New group opposes Coney Island’s concrete planks

A new community group is fighting the Riegelmann Boardwalk’s transformation into a cementwalk — saying the city’s plan to get rid of wood will create an eyesore and leave joggers with wobbly knees.

Rob Burstein, who lives in an apartment building overlooking the new concrete planks in Brighton Beach and has jogged on the Boardwalk for years, says his Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance has already collected signatures from 300 people opposing the city’s plan to replace portions of the famed wooden Boardwalk with new concrete slabs.

“The concrete looks like a scar on the face of the Boardwalk. It’s not a boardwalk, it’s a sidewalk,” Burstein said.

And that makes it more difficult for people to exercise by the beach, said Burstein, who has been running on the Boardwalk for 35 years.

“Concrete is much more stressful on the joints,” he said. “I’m still running after many years because I avoid concrete at all costs.”

The Parks Department has already installed concrete slabs near the Boardwalk’s Ocean Parkway entrance in Brighton Beach and is also placing them from W. 33rd to W. 37th streets near Sea Gate. The tan-colored, pebbled-textured slabs do not resemble wood, critics say.

Earlier this summer, Parks installed traditional wood planks between Stillwell Avenue and W. 10th Street. Last year, synthetic planks were placed on Steeplechase Pier near MCU Park. In the coming months, Parks officials will examine how these materials and the concrete held up to pedestrian traffic to determine which would be appropriate for a full plank replacement of the entire Boardwalk.

But the city says concrete is the early favorite since it doesn’t require regular repairs, such as replacing loose screws, and lasts “100 years instead of 30 or 40 years,” according to John Natoli, Parks’ chief engineer.

The Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance is not the only group opposed to the use of concrete slabs. The Coney Island Friends of the Boardwalk, which Burstein has worked with, also created a petition opposing the city’s concrete plan. Burstein said there are no hard feelings between the two groups.

“I felt that if I did my own thing, I’d have more energy and passion behind it,” he said.

The alliance plans to hold monthly meetings with community residents to attract new members and create strategies to fight the use of concrete on the Riegelmann Boardwalk. To remain posted about meetings, call Burstein at (718) 743-1027 or email RobBurstein@hotmail.com.

The Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance will meet on the Boardwalk at Brighton First Road on Sept. 12 at noon. For info, call (718) 743-1027.

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