Longtime Coney Island supervisor retires • Brooklyn Paper

Longtime Coney Island supervisor retires

With the chin whiskers of his goatee nearly down to his chest and a twinkle in his eye, Thomas “Duke” Schneider appears as your typical Coney Island character.

Which makes sense — Schneider was born and raised in Coney Island, and recently retired after working 40 years for the Parks Department in the famous ‘People’s Playground.’

“I started on the bottom and worked my way up through civil service and supervised the beach since 1985,” said Schneider, adding that it is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

“Sometimes we have close to a million people and have hardly any bad incidents considering how many people that are there. We get more people on a good weekend than other beaches get in years and everything’s maintained,” he said.

Schneider has also seen strange things come in with the tide such as a giant turtle that once washed up on the shore.

“It was bigger than a round table with four chairs and we needed a front end loader to pick it. It had a big gash on its back so we thought perhaps a boat propeller hit it,” recalled Schneider.

Schneider also recalled a dead whale washing up on the beach that stunk up all of 25th Street.

Schneider was also on duty the fateful day when a small plane crashed on the beach just off of Stillwell Avenue, in which the four passengers died.

Now that he’s retired, Schneider, who was born in Coney Island Hospital, grew up on West 12th Street and now lives in Sea Gate, said he plans to go to Coney Island strictly as an observer.

“I’ll be a needle in a haystack, fish and play guitar,” he said, adding he doesn’t swim anymore.

As a fisherman, Schneider said the biggest fish are caught off the jetties.

“I’ve seen fish as big as me and you – striped bass,” he said.

As far as the infamous characters that hang out in Coney Island, Schneider noted that the area is the end of several subway lines.

“Coney Island is last stop, everybody out, and for some reason everyone’s a character,” he said.

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