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Boardwalk or sidewalk? Cement to replace Coney Island’s renowned trademark • Brooklyn Paper

Boardwalk or sidewalk? Cement to replace Coney Island’s renowned trademark

Concrete is better than wood, the Parks Department has decided, meaning that a cement Boardwalk is the likely end game at Coney Island.
Photo by Ted Levin

Concrete is beating out wood at the Coney Island Boardwalk.

A high-ranking Parks Department official said this week that the city is leaning toward replacing the world-famous Riegelmann Boardwalk’s wooden planks — which have been marched on for more than 70 years — with concrete.

Even though Parks says it is exploring three different options for rehabilitating the nearly three-mile long boardwalk — wood, concrete, and a synthetic material — concrete clearly has the edge for a typical reason: money.

“When you look at the finances of it, concrete is the cheapest to do,” said Martin Maher, the Brooklyn chief of staff for the Parks Department. “I’m completely convinced that at least the substructure needs to be concrete.”

According to Maher, replacing the Boardwalk with concrete would cost the city about $70 a square-foot — half of what it pays when rebuilding sections with wood.

But critics say that more concrete slabs are the last thing they want to see.

“I see them as a melanoma on the face of the boardwalk,” Robert Burnstein said. “My fear is that it will spread.”

Already, traditional wooden planks are being ripped out and replaced with concrete slabs between Ocean Parkway to Brighton First Road, and from West 33rd Street to West 37th Street — something critics think will make the Boardwalk too hot in the summer and perilously icy in the winter.

But Maher dismissed those claims.

“The reality is that concrete since the 30s has been used in Orchard Beach, and since the 60s at Manhattan Beach and in Rockaway,” he said.

That, along with the latest tree-saving boardwalk technologies, will be the death knell for old-fashioned, wooden boardwalks.

“We can’t continue to build the Boardwalk the way we’ve been building it,” Maher said. “It’s not ecologically friendly and it’s not lasting.”

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