One small step for the Coney Island Boardwalk.
Just three months after the city Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected a request by Councilmembers Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch to designate the 91-year-old Riegelmann Boardwalk a scenic landmark, the agency has said it may reconsider, based on new information becoming available.
“As with any building or site, if significant new information is introduced that was not available at the time of the agency’s initial determination, the agency will review it,” said LPC spokesperson Damaris Olivo, adding that such information has not yet been forwarded to the LPC.
Getting landmark designation would be a major victory for preservationists who have been fighting to prevent the Parks Department from replacing the wooden planks of the boardwalk with plastic supported by concrete – a solution Parks claims would be stronger and cheaper to maintain.
“It’s really interesting what happened,” explained Treyger who, at a recent budget hearing, confronted Commission Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan about what he described as an “insulting” three-paragraph rejection letter “that was basically a template.”
While the Landmarks Commission claimed that Coney Island’s most significant history predates the Boardwalk and that the nearly three-mile-long wooden structure has been altered too many times after construction to be considered, Treyger argued both points.
“I said to them that, before the Boardwalk, that stretch of land was privately owned,” said the former New Utrecht High School history teacher. “That meant that bathhouses and showers and hotels were all segregated. This is the history that the Landmarks Commission says is the most significant and most cherished?”
Treyger went on to call the construction of the Riegelmann Boardwalk a “stamp of liberty, integration, affordability and accessibly in South Brooklyn” as well as “the turning point of the 20th century” for Coney Island.
To the commission’s second point, the local pol pointed at places like Central Park.
“Central Park didn’t always have restrooms and additional bike paths,” Treyger said. “It has been altered many times and that is a scenic landmark, so why is the Boardwalk being treated any differently?
“It just seemed that those behind the Landmarks Commission’s decision were not really briefed on our history very well,” Treyger said.
The councilmembers and LPC are in the planning stages of setting up a meeting to which colleagues and community stakeholders like Coney Island historian Charles Denson (who Treyger said has been a big help in the drive to save the Boardwalk) will be invited.
“On so many levels it’s important to have this designation and I’m glad that the commission is revisiting it,” noted Denson, adding that landmark designation is long overdue. “I think, just on a cultural level, that the significance of the Boardwalk should be recognized and not many people know its history or the battle that went on to get it built.”
The reasons for the denial, Denson agreed, were invalid.
“Look at scenic landmarks like Eastern Parkway and Ocean Parkway that started out as dirt roads,” he said. “Surface structure aside, I think the designation just gives the Boardwalk a level of protection and gives more of a public voice in how it is treated in the future.”