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Posts Tagged ‘Brighton Beach’

Friday’s forecast of snow showers with accumulations of less than an inch makes us feel nostalgic for the snowstorms of past years. Jonathan Pineau Bonetti shot “Coney Island Song of the Silent Snow” in Coney Island and Brighton Beach on Christmas Weekend 2010. That was the year the Polar Bears, who appear in the film, got a snow swim as a Christmas present! Time to bring in the snow machines?

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Boardwalk Not Sidewalk

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk/No Concrete. Sign on Building Facing Boardwalk East of Ocean Parkway in Brighton Beach. Photo © Bruce Handy

Over the weekend, Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy spotted these protest signs on a building facing the Boardwalk on the east side of Ocean Parkway in Brighton Beach. “The sign is located on the wooden boardwalk just east of the concrete ‘boardwalk.’ It will probably be the next section converted to concrete,” he said.

Last week, ATZ had a bad Monday and so did New York City. I wasted 5 hours of my life at the Public Design Commission’s charade of a public hearing about the reconstruction of the Coney Island Boardwalk. A ten-foot-wide Concrete Lane for so-called “emergency vehicles” and an adjoining Plasticwalk were unanimously approved by the Commissioners for a pilot project in Brighton Beach. Every news reporter who covers Coney was there and stayed till the bitter end, so in all likelihood you’ve seen the headlines: “Pave Paradise and Put Up a Sidewalk: City Approves Concrete Coney Island Boardwalk” (New York Observer) and “New York City To Take The Board Out Of Fabled Coney Island Boardwalk” (WPIX).

As one of the 48 people who stayed to testify–some of my fellow citizens had to leave to go back to work–I have to say the way the meeting was conducted made a mockery of democracy and public hearings. Earlier this month, ATZ wrote “The Ten People Who Will Decide the Fate of the Boardwalk.” Well, only seven commissioners showed up and one–Alice Aycock–left early, kissing her colleagues goodbye in the middle of someone’s testimony.

How does it happen that in a city of more than 8 million people, six people get to decide the fate of the Coney Island Boardwalk and appear to have decided in advance of the so-called public hearing? They are Mayoral appointees. The local Community Board 13 voted against this proposal 21 to 7, but their vote was ignored because it’s “advisory.” One of the public comments at the hearing was that the Boardwalk should be renamed the Public Design Commission Concretewalk because it will no longer be the Riegelmann Boardwalk. After the vote, Commissioner Signe Nielsen turned around in her chair to say defensively to the shocked audience that the commissioners were New Yorkers who’d been to Coney Island and not aliens from outer space.

on the boardwalk

The protest signs are located on this building facing the wooden boardwalk just east of the concrete boardwalk in Brighton Beach seen in the photo. Photo © Bruce Handy

It was a bad sign at the start of public testimony when the commissioners arbitrarily lopped off the usual 3-minute speaking time for each member of the public to 2 minutes. I felt sad for the people who’d taken the time to prepare written statements that were precisely 3 minutes long. A firecracker of a woman from Brighton Beach exchanged a few words of Yiddish with the commish who said she had “20 seconds” left. Yiddish is a great language to be pissed off in, one of my twitter followers says. The leaders of the Coney Brighton Boardwalk Alliance were pissed off too. Here are a couple of excerpts from Christianna Nelson’s report on the hearing on CBBA’s website:

Mike Caruso traveled all the way from West Virginia just to attend the hearing and speak about black locust wood, a rainforest wood alternative with longevity similar to ipe. This wood expert was only allowed two minutes to share his information. The Parks Department spent a lot of time wringing their hands that there is no black locust wood available when there was an expert in the room who said he has this wood available and would be willing to work with them on providing it to their specifications. When Commissioner Byron Kim suggested pursuing this, the other Commissioners ignored this suggestion and moved on.

Several of the most intelligent questions were never fully answered or explored. For example, Commissioner Byron Kim asked several questions about the concrete strip down the center of the boardwalk. He wondered why, if this is a pilot program testing a new material, they couldn’t use RPL for the whole decking to see how it fared. The Parks Department answered that they had found that RPL was too slippery for vehicles. Kim pointed out that he had seen numerous photos of ice building up on concrete sections of the boardwalk, yet the Parks Department was proposing concrete for the vehicle lane. “Isn’t ice more slippery?” he asked. The Parks Department replied that most emergencies happen in the summer. And the Design Commission left it at that.

The fight goes on to save other parts of the Boardwalk. Please write to the Mayor’s office and tell New York City that you don’t want to see any more of the historic Coney Island Boardwalk destroyed. Please also sign the online petition, if you haven’t already, and continue to circulate it to friends.

As I headed into the elevator, another person who’d wasted the day at the Public Design Commission said into a cell phone: “They approved a bad plan for the Boardwalk. They blew it.”

Since the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues has yet to be composed, here’s Counting Crows version of “Paved Paradise…” filmed on location in Astroland and the Coney Island Boardwalk in 2002. Hat tip to @eastcoastimages.

