My son's baseball team from Bayside, Queens, had the good fortune to play a doubleheader last week at MCU Park in Coney Island, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones.
The kids made life-long memories on the minor league field as a salty breeze blew in off the blue Atlantic.
Afterward, I strolled with the kids and their parents, middle-class families from Queens, along the storied Boardwalk of the Poor Man's Paradise on a perfect Indian summer Saturday afternoon.
The Boardwalk crowd was dense, diverse, joyous. Uniformed cops stood in bored knots under blue skies. The destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy had all been repaired. We ate food from the expanded Nathan’s on the Boardwalk at picnic tables in this oasis of my Brooklyn tenement youth.
“Wow, Coney is great these days,” said Vic from Whitestone.
“Beautiful,” said Lou from Bayside. “Who knew?”
“It used to be so dirty and scary,” said Janet.
“I had no idea it was this nice now,” said Liz.
The Wonder Wheel spun like a timeless clock. The Cyclone roller coaster rumbled by like an echo from the halcyon days of the last century.
“Reminds me of Times Square after it was cleaned up,” said Vic. “Coney has been transformed. No more gangbangers. No guys trying to sell you dope. No panhandlers. You gotta give Bloomberg some credit, no?”
I looked around and nodded.
He was right. Amid the hoopla of Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign about a city of haves and have-nots, Mike Bloomberg has been taking a lot of hard kicks in the butt on the way out the door.
But sometimes it takes a walk on the Coney Island Boardwalk in the clear sea air with real people raising real families in area code 718 to look around and give Bloomberg credit for some of the good things he’s accomplished as mayor.
Coney is better. And Bloomberg gets points for the smoking ban, which I opposed because it bothered me that a combat vet who lifted a glass to his fallen buddies in a VFW post on Memorial Day couldn’t light a Lucky Strike the way he did on Pork Chop Hill.
But the truth is few New Yorkers miss gagging in restaurants.
Okay, so Bloomberg couldn’t get a football stadium built on the West Side of Manhattan. But he backed the Barclays Center and helped give Brooklyn a professional home team in the NBA’s Nets, along with the top music venue in the U.S.A.
Still, New York is a better city than it was when Bloomberg took control from Giuliani.
I realized that last week as I strolled with other middle-class families along the revitalized Coney Island Boardwalk that was an idyllic tribute to the dwindling days of Mike Bloomberg.