Controversial Coney Island Concrete Boardwalk Plan Approved


coney-island-boardwalkBrooklyn, NY – The Coney Island boardwalk is about to resemble a sidewalk.

The city’s Design Commission today approved a Parks Department plan to replace five blocks worth of the crumbling 89-year-old wooden boardwalk with a combination of cement blocks and plastic composite planks.

The approval angered some civic groups and beach-goers who say it is a precursor to a Bloomberg administration plan to pave cement and lay plastic planks through the entire 2.7-mile walkway – except four blocks in the amusement district that would remain wood.

The approved pilot plan calls for a 12-foot concrete pathway for emergency vehicles flanked on each side by 19-foot-wide sections of plastic planks for pedestrians.

The test area would run in the Brighton Beach section of the walkway from Coney Island Avenue to Brighton 15th Street. Officials said it’s unclear when construction would begin.

The mayoral-appointed commissioners approved the plan under the condition that the Parks Department “consider” studying several options. The options include reviewing whether a feasible wood alternative could be found; and shortening the size of the cement path, and then moving it to the street side of the boardwalk, rather than leaving it in the center.

However, the conditions are non-binding — meaning the Parks Department doesn’t have to include them when breaking ground.

The city in 2008 stopped using long-lasting lumber from tropical tree species to help preserve the rain forest, and officials claim they’ve had trouble finding a reliable supply of more environmentally friendly hardwood. However, opponents say the city hasn’t looked hard enough and that cement will cause even more maintenance problems.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Todd Dobrin, president of the grass-roots group Friends of the Boardwalk, following the decision.

“The community showed the commission it doesn’t want concrete and that concrete is going to bring even more problems [than wood] in the long run, but they didn’t listen.”

Including Dobrin, 48 people signed up to speak to the commission before it voted – but only three of the speakers said they support the city’s concrete plan.

The plan was approved despite being highly criticized by the commission.

James Polshek, a commission member, called the design “silly,” adding that it reduces the beauty of the boardwalk by cutting a cement path through its center. He proposed moving the cement section to the northern edge of the boardwalk, facing local streets, so the area “continues to resemble a boardwalk.”

Signe Nelsen, who chairs the commission, even suggested the city start planting its own trees on farms it owns upstate, so Parks Department officials would have their own steady supply of hardwood lumber.

While Parks Department officials said they would consider the commission’s recommendations, many questioned afterwards wouldn’t commit to following through with any of them.

The Post first reported the city was looking to replace the boardwalk’s fabled – but rickety – wooden planks in 2008.

The commission’s approval snubs Brooklyn Community Board 13, which rejected the pilot project on an advisory level in May 2010.

Two small sections total seven blocks in parts of Coney Island near Seagate and Brighton Beach near Ocean Parkway have already been replaced with cement blocks.

The sections are already filled with thousands of cracks, which led to the Design Commission holding off on approving the pilot project in October.

{NY Post/ Newscenter}