Coney Island - Under the Boardwalk

March 12, 2009 -

In Brooklyn, even the hidden world under the Coney Island Boardwalk isn't safe from development. Recent repair work near Shoot the Freak has revealed and destroyed the Freak's domain. Luckily, there are still forgotten areas further down the boardwalk, stretches of quiet land that are home to tunnel lairs, foxholes, abandoned building entrances, discarded sharks, guard-doves, love nests and campsites. It is, as Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote in A Coney Island of the Mind -"a kissproof world of plastic toilet seats tampax and taxis/[...]and all the other fatal shorn-up fragments/of the immigrants dream come too true/and mislaid/among the sunbathers."

On a personal note - these photos are dedicated to Robert Guskind, whose encouragement and support, beginning with a single photo in 2006, helped inspire me to document Brooklyn's entire industrial waterfront. He was a generous friend who advised me in creating this website, and then wrote a story about nearly every photo essay on it for Curbed and The Gowanus Lounge, bringing thousands of people to my photographs. I was just one of the many people in the Brooklyn community that he supported and encouraged. Robert loved Coney Island and I had looked forward to sharing these photos with him this week, on the 2nd anniversary of this website. Robert passed away unexpectedly last week.

A Kissproof World

Shark and Tent


Arches and Lines

Grid of Light

Abandoned Entrances

Sewell Gym

Love Nest

Dot Matrix

Urban Camouflage


Bedroom and Bird

Guard Dove


  1. wild! i can remember crawling under the boardwalk in ocean city maryland...and seeing similar sites (yet on a much smaller scale).

    great shots nathan.

  2. Nice photos. I remember going underneath the boardwalk as a kid in the 80s. The only thing missing from your photos is the smell.

  3. In the late 60's and early 70's the only things under this boardwalk were teenagers kissing, maybe smokin' a jay. Not much else. It was a great escape

  4. Hi Nathan,
    Bob Guskind would have really loved these photos.
    Thanks for continuously documenting the underbelly of New York City.
    Truly beautiful.

  5. With the repair of the boardwalk, I've peered down a few times to see part of the under the boardwalk world. I've also heard tales of teenage adventures under these planks. None of that was quite as romantic (in the true sense of the word) as these photos.

    RG would have loved them.

  6. I think it was about 15 years ago the Army Corps of Engineers did a major beach replenishment project from Seagate to Brighton 15th. Part of the job involved filling in the spaces under the boardwalk with more sand. I think it may have been done at the request of the local community boards b/c of complaints about bums and crackheads camping out in the open spaces.

  7. Great stuff. The light coming in from the board slats looks downright eerie in some of those shots.

  8. The guard Dove took the cake for me, too funny,

    Some great pictures here!

  9. Looks like a homeless person's haven.

  10. These photos are beautiful! The last time I ventured down there was just garbage. I should make another trip. :)

  11. There are some nice old shots taken around 1923 posted in places like and which show the boardwalk as it was originally constructed. I count at least 14 steps leading from the sand to the boardwalk which was well above the heads of men standing on the sand. Don't know, but I would guess there were some stores at sand level as well as at boardwalk level.

    1. You are right. We had a small concession stand under the boardwalk along with my neighbors in the 60's. Its the abandon entrances pic that Mr. Nathan posted. We sold fries, hot dogs, cold soda. It was easy for the beach people to come to us instead of going up to the boardwalk to eat and drink. Years came when it was getting vandalized and destroyed. Even though, it was the best time of my life. From young to my 20s when I moved to Va. I will always have the best memories of Coney Island and the surrounding beaches.

  12. Nate,

    You are absolutely awesome! I am absolutely amazed at the careful eye you have for capturing life in the moment which represents the past, the present and of course, the future. You are a gifted person and help me appreciate life through an alternative lense.

    Love ya,


  13. Looked all over for nice pics of NY underbelly. You have it all!!! Beautiful! We in the West are still filling in all our old underground china towns, and I grieve.

  14. there used to be bathrooms under the grandma lived one block from the beach and boardwalk you could just walk under the boardwalk to get to the beach and three blocks to get to coney island. the good old days in the 70's

  15. Complimenti, foto splendide!

  16. Just viewed ur pics. The abandoned entrances u have listed amazed me. I am 60 yrs old. When I was 6 or so we had a little concession stand under the boardwalk along with our neighbor who had a stand about 75 ft away from ours. We sold fries, hot dogs, soda and hamburgers. I have no pictures. My brother misplaced them and when I saw your pics of under the boardwalk stands I was thrilled. That is where our stand was until it was getting vandalized years later. It was the best times of my life. Thk u for posting those pics. Do u have any more?