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Assemblyman to pull back controversial beach bill

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Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz claimed on Thursday that he will pull back a controversial bill he quietly introduced this month that would remove an important check on the city’s power to develop — or overdevelop — its public beaches.

Right now, for the city to build anything on beaches in places such as Coney Island and Manhattan Beach, it needs to first check with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which would make sure what goes up doesn’t interfere with the public’s ability to freely enjoy the waterfront.

But the bill Cymbrowitz (D–Brighton Beach) introduced would give the city the right to do whatever it wants on the land that the parks department would control — which could allow the city to build whatever it wants there.

That, along with the fear that an underfunded Parks Department would let the beaches fall apart, scared some beach advocates worried about its repercussions on the beaches in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

“If anything, our legislatures should be looking to strengthen those regulations, not turning them over to the Parks Department,” said beach advocate Ida Sanoff, adding that the Parks Department “is the most woefully underfunded city agency and has done a terrible job of keeping sand off the Boardwalk, and hasn’t come up with a [way] to keep the sand on the beach.”

But Cymbrowitz’s bill would have transfer 250 feet of Brighton and Coney Island beach from the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s to the Parks Department — a move he originally claimed would speed up the construction of a long-delayed bike lane on the Brighton and Coney Island Boardwalks between Brighton 15th Street and W. 37th Street.

Now, after news of his bill — which he didn’t bother to send out a press release informing this newspaper about the plan — was reported on the website Sheepshead Bites, Cymbrowitz changed his tune, claiming he was pulling it back because he couldn’t trust the city, which he says recently flubbed the installation of new bathrooms on the beach.

“Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz … informed Mayor Bloomberg today that he’s pulling the legislation in light of the administra­tion’s serious and continued mishandling of the new comfort stations in Brighton Beach,” read a press release fired off by his office that mentioned a letter he wrote to the mayor.

“I believe that giving the city any additional authority of the area near the boardwalk is a mistake. The state Department of Environmental Conservation should continue to have oversight and this legislation will not move forward this session,” he claimed the letter said.

Sanoff cheered Cymbrowitz’s reversal.

“It just goes to show there’s no limit to what you can do when you shine a light on the darkness,” she told Sheepshead Bites. “This was being done so quietly [it] raised a lot of red flags.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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