Saturday, April 12, 2008

City Fences Off Coney Boardwalk Business, Sparking Cry of "Free the Boardwalk!


The saga of the decrepit Coney Island boardwalk has just gotten curiouser. Rather than make emergency repairs on dangerously sagging and deteriorated portions of the boardwalk before the summer season, the Parks Department has put up a big fence, right in front of a number of Coney Island businesses including the Lola Staar Boutique and Ruby's Bar and Grill. Merchants, in turn, are now saying "Free the Boardwalk!" and suggesting they're make repairs themselves if thee city can't or won't. While a small fence has been up near the Staar Boutique since last fall, the new fence is much larger. Curiously, very dangerous parts of the boardwalk elsewhere--through which people will likely fall this summer or become seriously injured--are not fenced off. (In truth, making the boardwalk safe without repairs would involve closing off a huge chunk if the city doesn't repair the worst boards before Memorial Day.)

In any case, this led to an email blast yesterday from Dianna Carlin (aka Lola), who has shown she knows how to make a racket to get attention for the Coney cause. Here are parts of the email:
The condition of the Coney Island Boardwalk has declined into state of tremendous disrepair. The perilous neglect of the Boardwalk has resulted in many injuries, millions of dollars in lawsuits and now it is causing the loss of business for many of the Coney Island boardwalk businesses. Yesterday, without warning, the Parks Department erected an ominous fence which is obstructing the entrances to an entire block of businesses on the boardwalk between 12th Street and Stilwell Ave. Ruby's Bar and Grill, the Lola Staar Souvenir Boutique, Gyro Corner and the Coney Island Souvenir shop are currently obstructed by this five ft tall, wire and wood fence.

These businesses were told by the Parks Department that this barricade would be obstructing the entrances of their businesses for the entire summer. They stated that the fence was necessary because this section of the boardwalk is a hazard to public safety. This will result in tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. These businesses are already struggling to survive the transitional period of redevelopment in Coney Island.

Businesses are rumored to be taking matters into their own hands. "If the Parks Department dose not fix the boardwalk we will get wire clippers, hammer, nails and plywood. We will remove the fence and fix the boardwalk ourselves!" one business owner said.
We know there is more to come on this issue.

GL Analysis
We have said it so many time that we're growing weary of it, but the city has allowed the boardwalk--which is used by millions of people--to deteriorate into a shameful state. The appropriate course of action is to make quick, emergency repairs to prevent injuries this summer. (To see some of our past coverage click here, we've done about 20 posts on the topic since June, 2006.) It is wrong to add insult to injury by pursuing a (at best) ridiculous strategy of putting a fence around a small part of the problem or (at worst) vindictive strategy of "addressing" the problem in a way that hurts small businesses. We hope that the city is embarrassed into making the needed repairs rather than ruining the summer for these businesses and for the people that will still be injured on the parts of the boardwalk that aren't fenced off.

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