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Mind the gap! New cement Boardwalk is a stumbling ground, residents say

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Critics of the new cement slabs installed on the Coney Island Boardwalk near W. 33rd Street say the synthetic sections are shifting apart — and are using Coney’s growing fault lines to pressure the Parks Department into abandoning its plan to pave over the rest of the beloved 2.7-mile stretch.

“If the [gaps] are left unattended over time they could become dangerous,” said Rob Burstein, the founder of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance, who said the concrete sections installed in Sea Gate have spread by more than an inch in places after just a year, posing a potential safety hazard.

The city tested the materials in Brighton Beach and Sea Gate last year and plan to install the concrete and recycled plastic lumber on the Boardwalk between Coney Island Avenue and Brighton 15th Street — over opposition from Community Board 13.

The proposal is part of a larger, $30-million renovation to the aging Boardwalk, and is likely to lead to the paving of the rest of the walkway, except for a four-block section in the amusement district between W. 10th and W. 15th streets.

But residents who fear the concrete deck would ruin the spirit of the 88-year-old footpath say the concrete sections are, besides shifting, already cracking up in places. The slabs also freeze solid during cold spells, unlike the old wooden sections, Burnstein claimed.

“The concrete was completely iced over last weekend and I almost slipped because it was so slick,” he remembered. “It’s a real problem.”

But the city Parks Department disagrees: spokeswoman Vickie Karp said the planks are holding up just fine because they are fastened together to prevent shifting, and are maintained by boardwalk contractors.

“The concrete sections of the boardwalk fared very well during the recent hurricane, earthquake and winter storms,” she said.

Parks officials have long argued that concrete is sturdier, and — at $90 per square foot — roughly $40 per foot cheaper than real timber.

But the Parks Department’s plan to rip out the wood suffered a setback last October when the agency responsible for approving the proposal, the Public Design Commission, put the makeover on hold, and demanded a more detailed study of the project’s environmental impact.

A second hearing was tentatively scheduled for Jan. 30, but has now been moved to the end of February.

Concrete-haters said they hoped the city’s Boardwalk plan is junked altogether.

“Last time the Parks Department didn’t come up with enough facts [to justify using cement],” said Todd Dobrin, president of Friends of the Boardwalk. “I hope the design commission shoots them down again.”

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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Reader Feedback

Christianna from Park Slope says:
You can help save the Coney Island boardwalk! Sign this petition and tell the Parks Department NO CONCRETE:

http://www.change.org/petitions/keep-the-boards-in-the-coney-island-boardwalk-no-concrete-and-save-the-rainforests
Jan. 31, 2012, 2:45 pm
Richard Martin from New York City says:
I don' t have to live on the Boardwalk to appreciate it. The Boardwalk is something many of us enjoy and brings us to the surrounding neighborhoods. If the wooden walkway can be repaired with sustainablly harvested wood, it is a much smarter choice. Concrete? I don't think so!
Richard Martin
Jan. 31, 2012, 2:46 pm
Steven Green from Sheepshead Bay says:
Why would anyone want to replace wood with ugly concrete. That removes the uniqueness of the boardwalk. It just becomes a sidewalk.
Feb. 1, 2012, 12:26 am
Elliott says:
Wood is great but it needs so much maintenance .The big question is how much more does it cost to maintain a wood boardwalk.
Feb. 1, 2012, 8:09 am
Christianna from Park Slope says:
Concrete needs maintenance, too! Over time, the cost differential between wood and concrete decreases.

I spoke with an engineer in another city who did a comparative cost analysis for their boardwalk and he found the additional cost for wood was one million dollars over a 50 year time frame. That's $24,000 additional cost per year for wood. This seems minimal, especially when compared with what would be lost if the boardwalk is destroyed.
Feb. 2, 2012, 5:51 pm
Michael A Greco from Coney Island says:
This administration will go down in history not only for destroying our beloved world famous Coney Island Boardwalk by using it as a roadway for Carbon monoxide spewing heavy vehicles, but for misappropriation of funds, wasting tax payers money, and greatly distorting the facts to the American people.
They have set a new bench mark for ignorance, deception, waste, and ill conceived plans with the past four designs that have turned our Boardwalk and pier into a reckless, unsafe, irresponsible experiment for amateurs at the people's cost and loss.
These people are not fit to design a diorama for a grade school child much less design a boardwalk.
They are self serving, selfish, disconnected with reality, the understanding of environment, materials, building, design and most of all anything to do with one of America's most famous historical places, Coney Island. It is with great sadness I would have to write such words of truth, but there is no praise for such skullduggery.
When Edward J. Riegilmann put forth the original project 1921 -23 it was designed and built in two years and for three reasons , exercise , recreation and to protect businesses from the sand. In his wisdom of which stands to reason equates to Health , Happiness and Prosperity.
This was once The People's Playground, a place of joy and disconcearn about the dangers of vehicles on a boardwalk and beach. It has now turned into a dangerous place where you must be on your guard at all times weather lying in the sand or walking about.
The new designs that have been installed are not people friendly, handicap friendly, exercise friendly, and do not protect the businesses. On the contrary because of design flaws which were pointed out and explained in fine detail before construction by me, they still proceeded and because of very poor to no drainage we now have lakes of water, ice rinks, sand burms, and hazards from dislodging screws, cracked and broken concrete that is separating and coming apart within months of installation, Yet they bragg of success. I wish this was a Twilight Zone Episode , but unfortunately for the people that know Coney and use it, this is just one real nightmare.
March 13, 2012, 1:10 am

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