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Riegelmann Boardwalk

The Riegelmann Boardwalk (also known as the Coney Island Boardwalk) is a 2.7-mile-long (4.3 km) boardwalk along the southern shore of the Coney Island peninsula in Brooklyn, New York City, adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean. It stretches from West 37th Street, at the border of Coney Island and Sea Gate, to Brighton 15th Street in Brighton Beach. The boardwalk is 80 feet (24 m) wide for much of its length and connects several amusement areas on Coney Island, including the New York Aquarium, Luna Park, Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, and MCU Park from east to west.

Riegelmann Boardwalk
Променад Закусочный1.jpg
Looking at various shops along the boardwalk, facing north. The Parachute Jump is visible in the background.
LocationConey Island, Brooklyn, New York
Nearest cityNew York City
Coordinates40°34′24″N 73°58′44″W / 40.5733°N 73.9788°W / 40.5733; -73.9788Coordinates: 40°34′24″N 73°58′44″W / 40.5733°N 73.9788°W / 40.5733; -73.9788
Area2.7 miles (4.3 km) long by 50 to 80 feet (15 to 24 m) wide
Operated byNew York City Department of Parks and Recreation
Open6 a.m. to 1 a.m.

The boardwalk was created because the Coney Island shorefront was originally subdivided among several private entities who erected barriers to separate their portions of the waterfront. Plans for a Coney Island boardwalk were first discussed in the late 1890s as a means of uniting the different sections of Coney Island, and as a revitalization project for these areas. The boardwalk, designed by Philip P. Farley, opened in 1923 and was named after Brooklyn borough president Edward J. Riegelmann, who led its construction. After its opening, the Riegelmann Boardwalk was extended and repaired several times. Since its completion, the boardwalk has become an icon of Coney Island, and in 2018, it was made a New York City designated landmark.


Dimensions and materialsEdit

Internal structure of the boardwalk, seen in a 2016 rebuild
The modified-chevron pattern of the planks

The Riegelmann Boardwalk stretches for 2.7 miles (4.3 km), from West 37th Street at the border of Coney Island and Sea Gate, to Brighton 15th Street in Brighton Beach. The boardwalk is mostly 80 feet (24 m) wide, though portions in Brighton Beach are 50 feet (15 m) wide.[1][2][3] It is raised 14 feet (4.3 m) above the beach to prevent against storm surges, and according to designer Philip Farley, to “give ample clear space under the boardwalk both longitudinally and laterally.”[3] Staircases and ramps lead southward to the beach at intervals of every ​1 12 blocks or 300 feet (91 m). Ramps also connect the boardwalk to the streets located to the north.[2]

The Riegelmann Boardwalk was built using 1,700,000 cubic yards (1,300,000 m3) of sand, 120,000 short tons (110,000 long tons) of stone, 7,700 cubic yards (5,900 m3) reinforced concrete, and 3,600,000 feet (1,100,000 m) of timber flooring.[1] As part of the construction of the boardwalk, 16 rock jetties spaced at intervals of 600 feet (180 m) were constructed on the waterfront, to prevent violent waves from crashing into the boardwalk.[4] The beaches are currently not a natural feature; the sand that is naturally supposed to replenish Coney Island is cut off by the jetty at Breezy Point, Queens.[5][6]:337 Following the Riegelmann Boardwalk's construction, sand has been redeposited on the beaches via beach nourishment,[7][8] and is held in place by around two dozen groynes.[6]:337

The Riegelmann Boardwalk has a steel and concrete foundation supporting wood planking for the walkway, though much of this is no longer visible due to the beach having been raised after the boardwalk was constructed. The boardwalk is designed to handle a maximum load of 125 pounds per square foot (610 kg/m2). To accomplish this, Farley installed a precast concrete-girder structure under the boardwalk, on the advice of J.W. Hackney, who designed Atlantic City's boardwalk. Pile bents were placed at 20-foot (6.1 m) intervals, each bent containing two bundles of four reinforced concrete piles. The piles rest on 14-inch-square (36 cm) bases and extend downward 20 feet.[9][3][4] The ends of the girder structures cantilevered outside the piles.[10][4]

