Panel says ‘no’ to concrete on Boardwalk

Concrete-wary members of a local panel banded together Tuesday night to reject the city’s plan to replace wooden planks on the Boardwalk with a road — a surprise victory for those who feared the iconic seaside attraction would start to look like an everyday sidewalk.

“I feel like going to Disneyland after this vote!” exclaimed Todd Dobrin, one of the 21 Community Board 13 board members who voted against the concrete.

Only seven board members voted in favor of installing a 12-foot-wide cement path between Brighton 15th Street and Coney Island Avenue, a plan which the Parks Department had touted as a compromise: the roadway is four feet slimmer than the strip residents protested in March and would be bordered by plastic lumber to give the rest of the walkway a true boardwalk look.

But most residents said that even one strip of concrete would turn the iconic wooden walkway into a highway.

“It’s called a boardwalk for a reason!” said Evelyn Strasser, another board member who shut down the plan. “It’s meant to have wood for walking on.”

Still, the board’s vote won’t necessarily stop the cement trucks from rolling in.

CB13’s vote is advisory, and the city gets the final say on the concrete plan. Still, after the vote, Parks Department Borough Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey said that he may revise the plan.

“We may take another look at it,” he said.

Locals have different ideas for what would be the best fix for the decaying 82-year-old Boardwalk. Some want plastic lumber, which is alleged to be more durable and better for the environment than the tropical hardwood that lines the walkway. Others want to keep the real wood, but both sides unite over their shared hatred of concrete. In addition to loathing the material for aesthetic reasons, they fear the material could scorch pedestrians’ feet and get slippery when wet.

“I’d be afraid to walk on it,” said Brighton Beach resident Marina Kot. “And I want to feel the wood on my feet.”

This is the second time in less than a year that a Parks Department Boardwalk redesign has been met with opposition, but the first time that a concrete plan has come before the full community board for a vote. But officials have maintained that at least some concrete is a necessary replacement for the dilapidated wood because it’s durable and inexpensive.

“We know we can’t please everyone but we have to look at longevity and cost,” said Parks Chief of Staff Marty Maher.

The city says that it will not bring any concrete to the amusement strip near Coney Island, but the fate of the rest of the Boardwalk is still up in the air. Residents hope that the Tuesday evening vote will set precedence.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said outspoken concrete-hater Rob Burstein.