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USA Pavilion, Milan Expo 2015

Dignitaries on ‘Boardwalk’ made from Coney Island Boardwalk wood during May 1st opening ceremony of USA Pavilion, Milan Expo 2015. Photo via USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 Facebook

One day in the not too distant future, the wooden Coney Island Boardwalk may exist only in recycled form, far away from the People’s Playground, in venues frequented mostly by the privileged classes. The May 1st opening of the Milan Expo provides a window into that future. The Expo’s $60 million USA Pavilion boasts a 300-foot walkway said to be made of repurposed ipe wood from the Coney Island Boardwalk.

“The middle floor is a boardwalk, boardwalks have historically been avenues of food and community, and fun too!,” writes Dorothy Cann Hamilton, the President of the Friends of USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015. “We were able to purchase the actual Coney Island boardwalk after Hurricane Sandy.”

Milan Expo USA Pavilion Rendering

Architects rendering of Milan Expo’s USA Pavilion featuring a walkway of Coney Island Boardwalk wood. The $60 million pavilion project was privately funded by the James Beard Foundation, International Culinary Center and the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy. Biber Architects, New York

The project’s architect James Biber of Biber Architects, a New York City-based architecture firm, said in an interview on the Pavilion’s website that “Americans’ fascination with the road inspired our boardwalk concept, which is really the backbone of the whole experience. Visitors will take a trip through the USA Pavilion – up the boardwalk and back down – and constantly be on the move.”

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, wooden sections of the Brighton Beach end of the Boardwalk are being torn up to be replaced with a walkway made of recycled plastic lumber and a 10-foot wide concrete “carriage lane” for so-called “emergency vehicles.” The $10 million pilot project is seen as the City’s plan for the future of the entire boardwalk, except for a few blocks in the amusement district that will continue to be made of ipe wood.

And Coney Island’s heroic City Councilman Mark Treyger is trying to persuade the City’s Landmarks Commission that the Boardwalk should be declared a Scenic Landmark despite a previous rebuff.

Boardwalk

Boardwalk Reconstruction in Brighton Beach, where a new plastic and concrete ‘boardwalk’ is set for completion in May 2016. Photo by Lonnie Luchnick via Friends of the Boardwalk Facebook

The Parks Department’s page about the Coney Island Boardwalk Reconstruction at Brighton Beach says “Replacing this portion of the boardwalk (Coney Island Avenue to Brighton 15th Street) using hardwoods could destroy some 6,000 acres of tropical rainforest, while 45,200 acres would be destroyed to reconstruct the entire boardwalk.” But instead of opting for a treated wood such as Kebony, which has been used at Delaware’s Bethany Beach Boardwalk (Parks claims Kebony is “only available in Europe”), or a wood over concrete substructure like Ocean City, Maryland, the City went for the cheapest and least aesthetically pleasing –a concrete and plastic surface.

Boardwalk reconstruction

Parks Dept rendering of boardwalk reconstruction underway in Brighton Beach. a 10-foot-wide concrete carriage lane will be included in the 50-foot-wide boardwalk.

The Milan Expo project caught our eye a few months ago via a dramatically titled news story “Sandy-ravaged Coney Island boardwalk turned into showpiece.” Coney Island Boardwalk, the brand, commands attention, and rescuing discarded boards to make into something new and beautiful is commendable. But in fact, the Coney Island Boardwalk was NOT ravaged by Sandy but survived intact, though the same can’t be said for the neighborhood or Steeplechase Pier.

Berms built on the beach protected the boardwalk, which was inundated with sand that was shoveled into tidy piles and returned to the beach. We’re not sure who started the ravaged boardwalk myth but it enables Parks’ claim that plastic lumber was more resilient than wood during Sandy, a fact disputed by actual residents of the neighborhood. The producers of luxury products made from Coney boardwalk wood, including such trinkets as a $195 knife with an ipe handle, unwittingly perpetrate the myth in their blurbs.

Boardwalk after Sandy

Coney Island Boardwalk a few days after Sandy. November 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

In fact, the Parks Dept. has been giving away and/or selling the wood for several years in the course of redoing sections of the boardwalk. The wood was torn up before the storm so that a new concrete surface could go down at Sea Gate and Brighton. Some boards are removed during regular maintenance and replaced with new ipe. There will be plenty more wood to go around now that they’re tearing up the boards in Brighton in a pilot project that was infamously approved by the Public Design Commission despite popular opposition.