The Riegelmann Boardwalk's planks are set in a modified chevron design, running at 45-degree angles between two longitudinal wooden axes.[2][3] The diagonal pattern was to "facilitate the ease of walking",[4] while the 6-foot-wide (1.8 m) wooden axes were designed for chairs to be rolled down the boardwalk.[10][11] Initially, the Riegelmann Boardwalk used Douglas fir planks from Washington state.[10][12] After numerous rebuilds, sturdy hardwoods were added to the boardwalk,[13] as were plastic and concrete.[14][15]


Original "Fifth Avenue" style street lights

Restroom facilities, benches, and drinking fountains are located along the Riegelmann Boardwalk's length, both on the level of the boardwalk and beneath it. Five pavilions and five pergolas[a] were completed in 1925 by J. Sarsfield Kennedy. These no longer exist, but were designed in the Mediterranean Revival style and were characterized by "arched entrances, rows of Tuscan columns, corner piers, and red tile roofs."[10] Comfort stations, also no longer extant, were also built below the level of the boardwalk, and were characterized by ornamental semicircular stairs and rooftop terraces that aligned with the boardwalk's elevation.[10][11] Most of the shade pavilions to the south of the boardwalk were built in the 2000s and 2010s, and are elevated due to Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations, though there are also some historic pavilions from the 20th century. There are four non-functional historic cast iron fountains as well as newer, functioning steel fountains.[16]

The boardwalk's original street furnishings included 170 "twin-arm" street lights similar to those on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, posted at 80-foot (24 m) intervals and at street intersections. Benches that faced the ocean were installed by the J.W. Fiske Ironworks Company, but have also been replaced.[9]

The Riegelmann Boardwalk is also used as a bike lane. Cycling is allowed from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day, except during summers when cycling is curtailed after 10 a.m.[17]


Today, the boardwalk hosts Luna Park, Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, and the New York Aquarium.[18] The more recent MCU Park, which opened in 2001, is home to the minor-league Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team.[19] A live performance venue, the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island, opened on the boardwalk in 2016.[20] Several amusement parks that formerly faced the boardwalk, including Steeplechase Park (1897–1964), the original Luna Park (1903–1944), and Astroland (1962–2008), no longer exist.[21]

There are several notable individual attractions on the Riegelmann Boardwalk.[21][18] Childs Restaurant, a New York City designated landmark that is now the site of the Ford Amphitheater, opened in 1923 at West 21st Street; its terracotta design was intended to blend in with the boardwalk design.[22] To the east is the Parachute Jump, a defunct ride with a 250-foot (76 m) tower,[23][24] which is both a city landmark and a National Register of Historic Places listing.[25][24] The Coney Island Cyclone, a wooden roller coaster built in 1927 at West 10th Street, is the only operating coaster on Coney Island from the 20th century, and is both a city and national landmark.[26][27] Set inland from the boardwalk is the Wonder Wheel (built 1920), a 150-foot (46 m)-tall eccentric Ferris wheel that is also a recognized city landmark.[28] Other non-landmarked attractions on the Riegelmann Boardwalk include the Thunderbolt roller coaster (2014), the B&B Carousell (2013), Abe Stark Recreation Center (1969), and numerous other amusement rides, shops, and restaurants.[18][29]

Steeplechase PierEdit

View toward the end of the pier

Steeplechase Pier is a 1,040-foot (320 m) pier located at the intersection of Riegelmann Boardwalk and West 17th Street, near the site of Steeplechase Park, of which the pier was originally part. It is the only remaining pier on Coney Island's beach. The pier had been built by 1904, at which point it was estimated as being 2,000 feet (610 m) long.[30] A newspaper article from that year praised the view from the pier: "There is no more beautiful view around New York than the sight of the twinkling colored lights of Coney Island and its reflection in the water."[31] Steeplechase Pier was originally used by anglers and until 1932, it was also used by ferry lines to Coney Island.[32]

The original Steeplechase Pier was erected by builder F.J. Kelly in a span of 30 days.[33] The pier was ceded to the city in October 1921 just before the boardwalk was constructed, and was reopened in December 1922.[32] Several improvements, such as a proposed widening and an auditorium,[11][34] were never built. Steeplechase Pier was damaged multiple times in the following years due to hurricanes, fires, and boat accidents.[32] The most serious incident was a fire in 1957 that destroyed the pier;[35][36] a larger replacement opened the next year, with a T-shaped extension at the end.[32][37] The pier was rebuilt most recently in 2013 after it was damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.[38][39][40] Two years after it reopened, the pier received a $3.4 million grant for a total reconstruction.[41][42]



