Coney Island Councilman Mark Treyger introduced a bill that would protect the neighborhood’s iconic wooden boardwalk from one of its chief perils — large vehicles.
“It’s long, long overdue,” said Rob Burstein, the president of the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Boardwalk Alliance, which fights to preserve the three-mile boardwalk. “Almost all of the damage that happens on the boardwalk is vehicular damage.”
The bill, which Treyger introduced into City Council on Feb. 11, would bar all vehicles over 2,800 pounds from driving on the boardwalk — meaning that city agencies would have to employ lightweight carts known as gators for repairs, inspections, and garbage removal.
The Parks Department already uses these carts for small fixes, but relies on vans for plumbing repairs and large basket loaders for garbage pickup. Transit officials use bucket trucks — which often weigh more than 12,000 pounds — to repair broken lightbulbs along the boardwalk, and policemen drive patrol cars up and down the walkway, according to the Parks Department.
Locals say that they most often see Parks Department vans and trucks that weigh between 5,400 pounds and 10,000 pounds — heavy enough to break through the wooden boards.
“The damage that these vehicles cause to the boardwalk are cracked/broken boards, collapsing of the under structure supporting beams, popping up and bending over the nails and screws,” wrote local maven Orlando Mendez in an email. “This is something we never saw growing up in the community.”
The stretch of the boardwalk between W. 23rd and W. 30th streets — located near the boardwalk’s main vehicular entrance — has incurred the most damage, Burstein added.
“It’s because that’s where all the vehicles that traverse the boardwalk enter,” he said. One patch of boardwalk is so damaged that it’s been covered with plywood for the last few years, he claimed.
Non-city vehicles are already banned from the boardwalk under Parks Department rules, but Burstein said he’s seen cars and motorcycles zipping around in broad daylight. Councilman Treyger said he hopes the new bill will clarify that the boardwalk is Parks Department property and off-limits to drivers.
“The historic Riegelmann Boardwalk in Coney Island is not the Belt Parkway. It is an iconic American place of leisure and recreation — it was not designed as a roadway for utility vehicles,” he said.
The bill allows emergency vehicles to drive on the boardwalk, but Burstein argued that the exemption wasn’t necessary, since emergency vehicles tend to stop short of the boardwalk while first responders run to the scene.
“When there’s a need for EMS they don’t drive on the boardwalk,” he said.
Overall, boardwalk advocates say they’re thrilled with the bill, but wish the Parks Department could have switched to lighter vehicles after activist groups complained rather than waiting for legislation to pass.
“I grew up in Coney Island and founded the group over 10 years ago,” Burstein said. “And [the Parks Department] has been — to put it kindly — less than accommodating.”