Coney Island (Pulau Serangoon)



Coney Island, also known as Pulau Serangoon, is located off the coast of Punggol in northeastern Singapore. Originally just 13 ha, the island now spans 100 ha after a series of reclamation projects. A 50-hectare park managed by the National Parks Board was opened on the island in October 2015.

History
Coney Island was originally known as Pulau Serangoon (sometimes spelt “Pulo Serangoon”), but the popularity of the English name caught on over time. In fact, the name Coney Island also referred to Pulau Satumu, an offshore island in the southwest of Singapore, where Raffles Lighthouse stands.Pulau Ubin lies further northeast of Coney Island, separated by the Serangoon Harbour.2

In the 1930s and ’40s, the island was referred to as Haw Par Island,3 as it was then owned by brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, who were famed for their Tiger Balm brand of analgesic heat rub. The Aw brothers constructed a 600-square-metre bungalow on the island, which still exists today and is now known as the Haw Par Beach Villa.4

The island was sold in 1950 to a businessman, who developed the island into a leisure resort called Singapore Coney Island. Opened by 1951, it was touted as “Singapore’s first island health resort”. Among the facilities available on Coney Island were a dance hall, a restaurant and bar, as well as seaside accommodation.5 Just three years later, however, the island was put up for auction. By this time, the island had become popularly known as Coney Island, though the name Pulau Serangoon was also in use. Compared with its size today, the island was much smaller then at around 32 ac (13 ha).6

Land reclamation
After a few changes in ownership, the government acquired Coney Island from a Thai businessman in 1972.7 Land reclamation was kickstarted in 1975, increasing its land mass to around 154 ac (62 ha). There were tentative plans to develop Coney Island into a recreational destination with chalets, a beach and a marina for pleasure boats.8 A bridge was also planned to connect Coney Island to Punggol, but this only materialised much later. Meanwhile, visitors had to take a half-hour boat ride from Punggol Point to reach the island unless they owned boats.9

After the reclamation, besides some boaters, campers, picnickers or people catching shellfish, there was not much activity and no development was carried out on the island.10 Furthermore, the pungent smell emanating from the pig farms in Punggol wafted over to the island, making water activities on the island unpleasant.11

In the 1980s, plans to connect Coney Island with the mainland by further reclamation were revealed, but this met with some opposition as it was felt that this would result in the island losing its natural feel.12 Reclamation work to extend the southern part of Coney Island began in the 1990s in tandem with the implementation of the Punggol 21 plan, which included building a 50-hectare park.13 The southern portion of Coney Island was reserved for residential purposes.14 The reclamation narrowed the channel separating Punggol and Coney Island to between 100 m and 200 m. This body of water, along with part of Sungei Serangoon, was converted into Serangoon Reservoir in 2007.15

Coney Island Park
On 10 October 2015, after years of gestation and a 15-month construction, the 50-hectare Coney Island Park was officially opened on the island, which has been enlarged to 100 ha. The park features a two-kilometre-long -beach, a boardwalk and basic amenities. The island’s natural state was largely retained for the rustic feel, while environmentally friendly features were adopted. For instance, the toilets use rainwater and solar-powered water pumps, and recycling timber from uprooted trees is given a second life as benches and boardwalks. Neither electricity nor piped water is available on the island.16

Visitors can use two bridges on each end of the island: one connected to Punggol and the other to Pasir Ris Coast Industrial Park.17

Flora and fauna
Within Coney Island Park are different habitats such as mangrove swamps, coastal forests and woodlands. While casuarina trees are ubiquitous on the island, it is also home to 86 other tree species, more than 157 animal species and around 80 species of birds including locally endangered species such as the black-crowned night heron and the spotted wood owl. Coney Island is also a popular stop for migratory birds like the Asian drongo-cuckoo, and nestboxes have been installed around the island for the migratory birds.18

The tree species on Coney Island include the last two surviving native cycads previously on mainland Singapore – one about 3.5 m in height and the other a cluster of more than 2 m in diameter. Cycads are woody plants that reproduce from seeds. Resembling palms, the trees have a stout trunk and a crown of large compound leaves. Cycads once grew in great abundance along the coast of Singapore in Katong, but were threatened by development works. The National Parks Board then transplanted these cycads to Coney Island.19

Other wildlife that inhabit the island include a group of smooth-coated otters, a globally threatened species found only in Asia. Its dam is located at the east entrance of Coney Island Park, along Pasir Ris Coast Industrial Park 6.20 The elusive sultan dragonfly can also be seen on the island. Males have a dark red body, while females are yellow and slightly larger.21

The most famous of all the wildlife on the island is the lone Brahman bull, which made the island its home. It had been discovered while the park was being developed and found to be very ill, but the bull was later nursed back to health and roamed the island freely.22 On 28 September 2016, veterinarians sedated the cow for its annual health checkup, but failed to revive it. Its death was announced on 12 October.23

