By the turn of the 20th century, with the help of improved rail and ferry transportation, a thriving amusement park culture at Coney Island, Rockaway Beach, and the South Shore of Staten Island was serving the city's skyrocketing population. These areas often featured a festive atmosphere, with large amusement parks and lively and sometimes bawdy establishments. Originally in private hands, the beaches began to be converted to public uses in the 1920s and 1930s.
The spectacle of the weekly fireworks display at Coney Island illuminates a couple of famous amusement park icons, as well as official city landmarks—the Wonder Wheel (invented by Charles Herman, and built by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Amusement Company, 1920) and the Cyclone (designed by Vernon Keenan and built by Harry C. Baker, 1927). The extravagant delights of Coney Island's entertainment complexes wowed millions of patrons since the 19th century, and are some of the more storied concessions in the parks system. Despite improvements in technology, the two rides are among the most revered in the nation.
After at successful bicycle rental trial at Central Park’s southwest entrance at Columbus Circle, in 2009 Parks awarded a license to Bike and Roll to establish bike rental facilities at this location as well as East River Park, Highbridge Park, Riverside Park and West Harlem Piers Park.
Boating and boat rentals are a pastime whose origins date to early concessions established in both Central and Prospect Parks in the mid-nineteenth century, and continued in later examples such as Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens and Clove Lakes Park on Staten Island. The Prospect Park Alliance operates a pedal boat concession from early May to Columbus Day that launches from a dock by Wollman Rink, while electric boat tours are conducted on a more limited basis from August to early November, and depart from the historic boathouse.
As part of the boating operations, park patrons could be ferried about the lake on this oversized, swan-shaped, canopied boat. An operator would power the "swan velocipede" by pedaling—an activity discontinued in 1924, but still conducted in Boston's Public Garden (and immortalized in the children's story, Make Way For Ducklings ). This largely passive boating experience is quite different from the modern pedal boat concession at Flushing Meadows Corona Park on the artificial Meadow Lake. Its objective is a more aerobic recreational experience as opposed to a largely aesthetic (and genteel) engagement with nature.
Boating has been a popular activity at Central Park since its inception in 1858. By 1869 total passengers numbered nearly 126,000, 35 boats were in operation, and annual revenues were $14,651. The Central Park Commissioners expressed a need for a boathouse "for the protection and storage of the boats and boatsmen," and soon afterwards the first structure on the Lake was built to meet this growing demand. The Boathouse has gone through three incarnations, first as a delicate open-air structure designed by Calvert Vaux (1872), then as a more durable wooden building (1924), and finally as a more solid (and stolid) brick structure (named for donors Adeline and Carl M. Loeb, 1954) which survives to this day. Today visitors can rent row boats for an hourly fee.
Boating has been a popular pastime in Prospect Park since the late 1860s. The Renaissance-inspired boathouse, clad in white terra cotta, was designed by the esteemed architectural firm of Helmle and Huberty, and built in 1905. It was most recently restored from 1999 to 2002 and reopened as the Audobon Center, a visitor and nature education facility. Located on the eastern shore of the Lullwater, the current structure replaced an earlier wooden canopied rustic shelter designed by Olmsted and Vaux erected in 1876 at the mouth of the brook to the north known as the Lullwater.
Bootblacks/Shoe Shine Stands
A shoe shine business provides a marginal livelihood. Early in the administration of Commissioner Robert Moses, the agency sought to eliminate the clutter of many small, haphazardly placed park franchises, targeting in particular bootblacks and newsstands. Most bootblacks were eliminated altogether, except in dense business districts such as the areas around City Hall Park and Union Square.
The new "model bootblack" was designed with two chairs, all-weather cover, and in such a manner so that it could be easily folded and transported.
When this shoe shine operation was founded Grover Cleveland was in his first term as President and Brooklyn was its own city. In 1889 the Caramanica family started a bootblack concession in Columbus Park (formerly Cadman Plaza) at the intersection of Joralemon and Court streets that lasted for more than a century.
Though most shoe shine operations are located in dense, business districts, here the bootblack plies his trade at the workingman's place of origin—a subway entrance—along Eastern Parkway.