Marie Navarro

A lifelong resident's memories of growing up in Coney Island's Gravesend Houses and Kaiser Park

Born and raised in Coney Island, Maria Navarro says her family came here from Morovis, Puerto Rico in 1957 and lived on West 36th, 27th, 21st, 28th and 29th Streets before settling in Gravesend Houses in 1970.  "Everybody knows each other," says Marie, "When you walk on Mermaid Avenue you run into family and friends and by the time you reach the station, it's 40 minutes, because you stop here, you stop there." The housing project, where she still lives, is located across the street from Kaiser Park,  where Marie remembers growing up playing basketball, hanging out with friends, and fishing in Coney Island Creek. She shares memories of working in the summer youth program at Coney Island Beach, riding the Himalaya and the Zipper, and dancing the hustle in front of the Polar Express. "All I know is Coney Island. I've tried to move out. But I miss it and I come back," says Marie. In 2001, she tried to relocate to the Poconos, but after a few weeks there, she said, "I can't. Too quiet. I'm not a country girl."