A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 11, 2008
Poor Man’s Riviera (Coney Island)

Coney Island has provided a beach and entertainment for everyone—rich and poor alike. The nickname “poor man’s Riviera” (or “working man’s Riviera” or “Brooklyn’s Riviera") has been used to describe Coney Island since at least the 1940s.

Orchard Beach in the Bronx has been called “the Riviera of New York” (or “Bronx Riviera") since the 1930s. 


Wikipedia: Coney Island
Coney Island is a peninsula, formerly an island, in southernmost Brooklyn, New York City, USA, with a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. The neighborhood of the same name is a community of 60,000 people in the western part of the peninsula, with Seagate to its west; Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach to its east; and Gravesend to the north.

The area was a major resort and site of amusement parks that reached its peak in the early 20th century. It declined in popularity after World War II and endured years of neglect. In recent years, the area has seen the opening of KeySpan Park, home to the successful Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team. 

Wikipedia: French Riviera
The French Riviera (French: Côte d’Azur, Occitan: Còsta Azzura) is one of the most famous resort areas in the world, extending along the Mediterranean Sea west from Menton near the Italian border, including the cities and towns of Monaco, Nice, Antibes, and Cannes. Other sources extend the Côte d’Azur further west to include Saint-Raphaël, Sainte-Maxime, Saint-Tropez, Hyères, Toulon, and Cassis.

3 July 1947, New York (NY) Times, “Jones Beach, One of World’s Best” by Meyer Berger, pg. 23:
No other beach or playground offers so much for so little, not even Coney Island, which is called the poor man’s Riviera. Jones Beach is immaculate. 

21 July 1948, New York (NY) Times, “Rockaway Salute Snubbed by Coney,” pg. 25:
Rockaway Beach will weep for Coney Island tonight with an air waterfalls fireworks display to be called “Rockaways Salute to Coney Island—A One-Time Great Beach.” (...) However, Coney officialdom is scorning the tribute, contending that the poor man’s Riviera will “outdraw Rockaway every day of the week.”

9 July 1954, Lima (OH) News, pg. 21:
Coney Island, the poor man’s Riviera, is booming with life again now that Summer’s come.

16 March 1958, New York (NY) Times, “The Visitors’ New York: Q&A” by Herbert Mitgang, pg. SM38:
...Coney Island, “the poor man’s Riviera”; Jones Beach, “the suburbanite’s Riviera”;...

8 April 1974, New York (NY) Times, “Coney I. Awakens for a 145th Time” by Paul L. Montgomery, pg. 69:
It was the formal opening of the 145th season for Coney Island, the sagging amusement complex at the end of Brooklyn that its publicists call “the poor man’s Riviera.”

24 March 1975, New York (NY) Times, “Spring Officially Arrives Here; Coney Island Opens Its Season,” pg. 34:
For the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, yesterday’s sunny weather marked the end of a good, chilling season. But for the thousands of others who flocked to the “poor man’s Riviera” for the first Sunday of spring, it was just the beginning.

10 July 1977, Hartford (CT) Courant: pg. 11F:
Coney Island: Poor Man’s Riviera

New York (NY) Daily News
CONEY BOOSTER IS DEAD AT 80
By BILL FARRELL
Thursday, February 6th 1997, 2:01AM
To Milt Berger, life was a day at the beach provided the beach was Coney Island and you rode the Cyclone before you went home.

For more than 50 years, Berger used his singular public relations talents to help draw millions each summer to the stretch of Brooklyn beachfront some called the “working man’s Riviera.”

That ended when Berger, 80, who had been ill in recent years, died Monday.

8 August 1997, New York (NY) Times, “In Praise of Geegaws” by Dick D. Zigun, pg. 23:
Not your ordinary beach, but legendary Coney Island beach—the World’s Playground, the Poor man’s Riviera, the birthplace of hot dogs and roller coasters.

New York (NY) Daily News
CONEY A SHORE THING
Surf, sand & rides withstand changing tides
By BOB LIFF DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Wednesday, July 5th 2000, 2:13AM
(...)
It was the busiest day so far for Brooklyn’s traditional “working man’s Riviera,” still the resort of choice for the transit-riding masses.

Google Books
How We Got to Coney Island:
The Development of Mass Transportation in Brooklyn and Kings County

by Brian J. Cudahy
New York, NY: Fordham University Press
2002
Pg. xi:
Now largely a residential area, Coney Island is still the people’s Riviera on those warm and humid summer afternoons when the residents of New York need a place to find relief from the weather in a place of surf and sand at the end of the subway ride.

New York (NY) Times
MUSEUMS: From Sand Castles To Old Gray Mares; Once More to the Beach
By BARBARA DELATINER
Published: September 5, 2004
LABOR DAY has sneaked up on us, and the end of summer—with its low, gray clouds—beckons. But here are a couple exhibits that might let you hold onto summer a bit longer.

In the beginning, Long Island’s shorefront, from Coney Island to Montauk, was strictly business, used by residents to feed and sustain their communities. But a strange thing happened in the early to mid-1800’s: wealthy New Yorkers realized the shore was a haven from the city’s heat and health risks. By the 1850’s and 1860’s, Long Island had become a place known for its summer hotels and boarding houses.

From the 1880’s through the 1920’s, improved steamboat and railway service turned Coney Island into ‘’the poor man’s Riviera,’’ while with the help of the expanded Long Island Rail Road, eastern parts of the Island increasingly attracted the rich. Then, in the 1920’s, Robert Moses and his Long Island State Parks Commission decided to open the shorelines to the masses. By 1950, 16 state parks with 8 major beaches had arrived.

New York (NY) Times
August 10, 2007
Spare Times
(...)
MUNICIPAL ART SOCIETY, Sunday at 10 a.m., “Brooklyn Riviera: Coney Island and Brighton Beach,” meeting in Brooklyn on the northeast corner of Stillwell and Surf Avenues, Coney Island. (212) 439-1049. $15; $12 for members.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNeighborhoods • (0) Comments • Monday, August 11, 2008 • Permalink