Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Q-and-A with Amy Nicholson, director of 'Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride'

"Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride" examines the greed and politics that have helped gut the neighborhood. The film centers on Eddie Miranda, the Zipper's operator who, despite turning profits, was forced to shut down after 38 years of operation.

Director Amy Nicholson's film also includes an interview with developer Joe Sitt, whose rezoned-to-death vision is turning the neighborhood "into a chain store wasteland," as the Observer put it.

"Zipper" has been on the film festival circuit, and now receives a week-long theatrical release starting Friday at the IFC Center on Sixth Avenue. While the documentary focuses on Coney Island, Nicholson explores issues that are being experienced in other NYC neighborhoods.

Here, she answers a few questions about the film and the ongoing march of luxurification throughout the city.

When we last talked, you had a slot at the First Time Fest 2013 in the East Village. How does it feel to get a theatrical release now at IFC?

I feel so lucky and I keep thinking someone is going to call and take it all away. It’s kind of unreal. I couldn’t be more excited.

[Via the "Zipper" Facebook page]

What do you think makes a place like Coney Island so special?

There’s something magical about carnival atmosphere. It’s pure fun. All the lights and noises and people screaming and everything moving and the smells from the food ... Then you combine all that with a beach and you add in all those sounds and smells and it’s just heaven.

But what makes Coney Island so special is that it has a very rich history of being a place where people can come and blow off steam, let it all hang out. You can scream, dance, eat a hot dog, eat some candy, wear whatever you want, act freaky, look at something freaky, be amazed, be scared — it’s all there. And all are welcome.

Does Coney Island still feel special to you? Or is it starting to become Anywhere On a Beach USA?

Something big is missing now and I really think it left along with some of the people who were displaced with the rezoning. Coney Island’s history isn’t just baked into the place, it is baked into the people who are down there. They grew up there and they could tell you stories that a kid in corporate khakis and a polo shirt can’t.

I also think it has lost some of its aesthetic value. So much of the great hand painted signage was literally just thrown out. Why did Paul’s Daughter on the boardwalk have to be “cleaned up?” That was one of the most photographed buildings in the world! And then there’s the new carousel building, which is trying way to hard to be fun with those big kooky letters. I don’t know — it all just seems off.

You were at the last day of Big Nick's on July 28. What closures around the city have been particularly painful for you to see?

Colony Records, Joe’s Dairy, The Rawhide, Max Fish... In my neighborhood [Greenwich Village] in the past three years alone we’ve lost Joe Jr’s, The Food Emporium, Groom-o-rama Pet Shop, Jefferson Market, which, as we speak, is being transformed into the Rudin Sales Office for Greenwich Lane – the ultra-luxury condo, maisonette and townhouse development going up on the former St. Vincent’s Hospital site. They’re advertising the “discretion” their new residents will enjoy, whatever that means.

These closings are all so painful. And in their places we see an explosion of banks, frozen yogurt chains, cellphone stores – all the businesses that can afford the astronomical rents.

Do you see any end to the chaining of NYC?

Not yet. My husband and I talk about this all the time. It will only end when those businesses have no customers and the landlords realize that they can no longer charge those rents that moms and pops can’t touch. We’re talking about a very long process to try and undo what has been done.

Nearly six years went into making "Zipper." Do you have another documentary subject in the works?

Not yet. But I have a few ideas. First I am going to sleep and save some money.

Zipper Trailer

Find more about the movie here. Find IFC showtimes here.


Jill W. said...

This is an excellent, if painful film, and I urge everyone who can to see it during it's run at IFC center. Docs like this are hard to program, so give it some love!

Gojira said...

And speaking of the destruction of the neighborhood, this morning the backhoe came in and they began tearing down the back walls of Mary Help of Christians, exposing the interior for the (mostly uninterested) passersby to say goodbye to. Me, I stood at the bus stop and wept while all the cool people stared at me..

moe said...

Just to throw in a story, I was grew up as a full on coney island streetrat kid, thru the 60's and most of the 70's, supposedly rough times down there but we never thought so and I still don't, I think it was the greatest place to grow up ever. Anyway one of our many moneymaking hustles was to hang out around certain rides to pick up the money that fell out of patrons pockets as they were tossed about, and wound up on the street. The Zipper was the number one most productive, due to the repeated rolling inversions of the cars, and the reasonably large mesh of the caging that allowed the change to escape. Back then a quarter was actually worth quite a bit, even more so to us kids. On a busy Saturday we could make $10 or more, really a small fortune to a 10-year-old in 1967. I will probably not see this film as seeing what has happened to my beloved CI just makes me sad.