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Board votes for boards

Straddling the line: Intrepid reporter Will Bredderman stands over the dividing line between wood and concrete Boardwalk, where there is a noticeable difference in beach erosion.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Can a board save the planks?

Coney Island’s Community Board 13 voted last week to demand that the state conduct an environmental impact study before the city pries up the lumber on the Coney Island Boardwalk and replaces it with concrete and plastic — defying the city Parks Department, a state court ruling, and the will of several elected officials.

The board backed up its Parks Committee and Zoning and Land Use Committee recommendations to call upon the state to investigate the potential impact of the new materials on the beaches and surrounding community, and to institute a moratorium on any alterations to the promenade until the studies are complete.

Some residents claim that the sections of the walkway that the city has already converted to concrete suffered worse erosion and led to more severe flooding during Hurricane Sandy.

The Parks Department has long insisted that no such study is necessary, because there is no difference between a promenade made of wood and one made of concrete.

“What this project is doing is replacing a boardwalk with a boardwalk,” city attorney Katy Kendall said in court last October when defending the plan against a lawsuit from wood-lovers aiming to force an impact study.

Presiding Judge Martin Solomon came down on Kendall’s side, claiming the pro-lumber forces had failed to make their case.

“Without expert testimony, petitioners cannot establish a substantial adverse change in existing air quality, ground, or surface water quality, or a substantial increase in potential for erosion, flooding, leaching or drainage problems,” Solomon wrote in his December 2012 decision.

Even Mayor Bloomberg and Councilman Domenic Recchia (D-Coney Island) have declared their support for a new Boardwalk surface.

“We have to move forward,” Recchia said when the issue was being debated in March 2012.

However, Rob Burstein — whose Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance was a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit — was upbeat about the board’s potential to turn the tide in his group’s favor.

“I think it’s a very positive development,” said Burstein. “The community board is representing the safety interests of the community.”

Burstein added that his attorneys were appealing Solomon’s decision, and was optimistic about seeing the gavel fall on his side.

“We’re hopeful that an appeals court panel of judges will give more consideration to our case than Judge Solomon did,” Burstein said.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.

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