), Ginny Rannell (Kate Winslet) works as a waitress.
The restaurant, located at 1213 on the Boardwalk, was chosen by Woody Allen because, having been in business since 1934, it represents a milestone in the area. In addition to the delicacies it offers, it is the only place where you can walk "under" the promenade, as the ceiling is built with the same original 20s wooden planks that the promenade itself is made of.
Legendary owner Ruby Jacobs, giving an interview, said:
Coney Island is the elixir of life. I was interviewed once and the guy asked me what was the best food in my restaurant. I told him to turn around, admire the ocean and take a deep breath. That's the best food I can offer.
Films shot on the Riegelmann Boardwalk
Il (6) Riegelmann Boardwalk he has been immortalized in numerous scenes of many other films. In "Demolition - To love and to live"(2015), the unfortunate and still upset Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal) meets Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts) in front of the Ford Amphitheater, an outdoor entertainment space inaugurated in 2016, at number 3052 on the west side .
In "Nine and a half weeks"(1986), John (Mickey Rourke) and Elizabeth (Kim Basinger), strolling romantically along the west promenade, meet a group of kids who, in exchange for a few dollars, offer to play them a hint of the soundtrack of" Lo shark ”performed with unpleasant flatulence.
The desolate waterfront and the raincoats worn by the protagonists indicate that these sequences were shot in a season other than the summer. In fact, Coney Island in the winter period undergoes a radical change from the high season, thus leaving residents the opportunity to fully enjoy the entire area without an exaggerated crowds.
In the movie "He got game”(1998), Spike Lee chooses to set the heart of the story in the crowded blocks of flats between 29th Street and 32nd Street, always on the west side of the peninsula. These austere and slender condominiums, while facing the ocean, are a long way from the glittering lights of the amusement park, the real economic engine of the neighborhood.
The municipal basketball courts of the (7) Nautilus playground, between concrete and sand, they are the most precious asset for the kids who inhabit these popular housing projects. Jake Shuttlesworth (Danze Washington) imposes with great severity and excessive fanaticism daily basketball training on his son Jesus from an early age, even verbally urging him: “it's me and you… and Michael Jordan; the only ones in the world who play… all the others are asleep! ”. And again: ”Never let yourself be seen weak. If you miss the basket you have to do ten push-ups! ”. And it is precisely on the same field that the two find themselves after years still dueling in an exciting one-on-one, where anger, suffering and love are the opposite feelings that ignite and animate the challenge.
In the neighbor Brighton beach, not widely represented in the world of cinema, the drama was shot entirely "Little Odessa”(1994), winner in Venice of the Silver Lion for Best Direction by James Gray. There (8) home of the Shapira, in which the family of Russian mafia killer Joshua Shapira (Tim Roth) lives, who is called back to complete a new task in the neighborhood after a prolonged exile, is located at 3091 Brighton 5th Street.
Despite the great sorrow caused to the family of Russian origin and Jewish religion, Joshua still enjoys a very strong bond with his teenage brother Reuben (Edward Furlong). The title of the film is inspired by the massive immigration of Soviets to the area since the mid-70s; they were mostly Russian and Ukrainian citizens of Jewish origin. In this new "Little Odessa"Opened a large number of businesses, shops, restaurants, clubs, offices and banks, with writing in Cyrillic.
Bronx and The Godfather
Despite the name, the film "Bronx”(1993) was shot primarily between Astoria, Queens, and Homecrest, Brooklyn, a few miles north of Brighton Beach. Written by Chazz Palminteri and directed by Robert De Niro, the upright and honest bus driver, Lorenzo Aniello (Robert De Niro), bravely fights against Sonny (Chazz Palminteri), the Italian-American boss of the neighborhood, to stop his only son Calogero Aniello to follow in the easy footsteps of the underworld.
