Coney Island boardwalk designated a scenic landmark

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In this May 23, 2013 file photo, a couple walks on the boardwalk in Coney Island in the Brooklyn borough of New York. | AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File

NEW YORK — Brooklyn’s iconic Coney Island boardwalk, which has attracted generations of New Yorkers and tourists who come to enjoy the sand, surf and amusement park rides, was designated a Scenic Landmark as it celebrated its 95th birthday on Tuesday.

The designation protects the basic footprint of the boardwalk, which has undergone numerous changes over the years, mostly in response to its environment alongside the Atlantic Ocean. Some sections are now concrete, some are wood and still others are recycled plastic, according to New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission spokeswoman Zodet Negron.

“It is a beloved public space that embodies Coney Island’s democratic spirit and reflects our city’s values of tolerance, inclusivity and equity,” said Meenakshi Srinivasan, the commission’s chair.

The famous waterfront promenade, now 2.7 miles (4.34 kilometers) long, opened on May 15, 1923 and was built in three phases between 1922 and 1941.

Most of Brooklyn’s waterfront was privately owned before the 20th century.

“Coney Island has played a part in the history of New York since the first days of European exploration, when Henry Hudson docked his ship, the Half Moon, off its coast in 1609,” according to a landmarks commission document issued in 1989.

Around the 1860s, small hotels sprang up there, providing a country environment enjoyed by Washington Irving, Herman Melville, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and Walt Whitman.

Between 1880 and 1910, racetracks attracted con men, “roughnecks and prostitutes,” it said. Fires destroyed many of the hotels.

The boardwalk, officially named for former Brooklyn Borough President Edward J. Riegelmann, was part of a rejuvenation plan inspired by the success of boardwalks in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and other places, the landmarks commission said.

It delivers summer fun-seekers not only to the beach but to such amusements as The Wonder Wheel, landmarked in 1989; the Cyclone roller coaster, landmarked in 1988; and the Parachute Jump, brought from the New York World’s Fair and landmarked in 1989.

“Coney Island’s boardwalk is a timeless treasure,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver. “With its rich history, I am confident that with this designation, it will stand and serve this city and its visitors for hundreds of years to come.”

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