Loose screws, gaping holes and uneven planks plague Coney Island’s wooden boardwalk. But even as city lawyers pay out legal settlements to injured people, Mayor Eric Adams’ new $99.7 billion budget will allocate no new funding to repair it.
Restoring the iconic beachside walkway has been a priority for Democratic City Councilmember Ari Kagan, who represents parts of Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, and Sea Gate.
“It’s an economic engine for the community because when it’s fixed, when it’s beautiful, it attracts more visitors,” he said. “When it’s broken, when people are hurting themselves, nobody wants to visit. Nobody wants to risk their life or health.”
Before leaving office last year, former Mayor Bill de Blasio allocated $114.5 million for boardwalk reconstruction, starting in 2025. But that sum would only suffice to restore part of the pathway, which stretches for nearly three miles from Coney Island to Brighton Beach.
Since its announcement last November, the Parks Department has not yet even determined which areas will be fixed with that pool of funding.
Kagan said he personally asked the mayor’s team for more money before the budget announcement, and wants construction to begin sooner.
The Department of Parks and Recreation, which is in charge of the boardwalk, has not publicized a dollar figure for the full cost of restoring the boardwalk, and claims the figure is still under study. But Kagan said parks officials have told him it would cost far more than what the city has put on the table.
“I believe it’s still several hundred million dollars,” he said. The current sum “clearly is not enough.”
Parks Department spokesperson Meghan Lalor said in an email to THE CITY: “We look forward to beginning the first phase of reconstructing a Coney Island boardwalk built for the future that pays homage to its historic past.”
In addition, Lalor said, park officials are also drawing on a separate $11.5 million funding allocation to restore a stretch of the walkway from West 24th Street to West 27th Street. That construction project was slated to be finished in February but has been delayed with officials citing “COVID related impacts.”
Since 2012, the city has faced dozens of lawsuits stemming from alleged injuries that took place on the boardwalk related to defects and lack of maintenance, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For example, records from the office of Comptroller Brad Lander show the city paid out $125,000 to Yevgeniya Bereznyak, a woman who sued claiming she had suffered injuries after she tripped and fell on a faulty section of the boardwalk between West 5th and West 6th streets in 2012. In 2019, the city coughed up another $125,000 to a woman named Irina Shapiro, who also allegedly tripped and fell around West 6th.
On a gray afternoon last week, Coney Island and Brighton Beach residents told THE CITY they’re constantly on the alert.
Francis Caccavo, a retired health department employee who has lived in the area for more than three decades, said he has to be careful whenever he goes for a walk.
“I’m here almost every other day and it’s horrible,” said Caccavo, who noted he has tripped several times but never been injured while walking. “Nails sticking up, boards missing, cracked, it’s horrible.”
Caccavo and a woman walking next to him said the problems got worse after Superstorm Sandy deluged the peninsula with seawater. “It was never really repaired,” he said.
Ethan Garcia, a 32-year-old nurse, said he’s used to dealing with the crumbling infrastructure, but worries about getting a rolled ankle or exposing his son to a loose nail.
“There are nails that pop up here and there,” he said, looking back at his child, who was sitting in a red toy wagon. “If he takes a bad fall, he could be unlucky.”
Between 2017 and 2021, the Parks Department said it has only directly received reports of 12 injuries on the boardwalk. But the comptroller records, obtained by THE CITY through a Freedom of Information Law request, suggest serious injuries could be far more prevalent.
Kagan, who supported Adams during his run for mayor and was endorsed by the then Brooklyn borough president for his own Council bid, made clear he is still planning to work with the mayor’s office to come up with a solution — including, potentially, federal funding.
“I still hope to work with [the] administration to get more money from [the] federal infrastructure bill because [the] federal budget is much higher,” said Kagan. “There is still time for the city to apply for this money, and I hope it’s going to happen.”
The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment about Kagan’s application request.