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New Coney Island mural brings mermaid to the boardwalk

coney island mural
Danielle Mastrion restored the "Coney Island" lettering on the gates of Ruby's Bar and Grill and painted the boardwalk's first mermaid mural.
Jim McDonald

Mermaids made a long-awaited return to the shores of Coney Island when a new mural featuring a sea-dwelling siren was unveiled along the Riegelmann Boardwalk.

The painting is the first mermaid mural to face the ocean directly from the beloved walkway, said Sheepshead Bay artist said. 

“There hasn’t been a mermaid mural actually on the boardwalk,” said Mastrion, who clarified that there’s a mermaid painting on the side of Tom’s Restaurant and others that have faced side streets.

The painted mythical creature, located on the gates on Ruby’s Bar and Grill, will stand beside another mural depicting Coney Island’s original amusement district, currently in the works. The large-scale, carnival-themed mural will be painted in the style of an old photograph, said the artist.

“The scene is going to be a cityscape of old Coney Island to honor the amusement parks,” said Sheepshead Bay artist Danielle Mastrion. “It’s going to have elements of each park.”

The project is Mastrion’s latest endeavor to brighten up Brooklyn’s summertime refuge, which comes after several other painting projects — such as a large fish mural she painted on the boardwalk, a painting depicting the face of a woman in Luna Park, and several murals inside Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. 

Most recently, the area’s business-boosting Alliance for Coney Island hired Mastrion to paint the gates of storefronts along Surf Avenue. When she was working on the project, the owner of Ruby’s Bar and Grill approached her and asked if she could paint Ruby’s gates as well.

coney island mural
Artist Danielle Mastrion spray paints the mermaid mural on Ruby’s Bat and Grill.Robert Galletta

“I said, ‘Wow, this woman’s really talented, maybe I’d be lucky enough to have her do something at Ruby’s,” said owner Michael Sorrell.

Sorrell and Mastrion decided on the mural of the amusement park cityscape together, but Mastrion chose to paint a mermaid on an adjacent gate on her own. 

“I was pretty honored that he gave me creative freedom,” Mastrion said. 

Sorrell also asked Mastrion to retouch some lettering artists Hawley Hussey and Naomie Ross painted on one of the gates more than 10 years ago that read, “Coney Island.” 

Those letters were originally part of a bigger message reading “Save Coney Island” that Ruby’s commissioned in 2009, around the time that the owners of Luna Park threatened to close the 87-year-old establishment along with other boardwalk businesses.

Sorrell said he wanted to preserve that memory now that Coney Island is under threat again — this time, by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The “Coney Island” lettering was part of a different mural another artist painted 10 years ago when Ruby’s was threatened with eviction.Mark J Wolodarsky

“Now we’re in a time when Coney Island is in flux, in disrepair. If you go into Coney Island, you’ll see that gates have graffiti on them,” he said. “[We wanted] to keep the spirit of Coney Island alive.”

The two murals, which will be completed within the next few weeks, will hopefully bring some light amid the difficult times, Sorrell added.

“We wanted to do something that will be a big draw to the history of Coney Island,” he said.

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