What the City of New York doesn’t want you to know, but anyone who lives or works along the boardwalk can tell you, is that the 2.51 mile pedestrian walkway is now routinely used as a roadway by Parks Department and NYPD vehicles, not just for emergencies. It is this everyday use which causes enormous wear and tear to the boards, which frequently pop up while whole sections cave in and have to be replaced.

Truck on Coney Island Boardwalk

The City of New York’s routine use of trucks and cars on the Coney Island Boardwalk causes wear and tear on the boards. The Parks Dept is starting to build a 10-foot wide concrete ‘carriage lane’ in Brighton Beach. Photo © Anonymouse

In June of 2012, months before Sandy, when the Barnes Foundation’s new museum opened with flooring made of Coney Island Boardwalk wood, an article in the NY Times explained how it got there: “The parks department says it tries to reuse what it can but then allows contractors to sell, discard or give away the rest. (The city makes no money from it.) That is how an architectural salvage company in Philadelphia came to haul away 20 trailer loads of Coney Island wood in 2010.”

While repurposing discarded lumber is eco-friendly and gives a building a LEEDS rating, there’s something incongruous about sending this heavy wood more than 4,000 miles to Italy for an expo trumpeting sustainability. “Indoor and outdoor decking made of salvaged Coney Island boardwalk lumber will eventually be re cycled again,” according to the US Pavilion’s Sustainability Fact Sheet. Well, good, so Europeans can enjoy decks made from Coney boardwalk wood too. Or it will be shipped 4,000 miles back home.

Save the Boardwalk Rally

Sign at rally to save boardwalk from becoming concrete: This is SUPPOSED to be the DE BLASIO ADMINISTRATION not BLOOMBERG. January 18, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The People’s Playground and the people of New York have been getting buncoed. As one of the commenters said in the NY Times story from 2012: “So the wood, which was payed [sic] for with tax payer dollars, is given away for free and then sold and used in hi end furniture, restaurants and museums? These people and places with no real association to Coney Island now claim some connection to the fabled boardwalk. Because they bought the wood that I helped pay for that the city gave away.”

USA Pavilion at Milan Expo

Ambassadors stand on ‘Boardwalk’ made from Coney Island Boardwalk wood during May 1st opening ceremony of USA Pavilion, Milan Expo 2015. Photo via USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 Facebook

Related posts on ATZ…

January 19, 2015: An Historic First As Elected Officials Join Community’s Fight to Save Coney Island Boardwalk

March 22, 2012: The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues

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

December 27, 2010: Photo of the Day: First Snow on Coney Island Boardwalk

Read Full Post »

Save the Boardwalk Rally

Sign at rally to save boardwalk from becoming concrete: This is SUPPOSED to be the DE BLASIO ADMINISTRATION not BLOOMBERG. January 18, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Despite icy conditions that made travel hazardous and a steady rain, about 100 people came out to Brighton Beach on Sunday for a rally to save the 92-year-old Boardwalk from becoming a concrete roadway flanked by a plasticwalk. There were many familiar faces in the crowd. Some of us had attended the charade of a public hearing where the pilot project was controversially approved by six Bloomberg appointees in 2012.

But the most remarkable thing about yesterday’s rally is that it was the first time elected officials stood with the community saying “Boardwalk Not Sidewalk!” City Councilman Mark Treyger, who has represented Coney Island for one year and whose leadership has brought about this political support, gave a fiery speech that ended with “Are you with me? The fight rages on!”

The politicians joining the rally included Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NYC Controller Scott Stringer, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, and Councilman Mark Levine, who is Chair of the Council’s Parks Committee, among others. During the Bloomberg administration, when this concrete boondoggle was born, elected officials automatically fell in line with Bloomberg’s policies. The local Community Board 13 voted against this proposal 21 to 7, but their vote was ignored because it’s “advisory.” Now we have a newly elected crop of officials questioning Mayor de Blasio and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver for not listening to the community and going ahead with Bloomberg’s calamitous plan for the Boardwalk.

When Public Advocate Letitia James said “We are urging the de Blasio administration to do what they promised and listen,” cheers went up from the crowd. “We are not going to stand by while the city rips out a piece of our history. I stand with Coney Island and Brighton Beach in this fight. The Boardwalk is worth fighting for.”

Together with Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who represents Brighton Beach, Treyger has been trying all last year to get the Mayor and the Parks Department to meet and discuss safety issues. As community activist Ida Sanoff said at the rally: “We saw a tremendous difference in storm surge impact where there were concrete sections as opposed to wooden sections. This so-called concrete plan is going forward without any environmental studies, without any engineering studies, without any thought to the safety of this community and the damage we suffered during Sandy.”

