Cement Boardwalk couldn’t weather Sandy’s wrath, advocates say

Cement Boardwalk couldn’t weather Sandy’s wrath, advocates say
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Hurricane Sandy caused a lot of damage in Coney Island, but it also proved Boardwalk advocates’ claims that wood is good — especially during major storms.

Opponents of a city plan to convert all but four blocks of the iconic promenade to plastic lumber and concrete said more sand was lost under the stretch of cement walk near SeaBreeze Avenue than under the traditional wooden Boardwalk — just as they predicted.

“The storm, which was very unfortunate, has proven to be a great tool,” said Brighton Beach activist Ida Sanoff, who co-signed a lawsuit against the Parks Department for not conducting a full study on the environmental impacts the cement Boardwalk would have. “We’ve said that from day one that the impact of storm surges on the concrete should be evaluated.”

Sanoff said sand piled up under and on top of the old timber section of the walkway when Hurricane Sandy hit — but the concrete surface barely has a grain of grit on it.

But there isn’t any sand under the concrete walkway either, Sanoff explained.

“Why is there such a sharp distinction there?” said Sanoff, suggesting that the wooden footpath slowed down rushing waves, allowing sand to settle underneath. “Obviously something different is happening when the surge hits concrete and when it hits wood. Where are the studies?”

Friends of the Boardwalk President Todd Dobrin, who is also named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the city, said the slatted wooden Boardwalk filters seawater as it retreats, letting sand build up on top and underneath. The concrete Boardwalk doesn’t work that way, leaving huge dunes to be deposited on the street behind it.

“The concrete doesn’t allow the water to drain,” Dobrin said. “The water washed over it and right onto Ocean Parkway. The proof is all over Ocean Parkway.”

Yet many have dismissed such claims — as well as allegations that beach erosion would increase if a concrete Boardwalk is installed.

“This has nothing to do with erosion,” said Judge Martin Solomon, who refused to hear arguments about beach erosion from the pro-wood side during a recent court hearing. Solomon suggested that jutting rock groins would do more for stopping erosion than a wooden Boardwalk.

“I battled erosion on those beaches for years,” he said.