The first bridge to Coney Island was established in 1824,[43][44] and this was followed five years later by the creation of the Coney Island House, a seaside resort.[44][45] Due to Coney Island's proximity to Manhattan and other boroughs, and its simultaneous relative distance from the city of Brooklyn to provide the illusion of a proper vacation, it began attracting vacationers in the 1830s and 1840s, and numerous resorts were built at Coney Island.[46]:15 New railroad lines, built after the American Civil War, served Coney Island's restaurants, hotels, bathing pavilions, theaters, the waterfront, and other attractions.[47]:182[48]:71[49] A series of fires in the resorts in the 1880s and 1890s opened up large tracts of land for the development of theme parks, the first of which was Sea Lion Park in 1895. By the first decade of the 20th century, it contained three competing major amusement parks, Luna Park, Dreamland, and Steeplechase Park, as well as many independent amusements.[50]:147–150[51]:11[52]:50

The beach was not accessible to the public for the most part, since it was actually the private property of beachfront lots.[49][53]:804 Starting in 1882, various lots were acquired from the village of Gravesend at unusually low prices, whereupon they were subdivided to private interests.[54] Henceforth, certain portions of the beach contained private boardwalks, but other portions had no infrastructure; some sections of the beach were enclosed by fences that extended into the water.[55][53]:805 In the 1890s, a private boardwalk was built to connect the hotels and bungalows in Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach;[38][52]:41 this walk extended for nearly 1 mile (1.6 km).[56] George C. Tilyou, who operated various amusements in Coney Island and later consolidated them into his Steeplechase Park, built boardwalks in his resorts at both Coney Island[38] and Rockaway Beach.[57] Numerous privately owned piers also jutted into the water at West 5th, West 8th, and West 17th Streets.[38][49] Public beach accessibility was considered almost nonexistent; in 1904, it was estimated that there would be 1.4 square inches (9.0 cm2) of public beachfront on Coney Island for each of the 3.7 million residents of New York City.[53]:801, 805 In 1912, the West End Improvement League of Coney Island noted that only one street, West 23rd Street, had direct public access to the beach from Surf Avenue, the southernmost west-east artery on what was then an island.[58]:10

Planning and constructionEdit

The Thunderbolt at West 15th Street

Interest in creating a public boardwalk increased in the 1890s, when the formerly separate boroughs of New York City were consolidated.[38] The economist Simon Patten, a boardwalk proponent, said that the construction of a similar boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the late 19th century had helped to revitalize the formerly seedy waterfront there.[59] The New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor took a similar position.[60] In 1897, the Board of Public Improvements and Brooklyn borough president Edward M. Grout proposed a boardwalk along the southern shore of Coney Island, between West 37th and West 5th Streets. The Board and Grout expected that that property owners would relinquish their waterfront plots to create a 100-foot-wide (30 m) space for a boardwalk.[61] A bill proposed in the New York State Legislature in 1901 would have had property owners pay half of the boardwalk's $350,000 construction cost.[62] However, the bill was heavily opposed by organizations who cited the bill's language and the projected property losses as reasons for their disapproval.[63][64] Ultimately, only one segment was constructed: a segment near the Seaside Park resort, between West 5th Street and Ocean Parkway.[65]

Other organizations in the 1900s would present numerous proposals to build a boardwalk, though these were mainly concerned with building a walkway over the ocean itself rather than constructing a beach or clearing the waterfront.[66][65] In 1912, the West End Improvement League published a 36-page booklet about the benefits of constructing a 60-foot-wide (18 m) boardwalk.[65][67] This plan was endorsed by the New York City Board of Estimate, which in April 1913 approved a special committee's report on the feasibility of building such a structure.[68] This time, almost everyone supported the proposed boardwalk, though there were disputes over whether to fund the $5 million cost through private capital, or by city funds.[69] Simultaneously, in 1912, New York State sued amusement owners for taking private ownership of Coney Island's beach.[70][71] A judge ruled the next year that all of the beachfront exposed at low tide actually belonged to the state.[72] An appellate court affirmed this decision in 1916, with an exception made for part of Steeplechase Park, a plot of land granted by the state prior to the creation of the park itself.[73] All obstructions on the beachfront were demolished in accordance with the ruling.[74][75]:125

