With the city’s Parks Department already in the process of demolishing the 91-year-old Riegelmann Boardwalk, to replace the wood planks with plastic supported by concrete, elected officials and locals alike braved the pouring rain on Sunday, January 18 to protest and demand, “boardwalk, not sidewalk.”
“I was very humbled that, despite the elements, over 100 diehard Boardwalk fans came out,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger. “Support is swelling.”
The $10 million project, he said, has already seen parts of the Boardwalk from Coney Island Avenue to Brighton 15th Street ripped up. The city has been doing work in sections since November, 2014, replacing portions of wood with plastic and concrete materials Parks Department officials say are stronger and cheaper to maintain.
“The new Coney Island Boardwalk will be enjoyable, long-lasting and environmentally sound,” said Parks Department Spokesperson Maeri Ferguson, stressing that the Boardwalk will not be paved with concrete but rather recycled plastic lumber boards laid over a concrete support structure.
“The new Boardwalk,” Ferguson continued, “will maintain the look and feel of a traditional boardwalk while ensuring resilience and providing protection for Coney Island residents and businesses. As a coastal city, it’s more important than ever for us to use resilient, sustainable materials. Recycled plastic lumber boards and concrete are much more resilient and sustainable, and fared better during Sandy.”
Still, the Coney Island councilmember isn’t convinced.
“Everyone is in unison saying that this is a signature piece of our history that is being torn apart,” said Treyger, insisting that, while he understands Parks’ decision to cease use of tropical hardwood, there are other viable options to be explored. “You can’t argue that you’re fixing the Boardwalk with concrete and still calling it a boardwalk. That’s not a boardwalk.”
Treyger was joined at Brighton Fourth Street by Borough President Eric Adams, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Councilmember Mark Levine, chair of the Council’s Parks Committee, and more.
“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,” said Adams. “This is an iconic landmark with international appeal, and I am committed to working with all stakeholders to find how we can best preserve the character of our beloved boardwalk.”
“This is something that we’re not giving up on,” said Treyger, adding that, since launching a petition in December, he and Councilmember Chaim Deutsch have garnered more than 1,500 online signatures and 1,000 on paper.
“Quite frankly, I expect more from this administration,” the pol told this paper, adding that the city agency “wouldn’t dare take the grass at Prospect Park and turn it into fake grass” to save money. “This is a mayor who, when he was campaigning for office, said he wants to close the tale of the two cities; that regardless of where you come from and how much money you have, your voice still matters.
“Let’s put that to the test in Coney Island,” he said. “Let’s save the Boardwalk.”
According to Parks, construction is to be completed by the 2016 beach season.