Did you know that there is a beach in New York City? Yup, it’s true! You can even get there by subway! As Barry Manilow sings in his tribute to the iconic seaside: “the fun never ends on Coney Island!”
Most people don’t think of sand and surfing when they picture New York City. But like an oasis in the desert, it’s there, nestled away in Brooklyn, one of the five boroughs of New York City.
In fact, some of the most recognizable symbols of New York City were born there, including Nathan’s Hot Dogs. There’s also an amusement park, home to the famous Cyclone roller coaster. More on that later.
But is it safe? Is it possible to have the best of both worlds, city, and beach, all in one place, and still be safe? Read on, and this article will answer your questions.
Coney Island History
Coney Island was born in the late 1700s and spent its infancy as a colonial town. Quickly it evolved into a seaside resort. The first hotel was built on Coney Island in 1829.
Giovanni de Verrazzano, namesake of the Verrazano Bridge, which links Brooklyn and Staten Island, was the first European settler to spot the island in the 1500s. The first Dutch settlement dates to the mid-1600s.
The exact origin of the name ‘Coney Island’ is disputed. The previous Native American inhabitants called it ‘Narrioch,’ which roughly translates to ‘land without shadows’ or ‘always in light.’
Coney Island can lay claim to being home to the first amusement park, Steeplechase Park, created in 1897. The more famous one is Luna Park, opened in 1903. You can see it all for yourself in the 1917 Buster Keaton silent film ‘Coney Island.‘
The first actual roller coaster, The Switchback Gravity Railway, opened to the public even earlier, way back in 1884. Nearly one hundred and fifty years ago! Three of the rides from Coney Island amusement parks are nationally recognized and preserved landmarks.
One of them is the Cyclone, as mentioned above, one of the world’s oldest still operating wooden roller coasters. It features a 58-foot drop and will reach its centennial anniversary in 2027.
Why Move To Coney Island?
There are lots of attractive reasons leading people to live in Coney Island. The beach is right there. The city is right around the corner and easily accessible. Then there are the icons of Coney Island.
Besides the amusement parks and roller coasters, there is the Wonder Wheel, a city landmark. It’s an over one hundred-year-old steel ferris wheel which stands one hundred fifty feet tall.
If anywhere is home of the hot dog, it’s Coney Island! You might know that if you are a fan of the annual hot dog eating contest held there. Besides the flagship location of Famous Nathan’s hot dogs – the name even includes the word famous – steps away on the boardwalk, don’t forget Feltman’s, which claims to be the inventor of the hot dog!
There is also an Aquarium, a minor-league baseball team, and an amphitheater hosting live musical acts. Popular beaches include Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach.
The final temptation is the humid subtropical subclimate. It can get to over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Even in the winter, the record high has reached seventy degrees Fahrenheit.
Fun fact! The island actually became a peninsula in the 1920s by way of filling in the creek that separated it from Brooklyn.
Brighton and Manhattan Beach border Coney Island in the East, Lower New York Bay on the South and West, and to the north Gravesend. Don’t let the name freak you out. It’s actually one of the safest neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
Coney Island Demographics
Coney Island encompasses 3.4 square miles and the total population at last count was about 120,000. That breaks down to about 35,000 people per square mile.
The average median age in Coney Island is 47.6 and the income segment with the highest share of residents is under 20,000 per year. Almost a quarter of Coney Island residents live below the poverty rate.
The median average income, however, is over forty thousand a year. Over half of Coney Island residents identify as white. 17% identify as Hispanic, 13% as African American and 11% Asian. The rest identify as other nationalities or mixed. 52% of residents identify as female.
Coney Island has a large share of foreign-born residents and over two-thirds of households have a language other than English spoken at home. Over half the residents are foreign-born, nearly twice the median rate of New York City as a whole.
Coney Island Real Estate
Over the last five years, the real estate market in Coney Island has seen some fluctuations:
As of the first quarter of 2023, Coney Island’s median home sale price was $429,000, down 6.7% year-over-year. The median price per square foot was $424, a decrease of 22.1% compared to the previous year. The number of transactions decreased by 50.9%, with a total of 26 transactions. Comparatively, the median home sale price in Brooklyn was $755,000, down 5% year-over-y.
