Coney Island Boardwalk saga

Preservationists: City needs to do an environmental impact study

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Preservationists hoping to stop the city’s plan to concrete over the Boardwalk are taking their fight to court.

Coney Island civic leaders, the Coney Island-Boardwalk Alliance, and Friends of the Boardwalk filed a lawsuit against the city on Wednesday, claiming that the Parks Department is going ahead with its plan to replace a five-block stretch of the Boardwalk with concrete and plastic lumber without a necessary — and required — environmental review.

Litigants want a judge to bar the Parks Department from ripping up a single plank until the environmental review is completed.

“The city’s Riegelmann Boardwalk plan indisputably may have a significant impact on the environment and has the potential for a significant adverse environmental impact,” litigants noted in their lawsuit. “Remarkably, the Parks Department has determined that its significant coastal construction project is exempt from environmental review requiremen­ts.”

Robert Burnstein, president of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance, said replacing sections of the iconic wooden Boardwalk with concrete would significantly impair the character and quality of what he calls “an important historical and aesthetic resource.”

“The city is required to consider a host of issues including environmental impacts before embarking on such a project, but it didn’t,” Burnstein said. “The city’s project raises numerous public safety concerns which have not been addressed.”

Longtime Coney Island advocate Ida Sanoff, who joined Burnstein’s lawsuit, agreed.

“Rather than spend the money to properly maintain the Boardwalk the Parks Department wants to destroy this beautiful piece of New York and replace it with a different structure altogether without any environmental review or community input,” she said.

A spokesman for the city’s law department said attorneys were reviewing the lawsuit, but would not comment further.

The Parks Department proposed replacing the entire Boardwalk with concrete and plastic lumber in 2010 as part of its $30-million renovation of the aging 2.7-mile span, which opened in 1923. Only a small four-block section in the historic amusement district between W. 15th and W. 10th streets would be spared from the concrete makeover, which Parks Department officials said was sturdier and cheaper than using real wood.

But preservationists balked at the suggestion, claiming the plan would ruin the look and feel of the historic Boardwalk and turn the rest of the strip into a sidewalk.

The city’s Public Design Commission ultimately gave the Parks Department the OK to tear out the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach — and install a 12-foot-wide concrete lane for emergency vehicles and a 19-foot-wide lane built out of recycled plastic boards for pedestrians — in March after agency officials testified that wood was no longer a viable option.

Reach Thomas Tracy at or by calling (718) 260-2525.
Updated 5:34 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Tony from Park Slope says:
I love the boardwalk. I grew up with it. I know its historic value. That said, we need to get behind sustainable building methods and growth. The last thing the earth needs is more trees cut down for leisurely pursuits. A concrete walk does nothing to diminish the Coney Island experience. Support this sustainable solution.
July 13, 2012, 8:12 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
sustainable building methods ?

It's not like wood grows on trees or something.
July 13, 2012, 10:21 am
Bill from Prospect Heights says:
The wood used for boardwalks is tropical hardwood, typically from the Amazon rain forest or other sensitive habitats. It's very strong, good looking, and unfortunately an environmental disaster. It requires clear cutting one acre of rain forest for a single tree trunk. Using softer American woods is not viable, they are not strong enough and would need to be constantly replaced. I'm no fan of concrete, but sometime these are the small sacrifices we make. Coney will be just fine.
July 13, 2012, 10:35 am
jerry from brighton beach says:
The people who are for the Concrete Highway are not stakeholders in the neighborhoods who will impacted by a Hurricanes , Snow Blizzards etc.
They don't live in the area that will be flooded out by this ill-advised Concrete Highway.
All of the homes, high rises , will be damaged by these storms because there is NO DRAINAGE with concrete.
They don't have any money invested in the area like the residents do in purchasing coops & condos.
The City as usual is only interested in the Tourists who visit Coney Island & see a few feet of Wood. As far as the residents are concere: Screw Them !

July 13, 2012, 11:02 am
John Wasserman from Tribeca says:
Unfortunately, and I hate to be the one to say this, but these "preservationists" (if that's the term we should be using) don't have a chance here. Shame on you, Thomas Tracy.
July 13, 2012, 11:36 am
Tony says:
@Or from Yellow Hook says:

Since reading comprehension is clearly not your strong suit, let me simplify it for you.

Wood = Bad, not sustainable
Concrete = Good, sustainable

My post conclusion: Support this sustainable solution.
July 13, 2012, 12:33 pm
Tony says:
@jerry from brighton beach

What a tough break for you and other Brighton/Coney residents. You move to an over developed barrier island and then you complain that ocean storms flood it.

The sea level is rising and there is nothing anyone can do about it. You might want to move elsewhere.
July 13, 2012, 12:36 pm
Freida Livery from BH says:
How much money will mafia contractors make with concrete?
July 14, 2012, 8:40 am
Scott from PLG says:
Anyone ever been to Rio? They've got a pretty cool stone boardwalk. It looks way nicer than the concrete one in Virginia Beach... maybe something more along those lines?
July 14, 2012, 11:04 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
I'm with Scott from PLG--as long as it looks good and is in character with the area most people will be happy.
July 14, 2012, 2:10 pm
jay from pslope says:
just wondering if anyone knows if this thing could double as a sea wall and actually protect the area from floods?
July 14, 2012, 6:43 pm
Freida Livery from BH says:
If it could double as a sea wall you can bet some self appoined "environmentalist" would object to it.
July 15, 2012, 6:26 am
nancy from coney says:
where do u people get ur info
they cant tear down the parachitte jump its labdmarked and as an italian fredia stop insulting us with mafia quotes not all italians are in the mob and there are other ethnic groups that have mobs who cares what they used 2 make the boardwalk as long as they maintain it im tired of falling on my facewhen i walk on it cause those dummies put concrete under the wood and it messed it up and the wood they use now when it gets wet you slide
July 15, 2012, 9:19 am
Freida Livery from BH says:
Nancy - where do you see 'italian' in my note?

Yankee Stadium was landmarked. They tore it down.
July 15, 2012, 9:54 am
Okra from cobble hill says:
The city needs to support the economic viability of Coney Island by protecting the things that are unique to Coney island. The older icons like the Parachute Jump, the Cyclone and Deno's, Nathan's are the things that make Coney Island unique and help bring tourists. Replacing the real wood boardwalk with concrete and plastic cheapens the experience and disconnects it from the nostalgia of the past.

Using wood doesn't have to mean destroying rain forest. There are managed growth forests growing tropical wood now, and many landscape architects are specifying Black Locust, a non-tropical but very hard and rot resistant wood.
July 16, 2012, 9:49 am
Mal from coney island says:
how much is Coney Island above sea level?
Jan. 16, 2013, 1:12 pm

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