Do you have 18 minutes? Take a look at this interesting and beautiful film about Coney Island Creek and the New Yorkers who love it. The film was produced by Charles Denson, a Coney Island native who runs the Coney Island History Project.

The History Project’s website is worth exploring. It has a treasure trove of photographs about one of New York City’s most famous -and distinctive- communities.

“I grew up near Coney Island Creek,” says Denson in his film. “And [I] began photographing it in the 60’s when the waterway was at its lowest point, polluted and neglected, but I always knew there was something special about the creek and that it would survive.”

The 18 minute video is part of a longer documentary film project that Denson is producing.

A Point of Vulnerability

One of the things that Denson discusses in his film is a possible City plan to construct a tidal barrier across the mouth of the two-mile long Creek.

Rising sea levels pose a mounting risk to the area’s residents. Indeed, the City has replaced 670,000 cubic yards of sand on Coney Island’s beaches to protect the coastline.

But some of the worst flooding that hit Coney Island (and Gravesend) during Superstorm Sandy came from the Creek, not the ocean.  “Low edges and topography contributed to “backdoor” flooding that caused enormous damage,” says the City.

In response, the City’s Economic Development Corporation and the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency have launched a feasibility study to examine a possible tidal barrier and other hydrological strategies. The core objective is to prevent and mitigate upland flooding and storm surges around Coney Island Creek as sea levels rise.

But the City says other goals can be accomplished at the same time:

  • Improve waterfront open space
  • Enhance water quality and aquatic habitat
  • Strengthen connections between neighborhoods
  • Support economic development in surrounding areas
Coney Island Creek today; and a rendering of the Creek with a series of tidal barriers. Credit: NYC Economic Development Corporation

Trapping Pollution?

Denson is dubious about the City’s idea. He says that constructing a tidal barrier will “most likely turn the waterway into a toxic cesspool and do little to prevent flooding.”

The Creek’s water quality has been heavily impacted by historic industrial pollution and ongoing releases of raw sewage during rain events. The City says a planned upgrade to the sewage pumping station at Avenue V will drastically reduce raw sewage releases – from almost 300 million gallons per year to less than 50 million gallons.

Another issue is the Creek’s natural design. The width of the Creek ranges from 900 feet at the mouth to 150 feet at the head (east side). The tidal water that enters the Creek twice a day is unable to adequately flush it, says the City.

What does Denson think should happen? Make Coney Island Creek a “restored wetland that prevents flooding,” he argues.

Do you live near Coney Island Creek? The City is requesting input from community members about the future of the Creek. Read more about the feasibility study here. Contact the City with your comments and questions here.