Though Pols Support It, Plastic Plank Plan for Coney Boardwalk Saddens Others

March 13, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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CONEY ISLAND — The city’s Public Design Commission decision on Monday to approve the plan to repave part of Coney Island’s wooden boardwalk with a combination of plastic planks and concrete is final, but sadness among the plan’s detractors lingers.

The commission met Monday to discuss the proposal from the city Parks Department. Its approval was the last step needed to move forward with the plan.

More than three dozen people spoke against the plan to make over stretches of the aging, 2.7-mile Brooklyn boardwalk. They carried signs that said “Boardwalk, not sidewalk.”

In general, many elected officials tended to support the plan. For example, Councilman Domenic Recchia, who represents the area, said, “After the Parks Department conducted extensive research, it became clear that the concrete-RPL model is most efficient, practical, and financially responsible option. I am happy that we’ve taken the right steps to ensure that the Coney Island Boardwalk will be enjoyed for generations to come.”

RPL, or recycled plastic lumber, is the material that will be used on the boardwalk, with the exception of the concrete median designed for emergency vehicles. It is manufactured to look like natural wood.

Similarly, Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D-Dyker Heights/Gravesend/Coney Island) said in a statement that RPL simply “makes the most sense. The lifespan would range somewhere between 40 and 60 years, and the concrete

interior would provide a sturdy and slip-resistant surface for wheelchairs and walkers, as well as emergency vehicles that need to access the boardwalk, beach, and businesses. Although the appearance of the boardwalk would change, it would still maintain some of its wood characteristics, as the recycled plastic would provide the aesthetic.” Natural wood alternatives, he added, were either too expensive or wouldn’t last as long.

On the other hand, Dick Zigun, head of Coney Island USA, which operates Sideshows by the Seashore and the Mermaid Parade, said simply in response to an email, “I am sad.”

Rob Burstein, head of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance, which led the fight against the new design, said in an email, “Boardwalk, not sidewalk! Parks Department officials wasted $15 million in stimulus money to pave over two sections of the boardwalk, each about two blocks long, instead of first investigating other viable alternatives. When I asked the head engineer why this was so, he said, `We didn’t have time to do research, we had to use the money right away!’

“Sounds like a 15-year-old with a few dollars burning a hole in his pocket!”

The RPL plan replaced an earlier Parks Department plan to pave the boardwalk with concrete planks, a plan that was actually put into effect in some section before it was withdrawn due to public opposition. The current plan is seen by many as a compromise.

The Coney Island Boardwalk was built in 1923, and gave visitors a quick way to move between Coney Island’s bathhouses, hotels, amusement rides, snack bars, games and theaters. It is now officially known as the Riegelmann Boardwalk after Edward J. Riegelmann, the borough president of Brooklyn during that period, but few people call it by that name.

In the late 1930s, the Parks Department extended the boardwalk east to Brighton Beach. Although many of the amusements that the boardwalk was meant to serve no longer exist, the boardwalk today gives visitors access to MCU Park, the Wonder Wheel, the Cyclone and the New York Aquarium, among other attractions. It has been renovated numerous times.

Before the most recent controversy, the last time the boardwalk made the news was in 2010, when Zamperla, owner of the new Luna Park, announced its intention to evict several long-standing boardwalk food concessions, such as Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter. Several of these businesses were later allowed to stay.

—Raanan Geberer

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

With Associated Press

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