Concrete jungle! Panel rejects city’s latest plan for cement boardwalk

Concrete-hating Community Board 13 has rejected the Parks Department’s latest proposal to keep a cement path along the Riegelmann Boardwalk, but cover some of the iconic waterfront walkway with recycled plastic lumber.

The board voted on March 21 against the proposal, which is an alternative to the agency’s original plan to convert the entire three-mile stretch into cement. Most locals say that making a third of the Boardwalk concrete would still turn the iconic wooden walkway into a highway.

“We don’t want any concrete!” said Robert Burstein, a member of the board and founder of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance, a Boardwalk advocacy group. “They are prioritizing vehicles over people.”

The city says it will present a new plan to the board next month, according to spokesman Philip Abramson, but it will still insist on installing the less-expensive cement, which he says is strong enough for the police cars patrolling the area and trucks that use it to make deliveries.

But locals say that recycled plastic lumber, which, at the very least, resembles the famous wooden planks, could easily withstand the weight of vehicles.

“It’s unacceptable and unnecessary when there are alternative materials the city could use,” Burstein said.

In addition to loathing the look of the scored and colored concrete, many fear the material could scorch pedestrians’ feet and may not protect the waterfront from the ocean during a storm.

“People are not going to be able to walk barefoot over that. They’re going to burn their feet,” said Brighton Beach activist Ida Sanoff, who added that “if waves hit a hard concrete surface, it’s energy will not dissipate and there’s an opportunity for great property damage.”

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.

“Concrete is less expensive to use, can last decades rather than up to 10 years, and requires virtually no maintenance,” said Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, last fall. “It is significantly more effective than the other choices.”

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 a “faux-wood” called recycled plastic lumber to test both materials. The agency concluded that the concrete was more durable than the faux wood, and didn’t get slippery.

The city hasn’t announced when the concrete boardwalk will be installed.