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Posts Tagged ‘paved paradise’

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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It’s a shame that part of the City’s Steeplechase property is set to become a residential enclave with million dollar views instead of additional acreage for Coney Island’s new amusement park. Over on the Coney Island Message Board, vintage photos and postcards of the salt water swimming pool at Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park (1897-1964) have inspired a lively discussion about the pool’s exact location. After several maps were posted, the consensus is the Steeplechase Park Pool is buried beneath Keyspan parking lot, which is City owned parkland.

Steeplechase swimming pool Coney Island NY. Vintage Postcard via amhpics flickr

Steeplechase swimming pool and Zip Coaster in Coney Island NY circa 1940s. Vintage Postcard via amhpics flickr

The fact that the Giuliani administration paved over Paradise–part of the Steeplechase Park site–to allow parkland to be turned into the Keyspan parking lot is bad enough (nod to Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”). Now the Bloomberg administration is asking the state legislature to “alienate” and de-map the parkland/parking lot so it can be sold to a private developer (most likely Taconic Investment Partners) to build 1,900 units of housing.

The Coney Island Message Board‘s JimEmack writes: “I believe the old Steeplechase swimming pool was just filled in with parts of the old bathhouses that were on two sides of the pool. It was just plowed over with debris from tearing down the park. Maybe a future generation will unearth it once again.”

Somehow we don’t think a Steeplechase Pool in the basement will be one of the amenities of the luxury housing slated to be built on the site. Perhaps the apartments will be named Steeplechase something-or-other in memory of George C Tilyou’s Funny Place, where 10,000 People Laughed at One Time?

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering. CIDC Press Kit

Coney Island Aerial: Detail of Conceptual Rendering Shows Residential Towers West and North of Keyspan Park. CIDC Press Kit

Steeplechase died in 1966, when Fred Trump bought the property and threw a party to celebrate the destruction of the Pavilion of Fun. “The Trump Organization office views the acreage as a potential site for a modern Miami Beach type high rise apartment,” according to the New York Times clipping “6 Bikinied Beauties Attend Demolishing of Coney Landmark” in Charles Denson’s Coney Island Lost and Found. Trump’s effort to get the zoning changed to residential failed to get approval. Now the City itself is planning to do what the City wouldn’t let Fred Trump do more than 40 years ago.

The Brooklyn Cyclones ballpark was built on the site of Steeplechase’s Pavilion of Fun, but the ballpark is a recreational use and helped revitalize Coney Island when it opened in 2001. A mass of apartment towers on the edge of a dwarfed amusement area is another story, though the City insists 5,000 units of housing is a necessary component of their plan to revitalize Coney Island.

Detail of CIDC Map of of Coney Island Redevelopment Plan.  Salmon and cream color denote residential and residential towers

Detail of CIDC Map of of Coney Island Redevelopment Plan. Salmon and cream color denote residential and residential towers

Color Key for CIDC Map of Redeveloped Coney Island

Color Key for CIDC Map of Redeveloped Coney Island

In Coney Island, Mayor Bloomberg gives with one hand (6.9 acres purchased from Thor Equities for the City’s new amusement park, which we applaud) and takes away with the other (City parkland aka Keyspan parking lot to be demapped by the state legislature and sold to a private developer to build housing including high rises).  Before the rezoning in July 2009, the City estimated that over 1,900 of the proposed 5,000 housing units would go unbuilt if the parkland were not alienated.

We wish those 1,900 units would go unbuilt and the parking lot remain parkland. As long as the land remains undeveloped and has the word “park” in it, there’s hope that it could be used for amusement or recreation in the future. Now that the City has gone ahead and acquired the Boardwalk property from Thor Equities to replace the de-mapped parkland/parking lot, we anticipate the legislators will give the plan the go ahead.

Conceptual Rendering of Coney Island at Night.  CIDC Press Kit

Conceptual Rendering of Coney Island at Night. CIDC Press Kit

Last week, when BK Southie reproduced the CIDC’s full size rendering on his blog, a commenter wanted to know: “Why does the surrounding area look more like midtown Manhattan than Coney Island?” People are surprised to find out the rezoning puts 26 high rise residential towers and 5,000 new units of housing in Coney Island. The parkland alienation vote is looming, yet this issue hasn’t gotten any attention lately in the press. We think it’s because the focus has been on the City’s efforts to acquire Thor Equities property in the amusement area and the four high rise hotels proposed for the south side of Surf Avenue. As Joni Mitchell sings, “Don’t it always seem to go… That you don’t know what you’ve got… Till it’s gone.”

Swimming Pool at Steeplechase Park. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection.

Greetings from the Swimming Pool at Steeplechase Park! Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection.

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Related posts on ATZ…

December 18, 2009: Ciao Coney Island! Will Ruby’s, Shoot the Freak, Astrotower & Other Oldies Survive?

October 9, 2009: A Rare Peek Inside Endangered Old Bank of Coney Island

July 27, 2009: Tall, Skinny & Destined to Kill Coney Island: High Rises on South Side of Surf

June 11, 2009: Coney Island Amusement Advocates Rally for More Acreage for Outdoor Rides

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