Frustrated residents held up signs that said “This is SUPPOSED to be the DE BLASIO ADMINISTRATION not BLOOMBERG,” “This is NOT Planning, Commissioner Silver,” and “Mayor de Blasio & Commissioner Silver, We LIVE HERE.” Unfortunately the de Blasio administration has not changed the pro-concrete position announced last June by Daniel Zarrilli, who heads the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency and is a holdover from the Bloomberg administration.

“The song is ‘Under the Boardwalk,’ it is not ‘Under the Concrete,'” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who gave an empowering speech about government for the people. “I’m so proud of this community that you understand government has to adhere to your wishes,” said Adams. “They thought they could ignore you. They thought you would allow your community to go through a transformation without raising your voices. Well, they were wrong.”

“We want to work with everyone to make sure the Landmarks Preservation Commission does the right thing,” said NYC Controller Scott Stringer, who promised to issue the economic data and “work side by side to make intelligent responses to the questions that come up.”

The State Assemblymen for the area, Steven Cymbrowitz and Alec Brook-Krasny were absent from the rally. It is $10 million in state money they provided which is funding the concrete section of boardwalk currently underway in Brighton Beach. One protest sign said “Steven Cymbrowitz you should be ashamed of yourself.”

State Assemblyman Bill Colton, who represents Gravesend and Bensonhurst, and Adele Cohen, who represented the neighborhood in the Assembly from 1996-2006, were in attendance and gave rousing speeches. “It’s about money,” said Cohen, who recalled that even during her tenure the Parks Department had no budget for repairs because they depended on discretionary funds. The solution: “No money, no concrete. Take the money out of the budget.”

Update: Missed rally to save the Boardwalk? See @Capt_Nemo’s two-part video of the speeches in their entirety:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HWi7vk4Ch4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5b5vIe_sTKQ

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Related posts on ATZ…

December 20, 2014: Save the Boardwalk for Future Gens! Sign Brooklyn Pols Petition to Make it ‘Scenic Landmark’

March 22, 2012: The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues

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

December 27, 2010: Photo of the Day: First Snow on Coney Island Boardwalk

Read Full Post »

Eric Adams Mark Treyger

Borough President Eric Adams and Councilman Mark Treyger and officials at Dec 18 Announcement for New Year’s Eve Celebration in Coney Island. Photo via Coney Island Facebook

Today’s 1pm rally moved to Boardwalk pavilion at Brighton 4th St, few blocks west of Coney Island Ave, if still raining. Please spread the word!

Borough President Eric Adams, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and possibly Senator Chuck Schumer are scheduled to join the January 18th community rally to save the historic Riegelmann Boardwalk. Councilman Mark Treyger and Councilman Chaim Deutsch, whose districts include the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Boardwalk, organized the rally, which is at 1pm on the Boardwalk at Coney Island Avenue in Brighton. Take the Q train to the Brighton Beach stop and then walk one block to the Boardwalk.

“I share their views on the Boardwalk,” Borough President Eric Adams said in a sitdown with the Brooklyn Daily last week. “We do need to protect Coney Island and what makes it so special — its history and traditions — and I think a wooden Boardwalk is a part of that.”

We hope YOU will join the rally, too. It’s not an exaggeration to say this may be our last chance to save the Boardwalk. Last month, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission used a form letter from 2012 and incorrect info to reject the Council Members’ petition, according to “Coney’s Boardwalk Should Be a Landmark,” an essay by historian Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project. Meanwhile, the City’s Parks Department and its commissioner Mitchell Silver are going ahead with a project to make a concrete roadway for so-called “emergency vehicles” (garbage trucks, Parks Dept vans etc.) on the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach, a pilot project approved in 2012 by six appointees of Mayor Bloomberg.

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk

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

The Borough President co-sponsored Coney Island’s first New Year’s Eve celebration including an LED light show and fireworks at the Parachute Jump, fulfilling a promise he made during the campaign. “The Riegelmann Boardwalk is imprinted with over 90 years of history, helping to establish Coney Island as America’s playground,” Adams said in December, in support of CM Treyger and Deutsch’s petition to make the boardwalk a Scenic Landmark.

“Millions of visitors have made the pilgrimage to southern Brooklyn, and we want to see millions more enjoy its unique, iconic character in the decades to come,” said the Borough President. “I support a scenic landmark designation for the Riegelmann Boardwalk because I believe it is in the best interest of Brooklyn’s cultural and economic well-being. I look forward to working with my elected colleagues and local stakeholders to advance this proposal.”

