Coney Island’s iconic Boardwalk is getting a do-over on a botched bid for landmark status to save its threatened boards.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected an application for a Scenic Landmark designation of Riegelmann Boardwalk aimed at thwarting the city’s plan to convert the wooden walkway to plastic and concrete, but a panel has agreed to reconsider a revised application, according to the local pol leading the effort.
Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) submitted the paperwork for the designation in December but the Landmarks Preservation Commission denied the application on the basis that the most significant period of Coney Island history predated the construction of the Boardwalk and that the structure has been too drastically altered since, according to Treyger who denounced those claims at a recent Council meeting on the landmarks commission’s budget.
“Before the construction of the Boardwalk, that was not city-owned land. That was privately owned land in the 1800s — there were segregated bathrooms, Jews could not stay at hotels. I basically said… ‘Is this the type of history that your office claims to be the most cherished?’ Because I certainly don’t,” said Treyger, adding that other Scenic Landmarks have been altered. “Ocean Parkway at one point was a collection of dirt and rocks and mud.”
Treyger has not yet not resubmitted the application with updated historical information, but he said the chairwoman of the commission verbally agreed to reevaluate a new proposal. The commission said that is standard procedure for any application.
“As with any building or site, if significant new information is introduced that was not available at the time of the agency’s initial determination, the agency will review it,” said the commission.
Elected officials and community members have been fighting the reconstruction of the Boardwalk, which began in November and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2016. The Parks Department said the new pathway will be constructed of plastic slats that mimic the look of wood, with a 10-foot-wide concrete lane for emergency vehicles.
In January, elected officials rallied with residents to save the Boardwalk and Public Advocate Tish James called on the mayor to preserve the boards of the seaside icon.
“Mayor DeBlasio, you’ve got to change the plan,” James said at the time.
But a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office said he fully supports the Parks Department’s plan for the Boardwalk.
“The Parks Department is part of the mayor’s administration. Of course he supports his own administration’s plan to ensure a more resilient and sustainable Boardwalk that still mirrors the look and feel of a traditional Boardwalk,” said Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for the mayor.
The Parks Department is adamant that the plastic slats will have the same “look and feel” as the original Boardwalk, but a community activist said that is just not possible.
“The bottom line is it is not wood,” said Todd Dobrin the president of Friends of the Boardwalk, an advocacy group formed to save the Boardwalk’s boards, adding that if the Parks Department maintained the wood properly and didn’t drive emergency vehicles on the Boarwalk, wood would be sufficient. “The Parks Department refuses to acknowledge if they used it properly and didn’t abuse it, wood would be good.”
Treyger is optimistic about the new application, and said he will continue to fight for the wooden walkway.
“This is our public treasure,” he said.