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October 26, 2012 / News / Coney Island

Judge Marin Solomon: Lawyers chomping at bit to cash in on Coney Island Boardwalk slip-and-falls

Brooklyn Daily

New plastic and concrete sections of the Coney Island Boardwalk could be land mines for the city — and a financial boon to slip-and-fall lawyers — a judge warned on Thursday.

Judge Martin Solomon told lawyers for the city that it needed to consider everything when it was planing to convert portions of the historic Coney Island Boardwalk from wood to concrete — including aggressive lawyers who’ll sue the city when clients fall down on the new surfaces.

“There’s what we call the law of unintended consequences. Has the Parks Department considered the potential cost from slip-and-falls?” Solomon asked. “There’s a bunch of trial lawyers here waiting for that plastic.”

The judge’s remarks came during the “Battle for the Boardwalk” hearing on Thursday — a case brought against the city by the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance, which claims the city broke the law when it replaced portions of the wooden boardwalk with cement and plastic without first looking into the impacts such a change would have on the area. Additionally, the suit claims that the newer material will not last as long as wood, and could result in the speeding up of erosion on the beach.

But Solomon, who represented Coney Island in the state Senate from 1977 until 1995, said he wasn’t interested in anything but the city’s failure to study the transformation before it took action. The judge even refused to look at evidence describing the boardwalk or hear arguments regarding erosion, claiming he was well aware of those subjects.

“I know more about the Boardwalk than anybody in this room,” said Solomon. “I’ve been up and down that Boardwalk, I’ve seen cars driving illegally on it, I’ve battled erosion on those beaches for years.”

Coney-Brighton Alliance attorney Amy Rialton argued that statutes mandate environmental impact studies when something as iconic as the Coney Island Boardwalk is at risk.

“The law calls for a study not just when a project affects the environment, but when it has potential to change the character of the neighborhood,” Rialton said.

But the city said it is simply updating the walkway.

“What this project is doing is replacing a boardwalk with a boardwalk,” said city lawyer Katy Kendall.

Solomon ultimately told both parties to expect his decision by mail in the next 60 days.

Friends of the Boardwalk President Todd Dobrin, one of the petitioners in the case, said he was confident the scales of justice would weigh in is his favor.

“He was a good, strict judge who just wanted to hear the facts,” Dobrin said. “A concrete boardwalk is not a boardwalk. It’s a concrete driveway.”

Others were less taken with Solomon’s performance.

“That was a pretty impressive showing of self-absorption, which a judge is not supposed to do,” said Tim Keating of the Rainforest Alliance, who is advocating for the city to switch warped and damaged Boardwalk planks with non-tropical woods that he believes would outlast concrete.

The Parks Department tested out the replacement materials on two sections of the Boardwalk — including a stretch between Ocean Parkway and Brighton First Street in Brighton Beach — in 2011, arguing that concrete is sturdier and cheaper than real wood.

Last spring, Community Board 13 rejected the plan to replace the Brighton Beach portion of the Boardwalk with cement — and in October the design commission ordered another review of the project after opponents testified that the slabs of concrete that the city laid down were already crumbling.

But the city’s Public Design Commission unanimously approved the Parks Department’s plan to replace a section of the Boardwalk after officials explained that they considered using other materials, such as Black Locust and Kebony woods, but found that concrete and recycled plastic lumber were still the best options.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at wbredderman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman

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Reader Feedback

Maria Morales from Coney Islander says:

Have a disability or medical condition? You are not alone. Many people with disabilities have enjoy the freedom of swimming in the Coney Island Beach/Ocean!
Want to spend Quality time with you children? Do it in Coney Island; Swim, run, and be merry. Real people need to alliveate the cost of treatment for their pangs. They do this by enjoying their time in our famous Coney Island for little or no money. Its an American thing! got it. So be cheap and hurt our children and disabled people/Senior Citizen's by going cheap on what they walk on and get sued. Who voted for you anyway! And for the guy who say's he knows C.I. We don't know you! Get to really know us. . Cement hurts joggers feet, babies heads and senior citizens who fall down can only have but so many hip replacements. Join the Coney Islanders on F.B on get the real news.
Oct. 31, 2012, 8:09 am
allan feinblum from midwood says:
I went to Coney Island twice since storm. eXCEPT FOR SAND ON BOARDWALK AND IN FACT WHERE THERE WAS ARTIFICIAL WOOD THE AREA WAS CLEAN OF SAND. i KNOW FROM VISITING CONEY iSLAND THROUGH THE YEARS THE WOOD COMES UP, THE NAILS ARE DANGEROUS AND WE DONT HAVE TO COMPARE OURSELVES WITH aTLANTIC bEACH SINCE THE STORM DESTROYED THE WOODEN BOARDWALK. ALLANFEINBLUM@AOL.COM
Nov. 4, 2012, 5:15 pm

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