Old New York Theme Park
Imagine a stroll through ‘Old New York‘ from the the Rainbow Room of the 40’s, into the bongo infested West Village of the 50’s, past the 60’s Dylan/Warhol scene, culminating at the 70’s Disco Glam of Studio 54.
A place that doesn’t exist, but should.
It’s a themed retro-zone designed to trigger New York nostalgia and the requisite souvenir shopping, photo-ops, and virtual thrill rides.
Now that the enormous New York Wheel has suffered an agonizing death, what should be done with the Staten Island shorefront appropriated for it? Infrastructure was built in anticipation of large crowds and long lines, but the Empire Outlets shopping mall shouldn’t carry the entire burden of enticing tourists off the boat to spend their vacation dollars.
Visitors of a certain age have great nostalgia for the not-to-distant past. Old New York could be e ‘Retro-Zone’ not tied to any particular historical period. We imagine a general nostalgic theme with costumed actors, entertainment, and virtual thrill rides.
`Round suggests building ‘Old New York‘ to be fashioned after the ‘Old Hong Kong‘ attraction at Ocean Park amusement park in Hong Kong, and with some features similar to the New York New York Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.
Ocean Park is the second most popular amusement park in Hong Kong, after DisneyLand, and features thrill rides, a zoo, aquarium, and various themed areas. One small corner of the park contains ‘Old Hong Kong’ a themed village that captures the sights, sounds, and smells, of a lost era.
Actual Hong Kong changes rapidly with nary a glance toward its colorful past. Just 20 years ago one would see rickshaws on the streets, live birds in the markets, and Junks and Sampans silhouetted in the sunset. Those days are gone, along with the smells and street noises. Visit Old Hong Kong with a person who grew up in the British colonial days and you’ll see misty-eyed nostalgia that only a theme park can evoke.
Old Hong Kong is just about the size of the Staten Island harbor-front lot previously intended for the New York Wheel.
We’re talking about fun, not solemn ‘edu-tainment’. We don’t need to re-tell the Ellis Island story or the rags to riches Lower East Side experience. Those exist. Neither do we advocate a sugar-coated experience.
Let’s have something different, with authentic character actors, sounds, smells and tastes, and a real good reason to step off the ferry boat for an hour. Pay some homage to the New York cultural scenes… Jackson Pollack, Keith Haring, Simon and Garfunkel, Velvet Underground, CBGB’s, Broadway theater, and the Apollo.
Old New York would be a physical place with storefronts, entertainment venues, and plenty of shopping. There should also be virtual experiences like shoreline helicopter rides around the past, present, and future New York; from the 1950’s to the 2050’s. Or, star in your own ticker-tape parade!
For nostalgia to work properly it needs to stay close to the visitor’s lifespan, or that of their parents. Scenes from a century ago are history, not nostalgia. We suggest exploiting New York icons of the 1940’s through 1970’s: from zoot suits to mini-skirts, and from GI’s to hippies.
Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted electric horseless carriages for Central Park… they would be perfect for shuttling visitors to and from the Ferry and outlet mall. Let’s not forget the seashore with opportunities to quote the boardwalk and Coney Island.
Old New York is simply a great idea, commercially viable, and pretty easy to pull off. Tourists will love it and locals will take their families. There are several adjacent attractions; the Staten Island FerryHawks minor league ballpark, the 9/11 memorial, Empire Outlets, the Lighthouse Museum, a new Westin hotel, and Minthorn Street bars and restaurants.
A closing thought about turning lemons into lemonade… look at the River Walk in San Antonio, or Gastown in Vancouver Canada. Years ago these were unappealing districts and dark hangouts for winos and transients. Today, thanks to visionary entreprenuers, both are richly textured neighborhoods and must-see highlights for visitors. The Saint George neighborhood of Staten Island is reinventing itself rapidly and can become a similar destination. At last.