Boardwalk renovation 1934

The Boardwalk opened in 1923 and was already undergoing renovation in 1934: Group of men ripping up old planking on Coney Island boardwalk near Half Moon Hotel. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection

Mayor Bill de Blasio has not only continued the Bloomberg-approved Concretewalk but failed to listen to local council members and the community. All year, letters and requests for an environmental study and a meeting to discuss the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Boardwalk with Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver were rebuffed. A stakeholders’ meeting was belatedly arranged on the day before New Year’s Eve, according to a report by the NY Daily News titled “City won’t budge on plan to change Coney Island Boardwalk’s wooden planks to used plastic and concrete.”

“The fate of the Boardwalk is in your hands,” Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance president Rob Burstein wrote today in a letter calling for a huge turnout. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is our make or break moment! Please contribute to our common effort in the one way that you can make a difference- Show up and stand with us! I know that you believe that the Boardwalk is worth saving – for ourselves and for future generations – and should not be destroyed by uncaring bureaucrats. You must show up and say so!”

save the boardwalk

Related posts on ATZ…

December 20, 2014: Save the Boardwalk for Future Gens! Sign Brooklyn Pols Petition to Make it ‘Scenic Landmark’

March 22, 2012: The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues

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

December 27, 2010: Photo of the Day: First Snow on Coney Island Boardwalk

Read Full Post »

Brighton Beach

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

For friends of the Boardwalk, “Landmark the Boardwalk!” is a new rallying cry to go along with “Boardwalk Not Sidewalk!” thanks to City Councilman Mark Treyger. The council member for Coney Island and Bensonhurt told the New York Daily News that he sent a letter to the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to propose the boardwalk be designated a scenic landmark. “Historically, it’s been a boardwalk, not a sidewalk,” said Treyger, a former high school history teacher who has proven to be a champion of the community in the Council. Getting the boardwalk on the LPC’s calender could stop the Parks Department from redoing portions of it with concrete and plastic wood, a process already underway in Sea Gate and Brighton Beach.

concrete boardwalk

Concrete section of the Coney Island boardwalk in Brighton Beach. October 26, 2011. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved

In March of 2012, a ten-foot-wide Concrete Lane for so-called “emergency vehicles” and an adjoining Plasticwalk were unanimously approved by the Public Design Commission for a pilot project in Brighton Beach. At the charade of a public hearing, public testimony was cut to 2 minutes per person and six commissioners appointed by Mayor Bloomberg got to decide the future of the Boardwalk for the people of New York. 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. As Borough President of Brooklyn, Edward Riegelmann took charge of building the Boardwalk, which opened in 1923, making it just a few years younger than the landmark Wonder Wheel.

Coney Island Concretewalk

Coney Island Concretewalk at West 36th Street near Sea Gate. June 22, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

We’ve been very disappointed with Mayor de Blasio’s decision to carry on with Mayor Bloomberg’s Coney Island Concretewalk despite letters from newly elected local councilmen Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch asking for a moratorium until further environmental studies could be done. Last June, Daniel Zarrilli, head of the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, a holdover from the Bloomberg administration, told the City Council: “The use of concrete in boardwalks is not going to change at this point, is a sound decision and that stands,” according to the Daily News. Ironically, the news was released on the eve of the Mermaid Parade, where the mayor and his wife marched on the Boardwalk not Sidewalk with their son and daughter, who were King and Queen of the Mermaid Parade.

Send a message to Bill de Blasio urging him to support the landmarking of the Coney Island Boardwalk. Here is a link to an online form to contact the Mayor.

UPDATE December 19, 2014:

City Council members Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch, whose districts include the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Boardwalk, have just launched a public petition calling for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the boardwalk a “Scenic Landmark.” Please help their efforts by signing this petition at Change.org and sharing it with your friends. It could be our last chance to stop the Boardwalk from becoming the Concretewalk.

If you do not wish your name to appear publicly simply uncheck the box beneath the red “Sign” tab before you click it.

Link to petition: https://www.change.org/p/nyc-landmarks-preservation-commission-designate-historic-riegelmann-boardwalk-as-scenic-landmark

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

Related posts on ATZ…

October 2, 2013: Photo Album: Coney’s Rebuilt Steeplechase Pier Opened Today

March 22, 2012: The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues

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

December 27, 2010: Photo of the Day: First Snow on Coney Island Boardwalk

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Brooklyn Theatre Index Vol III“Henderson’s and Inman’s still offer the cream of the vaudeville acts to be seen at Coney Island…” according to a story in The New York Dramatic Mirror back in the summer of 1898. Both music halls are long gone from Coney Island’s Henderson’s Walk and the Walk itself is now a private parking lot thanks to property owner Joe Sitt’s demolition of the Shore Hotel and the Henderson Building. Henderson’s and Inman’s are among dozens of entertainment venues in old Coney Island catalogued in the newly published The Brooklyn Theatre Index Vol III. The third volume of theater historian Cezar Del Valle’s borough-wide opus covers Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach.