The Coney Island–Stillwell Avenue station, completed in 1920, allowed even greater access from the rest of New York City. Overcrowding became common, with up to one million people filling the island on the hottest days.[1] In May 1921, the state legislature voted to give the city the right to acquire any uplands facing the Atlantic Ocean on Coney Island, as well as on Queens' Rockaway Peninsula west of Beach 25th Street in Far Rockaway, Queens.[76] In preparation for this action, the city held meetings on the initial boardwalk design in 1919, approved a plan in 1920, and obtained title to the land in October 1921.[76] A groundbreaking ceremony was hosted the same day.[77]

The actual beach improvement and boardwalk construction began in 1922.[7] Construction was overseen by Philip P. Farley, consulting engineer for Brooklyn from 1918 to 1951.[78] The first bents for the boardwalk structure were erected in March 1923, and the last bents were completed ten months later.[10] Initially there was some opposition to the boardwalk's construction, and business owners unsuccessfully attempted to erect fences to prevent construction progress.[79] Concurrently with the boardwalk improvements, Riegelmann petitioned the city to make improvements to the beach and surrounding streets to make the boardwalk easier to access.[80] In accordance with this, sand from the seabed was used to replenish the eroded shorelines.[81] In addition, timber bulkheads, timber groynes, and granite jetties were installed starting in August 1922.[4][7][8] The beach could accommodate half a million people when the project was finished.[82]

Opening and early operationEdit

A "comfort station" along the boardwalk

In April 1923, shortly before the boardwalk was completed, it was named after Edward J. Riegelmann, the Brooklyn borough president.[83][84] Riegelmann, one of the project's main leaders, had boasted that the boardwalk would raise real-estate values on Coney Island.[85] Despite his role in the creation of the Coney Island boardwalk, Riegelmann and his assistant commissioner of public works opposed naming the boardwalk after him.[84] Nevertheless, Riegelmann praised the project, and he said that following the construction of the boardwalk, "poor people will no longer have to stand with their faces pressed against wire fences looking at the ocean."[10]

The boardwalk was completed in three phases and originally stretched between Ocean Parkway and West 37th Street. The first section of the Coney Island Boardwalk, comprising the eastern section between Ocean Parkway and West 5th Street, opened in October 1922.[86] The boardwalk was extended westward to West 17th Street in December 1922.[87] The final section of the boardwalk, from West 17th to West 37th Streets was officially opened with a ceremony on May 15, 1923.[88][89] At the time of its opening, the Coney Island boardwalk was said to be wider and more expensive than the comparable boardwalks at Atlantic City, the Rockaways, and Long Beach on Long Island.[90]

After the boardwalk was completed, New York City Comptroller Charles L. Craig said that the boardwalk could not be considered a "real boardwalk" without pergolas and restrooms.[88] Accordingly, in June 1924, the New York City Board of Estimate approved the erection of five "comfort stations" and five “pergolas or pavilions within the lines of the public beach".[91] The pavilions were completed by early 1925.[10][11] Another ongoing project, approved by the Board of Estimate, in December 1922, was a plan to widen, create, or open private streets that led to the boardwalk. Work began in 1923 and entailed condemning 288 lots, which contained 175 houses and portions of Steeplechase Park.[92] Eighteen 60-foot-wide (18 m) streets from West 8th to West 35th Streets were created; Surf and Stillwell Avenues were widened; and some private passageways such as West 12th Street were taken over by the city.[10][93] Sewers and sidewalks were also installed. Brooklyn public officials believed that these changes would both revitalize Coney Island's shore and lessen congestion on Surf Avenue.[30] In total, the boardwalk and related improvement projects had cost $20 million, of which 35% was paid through taxes, and the remainder was paid by the city.[94]

The Brighton Beach extension of the Riegelmann Boardwalk, which would build out the boardwalk from Ocean Parkway eastward to Coney Island Avenue, was formally approved by the city's Board of Estimate in June 1925.[95][96] The extension measured about 3,000 to 4,000 feet (910 to 1,220 m) long,[34] and entailed expanding the beach and creating new paths to the boardwalk.[96] Real estate developments were proposed as a result of the extension,[97] which was completed by mid-1926.[98] The $1 million extension was originally supposed to have been paid-for through taxes that were levied on Coney Island property owners via tax assessments.[96] Although these property owners objected to the assessments,[99] they were ultimately forced to pay for the project anyway.[100]

