Protesters demand city preserve Coney Island’s boardwalk
City replacing wooden sections with concrete
Residents from Coney Island and Brighton Beach turned out in force for a Jan. 18 rally to demand that the New York City Parks Department halt a project currently underway to renovate the historic Riegelmann Boardwalk because the work entails pulling up wooden parts of the boardwalk and replacing the sections with concrete.
More than 100 residents braved a driving rain to take part in the rally organized by council members Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-parts of Bensonhurst) and Chaim Deutsch (D-Brighton Beach-Sheepshead Bay-Manhattan Beach).
The protesters demanded that the city immediately halt ongoing work on the boardwalk, charging that the work will irrevocably alter the character of the boardwalk. Residents also said a concrete boardwalk would result in environmental concerns for nearby homes and businesses.
Treyger and Deutsch also repeated a request they made in late 2014 for the boardwalk, a world-famous tourist attraction that sees millions of visitors a year, to be declared a city landmark.
“In spite of the weather, the rally to save the Coney Island Boardwalk from being destroyed by the Parks Department’s misguided plan had a huge turnout of concerned citizens along with a slew of supportive public officials, all of whom braved the elements to speak with one voice and demand that the city stop going forward with a plan that will destroy our historic boardwalk, diminish people’s enjoyment and use of it, and will subject residents to increased dangers in the event of future storms,” said Rob Burstein, a leader of Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance.
Elected officials in attendance at the rally included Public Advocate Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Borough President Eric Adams.
“It was wonderful to see Comptroller Stringer, Public Advocate James and Borough President Adams at the rally. We hope that they will use their considerable clout to get the Parks Department to respond to our concerns,” said Ida Sanoff, a member of Natural Resources Protection Association.
“When New Yorkers come to the beach, they don’t want to be greeted by more concrete, more asphalt,” James said.
“The Landmarks Preservation Commission must find an option that respects both the history of the boardwalk and our city’s sustainability goals,” Stringer said.
Treyger charged that the boardwalk has been neglected for years and in need of upgrading but that the city is going about the renovation all wrong. “The way the city has conducted this process has been completely unacceptable, and we will not stand for it,” he said.
Deutsch maintained that a wooden boardwalk would be better for safety reasons. “After Sandy, there was a plethora of anecdotal evidence that established that the sections of the boardwalk that were wooden had actually stemmed the flood waters, and the damage was more severe at the concrete portions,” he said.
Deutsch called for an Environmental Impact Study to determine the resiliency of the current renovation project and determine the effects the work will have on homes adjacent to the boardwalk.
Adams sounded an optimistic note. “I believe the tide is turning on the shores of Brighton Beach and Coney Island, with local residents and citywide leaders uniting to say that ‘wood is good’ for the historic Riegelmann Boardwalk,” he said.
The New York Observer reported on Jan. 19 that the Parks Department is basing its argument on economics and the environment. Agency officials told the Observer that replacing wooden sections of the boardwalk will save the city money and that using concrete instead of wood will help the environment by saving trees.
In addition, the renovation of the boardwalk includes plans for a 10-foot-wide lane for emergency vehicles, the Observer reported.
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