Boardwalk war! Rockaway repairs have Coney faithful spitting nails

Separate and unequal: Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance President Rob Burstein is furious that the city is repairing the Queens boardwalk with wood, but paving over Brooklyn’s seaside walkway with concrete.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A city decision to repair an outer-borough boardwalk with wood has opponents of the Coney Island Boardwalk’s upcoming concrete makeover accusing the Parks Department of turning back on its word.

Agency officials have said repeatedly that repairing city boardwalks with wood was no longer a viable option — sparking the move to replace the iconic Coney Island Boardwalk with concrete and plastic lumber.

But the city began repairing a 10-block stretch of the longer, but far less exciting, Rockaway boardwalk with lumber last week — a move that has Coney Boardwalk advocates spitting nails.

“It’s an unbelievable slap in the face to our communities,” said Rob Burstein, the president of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance. “It shows that it’s possible to have a wooden boardwalk.”

Friends of the Boardwalk founder Todd Dobrin was also outraged.

“I’m furious,” said Dobrin, who has been fighting the city’s plans to take away the Boardwalk’s cherished planks. “Every boardwalk should be treated equally.”

But city officials say they’re not flip-flopping.

“Under a full reconstruction of the Rockaway boardwalk, we would consider using concrete,” said Parks Department spokeswoman Meghan Lalor, who said repairs on the Rockaway boardwalk, which drew 3.6 million visitors last year, will replace planks Hurricane Irene turned into kindling last year.

A one-mile section of the 5.5-mile walk has already been paved over with concrete, Lalor noted.

Councilman Eric Ulrich (R–Queens) doled out $1.6 million in taxpayer dollars to help repair the Rockaway boardwalk.

That news wasn’t lost on critics who slammed Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island) for supporting the city’s plan to replace the Boardwalk between Coney Island Avenue and Brighton 15th Street with concrete and recycled plastic lumber.

“We need elected officials to support the Boardwalk here the way that they did in Queens,” Burstein said.

Recchia declined to comment on this story.

In 2010, the Parks Department proposed replacing the entire Boardwalk with concrete and plastic lumber — except for a four-block section in the historic amusement district between W. 15th and W. 10th streets — as part of its $30-million renovation of the aging 2.7-mile span, which opened in 1923.

The agency tested the materials on two sections of the walkway in 2011, claiming that concrete was sturdier and cheaper than using real wood.

But preservationists balked at the suggestion, claiming the plan would ruin the look and feel of the historic Boardwalk and turn the rest of the strip into a sidewalk.

The Public Design Commission gave the Parks Department the OK to tear out the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach — and install a 12-foot-wide concrete lane for emergency vehicles and a 19-foot-wide lane built out of recycled plastic boards for pedestrians — after agency officials testified that wood was no longer a viable option.

Yet residents say the current repair project in Queens proves otherwise.

“I can’t understand their reasoning,” said Brighton Beach resident Arlene Brenner. “It’s ridiculous.”

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

Boardwalk war: The city is using wood to repair an aging section of the boardwalk in Rockaway — after refusing to use wood to rebuild the Coney Island Boardwalk.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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