Over the years, the median sale price in Coney Island has varied. Here are some figures for the first quarter of each year:
- 2019: $380,000
- 2020: $412,500
- 2021: $440,000
- 2022: $460,000
- 2023: $429,000
The median sale price per square foot also fluctuated over the years. Here are some figures for the first quarter of each year:
- 2019: $551
- 2020: $531
- 2021: $429
- 2022: $544
- 2023: $424
The number of real estate transactions in Coney Island varied too. Here are some figures for the first quarter of each year:
- 2019: 35
- 2020: 45
- 2021: 31
- 2022: 53
- 2023: 26
The median home sold price in Coney Island in April 2023 was $340,000, down 27.0% compared to the previous year. On average, homes in Coney Island sold after 57 days on the market compared to 92 days the previous year. There were 13 homes sold in April, down from 22 the previous year. The sale-to-list price ratio was 95.4%, a decrease of 1.5 points year-over-year, and 7.7% of homes sold above list price, a decrease of 5.9 points year-over-year.
However, it’s worth noting that Coney Island property values are generally lower than the broader borough of Brooklyn. Different property types also showed different trends in Q1 2023. Condos had a median sale price of $561,000 (down 9.1% YoY), coops were at $385,000 (down 6.1% YoY), and houses were at $585,000 (down 3.9% YoY).
That is the question. Overwhelmingly, in Coney Island, the answer is yes. 85% percent of residents rent their apartment instead of owning their domiciles. The average home value of owner-occupied homes is just over half a million. 93% of housing units in Coney island are occupied.
Overwhelmingly, the majority of units are one-bedroom. Most households include two or more people. Married couples constitute almost half of the households. The average rent is over 1,100 dollars a month. A little over 30% of Coney Island residents are considered rent-burdened.
Coney Island Health Coverage
The main hospital serving Coney Island is Coney Island Hospital, a part of the NYC Health+ Hospitals network. It is located at 2601 Ocean Parkway.
The hospital has over 370 beds in operation, has seen close to 8,000 clinic visits over 75,000 ER visits and it’s even been the birthplace of over 1,000 crying babies! Patient Representatives are available to assist you by phone Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm.
Opening soon will be the brand new state-of-the-art Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital serving the South Brooklyn area. This 11-floor tower will house surgical suites, private patient care, emergency care, and lighting designed to promote healing.
Seventy percent of residents rate their health as good, very good, or excellent, and ninety-two percent eat fruits and vegetables daily to keep the doctor away. Coney Island also has a slightly lower air pollution rating than the rest of New York City, contributing to better health.
Coney Island Transportation
Actually, one of the most thrilling parts of traveling to Coney Island is the subway. After you come out of the tunnel, the subway becomes elevated, and you are greeted by blue skies, an endless horizon, and lots of sunny light.
You can see the waves crashing ashore and day trippers whipping around on the roller coasters. Emerging from that urban tunnel to above a shimmering and colorful landscape is truly a magical trip.
To be less dreamy and more practical about traveling to and from, you can consider that the average travel time for residents of Coney Island to get to work is just under forty minutes. Literally. By like 35 seconds.
Fun Fact! Coney Island really grew as a destination after the advent of the subway in the nineteen twenties. Records suggest that the name ‘Coney Island’ came into common usage when ferry service began in the early 19th century.
The Coney Island area is served by Transit District 34, which is headquartered at the Stillwell Avenue Station. This station is one of the largest elevated rapid transit stations in the world, with four platforms and eight tracks. The area is served by the D F, N, and Q lines.
There are also bus lines, parkways and bicycle paths. And of course, the boardwalk!
Coney Island Schools
Is Coney Island child-friendly? Is it a safe place to raise a child? Good question.
Thirty-three percent of residents of Coney Island are children with families. However, in all transparency, Coney Island is low on the rankings of best places to raise a family, coming in the lower tenth percentile.
On the other hand, it does fall just outside the top ten ranking of most diverse neighborhoods in America. Children under 18 make up almost a quarter of the population.
In all truth, it is a fun place for a child to grow up. You have lots of fun places for them to go on the boardwalk and at the amusement parks. There are new rides like the Zenobio, built for today’s generation.