Once grown, Calogero known as "C" (Lillo Brancato), manages to maintain good relations with both his father and the Boss. In love with Jane, a black girl, however, he finds himself having to face the unjustifiable war between rival gangs that occurs at the first meeting with the girl. Calogero, in fact, is forced to stop near a subway underpass, a few steps behind the girl's house, to keep away from the bar frequented by a gang of blacks ready to chase the white out of the neighborhood.
The underpass is located on the intersection of the (9) Gravesend Neck Road e la East 16th Street. In the first film of the trilogy of "The Godfather”(1972), on the luxurious and tidy East 5th Street, is the (10) villa of Clemenza (Richard S. Castellano), at number 1999. This precious member of the Corleone Family has been a friend of Don Vito (Marlon Brando) since the time when the two Italian emigrants met in New York at a young age for an exchange of favors. Leaving the house to "fix" Don Vito Corleone's driver, Clemenza's wife reminds him to get the cannoli before his return.
In Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece gangster-movie, it is not clear where those cannoli are bought. Perhaps in one of the many Sicilian patisseries in Brooklyn's Little Italy, in the Bensonhurst neighborhood, not far from Homecrest.
Saturday Night Fever, Twenty-fifth Hour and Little Men
Right in the Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge neighborhoods, a certain Tony Manero (John Travolta) moved with the ease of a strong star of his talent for dancing and winning beautiful girls. These neighborhoods are certainly not the most popular tourist destinations in New York, yet those metropolitan, spartan and démodé streets recall totalizing emotions in the minds of the most passionate cinephiles.
"Saturday night fever"(1977) not only had the merit of launching John Travolta's career and the overflowing disco-music, but also of staging the unease and desire for redemption of the children of the many immigrants who poured in rivers towards the last free spaces on the outskirts of large American cities.
During the long opening sequence to the tune of Stayin 'Alive, Tony walks with a sure and sprung step along 86th Street, a shopping street framed by the elevated railway and shored up by the lived-in shop shutters. While so many businesses that appear in the film have disappeared or changed management, (11) Lenny’s Pizza it has survived for over forty years, at 1969 86th Street. Here Tony stops to take two slices of freshly baked margherita, placed one on top of the other.
To tell the truth, the success of the pizzeria is not only linked to the parallel one of the film and to the merchandising that followed in the years to come, but also to the tasty slices of pizza that are prepared at an industrial pace. There (12) villa of the Manero family, a family of Italian origin, can still be seen at 221 79th Street in the Bay Ridge neighborhood. The two-story building, despite having been partially renovated, still has the appearance of the classic welcoming and warm home of the American middle class.
Also in Bay Ridge, at 9715 3rd Avenue, is the pub (13) Kitty Kiernans, which became a milestone for the neighborhood community thanks also to the fortunate appearance, in the guise of Brogan's, in "The Twenty-fifth hour"(2002) by Spike Lee. From the entrance of the restaurant you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge.
The interior of the venue, in authentic Irish style, proved to be a perfect choice for a film set in an Irish-American community. This is where Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) unleashes his vibrant and angry rant against all of New York and its narrow-minded inhabitants. But the monologue ends with the self-accusation: “No… No, fuck you, Montgomery Brogan. You had it all and you threw it away, you ugly dickhead! " As the actor Edward Norton says about the film: "It's a parable about bad choices, about remorse and regret for having thrown away a promising life".
Il (14) Verrazano-Narrows bridge also appears in the distance in the delightful film "Little Men”(2016), when Brian Jardine (Greg Kinnear) is forced to rescue his fallen son Jake on roller skates. Still in "Saturday night fever”(1977), the absolute protagonist Tony Manero, is used to combine stupid jokes with friends walking in balance on the edge of the bridge itself which is also the crowded starting point of the New York marathon.
From one of the many benches of the (15) Bay Ridge Promenade, inside Shore Road Park, it is easy to be impressed by the sight of the suspended link that connects the boroughs of Staten Island to Brooklyn; in the company of Karen Lynn Gorney, the actress who plays Stephanie Mangano, still a young John Travolta spends some pleasant moments between chatter and tenderness.Read all the other cinematic itineraries