Future plans
An interim park and an area zoned for sports and recreational purposes are in the pipeline of future developments on the island.24




Author

Fiona Lim



References
1. In the Court of Judicature of Prince of Wales Island, Singapore and Malacca. (1856, August 26). The Straits Times, p. 5; Page 2 advertisements column 5. (1937, January 30). The Straits Times, p. 2; Page 12 advertisements column 2. (1955, September 9). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Punggol 21: A waterfront town of the 21st century. Singapore: The Authority, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
3. Page 2 advertisements column 5. (1937, January 30). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Ang, B. (2015, October 17).Coney Island: A walk on the wild side. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/ 
5. ‘Coney Island’ for S’pore. (1950, April 4). The Straits Times, p. 7; Page 7 advertisements column 2. (1951, March 21). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Page 10 advertisements column 3. (1954, August 20). The Straits Times, p. 10; Pleasure isle for sale. (1955, September 8). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Chew, L. C. (1972, November 21). PSA takes over 32-acre Coney IslandThe Straits Times, p. 3; It’s yours, if you’ve a million to spare. (1971, August 31). New Nation, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1974, March 14). Reclamation at Pulau Serangoon (Vol. 33). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 153. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); $14.5m holiday resort plan for Coney Island. (1974, March 11). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Tan, W. (1998, June 23). A last look at lonely ConeyThe Straits Times, p. 3; Chew, L. C. (1972, November 21). PSA takes over 32-acre Coney IslandThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Rooke, A. (1976, December 18). Pollution at isle hits the sun-loverThe Straits Times, p. 17; Low, A. (1985, March 22). Islands that are worlds apartThe Straits Times, p. 18; Cheong, C. (1987, April 18). Coney Island: Last of the halcyon daysThe Straits Times, p. 21; Lim, R. (1987, April 16). Coney Island to be swallowed upThe Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. De Silva, G. (1989, July 29). Keep Pulau Seletar as it is – a ‘hideaway’ islandThe Straits Times, p. 37; Rooke, A. (1976, December 18). Pollution at isle hits the sun-lover.  The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tortajada, C., Joshi, Y. K., & Biswa, A. K. (2013). The Singapore water story: Sustainable development in an urban city-state. New York, NY: Routledge, p. 142. (Call no.: RSING 363.61095957 TOR)
12. Cheong, C. (1987, April 18). Coney Island: Last of the halcyon daysThe Straits Times, p. 21; Tan, L. L. (1987, May 29). New town at ConeyThe Straits Times, p. 28; Coney Island project: A call to think again. (1987, April 22). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Coney Island to be turned into a getaway for nature lovers. (1996, October 10). The Straits Times, p. 34; Tan, W. (1998, June 23). A last look at lonely ConeyThe Straits Times, p. 3; Low, M. (1995, November 8). URA to sell Changi land for resort use, reclaim 100 ha off PunggolThe Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Punggol 21: A waterfront town of the 21st century. Singapore: The Authority, pp. 8, 13. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
15. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report(1997, July 28). Estimates of expenditure for the financial year 1st April, 1997 to 31st March, 1998 (Vol. 67). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 1123. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Tan, H. Y. (2007, January 31). Makeover for more water bodies in the worksThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Tan, A. (2015, October 11). Coney Island Park opens to public. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
17. National Parks Board. (2016, January 11). Coney Island Park. Retrieved from NParks website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/coney-island-park
18. Ang, B. (2015, October 17). Coney Island: A walk on the wild side. The Straits Times; Tan, A. (2015, October 10). Coney Island Park, Singapore’s new nature destination, now open. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
19. Ang, B. (2015, October 17). Coney Island: A walk on the wild side. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/ ; University of California Museum of Paleontology. (n.d.). Introduction to the cycads. Retrieved from University of California Museum of Paleontology website: http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/seedplants/cycadophyta/cycads.html
20. Singapore’s Coney Island: 10 things to know. (2015, November 27). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
21. Ang, B. (2015, October 17). Coney Island: A walk on the wild side. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
22. Government of Singapore. (2015, October 10). Speech by Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan at the opening of Coney Island Park. Retrieved from Ministry of National Development website: http://app.mnd.gov.sg/Newsroom/NewsPage.aspx?ID=6933&category=Speech&year=2015&RA1=&RA2=&RA3=
23. Coney Island cow dies. (2016, October 12). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
24. Ang, B. (2015, October 17). Coney Island: A walk on the wild side. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/



Further resources

Teo, G. (1974, February 5). Coney Isle gets a face-liftNew Nation, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Thio, L. H. (1984, October 30). Pleasures of living next to the seaThe Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 13 October 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject.  Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Singapore offshore islands
Geography>>Geographical Areas and Countries>>Singapore Offshore Islands
Urbanization--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Architectural structure
Sports, recreation and travel
Islands--Singapore