What Does It Mean to Landmark the Coney Island Boardwalk?

Photo by Susan De Vries

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If the Coney Island boardwalk is designated a historic landmark will the honor be in name only?

This is what was under discussion at a public hearing at the Landmarks Preservation Commision on Tuesday, where both commissioners and members of the audience who provided testimony said they were confused, not to mention concerned, about what it means to make the boardwalk a scenic landmark.

“Coney Island boardwalk is a landmark,” said Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council, during his testimony. “Now please, treat it as one.”

coney island boardwalk

A summer day on the boardwalk in 2017. Photo by Susan De Vries

The designation, according to the presentation that opened the hearing, would include the boardwalk structure and walkway, conference stations, railings, benches, light fixtures, stairs and ramps to the beach, the steeple chaise pier and the beach beneath those elements.

Seven people testified, including Council Member Mark Treyger and a representative for Council Member Chaim Deutsch, all in favor of designating the waterfront icon.

But the commission would only have an advisory role in deciding on any changes to the boardwalk, including the replacement of materials. The final decision would be made by the Public Design Commission, because the city-owned boardwalk would be classified as a scenic landmark.

“The material of the boardwalk is absolutely central to its identity, its use and its experience,” said a resident of Coney Island. He suggested people run on the boardwalk, smell it after a rainstorm and take a look at its grandeur — all reasons the wood should remain, he said. “We are concerned that the parks department does not take these things into account.”

Photo by Susan De Vries

Photo by Susan De Vries

Eastern Parkway and Ocean Parkway are comparable examples of scenic landmarks where the LPC has only an advisory role in changes, an LPC staff member said at the hearing.

Commissioners Adi Shamir-Baron and Michael Devonshire both had questions about the specifics of what the commission would have authority over and how the agency would serve in an advisory role.

But answers were few and far between. It was agreed that more information was required, which would be reviewed before the designation vote, which is scheduled for May 15.

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Photo by Seán Devlin

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