Mind the gap! New cement Boardwalk is a stumbling ground, residents say

Mind the gap! New cement Boardwalk is a stumbling ground, residents say
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Critics of the new cement slabs installed on the Coney Island Boardwalk near W. 33rd Street say the synthetic sections are shifting apart — and are using Coney’s growing fault lines to pressure the Parks Department into abandoning its plan to pave over the rest of the beloved 2.7-mile stretch.

“If the [gaps] are left unattended over time they could become dangerous,” said Rob Burstein, the founder of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance, who said the concrete sections installed in Sea Gate have spread by more than an inch in places after just a year, posing a potential safety hazard.

The city tested the materials in Brighton Beach and Sea Gate last year and plan to install the concrete and recycled plastic lumber on the Boardwalk between Coney Island Avenue and Brighton 15th Street — over opposition from Community Board 13.

The proposal is part of a larger, $30-million renovation to the aging Boardwalk, and is likely to lead to the paving of the rest of the walkway, except for a four-block section in the amusement district between W. 10th and W. 15th streets.

But residents who fear the concrete deck would ruin the spirit of the 88-year-old footpath say the concrete sections are, besides shifting, already cracking up in places. The slabs also freeze solid during cold spells, unlike the old wooden sections, Burnstein claimed.

“The concrete was completely iced over last weekend and I almost slipped because it was so slick,” he remembered. “It’s a real problem.”

But the city Parks Department disagrees: spokeswoman Vickie Karp said the planks are holding up just fine because they are fastened together to prevent shifting, and are maintained by boardwalk contractors.

“The concrete sections of the boardwalk fared very well during the recent hurricane, earthquake and winter storms,” she said.

Parks officials have long argued that concrete is sturdier, and — at $90 per square foot — roughly $40 per foot cheaper than real timber.

But the Parks Department’s plan to rip out the wood suffered a setback last October when the agency responsible for approving the proposal, the Public Design Commission, put the makeover on hold, and demanded a more detailed study of the project’s environmental impact.

A second hearing was tentatively scheduled for Jan. 30, but has now been moved to the end of February.

Concrete-haters said they hoped the city’s Boardwalk plan is junked altogether.

“Last time the Parks Department didn’t come up with enough facts [to justify using cement],” said Todd Dobrin, president of Friends of the Boardwalk. “I hope the design commission shoots them down again.”

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

Residents say the gap between concrete sections of the Coney Island Boardwalk has been growing since the slabs were installed last year.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham