CIHP Director Charles Denson frees a snagged horseshoe crab. The bridge site before and after CIHP clean-up.
What is Coney Island Creek?
NOVEMBER 27, 2018
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 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.
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.
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. . . .
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced grant awards from the Coney Island Creek Environmental Benefit Project Fund (CICF). DEC established the fund to support projects in the Coney Island Creek community from enforcement actions involving illicit sewage discharges into the Coney Island Creek watershed.
“These grants will fund several projects that will benefit the Coney Island Creek community,” said Regional Director Steve Zahn. “Investments like these will help show our continued commitment to addressing environmental challenges faced in this community.”
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) will administer the grants, which were awarded to:
City Parks Foundation for their Coastal Classroom Program at Coney Island Creek - $30,000. The project will engage students and community members in lessons about coastal ecology and environmental stewardship activities at Kaiser Park, which borders Coney Island Creek.
Wildlife Conservation Society’s Urban Naturalist Initiative - $99,940. The project will teach high school students to conduct ecological research, present about biodiversity in Coney Island Creek, design an Aquarium exhibit about sources of pollution, and engage residents in cleanup and planning for public access to the Coney Island Creek.
New York City Department of Parks and Recreation for the Expansion of the Coney Island Creek Shorekeepers - $60,000. The project will deliver education, technical training, and stewardship activities focused on recruiting environmental volunteers in the Coney Island Creek Watershed.
National Audubon Society, Inc. For the Birds! Environmental Education Program - $76,560. The project will deliver hands-on environmental education programing about native birds and their habitats to students, create a native plant garden, and conduct bird walks and environmental education for students, families and community members around Coney Island Creek.
Projects are expected to commence within six months of award notification and must be completed within 18 months.
Coney Island Creek