Mermaids mix fun & activism

The Brooklyn Paper

This weekend’s edition of the 26th Annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island had all the fanciful flotsam and jetsam you’d expect – but serious political dissent was never more than a couple of nautical leagues away.

“Thor [Equities] is the devil,” the Reverend Billy roared when the Bay News found him on West 10th Street just prior to the parade’s 2 p.m. start on Saturday.

“We each have a Coney Island inside our souls that we must keep nourished –we gotta feed that fish,” this year’s official “King Neptune” gamely preached. “We will drive back the 30-story tall tourist hotels – you’ve got to be able to see the Wonder Wheel when you approach on the subway. We’re not gonna hide the Parachute Jump with a bunch of high-rises – amen, hallelujah!”

While the king clearly set the theme for the 2008 Mermaid Parade – stop the Bloomberg administration’s bid to shrink Coney Island’s amusement district to just nine acres and not allow big developers like Thor Equities and Taconic to build skyscrapers higher than the Parachute Jump – his “Queen” kept it going even after the parade ended.

That’s when Savitri D, glimmering in metallic silver body paint for the march, climbed into a corner window of Coney Island USA – organizers of the parade – to begin a four-day fast leading up to the Community Scoping Meeting held earlier this week at Lincoln High School.

Coney Island watchers logged on to watch the whole thing broadcast on a live webcam.

Up on the boardwalk the real Thor – as in the son of Odin – marched before a set of crude cardboard condos proclaiming, “Thirty stories blocks the Wonder Wheel. We want to see the sea.”

Although the many challenges facing Coney Island may not have been far from their consciousness, many marching in this year’s Mermaid Parade had more pressing concerns as they readied themselves for the annual jaunt taking them over the boardwalk, down West 16th Street and over Surf Avenue.

“We’re blowing bubbles to make it look like we’re underwater,” Valerie from Hoboken, New Jersey said. “This is my second year [in the parade] and I really learned a lot from last year because everyone is so outlandish and crazy. I love how people take pictures because it makes you feel like a little mini-celebrity.”

Sexy gold siren Jessica Rosario came all the way from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with her partner Ryan just to march in this year’s Coney Island Mermaid Parade.

“We do Mardi Gras in New Orleans so we had to see how they do it up here,” she said. “I’m digging the costumes. The costumes are great. Everyone’s really friendly.”

Crown Heights resident Josh Sledge grabbed five of his closest buddies and spent the week prior to this Saturday’s parade turning their bicycles into a school of fish out of water.

“I’ve been down here and seen it a couple of times since I come to New York,” he said. “It just came together and seemed like the right year to do it with the right group of people.”

As the Cyclone plunged another group of passengers over the edge, Amanda Johnson and her friends set about magically transforming a Pilates ball, a few pool noodles and some netting into a convincing purple octopus.

“I dress up every year but this is the first year that I actually was like, ‘let’s get a group together, we gotta march,’” the Harlem resident said. “It may be the last year. They’re going to start developing all of this. I think the Mermaid Parade will still exist in some form or another…but it was just time.”


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