This all started when Community Board 13 was looking to raise money because the Boardwalk was in shambles. We found the funding and the Parks Department was going to fix it, and came up with a plan to use concrete for the entire Boardwalk. The community board didn’t like this concrete structure plan; it proposed far too many problems. Most members thought it was a bad idea. The Parks Department recommended cutting costs by using all concrete for the new boardwalk — that’s why they wanted to do it.
We also know why they wanted to use concrete — there are Parks Department trucks and police cars that always need to use the Boardwalk. But instead of doing an entire concrete Boardwalk that could drastically change the historic character of the Boardwalk we should look at some sort of a compromise. An all-concrete Boardwalk will negatively affect the joggers and walkers. There are also other underlying problems with an all-concrete boardwalk.
I had the idea to create a 16-foot center lane made out of concrete, that can hold up and support the weight of heavy trucks, ambulances and police cars. The Parks Department took that into consideration and came back with a revised plan that made the concrete center even narrower — 12 feet.
This center lane of concrete solves two problems — first, the heavy vehicles that need to be on the boardwalk do not have to ride on the wood portion. Second, it keeps the integrity of the boards intact. It still looks like a boardwalk.
We also thought of longevity. I feel Parks is doing everything they can to do in consulting with the experts on what substitute materials they will use in replacing hard wood.
Some people on the community board did not like the idea — they want a full wood substitute boardwalk. I would like to have a full boardwalk, too, but the thing is, these vehicles are going to be on this Boardwalk, and if we used composite wood it would be unsafe for heavy vehicles to stop without slipping on ice or when it rains. There is less liability with concrete. Concrete supports a stronger grip to the road. We have to look at all the issues and try to accommodate everyone, and this is an excellent compromise. Best of all, we get to keep its historic character and it will still make the Boardwalk look like a boardwalk.
Gene Ritter has been active with Community Board 13 for around 20 years.