Lawsuit reawakens Coney boardwalk fight

July 14, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Just when many observers thought the controversy about the Coney Island Boardwalk was over and done with, advocacy groups on Friday filed a lawsuit to stop New York City from tearing up a five-block section and replacing it with concrete and plastic.

The suit claims that the plan was not subjected to the necessary state and city environmental review even though the plan, originally proposed by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, was approved this past spring by the city’s Public Design Commission.

It also contends that the 60,000-foot section in Brighton Beach is a test for renovations of the remaining 2.7-mile-long boardwalk.

The plan, which would use wood-like plastic planks on the outside with a concrete median for vehicles in the middle of the boardwalk, replaces an earlier plan to completely pave over the boardwalk with concrete.

The plan had its genesis in the city’s decision not to use rainforest wood, which had been used in the past, for environmental reasons. The city said that using other types of natural wood was too expensive, and the wood was not durable enough.

The Parks Department, in a statement last spring, said that some types of natural wood last only eight years, whereas the plastic material can last up to 75 years.

But the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance, the main group opposing the use of synthetic materials, says the current planks should be replaced on the surface by “one of the available sustainable domestic hardwoods such as Black Locust or White Oak,” with the support structure underneath replaced by recycled plastic lumber.

In general, many elected officials supported 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.”

The Parks Department said it was reviewing the lawsuit. It declined further comment.

Concern about the boardwalk is not new. The late Dennis Holt, columnist for this newspaper, wrote that when he worked for Congressman Stephen Solarz in the early 1990s, “The most heated conversations every spring, and throughout the year for that matter, were about repairing the boardwalk.

“The city never had enough money to do a complete job, and local elected officials and community leaders used to squabble most forcefully about what got repaired and what didn’t,” he said.

–Raanan Geberer

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

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