Coney Island boardwalk landmark fight gains momentum
Two Brooklyn lawmakers are putting some muscle behind their calls for the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to designate the iconic Riegelmann Boardwalk in Coney Island as a landmark.
Councilmember Mark Treyger, co-chairman of the council’s Brooklyn delegation, and Councilmember Chaim Deutsch have introduced a resolution calling on the LPC to grant landmark status to the boardwalk and have gotten 49 councilmembers to sign on to it.
Public Advocate Letitia James has also added her name to the resolution.
Designating the boardwalk as a landmark would recognize the structure as one of Southern Brooklyn’s historic locations, but would also prevent more of its traditional wooden planks from being replaced with concrete and plastic without a public review process, Treyger said.
Currently, the city needs no approval to make such changes, and sections of the Boardwalk have already been replaced, he said.
“We have to protect it,” Treyger told the Brooklyn Eagle on Saturday as he walked along the boardwalk with a reporter.
“Coney Island’s historic boardwalk is endangered, and if nothing is done, it will soon be transformed into an ugly concrete sidewalk,” said Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project. “We must act now, or we will lose a world-famous community asset.”
Treyger, with Denson’s help, filed an application with the LPC to landmark the boardwalk in 2014. Treyger, Denson and Deutsch met with LPC officials last year to urge them to consider the historical context under which the boardwalk was built.
The 2.7-mile-long boardwalk, which opened in 1923, was originally developed as the centerpiece of Edward Riegelmann’s plan to beautify and improve public access to Coney Island’s beaches. Riegelmann was the Brooklyn borough president at the time.
It has since become an international tourist attraction, Treyger said.
“The boardwalk is one of our community’s most precious assets,” Treyger said. “Whether it is parents pushing strollers, seniors socializing, joggers exercising, sightseers photographing or even couples taking romantic walks along its classic wooden planks, the boardwalk is and has been a cultural and social touchstone for all residents of Southern Brooklyn, as well as its global audience.”
The boardwalk deserves landmark status, Treyger added.
“The Landmarks Preservation Commission needs to recognize the cultural significance of the boardwalk and preserve its character for future generations, and for the millions of visitors that enjoy it each year,” Deutsch said.
Elected officials in Coney Island expressed support for landmarking the boardwalk.
“Those classic wooden planks have witnessed New York legends ranging from Fiorello La Guardia and John Lindsay to David Dinkins — as well as millions from around the world who came to visit the greatest city in the world. Replacing them now would be akin to knocking down the Empire State or Chrysler Building,” said U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.
“The Rieglemann Boardwalk is an integral part of Coney Island’s rich history and traditions. As a Coney Island native, the boardwalk has always been a symbol of summers spent with family, and I know how much meaning it holds for the community,” said Assemblymember Pamela Harris.
Rob Burstein, president of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance, sounded a hopeful note.
“We are hopeful that with the overwhelming support for landmark status from both the people and their elected representatives, and because by every definition of what a landmark is it is so deserving of this appellation, they will finally grant it the official status it so richly deserves and protect this New York City jewel for the generations of New Yorkers yet to come!” he said.