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Related posts on ATZ…

September 8, 2012: October 4: Coney Island’s Endangered Boardwalk to Get its Day in Court

March 9, 2012: The 10 People Who Will Decide the Fate of Coney Island Boardwalk

February 29, 2012: Exclusive: Coney Boardwalk Group’s Letter to PDC Rebuts Parks

January 20, 2012: Jan 30: NYC Design Commission to Meet (Again) on Coney Island Concretewalk

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Coney Island Boardwalk

Photos from Friends of the Boardwalk's website show the results of prior projects where the NYC Parks Department used concrete. Photos © Mary Ann De Luca via FOBConeyIsland.com

UPDATE…February 17...The Parks Department has once again postponed the date– February 21 — that they requested to present the Concretewalk plan to the Public Design Commission! We have no idea why–Perhaps they’re not ready? Perhaps they’re busy lining up support from the PDC commissioners? Perhaps they’re trying to throw off the grassroots opposition? The online petition to “Keep the Boards in the Coney Island Boardwalk – -No Concrete! and Save the Rainforests” continues to collect signatures.

UPDATE…January 23...The Parks Department has postponed the Concretewalk hearing date to February 21, says Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance’s Rob Burstein: “I just received an e-mail from the Parks Department’s liaison to the Design Commission informing me that they have postponed the date that they intend to present their proposal to the Design Commission. They will not present on January 30th, as we were originally told, but have tentatively rescheduled for February 21st.” Since the Parks Department initiates the date when they are ready to make their presentation, it appears that they are not yet ready to prove the case for concrete

On January 30 February 21, New York City’s Parks Department is expected to go back to the Public Design Commission to try again to win approval for its controversial plan to pave all but four blocks of the 2.7 mile Coney Island Boardwalk with concrete and plastic wood. At the last meeting in October, proponents of keeping the boards in the Boardwalk won a temporary victory when the PDC refused to approve the plan. The PDC commissioners, a distinguished group of architects, artists and representatives of the City’s cultural institutions, were skeptical of the need to use concrete. They also said that more environmental and engineering studies were needed to address the questions that they had.

Three months later, the PDC will likely be asked to reconsider the Parks Department’s plan at the January 30th February 21st meeting, according to Coney Brighton Boardwalk Alliance’s Rob Burstein. He is asking “others that care, to join us and speak against the plan at the Design Commission. I know that many people are with us in spirit, but we need them with us in body, as well as in soul. It’s only by showing up, that we have any chance of stopping this plan!”

On Saturday, January 21st and January 28th at 3pm, Burstein’s group and Friends of the Boardwalk are having informational meetings at Brighton Beach Library. An online petition to “Keep the Boards in the Coney Island Boardwalk” launched this month has several hundred signatures and comments like this one from Linda Distasi: “I grew up in Brooklyn. I think we should keep the Boardwalk as it was intended. There are other alternatives to concrete. Use them!!!!” (Only 700-and-something signatures? If you didn’t sign yet, don’t complain when it’s concrete.)

concrete boardwalk

Slab Walk: The new concrete slab section of the Coney Island boardwalk in Brighton Beach. October 26, 2011. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved

The photo mosaic at the top of this post is from a slide show on FOB’s website showing the results of prior Parks Department projects using concrete on the Boardwalk: the concrete substructure under recycled plastic lumber on Steeplechase Pier, concrete under wood in the amusement area and the concrete slabs replacing sections of the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach and in the West End of Coney Island, from West 33rd to West 37th Streets. The other two photographs by silversalty show the same spot on the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach. In 2009’s “A Walk in the Mist,” the Boardwalk is wood; in 2011 it is slabs of concrete.

Todd Dobrin, founder of Friends of the Boardwalk, who along with fellow members of Community Board 13 voted 21-7 last May against the Concretewalk, said in a statement:

The Parks Department has wasted millions of dollars on projects that were built through trial and error at the expense of NYC taxpayers. Instead of admitting to the public, the NYC Design Commission and the NYC Parks Commissioner the fact that the use of concrete has proven to be the root cause of these design flaws, they will attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the NYC Design Commission with questionable facts and a smoke and mirrors art show. I believe the Design Commission saw through the Parks Department’s blatant misinformation at the past meeting and will come to the same conclusion on January 30.

Public testimony at the NYC Public Design Commission meeting is limited to three minutes per person. The PDC office is in Manhattan at 253 Broadway, Fifth Floor, near the City Hall subway station. For information on the time of the January 30th February 21st meeting, which is set one week in advance, email Rob Burstein at robburstein[AT]Hotmail[dot]com or check the Boardwalk Alliance’s Facebook Page for updates.

Brighton Beach

A walk in the mist, Brighton Beach. April 3, 2009. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved

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Related posts on ATZ…

January 5, 2012: New Year, New Push to “Keep the Boards in the Coney Island Boardwalk”

December 4, 2011: Brass Ring Dept: Coney Island “Carousell” RFP Up for Grabs

October 25, 2011: Coney Island 2012: Go Karts Return, Concretewalk Stopped

November 15, 2010: Nov 16: Concrete, Wood or Plastic? Discussion on Future of Coney Island Boardwalk

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