The city’s Parks Department is hoping to construct a concrete ramp to allow easier vehicles access onto the Riegelmann Boardwalk — despite a New York City law banning cars from the iconic esplanade, which has left many southern Brooklynites fuming.
Community members from the two boardwalk neighborhoods, Coney Island and Brighton Beach, banded together in a years-long campaign demanding the preservation of the nearly 100-year-old boardwalk by nixing vehicular access by the Parks Department and the NYPD.
“People have been yelling for years about heavy vehicles on the boardwalk and the damage that it causes,” said Ida Sanoff, an environmentalist and Community Board 13 member.
A bill, which was introduced by former Councilmember Mark Treyger, passed the Council in 2021 and banned most vehicles from the span — but locals have noticed workers of city agencies flouting the law, and continuing to drive their heavy vehicles onto the crumbling boardwalk.
“Last year, our community fought hard to get the City Council Intro 1888 passed into law which made it illegal to drive heavy vehicles on the boardwalk,” said Craig Hammerman, a Brighton Beach resident, who formerly headed Park Slope’s Community Board 6 as its district manager. “Every day they choose to continue to drive their heavy vehicles on the boardwalk perpetuating a never-ending cycle of destruction that only they can break.”
Now they fear the problem is only going to keep getting worse with the proposed on-ramp at W. 27th Street.
The Parks Department, for their part, promised that the plan would include a control switch to prevent unauthorized vehicles from entering, and only allow driving that is absolutely necessary.
“The addition of this ramp will be used for authorized vehicles only, and will have a control device which will prevent unauthorized beach access,” said Anessa Hodgson, a press representative for the city Parks Department.
The agency rep added that the planned construction of the W. 27th Street on-ramp is part of a larger project to improve the agency’s Coney Island headquarters, and will provide their vehicles direct access to the beach.
“Our plans to add an on-ramp to the beach at W. 27th Street are part of a broader project to improve our Coney Island headquarters,” she added.
Hodgson said that vehicles would be allowed only on a handful of occasions — such as boardwalk repairs, plumbing improvements at comfort stations, garbage removers, and lightweight utility vehicles to conduct inspections and maintenance.
Additionally, Hodgson pointed out that the area where the ramp will be located is not lined with wooden planks, but rather features 80-feet of concrete and brick.
Community Board 13’s Parks Committee voted to approve the on-ramp at their Feb. 17 meeting, though they did not share any details of a control device to prevent unauthorized beach access, according to Hammerman.
“Furthermore, they did not show anything in their plans that would prevent anyone else from using this ramp to drive onto the boardwalk and beach,” Hammerman wrote. “And the Parks Committee voted unanimously to support the plan.”
Hammerman has repeatedly pleaded with Community Board 13 members to stop giving carte blanche to the city Parks Department, and instead begin using conditional approvals, where they will only support the project if it meets their list of demands.
“I implore you members of Brooklyn Community Board 13 to stop giving the Parks Department a blank check by supporting their projects without condition,” he said. “Please start with this one.”
The board’s district manager however said the committee only approved the plan under the condition the city greenspace agency constructs barricades, and dismissed reports the members voted unanimously in favor of the plan — which saw two votes against three abstentions.
Sanoff said she is further concerned about the storm impacts of the new recycled plastic lumber and concrete slabs that the Parks agency is using to rehabilitate many areas of the boardwalk, including near the planned on-ramp.
“In Rockaway, their concrete sections lifted up like dominoes,” Sanoff said. “But when it happened in Rockaway, there were no buildings up against the boardwalk.”
The environmentalist said she fears what would happen when the concrete slabs lift on the Coney Island Boardwalk, which lives adjacent to residential buildings.
“Our buildings are right on top of the boardwalk, so if one of those concrete slabs lifts up, it becomes a batting ram,” she said. “And [Parks] refuse to look at storm-surge impacts — and I think this is a major danger to the community.”
Sanoff pointed out that the Parks department continues to use wood panel replacements in the famed amusement district, and lamented the lesser treatment of other areas.
“Well if it’s good enough for the amusement area, why is it not good enough for everybody else,” Sanoff said.
Update (Feb. 28, 11:48 am): The story has been updated to include a statement from Community Board 13, and to correct false reports of a unanimous vote in support of the ramp.