On Monday, March 12th, the twice-postponed hearing before the City’s Public Design Commission to decide the fate of the Coney Island Boardwalk will finally take place. The Parks Department will lay out their plans for a Plasticwalk with a 12-foot-Concrete Roadway down the middle in Brighton Beach, claiming it will be more durable and less costly to maintain than the wooden Boardwalk in place for nearly nine decades.
The Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance and Friends of the Boardwalk will present their plan to “Keep the Boards in the Boardwalk” (also the title of an online petition) by using sustainable wood and concrete supports, citing Ocean City, Maryland’s successful renovation of their Boardwalk in 2011. “The public is welcome to attend and give testimony,” according to the PDC’s website. The grassroots groups are urging Boardwalk lovers to show up in number and use their 3-minute time slot to read from their letters of support and research materials. If you are interested, email Rob Burstein of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance at robburstein[AT]hotmail[DOT]com and he can email you a 3-minute segment to read.
Last year, the local community board, CB 13, voted 21-7 against the Concretewalk as well as the Plastic and Concrete compromise. At last month’s CB meeting at Coney Island Hospital, boos erupted when the compromise plan was mentioned. Alas, their vote is being ignored because New York City’s Community Boards are merely advisory boards. It is the Public Design Commission’s vote that counts. So who are the ten people who will decide the fate of the historic Coney Island Boardwalk? Here are their names:
Alice Aycock, Sculptor
Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos, The New York Public Library
Byron Kim, Painter
Signe Nielsen, Landscape Architect
Guy Nordenson, Lay Member
Otis Pratt Pearsall, Brooklyn Museum
James Stewart Polshek, Architect
Paula Scher, Lay Member
Kandace V. Simmons, Mayor’s Representative
Ann G. Tenenbaum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
According to their bios on the PDC’s site, the Commissioners are a distinguished group of architects, artists and representatives of the City’s cultural institutions. Yes, they are appointed by the Mayor, but they serve pro bono. At the last hearing in October, the Public Design Commission refused to approve the Parks Department’s plan and said that more environmental and engineering studies were needed to address the questions that they had.
Since then, it appears that the Parks Department has been lobbying the Commissioners and postponing the vote till they’re sure of a win. We were taken aback by the comments of two of the Commissioners in a New York Times article last month, which indicated they had been persuaded by Parks to support the plan in advance of the public hearing. Otis Pratt Pearsall who serves on the PDC as the representative of the Brooklyn Museum, has received numerous awards recognizing his leadership in preservation, according to his bio. Yet he told the Times: “I have pushed them to look at every possible wood alternative, and they have persuaded me that there aren’t wood alternatives that are practical. It is important to have the thing look as Boardwalk-y as possible.”
After the article was published, the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance sent each Commissioner a packet of research materials, which you can read on their website. “We wish to provide you with information that our experts have compiled that the Parks Department is either unaware of or has willfully ignored, thus denying you the opportunity to benefit from it in your decision-making process.”
It will be interesting to see what Pearsall and the other Commissioners have to say at Monday’s hearing. Can you sway their vote with your 3-minute spiel? Or is it a done deal? The Public Design Commission’s vote is expected soon after the hearing and will determine whether the future of the Coney Island Boardwalk will be wood or plastic and concrete.
IF YOU GO…
Public Design Commission, 253 Broadway, Conference Room on 5th floor. The building is near City Hall. “The Reconstruction of the Riegelmann Boardwalk, Brighton 15th Street to Coney Island Avenue” is on the agenda for 1:25 pm. Members of the public are encouraged to arrive at least 45 minutes in advance of the estimated time. Those who also plan to testify are encouraged to submit their testimony in writing in advance of the meeting date.
UPDATE March 12, 2012:
Christianna Nelson of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance posted a summary of the hearing on the group’s website, which we recommend reading. ATZ will post a hearing update soon. In the meantime, here are our tweets:
Wasted 5 hrs of my life at Design Commission charade of a public hearing on Coney Island Boardwalk. Concrete & Plasticwalk was approved )-:—
Amusing the Zillion (@AmusingZillion) March 12, 2012
Design Commission didn't listen to the people. Bad sign at start of testimony when they lopped off 3 min speaking time for public to 2 min—
Amusing the Zillion (@AmusingZillion) March 12, 2012
UPDATE March 22, 2012:
My somewhat delayed rant about the public hearing on the Boardwalk reconstruction. Thanks to Bruce Handy for photos and H/T to East Coast Images for Counting Crows version of “Paved Paradise…”
The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues, ATZ, March 22, 2012
Related posts on ATZ…
September 8, 2012: October 4: Coney Island’s Endangered Boardwalk to Get its Day in Court
March 23, 2012: The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues
February 29, 2012: Exclusive: Coney Boardwalk Group’s Letter to PDC Rebuts Parks
January 24, 2012: Parks Postpones Do-Or-Die Hearing on Coney Concretewalk