Yesterday the Public Design Commission approved a plan to replace a large section of Coney Island’s iconic wooden boardwalk with a combination of plastic and concrete.
Despite a large turnout of outspoken locals who presented a strong case to restore the historic Riegelmann Boardwalk with real wood, yesterday’s yes vote green-lights the use of recycled plastic and concrete on a section in Brighton Beach stretching from Brighton 15th Street to Coney Island Avenue.
The 7.4 Million dollar project could very well be used as a prototype for the eventual replacement of wood on the walkway’s entire 42 blocks. Only a small section of wooden planks in Coney Island’s amusement area is expected to remain.
Opponents of the concrete say that, in addition to the more obvious aesthetic issues with the new materials, drainage and maintenance problems – including a test section of concrete that is already cracking – have been conveniently overlooked by a short-sighted Parks Department.
“It’s a travesty,” Rob Burstein, president of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance, told the News. “This makes a mishmosh of the boardwalk and creates both an aesthetic and a maintenance nightmare.”
However, Parks Department officials say that wood is no longer practical, despite sustainable domestic alternatives – such as Black Locust and White Oak, suggested by wood advocates.
“We would greatly prefer to use a wood on this surface, but there’s nothing out there right now that will work for us,” said Alex Hart, assistant deputy chief of design for the Parks Department.
Boardwalk advocates say that Parks Department officials, who aggressively lobbied the commission for plastic and concrete, must have their heads in the sand.
“This boardwalk is literally falling apart,” Todd Dobrin, president of the grass-roots group Friends of the Boardwalk told the Post last October after a test section of concrete went up. “It’s cracking, peeling and isn’t good for joggers and walkers.”
And despite calls by members of the Design Commission to modify the size and location of a concrete strip that will be used by emergency vehicles, wood advocates say that no amount of tweaking will make the new materials look better.
“This project is ugly, ugly, ugly,” said Todd Dobrin.