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:
Related posts on ATZ…
March 22, 2012: The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues
December 27, 2010: Photo of the Day: First Snow on Coney Island Boardwalk