Life went on along Coney Island’s Riegelmann Boardwalk as you’d might expect on the last Sunday of August — bustling with carefree people enjoying the seaside attractions — more than 12 hours after the area’s second mass shooting of the summer.
In this latest senseless act of gun violence, which occurred just before midnight Saturday near the boardwalk and West 28th Street, a 42-year-old man was left dead and four others were wounded.
Despite the shocking display of gun violence that many would find unthinkable, those who call Coney Island home tell amNewYork Metro that they have learned to live with an ever looming shadow of gun violence that has sadly become a part of life.
Tiffany spent her childhood in the Coney Island/Ocean Parkway neighborhood, but has since moved to Georgia. She admits that since she left, she feels the area has gotten progressively worse, to such a degree that she no longer feels safe traveling the boardwalk at night. However, she says her beloved grandmother is her sole reason to keep returning, if it wasn’t for her Tiffany would abandon the area completely.
“Growing up here and then coming back as an adult, it seems like a lot of these kids around here seem dangerous. Personally, when I’m visiting her, I don’t feel safe at night, because these kids seem to get agitated over the slightest things,” Tiffany said. “If she moved out I wouldn’t come back.”
Despite being just over ten blocks from where beachgoers soak up sun from the sand and tourists dance to tanned buskers as children line up for their turn on a ride, 28th Street seems oddly barren. Despite the sun beating down the beach remained mostly empty save for a passing boat and the boardwalk was likewise uninhabited except for a few stragglers and several police officers who stayed to guard the scene of the crime.
For Liliana, a senior who spends her days on the boardwalk this juxtaposition is no secret but instead just the way things are. After living in the nearby Trump Village for 43 years, she has come to accept that a few steps away from the main tourist attraction could mean coming upon a crime scene, in fact she says she has become accustomed to the sound of police sirens and ambulances whizzing outside of her apartment.
“I like walking the boardwalk, but I hear the police and ambulances running through the Ocean Parkway. It won’t stop me, I feel safe,” Liliana said, defiant to enjoy her home no matter what.
Gina Giles, 36, knows the cost of life on the boardwalk and the toll of gun violence perhaps more than any other. Giles has spent her young adult life coping with the consequences of the fired gun, having had several relatives perish from stray bullets and gang attacks in the Coney Island area.
“It is something that I kind of grew up just accepting. I lost a cousin when I was eight, she was 17, to a stray bullet,” Giles said, becoming emotional at the memory.
For years, Giles served in the military and performed tours in Iraq before moving to Arizona. But Coney Island is her home, and she finds herself returning once more to discover the next part of her life. Fresh off the plane from Arizona, Giles says she was struck with the startling realization that things have gotten progressively worse in her community. As she sat in her brother-in-law’s car on her first day back, she says she saw a person shot.
“The first day I got here, last week someone got shot meters away from the car. I was just shocked,” Giles said.
Giles also lost her brother after a gang attacked him, resulting in his death from a head injury.
“Things have just gone backwards. I thought things changed with the park and more tourists, so much change has happened. You see smiling faces by Luna Park but the surrounding area is different,” Giles added.