A similar scheme to extend the boardwalk 3,000 feet (910 m) westward, from West 37th Street to Coney Island Light, was opposed by the residents of Sea Gate, the private community in which the boardwalk would have been located.[101] In June 1927, borough president James J. Byrne approved the Sea Gate extension anyway, and accordingly, bought land on the Sea Gate waterfront.[102][103] Subsequently, in September 1928, the bulkhead lines in Sea Gate were approved for demolition, in anticipation of the boardwalk being extended. Nothing apparently came of the project, however.[104][105]

Moses reconstructionEdit

In 1938, the responsibility of maintaining the Riegelmann Boardwalk was transferred to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks).[1] Parks commissioner Robert Moses had previously derided the condition of the boardwalks at Coney Island, the Rockaways, and South Beach, saying "these beaches and boardwalks were never properly planned, and cannot under present conditions be properly maintained and operated."[32][106] His particular complaint was that:

The boardwalk was constructed too near the water without providing any play areas on the north side. [...] When sand was pumped in to increase the width of the beach, instead of obtaining good white material, the contractor was allowed to deposit brown sand on the beach. Streets were cut through which dead-ended at the boardwalk, and which are no good as traffic arteries and are not proper parking spaces. The zoning ordinance was adapted to the wishes of the property owners rather than to the requirements of the public welfare.[106]

Brighton Beach extension, looking westward

After NYC Parks took control of the boardwalk. Moses announced plans to expand it eastward to around Corbin Place in Brighton Beach, as well as incorporate another 18 acres (7.3 ha) within Brighton Beach.[107] The expansion would allow NYC Parks to add capacity for 50,000 more beachgoers along the Coney Island Beach.[108] The project entailed relocating the boardwalk 300 feet (91 m) inland and straightening its route, which required the condemnation of 20 buildings and the demolition of the Municipal Baths at West 5th Street.[32][109][110] In addition, in October 1938, the city acquired 18 acres (7.3 ha) from developer Joseph P. Day for the proposed eastward extension.[111] Moses's original plan had been to clear another 100 feet (30 m) inland of the boardwalk, but these plans were modified in 1939 in order to preserve the amusement area there.[112]

The Board of Estimate approved the modified plan in December 1939[113] and work commenced the following month.[109][114] To provide easier access to the Riegelmann Boardwalk, a new street at approximately the location of West 9th Street was also built.[110] As part of the renovations, a 2-foot (0.61 m) covering of sand was placed along the entirety of the beachfront.[1] This was accomplished using sand from the Rockaways and New Jersey.[115] The relocated boardwalk was completed by May 1940.[116] The same year, gray paving blocks were added at Brighton 2nd and West 2nd, 15th, 21st, 27th, and 33rd Streets, as well as Stillwell Avenue, to create firebreaks in the boardwalk.[2]

In early 1941, work started on extending the Riegelmann Boardwalk 1,500 feet (460 m) from Coney Island Avenue to Brighton 15th Street. The extension was narrower than the rest of the boardwalk, at 50 feet (15 m) wide.[32][115] Upon the completion of the extension, the boardwalk reached its current length of 2.7 miles (4.3 km).[32] In 1955 Moses proposed to extend the Riegelmann Boardwalk east into Manhattan Beach, connecting it to the Manhattan Beach Boardwalk. These plans were opposed by property owners there, who contended that it would bring unwanted social degradation to their community.[117][118] The Board of Estimate ultimately voted to not approve Moses's plan.[119]

Late 20th centuryEdit

Looking west at Luna Park

Further work was undertaken on the Riegelmann Boardwalk in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This included the replacement of the original street lights with replicas in the 1960s, as well as the replacement of benches, drinking fountains, pavilions, and comfort stations. Lifeguard towers, made of concrete and brick, were erected in the 1970s.[120]

