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Coney Island Boardwalk saga

Preservationists: City needs to do an environmental impact study

Brooklyn Daily

Preservationists hoping to stop the city’s plan to concrete over the Boardwalk are taking their fight to court.

Coney Island civic leaders, the Coney Island-Boardwalk Alliance, and Friends of the Boardwalk filed a lawsuit against the city on Wednesday, claiming that the Parks Department is going ahead with its plan to replace a five-block stretch of the Boardwalk with concrete and plastic lumber without a necessary — and required — environmental review.

Litigants want a judge to bar the Parks Department from ripping up a single plank until the environmental review is completed.

“The city’s Riegelmann Boardwalk plan indisputably may have a significant impact on the environment and has the potential for a significant adverse environmental impact,” litigants noted in their lawsuit. “Remarkably, the Parks Department has determined that its significant coastal construction project is exempt from environmental review requirements.”

Robert Burnstein, president of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance, said replacing sections of the iconic wooden Boardwalk with concrete would significantly impair the character and quality of what he calls “an important historical and aesthetic resource.”

“The city is required to consider a host of issues including environmental impacts before embarking on such a project, but it didn’t,” Burnstein said. “The city’s project raises numerous public safety concerns which have not been addressed.”

Longtime Coney Island advocate Ida Sanoff, who joined Burnstein’s lawsuit, agreed.

“Rather than spend the money to properly maintain the Boardwalk the Parks Department wants to destroy this beautiful piece of New York and replace it with a different structure altogether without any environmental review or community input,” she said.

A spokesman for the city’s law department said attorneys were reviewing the lawsuit, but would not comment further.

The Parks Department proposed replacing the entire Boardwalk with concrete and plastic lumber in 2010 as part of its $30-million renovation of the aging 2.7-mile span, which opened in 1923. Only a small four-block section in the historic amusement district between W. 15th and W. 10th streets would be spared from the concrete makeover, which Parks Department officials said was sturdier and cheaper than using real wood.

But preservationists balked at the suggestion, claiming the plan would ruin the look and feel of the historic Boardwalk and turn the rest of the strip into a sidewalk.

The city’s Public Design Commission ultimately gave the Parks Department the OK to tear out the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach — and install a 12-foot-wide concrete lane for emergency vehicles and a 19-foot-wide lane built out of recycled plastic boards for pedestrians — in March after agency officials testified that wood was no longer a viable option.

Reach Thomas Tracy at ttracy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2525.

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