Boardwalk-based businesses say the city might as well fit them with cement shoes if it plans to replace the wood they know and love with cement.
“If there’s no boardwalk we don’t have a business,” said the manager at Café Volna, located at Brighton Fourth Street. “This is the only way we can survive.”
Cafe Volna is just one of more than a dozen eating and drinking establishments along the boardwalk that rely on Boardwalk traffic to attract patrons.
Without the charming feature of wooden planks, however, they fear customers will stop coming.
“Could a cement walk hurt business? It could,” said Michael Sarrel, manager of Ruby’s Old Tyme Bar and Grill. “I imagine the first reaction from customers would be, what’s this?”
Patrons at the venerable watering hole near West 12th Street summed up their feelings about concrete in one word: “Boo!”
“It’s just not the same,” barkeep Willie Hinds said. “If it ain’t wood, it’s not a boardwalk.”
The Parks Department has nevertheless started replacing sections of the almost three-mile-long Riegelmann Boardwalk with cement.
Officials say it’s only a test, but admit that cement is more durable than traditional wood.
“Concrete is the most financially feasible and it lasts longer,” Brooklyn Parks and Recreation Chief of Staff Martin Maher told Community Board 13 recently.
That rationale doesn’t sit well with Dennis Vourderis, operator of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park at West 12th Street.
In addition to the rides, Vourderis also sells snacks and pizza directly on the Boardwalk, and he says concrete “wouldn’t have the allure and flavor of a wooden boardwalk.”
“There’s a lot of concrete in New York City, but we only have one boardwalk,” Vourderis said.
But not every business on the Boardwalk is averse to concrete.
“I think our customers are going to be happy with concrete,” said Leo Blinder, manager of Tatiana Restaurant at Brighton Sixth Street and the boardwalk.
His reason is simple: transients sometimes congregate under the boardwalk, which can unnerve customers.
“We always had complaints that people were looking up at the women,” he said.