By the 1960s, Coney Island was in decline due to crime increases, insufficient parking facilities, bad weather, and the post-World War II automotive boom.[121] This culminated in the last of the three big amusement parks, Steeplechase Park, being sold off in 1965.[122][123] A newspaper article noted in 1961 that between 5,000 and 10,000 people slept on the beach every night, and that the Riegelmann Boardwalk was a common place for purse-snatchings and muggings.[124] Since the Riegelmann Boardwalk contained a wide-open space underneath, it was a frequent location for such acts as looking up women's skirts, indecent exposure, and kissing.[125] The boardwalk's maintenance was in active decline by the 1970s.[120] As such, repairs on two sections of boardwalk between Brighton 1st and Brighton 15th Streets were underway by 1975.[126] Local officials such as then-assemblyman Chuck Schumer, as well as residents of the surrounding communities, petitioned for the city's board of estimate to release $650,000 in funding for repairs to the boardwalk.[127]

By the 1980s, the boardwalk was in poor condition; several people had been injured after falling through rotted portions of the boardwalk, the restrooms and drinking fountains were not functioning, and the section between West 32nd and West 33rd Street had collapsed completely. In 1983, it was estimated that three-quarters of planks were in good shape.[128][129] The same year, New York City Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin rated the Riegelmann Boardwalk's quality as "poor" due to holes and nails within the deck, vacant lots adjacent to the boardwalk, broken water fountains, and filthy restrooms.[130] In 1985, a small part of the Coney Island Beach, as well as three other city beaches and Central Park's Sheep Meadow, were designated as "quiet zones" where loud radio-playing was prohibited.[131][132] Subsequent repairs to the boardwalk were completed by 1987.[133]

In the early 1990s, as part of a $27 million shoreline protection project, the United States Army Corps of Engineers infilled the area under the Riegelmann Boardwalk with sand.[129][125] Afterward, the space underneath became occupied by homeless, so in 1996 the city cleared out the encampment and fenced off the space under the boardwalk.[125][134] Brooklyn borough president Howard Golden said in 1997 that he would rate the boardwalk as being in a "B-plus" condition; according to Golden, the largest problems were that some rails and signs needed to be fixed.[135] On the other hand, residents had complained the previous year that the boardwalk had loose and cracked boards, holes in the wood, and uneven pilings. City vehicles frequently used the boardwalk despite exceeding the weight limit; furthermore, NYC Parks only had a staff of three men to maintain the boardwalk year-round, as compared to eight in 1990. NYC Parks contended that it had spent $180,000 on a recent project to repair the boardwalk and that the Brooklyn borough president's office had budgeted $20 million since 1981 to repair the boardwalk.[136]

21st centuryEdit

Brighton Beach in 2008

NYC Parks started replanking the boardwalk with Ipe wood in the late 1990s,[137] though this was opposed by environmental groups who objected to the wood being taken from the Amazon rainforest.[138] New comfort stations and shade pavilions were added around 2001.[120]

By 2010, the city was renovating the boardwalk: some sections were receiving new wood planking over concrete supports, while others were being replaced entirely with concrete, which has a lower maintenance cost.[139][13][140] However, the addition of the concrete sections was controversial. Concrete, despite being cheaper and less detrimental to Amazon rainforests, was opposed by local residents and officials who felt that the boardwalk would only be authentic if made of wood. This was especially controversial since the Rockaway Boardwalk was being rebuilt in wood.[13][141] After installing two small concrete sections in the Riegelmann Boardwalk, NYC Parks proposed using a type of plastic that resembled wood.[142] The rebuild with concrete and plastic was approved in March 2012,[129] though wood advocates later filed a lawsuit to stop the use of concrete.[143] The boardwalk was slightly damaged during Hurricane Sandy later that year, although the adjacent amusement parks and aquarium suffered more severe damage,[144][145] as did Steeplechase Pier.[38][39][40] Further comfort stations were added in 2013,[120] with four modular units being delivered to West 8th, West 2nd, Brighton 2nd, and New Brighton Streets.[146][40]

In 2014, amid the push to rebuild the boardwalk using concrete, two local members of the City Council, Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch, suggested making the boardwalk a New York City landmark.[147] Initially, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected the application for landmark status, and later that year, NYC Parks commenced a project to repair the boardwalk using concrete.[14][148][149] The decision to use concrete and plastic was again controversial, but according to NYC Parks, was necessary to repair decades of use and deterioration.[14][15] On May 15, 2018, the 95th anniversary of the boardwalk's opening, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Riegelmann Boardwalk a city landmark. With that designation, the Riegelmann Boardwalk became the city's eleventh "scenic landmark", and as such, could not be removed.[150][151][152] The same month, two comfort stations opened at Brighton 15th Street after several years of debate.[153][154] The city announced in November 2019 that $3.2 million would be spent to place anti-terrorism bollards at entrances to the boardwalk, as part of a larger safety initiative following the 2017 Manhattan truck attack.[155][156]

