City: New faux Boardwalk will have less cement

The Parks Department offered a new compromise to concrete-wary Boardwalk lovers Tuesday night, proposing a smaller cement roadway that’s 4-feet slimmer than the strip residents protested in March.

Officials want to install a 12-foot-wide cement path for emergency and Parks Department vehicles from the Boardwalk’s eastern edge near Brighton 15th Street to Coney Island Avenue. Plastic lumber would be placed on both sides of the concrete to give the remainder of the path a true boardwalk look. With the move, wooden planks will become a thing of the past.

“We took the comments that were made at the last meeting and shrank the amount of concrete,” explained borough Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey. “But the concrete is necessary to withstand the vehicles that use the Boardwalk.”

But many people at the meeting, hosted by the Community Board 13 Parks Committee, want the whole Boardwalk to be converted entirely to faux wood, which looks and feels like the current wooden panels but doesn’t break down as easily. Residents continued to insist that even one strip of concrete will turn the iconic wooden walkway into a boring sidewalk.

“This is violating the one piece of solitude in a city that’s already a concrete jungle!” exclaimed Mike Greco, whose group Friends of the Boardwalk collected more than 1,000 signatures opposing the use of concrete.

In addition to loathing the look of the scored and colored concrete, some fear the material could scorch pedestrians’ feet, crack and get slippery when wet.

“In the sun I’d be afraid to walk on it and in the rain I’d be afraid to walk on it,” said Brighton Beach resident Marina Kot.

And many said that the faux wood that will be used on the sides of the Boardwalk can withstand vehicles as well as concrete can.

“Don’t underestimate recycled plastic lumber,” said Tim Keating of Rainforest Relief, which pushes alternatives to typical tropical hardwoods for boardwalks.

But the city says that cost is the biggest factor when it determines what material should be used. According to the city, concrete costs $90 per square-foot, compared to $114 per square foot for a concrete slab topped with recycled plastic lumber.

The Parks Department also disputes residents’ notions that artificial wood is just as durable as concrete. Over the summer, city officials had installed both concrete planks and plastic lumber to test both materials. The agency concluded that concrete was more durable than faux wood and didn’t get slippery.

This is the second time in less than a year that the city has revised its Boardwalk plan, which began as a quest to convert the entire width of the walkway into concrete. But the latest proposal will likely move forward, as the Community Board’s Parks Committee voted five to one to send the initiative to the full board for a vote. Members said that they appreciated the concrete compromise, as it will give people plenty of faux wood to walk on.

“That’s the point of the plan,” said Chairman Eddie Mark. “You get to choose what surface to walk on.”

The city gets the final say on the concrete jungle and the makeover will likely be complete by 2014, according to Jeffrey.

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