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Boardwalk balk: Locals blast assemblyman for funding flip-flop

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A Sheepshead Bay politician who promised to ensure the borough’s largest Boardwalk would remain wood is a hypocrite who doesn’t care if the planks are ripped up and replaced with cement and plastic, angry beachcombers said this week.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) (inset) pledged last November that he would “cut off” the funding he allocated to the Parks Department to repair the Riegelmann Boardwalk if the city intended to replace its wood with something else, but then authorized the money even after learning it would in fact be used for concrete.

Wooden Boardwalk backers say they would rather he stuck to his word.

“Better that we should lose the funds then to use them for a terrible project,” said Rob Burstein, president of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance.

The Boardwalk reconstruction — which is ripping up the traditional boards to make way for a cement path and plastic slats — was partially funded by Cymbrowitz and Alec Brook-Krasny (D–Coney Island), who together allocated $10 million in funding in 2008. Cymbrowitz has since said that he felt “hoodwinked” by the city, and didn’t realize that the aim of the work, which started in November, was to replace the wooden Boardwalk with plastic and concrete.

The funding would have expired at the end of the year, halting the controversial project, but the assemblyman told a meeting of local stakeholders on Dec. 30 that he had decided to authorize it, albeit on a month-to-month basis, saying he wants the construction to be completed as quickly as possible.

“I chose to extend the contract on a month-to-month basis so that we would retain control of the funding and at the same time be able to continue the valuable discussions that had been opened up at this meeting,” said Cymbrowtiz in a press release. “In a perfect world, everybody would prefer a wooden boardwalk, even the Parks Department.

“I want wood but I also want the boardwalk to be open. Our priority right now must be to get the work done as quickly as possible and return the boardwalk to the people who enjoy and use it.”

One board-booster accused the assemblyman of bald-faced duplicity.

“He cited his strong opposition to what he has just in fact funded, and the hypocrisy of that is mind boggling,” said Burstein, one of several advocates suing to stop the project. “His explanations are something no 2-year-old would accept as being valid since they make no sense.”

One elected official said the meeting — held after a section of the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach was already destroyed — was simply another example of how the city has historically neglected the seaside enclave.

“We’re dealing with something deeper than wood and concrete,” said Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island).

“We just cannot afford government neglecting this structure the way they have for decades. You do not destroy the Boardwalk and issue a plan and then come to the community and say, ‘We’re here to listen.’ ”

Treyger, who is trying to save the boards by declaring it a scenic landmark and has started an online petition with Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay) to preserve the Boardwalk, also took issue with the city’s excuse for going ahead with the controversial project at the end of last year before the funding expired, saying that if Cymbrowitz could extend the funding, the city should have delayed the work until community was consulted. He also said that Cymbrowitz’s urgency to get the project finished was misplaced.

“Of course we all want the Boardwalk to be open,” said Treyger. “But again, I quote the word ‘Boardwalk’ — when you replace it with concrete lane, it is not a Boardwalk.”

The Parks Department said the new plastic and concrete walkway, which will include a 10-foot-wide lane for emergency vehicles, will be completed by the summer of 2016.

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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