Also, there are plenty of traditional parks, playgrounds public spaces and a healthy community of children’s activities organized by community groups. The NYC Parks system maintains both the beaches and the parks.
Recreation is fantastic, but what about education? Time to take a moment to take a closer look at this important topic.
Coney Island Education
The highest percentage of Coney Island residents only possess a high school diploma or less. But around 40% possess a bachelor’s degree or higher.
There are several well-rated public and charter schools in Coney Island, including the Mark Twain gifted and Talented Magnet School, which attracts students from all over the city. Children in Coney Island can choose to attend any school in the New York City public school system.
Schools in Coney Island are maintained by NYC Geographical District #21, which includes Coney Island’s Abraham Lincoln High School and Rachel Carson HS for Coastal Studies. Overall, District 21 teaches around 33,000 students and has a four-year graduation rate of 76%. The rate of absenteeism is a little higher than the citywide average.
Coney Island Politics
Coney island is governed by the 8th Congressional District of New York City. The current representative is Hakeem Jeffries, who is a Democrat and also the House Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Coney Island is also represented on the New York City Council by District 47. The current representative is Ari Kagan, a former civil awareness journalist who emigrated to New York City from Belarus with his family.
Coney Island is in the New York State Senate’s 23rd District and the New York State Assembly’s 46th District. Coney Island has remained solidly democratic-leaning through the majority of its voting history.
But Is Coney Island Safe?
The 60th precinct of the New York Police Department patrols Coney Island. The station is located at 2951 West 8th Street.
Coney Island doesn’t have the greatest statistics when it comes to crime. While burglaries seem to be down year over year, there has been a rise in instances of felony assault, murder, robbery and grand larceny since the same period last year.
The serious crime rate per 1,000 residents in 2021 was a little less than the city as a whole, at 10.8 per 1,000 residents, versus 12.2 citywide. The violent crime rate was 4.5 per 1,000 and the property crime rate 6.4 per 1,000 residents, both also lower than the citywide rate.
As a whole, there are a few ways to be certain to increase your odds of safety on the streets of Coney Island.
- Go out on the weekends or in the daytime. If you go out at night, make sure it is during times and in places with large crowds, like the boardwalk.
- Stay in tourist-y areas.
- Avoid east of Stillwell Avenue.
In general, Coney Island is safe for women and there is a regular police and MTA presence. MTA is the transit authority.
Other tips for safety that are specific to Coney Island include:
- Be alert. Don’t stare at your screen and be aware of your surroundings.
- Wear sandals or shoes on the beach to protect your feet from errant needles or toxic objects.
- Don’t leave your drink unattended.
- Trust your instinct and if a situation feels sketchy, exit the situation.
- No need to be polite if someone bothers you.
- Walk with confidence and keep your eyes on guard.
- Avoid eye contact with the homeless or mentally ill.
What Coney Island Residents Say
Finally, what do the residents themselves have to say?
Recent polls suggest that a majority of residents only feel somewhat safe. The rest of the respondents report feeling either very or pretty, or not at all safe.
Police are visible but slow to respond, say most respondents. An even split of the remaining respondents think either the police are adequate or inadequate. They say gun violence and drugs are two issues they are trying to combat.
The two most helpful tips residents offer for those coming to Coney Island are to get to know your neighbors and get involved in the community.
Other comments by residents include “the closer to Brighton Beach you get, the safer you are” and ‘the more west you go, the worse it gets.’ They say it’s best as a day trip and to leave before the sun goes down.
That should tell you all you need to know. If you want to know more about Coney Island, listen to one of the many famous songs about this oasis in New York City by popular artists such as Lou Reed, Taylor Swift, Van Morrison, and more!
Now you’re ready to catch an elevated train to “heaven at the end of a subway ride”!
Born and raised amidst the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, I’ve witnessed the city’s many exciting phases. New York is not just a city to me; it’s a living, breathing entity. When I’m not exploring the city or penning down my thoughts, you can find me sipping on a cup of coffee at my favorite local café, playing chess or planning my next trip. For the last twelve years, I’ve been living in South Williamsburg with my partner Berenike.