The iconic wooden boardwalk that stretches along Coney Island’s shore, that thoroughfare for hot dog eaters, sunbathers, and costumed lunatics, may soon be up for sale. The parks department is creating a call for bids from private groups to take over all event permitting on Riegelmann Boardwralk, which has been operated publically for the last 91 years. Will there soon be a giant Citibank logo stretching along the Brooklyn shore?
The parks department is being very cautious about the possibility, according to the Brooklyn Paper, which first broke the story. But that hasn’t stopped Coney Islanders from despairing at the prospect of a privatized boardwalk. Three parks in the city are operated by outside groups, Brooklyn Bridge, Bryant, and Hudson River Parks. But the arrangement that would potentially result from a Coney Island boardwalk bid is a city property with private permitting, which doesn’t have a direct comparison.
It’s just the latest sticking point in a battle over Coney Island, one that’s usually been framed as local weirdos vs. corporate sanitizers. “This is not just a park some place. This is the iconic Coney Island Boardwalk, and I don’t think that a private entity should be in control of what happens there,” activist Ida Sanoff told the paper. “All over the city we have ‘friends of this park,’ ‘friends of that park,’ and while they’re involved, they’re not put in charge of who can and cannot use an area. Isn’t this the job of the parks department? Why do we need a private entity doing that?”
The answer, as with everything, probably has to do with money. Locals suspect that the parks department’s caginess is merely a front for a plan that’s already more or less in place, to be revealed during the busy holiday season when locals will be too distracted to make much of a fuss. As for the future of the boardwalk? It’s a waiting game.