Throughout this pandemic, we have tried to explore ways to share our vibrant and quirky neighborhood with those that could not visit us. “Characters of Coney Island” is a blog where we feature some neighborhood staples that you might not see on the news or hear about, but their energy and presence is what makes Coney Island unique.
As we head full steam into summer, with the crowds returning back to Coney Island and the neighborhood abuzz with life again, we thought this would be a perfect time to sit down over a beer with local virtual tour guide, and dear friend Ed Dutchmazz! Ed has been sharing his love for the neighborhood with guests for nearly a decade, and is a true champion of all things Coney Island!
Where are you from originally?
I’m from Brooklyn, born and raised.
How did you get into being a guide in NYC?
I became interested Tour-Guiding In 2003 when I volunteered as a New York City Greeter and 9 years ago I quit my corporate job to become a Tour Guide full-time.
As a local guide, what are your favorite facts to share with tourists?
Some of my favorite facts to share with tourists are how “fake” Central Park is, that the Manhattan tower of the Brooklyn Bridge rests on sand not on bedrock and how no one ever got hurt or killed on the Wonder Wheel.
What do you find tourists are most interested in?
Besides historical information most tourists are interested in local food spots and of course how to get there.
Best advice to give a tourist in Coney?
My best advice for tourists visiting Coney Island is to make sure what’s open and what’s closed. Coney is not the easiest to get to and it’s not fun to travel all this way just to find that everything is closed.
What is your connection to Coney Island?
I started to visit Coney as early as I could remember, some of my earliest memories are here. In 2001 I started to photograph fireworks Fridays and never missed one since. My photography led me to the Coney Island USA message boards (this is before Facebook) and over time I ended up becoming a member of the Coney Island Paparazzi – a group of friends and photographers who have covered Coney Island for many years.
What does Coney Island mean to you?
For me Coney represents everything that makes this country great, a place where you’re not judged by how much money you have but the character in your heart. Coney welcomes all without judgment and that is what makes Coney special.
Favorite memory in Coney?
One of my favorite memories is visiting Coney on a super foggy day – all of the rides being open with no lines and riding the Cyclone all alone in the dense fog, I could barely see the track!
Favorite ride/amusement/game/location/feature in Coney?
My favorite ride is of course the Cyclone with the Wonder Wheel as a very close second, and it’s always a treat to catch a Sunset on the Steeplechase Pier.
What is your must have snack/food in Coney?
My favorite must-have snack is the fried calamari at Paul’s Daughter.
Favorite time of day in Coney Island?
My favorite time of day is the evening when it’s not too hot, the sun begins to set and the lights of the rides turn on.
If you could have any dream job/role in Coney what would it be?
I kinda already have my dream job in Coney being a virtual tour guide on YouTube, showing the amusement district and documenting the constant changes on the island… But I wouldn’t mind running the Cyclone or El Dorado auto scooters.
What do you wish you could have experienced in the old ‘nostalgic’ Coney Island?
There’s not a week that goes by when I don’t dream about visiting the old Steeplechase and original Luna Parks. If I had a DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor I’d dial in the date of Memorial Day 1904.
What do you miss about pre-covid Coney/what are you most looking forward to returning?
Since Covid restrictions are beginning to ease up I’m enjoying the crowds – Coney Island without people isn’t Coney. And I’m really hoping the Mermaid Parade makes its triumphant return really soon.
What is your favorite Coney Island Brewery Beer?
My favorite beer is of course is the Merman IPA.
Other fun facts? Scariest/funniest memories?
It always amazes me that back in the 70s the “thing to do” was to switch seats on the Cyclone on the lift hill. And I never get tired of seeing people freak out on the swinging cars of the Wonder Wheel.