The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has designated the Coney Island (Riegelmann) Boardwalk in Brooklyn a Scenic Landmark in recognition of its cultural and historical significance.
Since opening on May 15, 1923, the Coney Island Boardwalk has been one of the best-known waterfront promenades in the world, providing access to the beach, amusements, and ocean views. Scenic landmark designation is expected to protect the boardwalk’s presence along the beachfront and preserve this iconic site for future generations.
Named for Brooklyn Borough President Edward J. Riegelmann, who played a leading role in its creation, the Coney Island Boardwalk was part of an ambitious municipal plan to rejuvenate Coney Island and provide the opportunity for people of all economic and social backgrounds to freely enjoy the seaside and beach activities for the first time in New York City. It attracted New Yorkers and visitors alike, from all over the world.
Designed by engineer Philip P. Farley, who also planned the public beach, and built in three phases between 1922 and 1941, the boardwalk extends 2.7 miles, from West 37th Street in Coney Island to Brighton 15th Street in Brighton Beach. The first section of the boardwalk, between Ocean Parkway and West 37th Street, formally opened on May 15, 1923. Two years later, the boardwalk was extended 4,000-feet east, to Coney Island Avenue, and under Park Commissioner Robert Moses, an additional 1,500-feet to Brighton 15th Street in 1941.
The Coney Island Boardwalk, an attraction in and of itself, also enhanced existing amusements in the area such as The Wonder Wheel, landmarked in 1989, which illuminated the boardwalk and became a beacon in the skyline and a destination for Coney Island visitors. The Cyclone roller coaster, landmarked in 1988, was constructed not long after the boardwalk opened. Later, in 1941, The Parachute Jump from the New York World’s Fair (1939-40), landmarked in 1989, was brought to Steeplechase Park, adjacent to the boardwalk at West 16th Street. Rising 250 feet, it remains one of Coney Island’s most recognizable landmarks.
Rides were not the only attractions on the boardwalk. In 1923, Childs Restaurant (landmarked in 2003), opened connecting diners to the experience of the boardwalk and two years later, the Coney Island Theater (landmarked in 2010) opened providing live performances and motion picture screenings. Today, the former Child’s Restaurant building, which was renovated and reopened in 2017, continues to attract visitors as a dining venue and amphitheater, and the Coney Island Theater is being restored.
The Coney Island Boardwalk is also historically associated with New York City’s popular culture. Artists and filmmakers have been drawn to Coney Island and the boardwalk to capture the throngs of visitors and also the city and nation’s changing social customs and population. It has been featured prominently in the visual arts since opening, and movies, television and music videos have used the boardwalk as a visual backdrop or part of the narrative throughout its history. Additionally, the American summer staple — the hot dog, is said to have been invented in Coney Island, and remains an important part of the boardwalk’s culture. The annual July 4th hot dog eating contest attracts competitors from all over the world.
For more information on the Landmarks Preservation Commission, visit their website.
Photo of Coney Island Boardwalk provided.