We were surprised to learn that the NYC Economic Development Corp. has issued an RFP to design and construct new bulkheads on the south side of Coney Island Creek between West 12th Street and West 23rd Street. Elected officials and Community Board 13 received no previous notification regarding the project and the August 6 informational session at the EDC's offices had passed by the time community members became aware of the RFP. The $32 million project includes "evaluation of the existing conditions, replacement of select bulkheads, raising of select bulkheads, and evaluation of alternate shoreline-raising possibilities." The project is expected to be completed by 2022.
Responses to the proposal are due on September 14, 2018.
The Coney Island History Project's special exhibition for the 2018 season, opening on Memorial Day Weekend, is "Coney Island Creek and the Natural World." Coney Island is best known for its magnificent artifice, a manufactured reality and fantasy world that replaced the vibrant natural environment of sand dunes and salt marshes that existed before development began 200 years ago.
Very little of that environment has survived. The towering sand dunes were flattened, and the wetlands were filled in for development leaving the island vulnerable to storms. Even the island's world-famous beach is artificial, created. . . .
Coney Island Creek is the last remnant of a vast and vibrant salt marsh estuary that once covered nearly 3,000 acres between the sand dunes of Coney Island and the glacial plain of what is now Southern Brooklyn. The waterway became Coney Island’s earliest attraction as the island’s first hotels sprang up along the creek’s shoreline during the 1820s. Until the late 19th century, pristine Coney Island Creek remained a popular destination for boating, fishing, crabbing, and hunting waterfowl.
The sprawling resorts that opened along the oceanfront in the 1870s began using the creek to dispose of raw sewage, initiating of a pattern of abuse that continued for the next century. As Coney Island developed and grew into the “World’s Playground,” the surrounding marshes were filled in with garbage and ash, polluting the creek and transforming it into a two-mile long industrial waterway that still drains Southern Brooklyn through numerous storm sewer systems. For several decades, the neglected and toxic creek survived misguided attempts to destroy it by filling it in rather than restoring it.
The Clean Water Act of 1972 and a new ecological awareness changed public perception and gave new life to Coney’s neglected waterway. The 100,000 residents who live in close proximity to Coney Island Creek are coming to realize that the creek can be an asset instead of a liability. It’s now a case for Environmental Justice. Today the creek has four parks along its shoreline and is once again being used for recreation, fishing, and boating. But much work remains to be done in restoring and protecting this dynamic ecosystem. This work will require a collaborative effort and public participation is needed and appreciated. See the News section for upcoming events.
CIHP Director Charles Denson frees a snagged horseshoe crab. The bridge site before and after CIHP clean-up.
The Citizens Water Quality Testing Program has recently recorded unacceptable levels of pollution at all of the test sites on Coney Island Creek. This means that there may be many more illegal sewage hookups to the creek's storm sewers. The high readings could also be related to the massive infrastructure construction going on in Coney Island. The levels fluctuate, but are still showing some of the highest readings in the entire city.
What is Coney Island Creek?
Coney Island History Project staff recently noticed that spawning horseshoe crabs had moved further up the creek than ever before and were getting snagged and trapped at the illegal dump site below the Cropsey Avenue bridge. In June, two History Project volunteers climbed down ladders and began freeing crabs that had become trapped by ropes, tires, and other debris. We removed snags, concrete, and tires from the site and restored it to a more natural state. CIHP plans to monitor the site and continue clean-ups in the future.
Coney Island Creek