Cultural significanceEdit

Outside the New York Aquarium

The construction of the Riegelmann Boardwalk opened up the beach to the millions of people that visited Coney Island in its heyday, and it became known as the area's "Main Street", supplanting Surf Avenue in that role.[21] A 1923 guidebook described the area as "the oldest, most densely crowded and most democratic" of all the amusement areas around New York City.[157] The boardwalk itself resulted in increased international visitation to Coney Island. One French observer wrote of the boardwalk, shortly after its opening, "Families which cannot go to the rich watering places come in hordes on Sunday to enjoy the municipal beach. It is like the Promenade des Anglais at Nice turned over to the proletariat."[75]:127

Events and artEdit

The Riegelmann Boardwalk is used as a backdrop for two notable annual events. The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, which takes place every July 4, is located outside the original Nathan's Famous location, at Surf and Stillwell Avenues close to the boardwalk. Nathan's itself was one of several hot dog vendors who used to line Coney Island.[29] Additionally, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade has taken place along the Riegelmann Boardwalk since 1983.[1] The parades typically occur every June, and involve floats and costumes, as well as a King Neptune and Queen Mermaid that is crowned at the end of each parade.[29]

"The First Symphony of the Sea", a 322-foot (98 m) wall relief created by Japanese artist Toshio Sasaki, was installed along the boardwalk in 1993. It is located on the exterior of the New York Aquarium.[1][158]

In mediaEdit

As a background for Coney Island, the Riegelmann Boardwalk has also been featured in the visual arts, music, and film. Several artworks have featured the boardwalk as a focal point, including Harry Roseland's 1930s depictions of the boardwalk and beach, as well as the 1938 lithograph The People Play-Summer by Benton Murdoch Spruance.[21] Films have also used the boardwalk as a setting or even as a plot narrative, such as Sinners' Holiday (1930), Little Fugitive (1953), Annie Hall (1977), and The Warriors (1979). The Riegelmann Boardwalk is also used in TV shows, including children's shows such as Dora the Explorer and sitcoms like Seinfeld. In addition, the boardwalk has appeared in several music videos, including those by Salt-N-Pepa (1993) and Beyoncé (2013), as well as in albums such as Coney Island Baby (1975).[29]


Ruby's and Nathan's, two longtime restaurants on the boardwalk

At the time of its construction, Riegelmann Boardwalk was considered the most important public-works project in Brooklyn since the Brooklyn Bridge, which had been completed in 1883.[159] One newspaper described the project as thus, "New York scientists and engineers have succeeded where King Canute failed to halt the onward march of the tides."[81] The boardwalk immediately became one of Coney Island's biggest draws after its opening.[75]:125 A columnist for the Brooklyn Times-Union wrote in 1932 that, so powerful was the boardwalk's effect, "the boardwalk and Coney Island are now synonymous."[94]

In 1994, the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association recognized the Riegelmann Boardwalk as being one of several "infrastructure accomplishments", comparable to the Catskill Watershed and Central Park. In giving the award, the ASBPA stated that the boardwalk had served people who would otherwise "not have access to exclusive Long Island beaches".[78][7] In addition, in 2018, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Riegelmann Boardwalk as one of the city's "scenic landmarks", after having previously rejected it for landmark status.[150][151]



  1. ^ The pavilions were constructed at West 8th, West 15th, West 21st, West 27th, and West 33rd Streets. The pergolas were constructed between the following streets: West 12th Street/Jones Walk, West 23rd/24th Streets, West 29th/30th Streets, and West 35th/36th Streets.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Coney Island Beach and Boardwalk". New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Landmarks Preservation Commission 2018, p. 6.
  3. ^ a b c d "The Coney Island Boardwalk". Brooklyn Life. April 7, 1923. p. 31. Retrieved July 23, 2019 – via  .
  4. ^ a b c d e American Lumberman. American Lumberman. 1922. p. 22. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
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External linksEdit