Two and a half miles on the Atlantic Ocean. Crowded but the easiest beach to get to from most parts of New York City.
Almost a century before the boardwalk opened along the Atlantic Ocean, Coney Island was on its way to becoming the nation’s most popular pleasure ground. In 1824 the Coney Island House was established as a seaside resort, and within a few decades it was attracting a steady stream of visitors, including celebrities. After the Civil War, new railroad lines provided direct public transportation to a rapidly expanding list of attractions: restaurants, hotels, bathing pavilions, shops, amusement rides, race tracks, theatres, and as always, the beach and the ocean. At the turn of the century, amusement parks—Sea Lion Park, Steeplechase Park, Luna Park, and Dreamland—offered rides, concessions and entertainment on a spectacular scale.
Once the BMT subway line reached the area in 1920, the pleasures of Coney Island were just a five-cent ride away from the steaming city. Attendance on a hot summer day could reach as high as a million, causing extreme congestion on the beach. Making matters worse, private concessions (such as beachfront hotels, bath houses, and cabarets) controlled large portions of the beach. As Brooklyn Borough President from 1918 to 1924, Edward Riegelmann (1869-1941) took charge of beautifying Coney Island and ensuring public access to the beach and shore. After the city secured title to property along the beachfront, the $3 million beach improvement and boardwalk construction began in 1921.
The immense engineering project required 1.7 million cubic yards of sand to add another 2.5 million square feet to the beach area. Construction of the boardwalk made use of 120,000 tons of stone, 7700 cubic yards of reinforced concrete, and 3.6 million feet of timber, including long leaf yellow pine for the flooring. From a height of 14 feet above the beach, the 80-foot wide boardwalk stretched from W. 37th Street to Ocean Parkway and provided easy access to both beach and concessions. "Coney Island's Fifth Avenue" opened with great fanfare on May 15, 1923.
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