Coney Islanders frustrated by delayed repairs to Riegelmann Boardwalk, lack of transparency by city

riegelmann boardwalk in coney island
The iconic Riegelmann Boardwalk is in desperate need of repairs, and Coney Islanders are frustrated by repeated delays and what they say is a lack of transparency by the city.
Photo by Rhododendrites/Wikimedia Commons

Long-needed repairs to the Riegelmann Boardwalk are behind schedule, and locals are frustrated by what they feel are insufficient updates on the city’s progress toward finally fixing up the aging structure. 

According to locals, the dilapidated boardwalk hasn’t seen substantial funding towards routine maintenance in years, even though the city has announced multiple projects aimed at fixing it up. On March 8, representatives of the city’s Parks Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers paid a visit to Brooklyn Community Board 13’s parks committee to shed some light on the subject — but members left the meeting feeling as frustrated as ever. 

“Part of the issue that’s been here is that the community is sort of kept out of the loop,” said Ida Sanoff, a Coney Island local. “The Parks Department gets invited to a committee meeting. They’ll say ‘Okay we’re supposed to be doing this, this is what we plan to do,’ but then things sort of just fall by the wayside. You’re really not getting updates in real time so you don’t know what the heck is happening.”

wonder wheel on riegelmann boardwalk
Locals said the city’s parks department has not been forthcoming about repeated delays to proposed construction projects on the boardwalk. File photo by Erica Price

Sanoff says residents are tired of feeling unsafe on the boardwalk, and repairs need to happen quickly. Coney Islanders are pushing for NYC Parks to use materials that are safe for both locals and the environment in the repair work. 

“What has been allowed to happen to this boardwalk is absolutely criminal. People have been complaining about it for years,” Sanoff told Brooklyn Paper. “This is a complex situation and what has to be done is the right thing and the safe thing and to try to get it done as quickly as possible.” 

With multiple projects underway for the boardwalk, committee members were expecting to hear more updates regarding the parks department’s proposed plan to build a from the street to the boardwalk at West 27th Street. The ramp would allow department employees easier access to the beach, as they currently enter either at a slip entrance on West 25th Street, where they can drive underneath the boardwalk; or at West 37th where they can drive directly on the beach. 

Craig Hammerman, co-president of the Coney Islander’s for an Ocean Side Ferry, says many residents aren’t a fan of these remodels. He fears the department will start a construction plan that doesn’t reflect the needs and wants of the community. 

The city is also cooking up an $11.5 million reconstruction plan for part of the iconic boardwalk between West 24th and West 27th streets. The project was initially expected to be completed by February 2022, however due to COVID-related impacts, the department has yet to begin construction. Designs are only 50% completed. 

“He had no updates on those,” Hammerman said of the Parks Department representative. “He knew he was coming to a meeting to talk about the walk so either he had information he was unwilling to share or he just came in completely unprepared. Either way I think it’s disrespectful that he did that.”

According to a parks spokesperson, the $11.5 million project is set to begin in Spring 2023, pending a successful bid from a contractor. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio allotted $114.5 million to the walkway in November 2021, supporting Riegelmann’s first renovation project since it opened in 1923. The department is currently evaluating a technical study to define the full extent and scope of this project, and construction, once it begins, is expected to last 12-18 months. 

“We consistently monitor the Coney Island Boardwalk for any repairs needed to keep parkgoers safe. In July/August 2022, our staff completed 160 repairs on the boardwalk, replacing nearly 1,400 boardwalk planks. We regularly communicate with the Council Member, the local Community Board, and New Yorkers on this very important and very visible work,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to identify and prioritize short-term repairs to be made along the Boardwalk as longer-term reconstruction efforts move forward.” 

The 100 year old boardwalk could also see upgrades made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who are proposing to implement more flood protection measures as a part of their NY-NJ Harbor and Tributaries Coastal Storm Risk Management Study, a $52 billion flood resiliency plan. 

coney island riegelmann  boardwalk
A long-delayed city renovation of part of the boardwalk is set to begin this spring, and will be finished in 12-18 months. File photo by Ben Brachfeld

The group suggested building levees, a tidal gate, seawall and large flood wall near the Coney Island Creek, and want to add an elevated promenade on the boardwalk. Hammerman pushed back on both proposals, claiming USACE is not allowed to build any flood protection in areas with known contamination.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has found that Coney Island Creek is seriously contaminated, and some locals have pushed for the area to receive a Superfund designation. At a recent USACE Town Hall in Greenpoint, where the Corps is planning to install a sea gate at the mouth of the Newtown Creek Superfund site, officials said only part of the contaminated area must be cleaned up before new infrastructure can be installed — not all of it. 

Hammerman also criticized the elevated promenade, which would stand four to five feet above the boardwalk — saying it would create ” visual and physical shoreline access challenges.” The public comment period for the entire HATS proposal, which includes measures along shorelines in all five boroughs and in New Jersey, is open until March 31.