Del Valle’s area of expertise is New York City popular entertainment between 1850 and the 1950s, including special emphasis on actual theater buildings. The book project began with listings compiled over a 25-year-period by Dario Marotta, whose interest in theater history was inspired by a photo of his late uncle standing in front of his nickelodeon in Williamsburgh circa 1912. Marotta never discovered the location of his uncle’s theater, proving the ephemeral nature of many of these venues. In 2002, he gave his research to Del Valle, who kept the information on file for use in articles, talks, and walking tours. Eventually he began adding to the listings with library and internet research of his own at the Theatre Historical Society of America’s Michael Miller Collection.

Del Valle also pored over newspaper clipping files in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle “morgue,” which is housed in over 150 filing cabinets at the Brooklyn Public Library. “Both Marotta and Miller had problems researching Coney Island. I was fortunate because more and more publications became available online, between 2010-2014, and these were searchable,” Del Valle told ATZ. “Trade publications like Variety and The New York Clipper are now available along with a staggering number of newspapers.”

Henderson's Music Hall

Henderson’s Music Hall. Staley’s Views of Coney Island by Frank W. Staley, 1907. Cezar Del Valle Collection

The 250-page book is organized alphabetically by street name with the Bowery and Surf Avenue having the lion’s share of performing venues. Among the quaintly named places are Perry’s Glass Pavilion, a music hall and bar-room “constructed almost entirely of glass and of different colors,” and “Flynn’s Sporting House,” featuring “sparring, wrestling, singing and dancing, large balcony and ball-room on second floor.”

Some excerpts from newspaper articles give insight into the Gay Nineties, when Sunday blue laws were enforced in Coney Island and concert saloons had to close their doors or give “sacred concerts.” Female impersonators and short-dressed singers were cause for getting one’s license revoked. The index is a great resource for theater buffs and Coney Island aficionados. And if you happen to be writing a historical novel about Coney (we’ve heard from at least two people who are), it is required reading.

Feltmans' Seaside Gardens

Feltmans’ Seaside Gardens. Cezar del Valle Collection

If only the book had more photos, though of course that would raise its cost. Our favorite among the 30 black and white photos is this rare image of Feltman’s Seaside Garden. The park built by hot dog inventor Charles Feltman eventually included an open-air movie theater, a precursor to the popular Coney Island Flicks on the Beach of recent summers. “The theatre is located on the main promenade quite near the ocean, so that the temperature will be cooled by ocean breezes at all times,” said an article in the Brooklyn Eagle on July 4, 1914. “The house has a seating capacity of 2,000. The space between the rows is exceptionally wide.”

It’s sad to realize that only a few of the mentioned venues are extant: Coney Island USA is carrying on the tradition of sideshow and burlesque in their landmarked building on Surf Avenue which once housed the Blue Bird Casino and the Wonderland Circus Sideshow. The long-vacant Shore Theater building, formerly the Loew’s Coney Island and built in 1925, is landmarked, but has fallen victim to demolition by neglect. In Brighton Beach, the Oceana Theatre, which opened as a movie house in 1934 with Dancing Lady starring Joan Crawford, is now the Millennium Theatre with live entertainment by Russian touring groups.

A book launch party with an illustrated talk by the author will be held at 440 Gallery, 440 6th Avenue, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, on Sunday, December 14 at 4:40pm.

The Brooklyn Theatre Index Vol III: Coney Island Including Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach by Cezar Del Valle. Theatre Talks LLC, 2014. Paperback, $15

Related posts on ATZ…

November 10, 2014: Autumn Reading: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island

March 30, 2014: Spring Reading: Automatic Pleasures: The History of the Coin Machine

December 14, 2010: Amid Demolitions & Evictions in Coney Island, City Landmarks Shore Theater

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

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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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January 1, 2013: Videos of the Day: Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge 2013

December 28, 2012: Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island Videos of 2012

February 26, 2010: Photo of the Day: Snow Mermaid on Coney Island Beach

December 20, 2009: Coney Island Photo of the Day: First Snow on the Cyclone

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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…

December 8, 2014: City Councilman’s Proposal to Landmark the Boardwalk Could Halt Concretewalk

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

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